Opening the cabin, an annual summer rite in Minnesota

I joined two generations of the Marshall family when they opened their cabin for the summer earlier this month on Highland Lake, north of Grand Rapids.

For Peggy Marshall, the routine of opening the family cabin is something she's gone through for over four decades, since her parents bought the rustic getaway in 1968.

Photographer Steve Foss joined us at Highland Lake. Steve lives in Ely, but as it turns out, he was in the area that weekend opening up his family cabin for the summer. He spent the entire day before "fighting plumbing." His hands were still covered with PVC primer and glue.

The Foss Family cabin on Lake Beltrami.

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Now, Steve lives in Ely. "God's Country," as he calls it. He's also a fishing guide. So he doesn't really NEED the hassle of maintaining the cabin on Lake Beltrami his dad bought in 1983.

When I ask him why he does it, he pauses. "It's just so hard to express."

"The thrill" of going to the cabin as a kid growing up in Grand Forks is gone now, he said. "But our kids now have kids. And we begin to see the long stretch of time, and the trickle down from generation to generation."

Four generations of the Foss family at their cabin at Lake Beltrami. Photographer Steve Foss is at bottom left.

"When we go to the cabin, it's family time. I'm 51 now, and that means a lot more to me than it did when I was 21."

Steve also owns a small business helping others open their cabins for the summer (and winterize them in the fall).

"There are a lot of people who have a second property," he explained, "and when they come up they want to turn the key and relax. They don't want to have to fix the roof, they don't want to have to repair the dock, they're too busy. This is their downtime."

For some. For others, it's work. But that's OK. Because it's at the family cabin.