March 13, 2020, is a day I will never forget. It is the last day that my children went to school and was a few days before life as we have known it had dramatically changed. The rapid shutdown of our state, our country, and the world began shortly thereafter as the venomous reach of the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States like a match in a dry forest waiting to burn.

Never in our wildest dreams could we have anticipated or even imagined such a devastating, life-changing global pandemic could take place and rock the world. Now over three months later, after canceled plans and completely rearranged lives, we have all settled into the new “normal”. A life of social-distancing, working at home, wearing a mask when out in public, not traveling or doing much of anything outside of the home except our daily walks, and wondering when on earth our lives will ever be the same.

Then just as we were finally beginning to accept our unsettled lives in the midst of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd happened less than three miles away from our Minneapolis home setting off angst, rage, a few days of absolute lawlessness, fear, rioting, looting, pain, and destruction. When our city finally regained control and the massive clean up began, our hearts were broken. It was devastating and traumatizing on so many levels that it is hard to explain. We needed to get out.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

After three long, challenging months of fear, anxiety, isolation, and sadness, it was time to break free and leave home. We booked a weekend away, our first trip since the pandemic began, to Ely, Minnesota, a remote town on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wildnerness Area, four hours north of Minneapolis. It was time for a change of scenery and a mental break.

We decided to rent a cabin at a small remote resort that we had stayed at a few times before, called the Northernair Lodge. We knew that it was isolated enough to safely socially-distance and since we could drive there we would not have to worry about traveling by plane.  Ely is a small town of only a couple thousand people so we were more concerned with potentially bringing COVID-19 there (where they have few reported cases) than actually catching it ourselves.

As we left the city, and slowly headed north I could feel the tension in my back and shoulders dissipate. For a woman who loves to travel, this was the first time I had left a ten-mile radius of my house in the city in over three months. It was liberating. Yet it also made me feel sad for all that has been lost in these past three months. I was hoping that the pure, untouched beauty of northern Minnesota would ease some of the sorrow and pain.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

We made two stops along the way to use the restroom and even that felt strange. None of the typical restroom stops were open save the gas stations and we were almost the only ones wearing our masks (it is required in our city to wear a face mask indoors so it has become normal for us). The further north we went, the less it felt that COVID was real until we arrived in Ely.  The harsh impact on the economy in such a small town was evident by the boarded up shops and stores. The big tourist draws such as the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center were still closed due to the pandemic (Both have reopened since we were there). Yet of course being outside and enjoying nature was not canceled. Nor was sitting by a campfire, kayaking on a pristine lake or listening to the melodic cry of the loon at sunset.

Three days relaxing and restoring some of our faith in mankind would be helpful.

What I love so much about staying at the Northernair Lodge is that it is the only resort on the entire lake and the cabins are small, secluded and tucked away inside the woods. The shoreline of Lake Mitchell is pristine and much of the forest around the lake is protected and undeveloped.

Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

Luckily we were able to book a three-bedroom cabin the night before we left and were able to have the place relatively to ourselves for a long weekend. We even brought our water-loving dog who had the time of his life swimming in the lake and fetching sticks.

Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

While restaurants were not open for dine-in, we were able to order carry-out one night to support one of our favorite local places to eat. The other nights we cooked over a charcoal grill and even roasted s’mores. During the day, we hiked and it was not too buggy or hot yet. We did a day hike at our favorite place, along the Superior National Forest trail to Bass and Dry Lake. We discovered this little treasure last summer when we went to Ely for vacation and instantly fell in love with its magical pristine blue lakes, dramatic views, waterfalls, and forests. We also discovered a new hike along one of the many winter Nordic ski trails winding through a beautiful forest filled with lady slippers, the Minnesota State Flower.

While it wasn’t just like old times traveling, it was still very nice and necessary to take a break and get away. I also realized that it was not as nerve-wracking as I thought it would feel to do a road trip during a global pandemic. As we are learning more about how the virus can spread and how it can’t, we are adapting and adjusting to a new way of life and travel. While I am nowhere near ready to fly or travel far for quite some time, I feel comfortable doing another driving trip as long as we take the necessary precautions.

Northernair Lodge, Ely MN


    1. Thanks Julie! I hope you are doing well! Isn’t it hard to believe how much life has changed since our trip? Who would have ever known? I can hardly wait until the day we can travel once again. For now, I’m trying not to think too hard about it. I’m glad it is summer and we can be outside. How are you doing? Miss that smile and laugh! 🙂

  1. I’m glad you finally had a chance to go on your first trip away. All our holidays were cancelled and the only thing we can do is to explore more of Ireland. Fortunately there are many beautiful places 😍

    1. Oh you are lucky to live in such a beautiful place! I went to Ireland years ago and it is so incredibly beautiful. I am glad we got to get away too. This has been so hard and even harder knowing how poorly we are handling it in our country. It makes my stomach ache.

  2. Beautiful. I understand how glad you are to be out, Nicole. I took our daughter and son-in-law up to Montezuma Castle and Sedona last Friday and enjoyed just that short trip immensely.


    1. Yes it has been so hard Janet. I worry about you all in Arizona. My parents live there too and the virus has really spiked. Here we at least are getting it in control for now and I’m hoping my kids can go to school. It is such a scary time.

      I would love to stop at Montezuma Castle. I remember seeing it on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. I also love Flagstaff and Sedona.

      1. We’re being very careful, as we’ve been the entire time, and now most people are starting to wear masks at stores and when around groups of people. But initially many were quite cavalier about not wearing masks, something I just don’t understand. It’s not difficult and makes a difference.

        I always enjoy Montezuma Castle and Sedona. I imagine I’ll be going up to Falgstaff this winter in hopes of seeing some snow. 🙂 Prescott could be fun as well. I’ve only been there once for a short time but it seemed quite nice. Lots to see in this area.

      2. That is good to hear. It has been a law here to wear masks for awhile in the city so I avoid going to the suburbs for shopping unless I must. Our cases are doing well now so I hope it continues. SO scary though.

        I went skiing in Flagstaff a few years ago. It was wonderful! They have some nice restaurants too and in the summer you can hike at Mount Humprehies.

      3. I’m a bit concerned about you as well with the move to get rid of the police. There has to be a workable solution between no police and the problems going on now. I’ve read that crime is rising in Minneapolis right now, so be careful.

      4. Me too! I am really careful about writing all my feelings on the blog because I know how divided our country is and even my city and state. I am very concerned about this issue! My son was out with friends last weekend on his bike (he is in high school so I need to let him have some freedom) and I told him to be home by midnight. He was just at one of our lakes and it is normally very safe but I had a nagging feeling. 30 minutes after he got home, that shooting happened in Uptown right where his friend lives. I was shocked but violent crime has been really on the increase since Floyd’s murder and it is very scary. We have a very liberal city council with way too much power and a weak mayor. I’ve been actively on our NextDoor where there has been a lot of excellent discussion and the good news is that everyone wants change and reform but no one wants no protection either. We used to be called “Murderapolis” and the North part of Minneapolis has a lot of gun violence. So far the word from a lot has been that they would leave the city if it became lawless. I am going to do whatever I can to remain actively involved in the coversation. As much as the police must change, we have to have police. That was obvious during the rioting when it was basically lawless and we had to set up neighborhood watches. Some people I knew even sat outside to protect their area with guns. (Not right in my neighborhood but not far either). I think the city council is in over their heads as is our mayor and have no idea what they are doing. Anyway, there is so much to think of now it is pretty crazy. So deep breaths and I’m going to remain active in hoping that we can create a safe equitable city where people and families want to live.

    1. Thanks Lisa. Yes it was beautiful but I think my emotions were so raw then. Good news is we are heading to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan soon. I think my soul is worn out enough that this time I’m hoping to relax more. It is so hard now. The toxic politics, the racism, the pandemic, everything.

      On another note, I hope the Captain is mending. Wow, you’ve also had a tough time but as we all know life is never easy. 🙂 Sending hugs!

      1. I adore the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was my favorite place to visit as a child. So much magic there and a perfect place to heal the soul. The world does seem quite broken at the moment, but I see glimmers of good through all of the darkness and have hope that we will emerge from all of this healed, tolerant, aligned, and loving. Thank you for your good wishes for the Captain.

      2. It was such a wonderful getaway Lisa. I did not want to come back one bit. I am working on putting together a post on the trip. I sure loved it there. How are you both doing?

      3. That is good to hear Lisa! Where are you? Are you in Mexico? I lost track. It is probably pretty hard right now to figure out where to go given the pandemic. I sure miss traveling.

      4. Oh yes, that sounds lovely Lisa.:) Much better than being here! Keep us posted.

    1. Yes it was and yes the ugliness for the past four years has been amplified so much it has become unbearable.

      At least there still is some beauty in the world and some goodness.

  3. I’m breathing slowly, enjoying all that open space with you, Nicole. Liberating for the soul 🙂 🙂
    Yes, troubled and crazy times to be bringing kids up. It confounds me how there is no common approach to the virus… masks/no masks… Still rather unsettling here as we are trying to reopen to tourism. Stay safe, hon!

    1. Yes, it has truly been a crazy, maddening few months and raising kids through this has been pretty hard. The murder of George Floyd put me over the edge. I was finally doing ok with the new “normal” when that happened. It was horrific and the terrifying days after when the riots started and all the crazies with unmarked cars from out of town came in to loot and burn our city was just plain madness. Floyd was murdered only three miles from our house and it has changed my entire feelings about our city. It has been hard Jo.

      So many times before this in the past four years I have felt like this is not even my country anymore, not where I want to live and raise my kids. I’ve been so disgusted, enraged and filled with angst. But we obviously can’t just pick up and move to Canada and anywhere else. I often wonder what the future of our country will be.

      I think I need another mental break away! Hugs to you!

    1. Yes indeed Sue. I hope you are doing well. The pandemic is much more under control in Europe than here. It is a nightmare how our lack of government is handling it….

      1. I’m OK, but not getting anywhere…I’m locking myself away until I see how things pan out…here in the UK, we are doing the worst in Europe

      2. I’m trying to read the BBC and Guardian to follow news on Europe and the UK. It is such a mess right now in our country! Scary scary times now isn’t it Sue. Stay well.

  4. This sounds like it was a much needed slice of heaven Nicole. I’m looking forward to a road trip myself, maybe later in the year, but of course I don’t need it quite the same way you guys did. Good for you for getting out for a bit.

    1. Hi Alison! Thanks for stopping by. I have been fairly absent here. I feel so many emotions right now and I tell you, if we could move to Canada we would in a heartbeat. It is such a nightmare and to have an election coming up too.

      On a brighter note, I’m glad to hear you are well and you are fortunate to have so many beautiful places in Canada to visit. We had to cancel our upcoming trip to Washington and Vancouver Island this summer. I am so disappointed as it is our 20th anniversary and the trip was going to be amazing. We were going to visit Orca Island, V.Island and hike. We saved the itinerary in hope we can do it next summer.

  5. I agree that it just feels great to get away from home for a little bit, and it’s also going to be important for all of us to figure out how to live with this disease. Getting away and still staying safe and careful is great practice for loosening up that tiny little bit without endangering ourselves and others. I’ve now driven to Denver twice (16 hours each way) to be with family, and I have a whole system of safeguards! Glad your trip to a favorite place was able to happen and that you felt OK doing it.

    1. How are things going? We just spent a week in the UP and I tell you Lexi, it was the first time in months I felt myself. It was so beautiful and for one week I almost got to forget about the mess we are in. I hope you are staying safe. The numbers in Texas are frightening as they are in AZ where my parents live who I miss dearly.

  6. It sounds like the perfect trip to dip your toes back in to family travel … and a much-needed break. I bet you just said, “Ahhhhh.” And it looks like a gorgeous place. We’ve been taking picnics in the country during the entire pandemic. Luckily, living in horse country, we’ve been able to watch all the new foals and see them grow up over the passing months. That experience has been a real saving grace for our sanity. Here’s to more getaways! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Thanks Terri for the message. We actually just got back from our first one week vacation in months. We went to the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan and it was wonderful. So relaxing and happy to be outdoors and forget about this mess for a week. The next few months will be hard with so much uncertainty. My kids are really starting to miss their old life and friends. No idea what will happen with school yet. You should share some pictures of the new foals! I would love to see them. Beautiful! Stay safe!

      1. I love Michigan’s UP, Nicole. We camped up there for a month a few years ago and the weather was glorious. I’m sure you and your kids feel like you’re caught in limbo with the whole school issue. Every state seems to be addressing it in different ways. Stay safe and healthy. ~Terri

      2. Yes it was so beautiful! I did not want to come back! We will see what the future brings.

  7. This must have been such a welcome relief for you Nicole to get away, particularly as travelling far and wide is in your DNA. These are such challenging times and as I look south of our border I know that so many of you must feel helpless in the face of so much heartbreak and uncertainty. We are fortunate here in British Columbia where we have great health care leadership and our numbers are minimal. We were even able to travel to visit our daughter and granddaughter after five months of being apart two weeks ago; it was the best feeling in the world. Stay well and safe Nicole and lets hope for better days ahead. Warmest wishes to you as always…Andrew

    1. Thanks Andrew! Yes, it has been devastating in so many ways. I wish I was from BC too. You have done such a better job thank our train wreck approach. I miss my family terribly and unfortunately, we are all spread out across the US. I pray for a vaccine soon. Thanks for stopping by!

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