Crane Lake Stories: Patricia Berling

Published On: February 7, 20226.8 min read
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The Crane Lake area is a special place to many people. That includes people that grew up there, those who currently reside there, as well as those that think of the area as a second home. The scenery and natural views are like none other and the opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast are endless.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Patricia Berling and discuss her experiences with Crane Lake and the surrounding area. Pat and her family have had a cabin on the lake for decades are proud to call this area their home away from home. Her love of the area has been passed on to her children – two of which have places of their own on Crane Lake – and many of her grandchildren.


Tell me a little about yourself.


I currently live in St. Cloud, MN, and have since the late 1960s.  I grew up in Wadena, MN, and my husband, John, grew up near Melrose, MN. None of our children were born in St. Cloud, but they were raised here.


What brought you to Crane Lake initially?

The whole thing started in 1973. My husband, John, and I started taking the family on vacations to the area.  John worked with a gentleman named Warren Bradbury, whose family owned a resort on Crane Lake. We stayed at the little resort they owned and had such a great time. Warren was from the area and he helped introduce us to everything the area had. He took us on tours of the area, including seeing Lac La Croix and Kettle Falls. We just enjoyed the area so much that we started talking about buying a lake home.



How long have you had a place at Crane Lake? Where is it located?

In 1975, we bought a cabin on Rainy Lake near Blueberry Island. It was over an hour to get there by boat. We had that place for about 10 years and we eventually had to move out. We didn’t own the property, just the cabin itself. The government bought out our cabin when Voyageurs National Park was formed.

At this point, we talked with our friend Warren Bradbury again and looked at three different cabins on Crane Lake. Eventually, we settled on one on Baylis Island, which we purchased in 1986.

Our friends sure thought we were crazy because we purchased a cabin on an island. They knew it would be a trek to get there, as well as it was already 4 ½ hours from our home in St. Cloud.

Once we had friends at the cabin, they completely understood. They all wanted to come back.

Our son Brian, actually owned half of it from the start. When my husband John was diagnosed with cancer, we sold the other half to our son. Brian still owns it to this day.



Tell me a little about your history with Crane Lake and the surrounding area.

We give Warren Bradbury credit for our time at Crane Lake. He’s who introduced us to the area and helped us in several ways.

Before coming to Crane Lake, we were never very experienced boaters, but having a place there has taught us a lot, including reading maps and using a compass. At that time, that was the only way to navigate. We weren’t expert fishermen either, but after talking to people and learning the lake we’ve found some pretty great fishing spots.

It is different than any other area, which is why we love it. We felt good about introducing our kids to the great outdoors there. It’s also spread to our grandchildren. Part of it is that it’s an adventure to get there. The air seems fresher and there’s always room for activities there. You see people, but it never feels that busy. There’s so much water to use.



What’s it like to have a cabin on an island?

The most interesting part of having a cabin on the island is that everything requires a whole new level of planning. Not long after we bought the cabin, we decided to add on to it.  It was such a unique experience to have to bring everything over to the cabin by boat. Our sons and friends helped with the addition. We had to cut a hole in the side of the cabin to add on to it. It required lots of planning to figure everything out.

Groceries were always an interesting situation too. We like to eat some fish when we are up there. We always had canned ham at the cabin, just in case we didn’t catch enough fish. No one wanted to have to eat the canned ham, so they fished as hard as they good for that meal.

Initially, we didn’t have any electricity or running water on the island – just gas and outhouses. It’s stayed that way up until recently when my son Brian added water.

Another thing is that our dock is kind of like our patio – it’s where we hang out. It’s a permanent dock so it stays there year-round. In the years we’ve been there, we’ve actually lost the dock twice. 


What made you stay at Crane Lake? What keeps bringing you back?


Part of that was because of the boys. They loved that area and always wanted to go back. With the land lease we had on Rainy Lake, we figured we’d be there for just 10 years and then find a cabin somewhere closer to home. That’s not what our kids wanted though – they loved the Crane Lake area, so we made the decision to have a place there.

It is a special place to our entire family. It seemed like the longer we had it, the more we all wanted to be there. Eventually, I sort of became a booking agent. I was constantly figuring out who would get to be there on which weekends.

Two of our sons, Brian and Dan, both have cabins on Crane Lake to this day.


What is your favorite part of the Crane Lake area?

The simplicity of it. I love to sit on the dock and enjoy the scenery. I also enjoy touring the lakes, there’s just so much water to explore.

My other favorite part is the people that live there. They are all so helpful. We’ve learned so much from the people in the area.


What are some of your favorite memories about Crane Lake?

I have so many memories up there, so its hard to narrow it down. We had a bear on the porch one time that came right through the screen on the porch. Several of us were out fishing, but my husband was there and he scared him off. We store a lot of our food on the porch, so it came in looking for an easy meal. Since the cabin is on the island, it was quite the surprise to have a bear come through.

One thing about the cabin is that we always made the rule to have no TV. Instead, we took this as an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, play games, and whatnot. We have lots of memories from that. My son Brian has continued with this same rule now that he owns the cabin.

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If you would like more information about the Crane Lake area or to access our Visitors Guide, please visit our Contact Page. Thank you for your interest in our beautiful area.