BRAD DOKKEN: Trip to friend's 'lake cabin' serves up a snow-removal party

I've often said I'd never own a lake cabin because I like fishing too much. Too often, it seems to me, the owners of lake cabins spend all of their time working in the yard, repairing docks or dealing with the myriad other problems that go with t...

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I've often said I'd never own a lake cabin because I like fishing too much.

Too often, it seems to me, the owners of lake cabins spend all of their time working in the yard, repairing docks or dealing with the myriad other problems that go with the territory. The result is no time left for fishing.

That outlook was confirmed last Sunday, when I helped a friend dig out his cabin near Devils Lake.

A couple of points need clarifying here: The place isn't exactly a lake cabin because it's nearly a mile from the ever-rising water and sits on blissfully high ground. And it's not so much a cabin as a three-bedroom house that would make great living accommodations year-round.

The place also has an uncanny ability for collecting snow, from what I've seen in recent winters. The house is surrounded by trees on three sides but exposed to the prevalent north wind on the other. When snow flies -- as it's done so often this winter in Devils Lake -- the snow builds up in the driveway, on the roof and on the deck.


It was apparent we'd be in for a workout as soon as we pulled into the driveway late last Sunday morning. The plow that had cleared the road after the latest storm had left a rock-hard wall of snow at the entrance to the driveway, and opening up the access was going to take a bit of ingenuity.

All we could do was groan and sigh at the job in front of us.

Fortunately, my friend has an ATV with a plow on the front, and after repeated attempts, he was able to ram his way through the wall of snow and clear the entrance to the driveway. Meanwhile, I used his snow blower to clear the rest of the driveway, which was covered with a few inches of snow that wasn't nearly as hard.

The job took about an hour, which wasn't bad, considering the sight that had greeted us when we got there.

After a well-deserved break for lunch, clearing snow from the roof was next on the agenda. Keep in mind, now, that this is a three-bedroom house with a double garage and not a quaint lake cabin. There's a lot of roof to collect snow, and every square inch of it was covered with at least 2 feet of the white stuff.

It was one of those "where do I begin?" moments.

I'm not a big fan of heights -- it's all I can do to clean the leaves from my eaves troughs once a year -- and so I started out on the ground, using a roof rake to clear snow from the edges of the roof while my friend got up and began scaling the snowy heights of "Mount Lake House," shovel in hand.

This was going to be a lot of work.


The first order of business was to clear the sewer vents and the satellite dish, which had been covered with too much snow to receive a signal when we tried it over lunch. On the plus side, that had prevented us from watching the Vikings end their dismal season by losing to the Lions.

It quickly became apparent I was going to be more useful on the roof than on the ground, and so I scaled the lofty heights to join my friend.

I tried to suppress the twinges of fear that set in every time my feet slipped on the snowy shingles.

Another friend from Grand Forks who'd made the trip with us to tend to his own cabin joined the shoveling party a short time later. A neighbor with a tractor had cleared his driveway, he said, or he would have been there for hours, so big was the wall of snow that blocked the access to his cabin.

With three of us chipping away, signs of progress began to show as the roof shed its snowy coat. On the downside, much of the snow at the front of the house landed on the sidewalk I'd blown free earlier in the day.

At the back of the house, the snow landed on the deck, which was beginning to look like a great place for a game of "King of the Hill."

There was plenty of snow left on the roof, but we'd cleared the worst of it by the time we hung up the shovels, our aching bodies dripping with sweat, and steered the truck back to Grand Forks.

Still, there was a feeling of satisfaction at a job done -- if not necessarily well done -- and a sense of relief that the roof wouldn't be caving in from snow overload anytime soon.


Next time, maybe we'll have enough energy left to tackle the deck. Or, even better, just say heck with it and go fishing.

That's what lake cabins are supposed to be about, after all.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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