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Voyageurs House Boating

Tackle the pristine wilderness in luxury by renting a roomy houseboat in Minnesota's 30-year-old Voyageurs National Park. Written by Berit Thorkelson.

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Kettle Falls Hotel

 

The next morning, there was our hoped-for sunrise, plus hot coffee and showers. We had a grueling day of relaxation ahead of us: hiking and visiting the Kettle Falls Hotel, a 95-year-old piece of history with rooms, a restaurant and a bar. These are this vacation’s two main excuses to set foot on land, and they’re best done by leaving your houseboat behind in favor of the faster, more navigable fishing boat.

When afternoon rolled around, it was sunny and in the 70s, an average high for August this far north, and it was just us and the houseboat. No work. No cell phone service. Lots of sky and water. Choices were wonderfully limited: Take the fishing boat out or take a nap? Play cards or play on the slide? (The water’s usually chilly, but when there’s a slide attached to your floating home, someone has to try it out.) The only option that resembled a stressor was moving the boat to another of the park’s first-come—first-served sites.

"There’s no schedule but your own, " says Billy Dougherty, who owns, with his family, Rainy Lake Houseboats. "Some people find a spot they like and chill out. Others like to see the whole park. If you see a cove and think, ’That looks nice, ’ just pull in and tie up. "

Billy knows and loves this park, where he started guiding at age 9. He even took his honeymoon on a houseboat here. One morning, he and another guide, Cody, took us all fishing in speedboats packed with gear. We each caught good-size walleye and northern, some too big to legally keep. When Jodi snagged a big old walleye, she not only touched it, she held it up for the camera. James smiled and shook his head. "I don’t even know you anymore, " he said.

Our final night, the sun sank as we recalled vacation high points from our rooftop deck. No surprise that Mukhiya’s involved catching big fish, but who could have known that Jodi would come to like "Outdoors? " Each of us had our reasons for falling in love with this remote place, a magical reality eraser (even with a hot tub just a breaker-switch away). We knew reality was waiting on shore. But for a little longer, it was just the six of us, in the middle of all this beauty, floating.

 

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