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Minnesota island retreat takes on a different tone in fall

Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

As the vintage wooden Chris-Craft shaved a path into the still lake, shades of coral, cherry and lime rippled in the trailing wake.

The florid shoreline, replicated in those blurred patches of water, seemed to be preening.

"The colors are just really getting going," said Michael Andrews, our captain. "By the end of the day, you'll see -- it's going to get even better."

We were at Ludlow's Island Resort, a cluster of charming cabins sprinkled across a patch of Lake Vermilion's shore, on the mainland and a tiny island just off it. In the summer, the haven outside of Cook, Minn., bustles with families playing on the island's beach or afloat in watercraft.

But come autumn, the retreat takes on a different tone. Visitors were few even on a feverishly warm October weekend last year. Dinners were grilled to the soundtrack of a loon's echoing call rather than that of children's laughter. Warm nights were replaced by crisp breezes, paddleboards were replaced by canoes. And the verdant green backdrop of trees had blossomed into a dazzling show of colors, blazing a path southward.

For the previous two days, we had witnessed the drama -- crimsons and golds climbing to a peak -- on Ludlow's 360-degree stage, both on the island itself and on the mainland's serpentine shoreline. The best part of attending this show was the ability to take it in from so many perspectives.

From the water, the spectacle was one orchestrated display. But tuck into the many coves of Lake Vermilion's weaving perimeter, and the picture became pieces. Walking in the woods, my parents and I were amid the actors themselves, reveling in a different, more distinct beauty.

Andrews, who works for the resort, put it simpler with a grin: "It's God's country up here," he said.

A CHRIS-CRAFT WELCOME

About 45 hours earlier, we had arrived at Vermilion's edge via a wooden dock structure bearing a sign for Ludlow's resort and an old magneto phone.

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