MENTOR, Minn. - Frozen underneath a fluffy canopy of white and edged by hoarfrost-laden trees, Maple Lake lies in stillness. Deer, belly deep in snow, glance curiously as a pickup truck passes by them on one of the roads encircling the lake, then resume digging for grass.
It's a scene that "summer people," the ones who put their docks in the water on Memorial Day and pull them out on Labor Day, don't get to see, but that people such as Dick and Deb Paquin, Loren and Bonnie Abel, Kathy and Tom Quirk, Marilyn Arness and others who call the lake their home year-around, treasure.
"I like the quietness," said Loren Abel. "There's a definite change from the way it is from the first of May to Labor Day." He and his wife, Bonnie, have lived on the lake year-round for the past five years, moving there from East Grand Forks. Spending summers at the lake had been a family tradition since Abel's parents bought property there in the 1950s, and it had long been in the back of his mind to someday make it his permanent residence, he said.
An outdoorsman, Abel enjoys ice fishing on the lake in the winter, hosting ice skating on the lake for guests and watching the wildlife that make it their home. Besides deer, rabbits, Canada geese and wild turkeys also abound at Maple Lake, Abel said.
The deer come right up to the residents' windows, Arness said.
"I don't mind the deer looking at me like I'm the one in the cage," she said with a laugh. Arness, 84, has had a residence on the lake her entire life, spending summers there for about 50 years and making it her permanent address 34 years ago.
When Arness isn't working at her job as secretary at Faith Lutheran Church in Mentor or playing the organ for its services, she's visiting with friends over lunch at the Mentor Cafe. Arness also annually hosts family gatherings of 19 and occasional stranded motorists at her four-bedroom early 20th-century lake home, she said.
"I'm very involved here," Arness said. Her children, who live out of state, worry about her living on the lake by herself, but Arness has no qualms. Her friends and neighbors at the lake and in Mentor are like family and watch out for her, she said.
"If you didn't come up here one morning, they'd come looking for you," Kathy Quirk said.
While being active and interacting with people is something Arness very much enjoys, she also values the flip side of lake life in the winter, nestling inside her house with Honey and Mitten, her dog and cat, for company, and enjoying the serene scene outside her windows.
"It's peaceful; I love it out here," Arness said. "I love people, but I like them on my own terms."
Kathy Quirk also appreciates the calmness of Maple Lake in winter, she said. She and her husband, Tom, have lived in a cul de sac on the lake since 2005.
"We started extending our weekend stay," Quirk said with a grin. "First it was until Monday, then it was Tuesday, then Wednesday, then. ..."
The number of people who live on the lake year-round is growing, Dick Paquin said. A seed potato farmer, Dick and his wife, Deb, who has run the Mentor Cafe since 1987, have been lake residents for nearly 30 years.
"I like it all the time," Dick Paquin said. "It's nice for the kids and now the grandkids. In summer, they swim. In winter, they can ice fish." And during all four seasons, Deb is busy cooking at the cafe, which is open from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
"She's got a group, either from three to eight people, they're farmers, who are waiting at the door when she opens up," Dick Paquin said.