Crane Lake Stories: Experiences from First-Time Crane Lake Visitor Tanya Dolan
Episode 4 – The Beauty and Variety of Crane Lake from a First Time Visitor
Matt sits down with Crane Lake visitor Tanya Dolan to discuss the memories of her first trip to the area last summer. She talks the variety of things to experience, the beauty and sheer number of lakes and beaches, and many more experiences that stuck with her since her visit. Crane Lake offers so much to do across all seasons that you’ll definitely want to come back for more! The video also includes a brief fishing report, including weather forecast, just in time for this weekend’s fishing opener!
You can check out the video version below, as well as an audio version and full text transcript for the episode! Enjoy.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Why Crane Lake is such a wonderful experience for first-time visitors.
- How there is so much to do and see much to see.
- What makes Crane Lake stick with you, and why you’ll want to come back again and again!
Matt Addington: So welcome back to another edition of Crane Lake Stories. It’s been really fun to have people chiming in and telling all of the exciting things that have happened. Whether they’ve been generations of families coming to the Crane Lake area, or first time visitors alike, there’s something magical about this. Today, we’re grateful that Tanya Dolan from down in the Northfield area, Southern Minnesota, is here to join us. Tonya and her family of five, her husband and three kids, came last summer for the first time to Crane Lake. And Tanya, thanks for coming on, but let’s just jump right into it. What were your impressions as a first timer to the Crane Lake area?
Tanya Dolan: Sure. Well, the chain of lakes, first off, were just amazing. I’ve never been to a chain of lakes quite like it. You kept wanting to go further and explore the lakes, and it was fun to see what was around the corner when you were going around the islands and through the channels. And the drive up beaches were great. The kids had fun hanging out there and eating lunch and swimming. And so, yeah, that sticks out the most.
Matt Addington: You guys pulled your camper up. I think you said you stayed at Handberg’s, you rented a boat. So you had accommodations that the kids were familiar with, but what was it like to plop down on the spot and just go from there?
Tanya Dolan: Sure. The campsites were great. It was right on the lake and we were set up a little bit higher than the lake, so you could see out in the morning when you woke up. There was a dock available that we could park the boat on right below our camp site, so we could just get out and get going on the lake whenever we wanted. Handberg’s was amazing. We really enjoyed that experience.
Matt Addington: Awesome. So you’ve got a high school age son, a middle school aged daughter, and then a pre-school.
Tanya Dolan: Five year old, yeah.
Matt Addington: Elementary age, younger elementary aged daughter. So you’ve got a very wide ranging group of kids. Maybe speaking on their behalf, what was your impressions of how the kids responded to taking off into the wilderness? And especially the older kids, I mean, how did they respond to the getaway part of it?
Tanya Dolan: Right, right. They loved it. We’ve been to the boundary waters and been canoeing with the older kids, and this was a similar experience, but we had a boat, a motor boat, that we could cruise around the lakes and get to places faster. So I feel like it was definitely exciting for them to be cruising around the lakes and seeing the sites. And then our youngest, Charlotte, when we would stop at the beaches and explore there, then she could play and burn off some energy. Yeah, it was great for all ages.
Matt Addington: Do you have any stories that stick out or anything that if you or the rest of the family were to look back on the whole experience of being there something that maybe stuck out as a highlight?
Tanya Dolan: Well, we pulled up to one beach and it was actually a houseboat beach to take a break and just burn off some energy, and there was a bear warning that there was no camping allowed. So the kids got a kick out of that and we’re all walking around looking to see if we could see anything. So that was exciting. And then I think when we got out into the big expanses of the Lake when you could just cruise super fast, that was really fun for Garrett, our oldest, to get out there and really cruise the lakes. And the Vermilion Gorge was great for the kids to hike through and jump around on the rocks, and then you experienced that too. So those things were really great.
Matt Addington: It sounds like it was a great experience. Is it something that you guys are looking forward to going back again to explore farther up into the lakes? Are you planning to go back and what things would you like to do maybe next time on the next trip?
Tanya Dolan: Yes, definitely would like to go back. I would really like to camp out at the different camp sites around the lake that just looked really fun. Everybody that was out there just looked like they were having a great time. So that’s something that I would like to do. And then I would like to go to Kettle Falls into the hotel. We wanted to get out there, but there was just so much to explore and see that we just ran out of time.
Matt Addington: I can only imagine. I mean, I can’t remember my first experience because I was so young, but I can only imagine trying to trip plan for a group or a family of first timers. Obviously, there are guides in the area, one of which Michael Schwanke, we’re going to hear from here in just a little bit with our Kickoff Fishing Report.
Tanya Dolan: Sure.
Matt Addington: But people that do help plan these trips are readily available. But I think about it in the back of my mind and I’m like, “Gosh, if I were to send somebody.” You’ve touched on a few of the things that I would definitely say are the absolutes. You need to see the Gorge and you want to check out the beaches and all these things, but then you start thinking, gosh, yeah, there’s Kettle Falls, the hotel, and there’s going all the way up into Namakan and it just continues to go and go. And if you were to ever look at a map of it, I mean, the possibilities truly are endless.
Tanya Dolan: Yes.
Matt Addington: So it’s almost like your first time trip only left the door open for future visits to the area.
Tanya Dolan: Totally, totally. Yeah, it is overwhelming to look at all that and say, “Where do you start?” But it was definitely a great experience.
Matt Addington: Talk about the beaches, you guys must’ve been in there in the summer. I didn’t even set the table with that.
Tanya Dolan: Yes, yes, we were.
Matt Addington: Any desire to try to see a different season? I know that you grew up in a family of grouse centers and deer hunters and spent time up North.
Tanya Dolan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Matt Addington: Did you look around while you were there thinking, this might be cool to check out in a different season?
Tanya Dolan: Definitely. Yes. That would be definitely something we would like to do, for sure.
Matt Addington: Awesome.
Tanya Dolan: Yeah.
Matt Addington: So now that you’re the seasoned veteran and you were going to give a family with young kids advice or suggestions or pass this on to someone, what would be the suggestions you would give them to make the experience as great as the one that you guys had?
Tanya Dolan: Sure. I would just say, if you rented a boat and you’re planning on spending some time on the lake, if you’re not camping, make sure you plan for a full day out on the lake. So even on some of the beaches, there were fire pits and things like that where you could maybe have a shore lunch or something like that, really plan to be out there for the full day. And then I liked how we didn’t have a plan of what we were going to do while we were there, just so that we could be flexible and say, “Oh, we want to explore this more, go to this beach, or spend more time here.” So I think I liked that we didn’t have a set plan.
Matt Addington: Sure. There are tons and tons of activities to do. But I think that’s one of the things that I love about being there so much is it is just go with the flow.
Tanya Dolan: Right.
Matt Addington: You pull up to a beach and you explore a little bit from there and I can picture my own kids finding blueberries and picking blueberries and climbing on rocks. To just be able to put itineraries and agendas aside and just take it in I think is one of the things that I and so many other people, it sounds like you guys alike, just really enjoy about the area.
Tanya Dolan: Yes, for sure. Yep.
Matt Addington: Great. Well, hey, I appreciate you coming on as a different voice. I mean, we’ve heard voices of people that have been going their whole life and people that have lived there their whole life. There’s so many different ways that the Crane Lake area can just touch people and influence people and entertain people. And it’s just great to hear a voice of a first-timer that had a great experience with her family, and hopefully will come back again. So thanks for coming on.
Tanya Dolan: Yeah, you’re very welcome. I’m glad I could do it.
Matt Addington: Awesome.
Tanya Dolan: All right.
Matt Addington: And with that, we’re going to move to what will hopefully be something that we’ll do with each episode this time of the season. But we’re going to turn it over to a short visit with Michael Schwanke who owns and runs Voyager’s Guidance Service. It is the fishing opener this weekend, and Michael’s got some tips for first timers on the fishing front or the seasoned veteran that’s coming up to the area to experience Minnesota’s traditional fishing opener.
Michael Schwanke: Thanks, Matt. Great to join the Crane Lake stories. Thanks for having me. It’s going to be a great opening weekend. Looks like the weather’s going to be nice, mid-60s. For all the anglers out there, the water temps in the mid-50s. Most of the fish should be post spawn by now with the ice going out early. Still in the shallows. Pitching a jig in a minnow. Working some plastics. Should be a fun weekend. Hope to see everybody out there.
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