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Column: A cabin in winter

Rod Walli and Ragui Assaad take a break on Mt. Baldy. Photo by Ann Markusen

It's easy to think of Minnesota state parks as the places where we play and recreate in spring, summer and fall. But many offer winter beauty, lodging and workouts, too.

Tettegouche State Park is a winter favorite of the Minnesota Rovers' outing club. Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountain Range between Beaver Bay and Finland, its steep rocky Palisades rise from Lake Superior northwestward. At the park's heart, snuggled around Lake MicMac, are four cabins and a rec hall built in the 1910s by rich Duluth men after the area had been heavy logged. In the 1970s, the state bought it and restored the cabins for four-season rentals.

With Rovers and other friends, I've been running a ski trip to Tettegouche for at least 15 years. It's hotly competitive to secure our favorite, Cabin B, sitting on the Mic-Mac shore, framed by huge white pines. To reserve, you call 364 days in advance at 7 a.m. Or you can try pot-luck and call anytime — there are cancellations. The park equips each cabin with one to two bunk rooms with double beds, a state-of-the-art wood stove and other amenities. Nearby is a heated bathhouse.

To reach the cabin, you ski, hike or snowshoe 1.7 miles over a broad park-tracked trail. Years ago, my husband converted a plastic kids toboggan to pull behind us with gear and food. It's quite a bit of invigorating up and down hills, with encouraging views of Lax Lake and Tettegouche Lake below you head east toward Lake Superior.

Each morning, everyone gathers around the fire and breakfast table to share aspirations for the day. The more fit among us head off to Bear and Bean lakes, and maybe the Northwoods skiing touring trails. Or down to Baptism River Falls and back up again.

Some of us head for Mount Baldy, a vigorous, short uphill to the best viewing outcrop in the park. From the top, you can see a small swamp lake below, beyond it, Mic-Mac Lake, and beyond that, Lake Superior.

Some three dozen of Minnesota's State Parks are open for camping this winter, some with camper cabins, including Jay Cooke and Savannah Portage. Many of the state's resorts are open in the winter, too.

Consider an adventure. Give true winter a chance to restore and entertain you.

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