Crane Lake Stories: Making Memories Outdoors in Crane Lake with Steve Walters

Episode 3 - Sharing the Crane Lake Experience Across Generations with Steve Walters

In this episode we are joined by long-time Crane Lake vacationer Steve Walters to discuss the value of Crane Lake as a spot to make lasting family memories. Steve talks about his memories with his family growing up, and how valuable it has been to share the experience of Crane Lake with his own children now. We also discuss Crane Lake as a perfect escape, with easy access to amenities but also a short distance from being able to easily unplug. There's no shortage of ways to get away from the screen time and experience something better in Crane Lake!

You can check out the video version of these great stories below, as well as the audio version and the full text version of the episode.

What You'll Learn In This Episode

  • Why Crane Lake is an excellent destination for families
  • How Crane Lake's community can make your vacation experience a welcoming one
  • How there's no shortage of things to see and do, and memories to make!

Don’t miss an episode – catch Crane Lake Stories on YouTube!

Episode Transcript;

Matt Addington: So welcome back to another episode of Crane Lake Stories. We are just so tickled with all of the opportunities we have to visit with the people about exactly that, the stories that come out of this special place in the world. And this week, we're really excited to have Steve Walters with us who is not a Crane Lake resident, but after all of these years, certainly could be. Steve works in software now down in White Bear Lake, but grew up in Hibbing. A little affinity and a little similarity to myself so we've had a lot of, a lot of stories to share. But Steve, we really appreciate you coming on to talk about all of the great things that have happened in your lifetime up at Crane Lake.

Steve Walters: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Yeah, Crane Lake was a major part growing up. My family's been going up there probably since the 50s, starting with my grandfather and his friends. They'd go from Crane Lake up the Lac La Croix and catching walleyes. And then my dad and his brothers loved it up there. So I've been going up there ever since I was a kid two or three times a summer, staying in all the different resorts and campgrounds and going up in the fishing in the gorge and the hiking. So it's been a major part of our lives, even bringing my kids up there. So yeah, I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we haven't made it up there for at least a weekend.

Matt Addington: That's awesome. That's one of the things that I think has been fun about just really honing in on a certain area like Crane Lake and learning the stories, is thinking about the generational part and how you are probably one of so many folks that went there as a child with their parents and or grandparents and now are taking their own kids. And it's such a place that you want to just continue the tradition of allowing your kids to experience the things that you did. And I think of that myself leaving Hibbing and going up to Crane Lake or Namakan, where we spent a lot of time, and all of the adventures, hiking around on islands and finding blueberries and just the adventure of being there. And now seeing my young kids do that, I'm sure you revel in that and cherish that as well.

Steve Walters: Yeah. It's been really cool to have that multi-generational experience where I can remember camping King Williams Narrows with my dad and my uncle and my older sister and going fishing and you get bears running around and you get all these different adventures, and then fast forward to my kids and we're staying at the different resorts like Scott's and the kids are playing and running around on the beach and they're getting to know the dogs that the different resort owners have. They still talk about Ruby puppies, which was one of the dogs up there, and fishing from the dock and watching the sea planes, the water planes come in and out. It's really cool to be able to have my set of memories and then start looking at it again through their eyes as they're experiencing, walking, hiking up to the gorge for the first time and looking down and their eyes are all big where they're watching all the water rushing in.

You can see them experience that, that flutter feeling in their stomach that they're looking over the edge and I remember, when I was first going up there when I was a kid. Yeah, it's been really cool to share that and have the experiences that I had with my family when I was a kid now being able to share that with all my kids.

Matt Addington: So yeah, this generation, our kids now growing up, you and I are close in age and our kids are relatively close in age, to see them experience something that time stands still to a certain extent there. The experiences that you and I had, we weren't carrying around cell phones and taking pictures, but it seems like kids get there and it could be 100 years ago and, and they are experiencing some of the same things, which, when you get back to society, if you will, away from Crane Lake and back to cell service and all of the amenities that we have in our world right now, to go there and get away from all of that and see young people, especially experience the wilderness and the adventure, I think is just one of the really cool things that hopefully will just continue throughout time and through more generations in that area.

Steve Walters: Yeah, I completely agree with that. One of the things that I really love about the Crane Lake area and what makes it so appealing to me is that you've got enough amenities to have some comfort, but you also have the ability within five minutes, you're away from everything.

Matt Addington: Right.

Steve Walters: You're able to, you want to be alone when you're fishing with your family, you want to go on a hike, whatever it is that you want to do, you can unplug and you can get away from all this other stuff like you've talked about with screens and just day-to-day life. Everything's gotten so busy and it's great to just sit there and you can almost see when that tension leaves, and that's one of the things that's so awesome is, we'll be sitting out in the boat and you're just fishing for a while with the kids and then all of a sudden you see them stop with the antsy when they're littler. They stop the antsy and now they're taking it in and their eyes get a little bit bigger and now they're seeing it.

They're seeing the turtles on the log. They're seeing the deer as they come up to drink from the lake and they see the birds. And now they're starting to notice and you see them hit that rhythm with nature, and you hit that rhythm that you can't get really with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So I love that part of going up there, and that's a big reason why we keep going back.

Matt Addington: Yeah, for sure. I've observed, not only my kids, but other young people that have been there visiting just in the times that I've been there, and it seems like they get to a certain point where they realize that all of the technology that you're not going to probably have great cell service and they get to, not a breaking point, but a point where they become so content and just peaceful with the fact that, that stuff is not in the game right now. And they can, like you said, enjoy so many of those things that make the place beautiful, which is really, really awesome.

Steve Walters: Yeah, I love that fact. I love that when you see them connect and they connect with Crane Lake and nature and the rhythm of everything and you see them, instead of being agitated or antsy, now they're at the point where they're going along the shoreline and they're picking up rocks and they're looking for frogs and they're checking out the bugs and they're like, "Oh, hey." They're seeing things they haven't seen before because they haven't stopped and slowed down to be able to do that.

Matt Addington: Right.

Steve Walters:  That's one of the things. I mean, we've got tons of pictures because my wife and I'll be there with our phones in the background capturing everything, because these are such cool moments that you get to experience with your kids. And as they get older and things get faster, you want to be able to remember and help them remember what it's like to make that connection.

Matt Addington: Exactly, yeah. Now, you talked about your family's got a hunting shack down south of Crane Lake there, but you as a kid left Hibbing on weekends or for a week in the summer or at different times, and talk about some of the places that you've stayed. It sounds like from just our quick conversation before we started recording that you got to see a lot of different resorts and cabins and campgrounds. Talk about some of the places that as a youngster you remember your family staying.

Steve Walters: Yeah. We stayed at a lot of different ones there. Maybe all of them. I don't remember anymore. But we stayed at the old Olson's Resort. My parents used to like to stay there. I've got a lot of memories of sitting right where the stream comes in under the road. We'd be staying at Olson's, I'd go sit on the rocks with my little fishing rods and catching fish right there. I stayed with Norway a bunch of times. Beto’s Campground, when it used to be there. That was one of my first camping experiences was staying at Beto's. Handberg's, we'd go out there and get stuff for the boat, especially if my dad's old 16 foot one with that 35 ports tiller on it. If you had any issues, we'd go run over there. Depending how bad it was, we'd have to drive or we'd would take the boat.

But Pine Point, we'd stayed with them. Scott's, I've got my Scott's Sea Plane hat on today, because every time I get up there, I try to get one of those. A little tradition we have. Yeah, Voyager's, we'd go and eat there all the time. So I think that over the years, Nelson's, we stayed that Nelson's when I was a kid. I remember that. So I think over the years, we've stayed with just about everybody, and I think that one of the things from doing that is everybody's a little bit different, but it's all a community. One of the things, if something weird happened, one resort would go and say, "Hey, oh, you know what, I don't have one of those. Let me go talk to so-and-so at this resort," because when you've got kids and stuff and you're little, sometimes things get weird.

But all of these different resorts where we're so ingrained in my memory and that's part of what goes when you're looking back at your own chronology is, "Oh, how old was I then? Do you remember that time when we were fishing off the dock? But it was out in front of Norway. I think we were at Olsen's that time, but maybe that otter came up and it was stealing our bait?" That's part of that memory set is just, "When we were at Green Lake," and we even use that for other things that happened in our life where we're like, "Oh remember, that was that summer that we stayed at ..."

Matt Addington: You can measure it almost.

Steve Walters: Right. Right, because remember, that was the year that we stayed at Beto's in that one storm or whatever came in, or this was a year that we camped on Bear Island. It's such an ingrained portion of our lives an event that we measure what ages we were and where we were at with what resorts we had stayed at that summer.

Matt Addington: And I think it's testament to the special nature that we had talked about earlier that here we are 25, 30, 35 years, 40 years later and you can remember where that otter came and you can probably remember the color of your bobber, and you can remember all of these things like walking out on the docket at Nelson's and the rain was coming. And you can remember those details with such just vivid clarity. And if you're like me, you probably are, I was supposed to grab ice when I went to the grocery store and I forgot. And that was 25 seconds ago, you can't remember this stuff, but then again you turn the clock back decades and it's the things, these really important things, that you're measuring time beyond. And I think that's, again, a testament to the special place that Crane Lake is.

Steve Walters: Yeah. Like we were talking about before, creating those moments for our kid. Those moments that were created for me when I was a kid I've carried the sights, the smells, the fields. We're all camping the one time, a big rainstorm came. And I think we're on the King Williams Narrows Campground. Anyways, we had to race the storm back in and we weren't even staying at Olsen's at the time, but we just said, "Hey, we're soaked. Do you have washers and dryers or anything like that?" They're like, "Yeah, we've got some in the back." And that memory, I was nine at the time, and I'm over 40, so I'm getting the dad brain going on, but that ride back across the lake and going in and the resort that people were like, "Yeah, come on in. We'll take care of you and we'll help you out," those moments get ingrained in your head.

One of my best fishing experiences ever was just me and my dad in the gorge and we just spent the day together fishing. And the sun would come out, we catch a small mouth, the clouds would come over, we'd catch large mouth. There was a deer that came out and it was like a Disney moment. But that was all made possible because Handberg's had the right spark plugs for us, because we got up there and my dad's boat, the motor wouldn't go. We weren't even staying at there. We were staying over I think at Norway's that time, but because of that community, and because of the type of special place that, that is, I was able to have that moment and have those experiences that I'm still remembering 20 plus years later.

Matt Addington: Yeah. You mentioned, we had talked about it, you started talking about your dad's 16 foot London. I was tuning out where you were going with it, because in the back of my mind, I'm like, "Oh, guaranteed this has got the wooden seats, and he's probably got a 35 horse Johnson on the back." And then I picked up, you continued the story, right on, it was exactly the same boat set up that we had. And just so many memories as I'm listening to you talk are some of the same memories that I had. We had friends that have a place still to this day on Namakan. And so as a young kid, I was paralleling a lot of what you were doing. I was on Namakan and you were on Crane. Did you either as a kid growing up or now even into your adult life, have you explored some of the other lakes? Have you gone up to the Kettle Falls into Loon River and into Sandpoint? Have you done some of the exploring of the other lakes?

Steve Walters: Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. That was the big deal was, we always thought it was cool when we were kids. "Are we going to go to the pinch, Dad? Or we're going to go through the Narrows and see the pinch?" right at there at Sandpoint. And so my dad would take us up through Sandpoint up into Namakan. We can take a look at the glyphs, the hieroglyphs that they have on the different rocks and things. We made it a tradition for 20 some years now into my adult life that we'll rent a pontoon and we'll take off and we'll go through Sandpoint, Loon River, Little Vermilion, and we'll just fish up and down that side and spend a day doing that and exploring. I think it was 10 years ago now that we took and we went up to an island that my dad had stayed on when he was a kid.

And talking about those special moments, he remembered it, and he'd have been, I don't know, almost 60 years old. But he remembered it from when he was nine or 10 years old and he was like, "I remember this one island." I'm like, "You remember one island in Namakan, Dad? It's only got what, how many thousand? One island in Namakan?" But he remembered that one island and I took us up, and then we got to go, multi-generational, my dad, my mom, me, my kids, and walking around on the same island that he camped out with my grandfather.

Matt Addington: Wow.

Steve Walters: But yeah, exploring, like we talked about before, having the ability to go and explore these places and have these moments and be able to slow down and do that is really a cool situation. And I think that it's one of the beautiful things about Crane Lake, is that you can do that where you can get away from all the different amenities that we talked about with the cell phones and whatnot. And then you can just go five, 10 minutes later, 15 minutes later, you are now exploring and you are now looking at ancient history with the hieroglyphs. You are now looking at places and areas and living histories, or going hiking. You're taking off and you're going on one of those longer hiking trails that are available off there. So there's no shortage. That's the cool thing about, even after all the years that I've been up there, I still haven't seen everything.

Matt Addington: Right, right. I mean, it just goes forever. It really does. And the adventure and your choice of what you want to do is yours. So you've talked about fishing a few times. One of the things that I love about Crane Lake and the whole chain of lakes is you can be a really, really hardcore fishermen and have some of the best fishing and in North America, for that matter, but you can also be a recreational fishermen. You've talked about renting a pontoon and just fishing your way up through the lakes, fishing the gorge. Talk about a little bit of some of your memories. You talked about you and your dad and the gorge, but what are some other memories with fishing that you've got on any of the lakes, for that matter?

Steve Walters: Yeah, I think you hit a nail on the head, is that the fishing experience you want to have is there. If you just want to go out and have a good time with the family and with the kids, you can go spot on and you've got an eagle claw and some leeches or crawlers and bobbers or whatever, and you're dropping them down and you're hitting panfish, you're hitting little small mouth, and you can do that for hours. If you want to get into some of the bigger fish, you want to go after some more trophies or whatnot, you can do that too. We used to, when we were kids starting out, when casting was a bad word, so that we didn't end up with more eye injuries ...

Matt Addington:  Right.

Steve Walters:  ... we would go into the gorge or we call them the bobbers, where the buoys are on the telephone wires.

Matt Addington:  Yep.

Steve Walters: And we'd just be still fishing, and that's the way my dad grew up, was still fishing a lot, catching smallies and walleyes that way. As we got older, then that's when we started exploring more like, "Okay, we're going to go fish the Finchmore and we're going to look and find the different walleyes and start chucking crank baits, or we're going to start trolling with spinners away from there." And then we'd got up around the corner into, one of our favorite things to do is to go through Sandpoint and Little Vermilion and Loon, and we'll just keep working up that shoreline. And in the course of a day doing that, goofing around, we're hitting small mouth bass, walleye, big pike. Just be careful about the cast too far to the one side of river, because that is Canada and the fish come out and they have a funny accent, so you want to be careful about that.

 But the fun part is that you can go in and you can ask people at the resort to say, "Hey, I'm looking to do this." "Oh, okay. No problem," and they can point you in the right direction. If you want to get a guide, you can get a guide, but they're willing to just say, "Hey, if you're just looking, go on to further reads over here. Throw on crawlers or the hidden leeches, and bobbers or slip bobbers," and catching all you want.

Matt Addington: Yep. You've mentioned a couple of times that sometimes you'd stay at a resort, sometimes you'd camp. Do you have any great camping memories or camping stories from times that you were out roughing it a little bit more?

Steve Walters: Yeah, there's a couple of them. It depends. Do you want the bear one or the storm one?

Matt Addington: Ooh, gosh. Tell us the storm one.

Steve Walters: So we were staying on that Bear Island. We were staying right across from King Williams Narrows where they have that campground.

Matt Addington: Mm-hmm.

Steve Walters: And they have the camping spot right up on top of the point. Beautiful view and everything. Well, a storm blew in from the Northwest. We were staying in the fall in, again, that little London, the 35 horse Jackson. We were going to try, and the water was up to the seats in that thing, so we're going to take it out and run around. My dad was going to pull the plug and drain it. While I was pushing it out, the waves were coming in so fast that by the time my dad hit his third pull, because it always took three polls to start it, we were back in the sand again. So we kept pushing it out and doing that and pushing it out and trying to do that, and I learned new words that day from my dad. I think I was 12 at the time.

So finally we just said, "We've got to let this pass." We went up and we grabbed a tarp and we went down on the beach there, just inside the woods so we could get some coverage while we waited for the wind and the storms to come through. And then we took off and ran the boat around, drained the water out, and then my dad said, "Well, we didn't go through all this for nothing." We went up to pinch and caught some walleyes.

Matt Addington:  Nice. A fitting end.

Steve Walters: Yeah.

Matt Addington: Cool. Well, Hey, this has been a great conversation. I hope that it would really be fun sometime to connect in person while we were both up there, and lots of reminiscing. Like I said, we both grew up in Hibbing, just a little bit at a tiny bit different time, but so many experiences of making that drive up to Orr and then up to Crane Lake. I'm sure we could sit around the campfire and drink a cup of cold beverages and have a lot more stories to share. But from a Crane Lake story standpoint, we really appreciate you coming on to tell a little bit about your Crane Lake story over the course of your life and this whole multi-generation thing that your family has. We really appreciate it.

Steve Walters: Well, it's been a great time. I love being up there. I love talking to you guys, and hopefully we'll run into each other. And I'll have to warn you, I talk a little bit more if we do have some cold beverages.

Matt Addington: Sounds good. Like we said, when we're up there, we've got all the time in the world, so let's try to make that happen at some point.

Steve Walters: Sounds good.

Matt Addington: Great. Well, that's it for this week's episode of Crane Lake Stories. Again, we really appreciate Steve Walters coming on and telling some of his classic stories, the timeless stories of Crane Lake and his experiences with his family, both his grandparents, parents, and now his own kids as they spend time and continue to make memories in the Crane Lake area. Be sure and hit subscribe either on the podcast or the YouTube channel and continue to come back for many of these great stories. We're getting close to fishing season here, coming up in a couple of weeks. So the Crane Lake stories will tease you a little bit with some fishing reports that are coming up. The ice is out now on the lake so everybody's itching for the change of season and the next exciting things that are going to happen. So until next time, thank you. And we'll see next time.

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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.

Crane Lake Visitor & Tourism Bureau
7511 Gold Coast Road
Crane Lake, MN 55725
800-362-7405 · 218-993-2901

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