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Van Vac

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Van Vac
We are huge fans of Camp Van Vac. The office is shown upper left and a typical cabin top right. These are primitive cabins. They have wood stoves for heat, three burner gas stoves for cooking, minimal furnishings, and bathrooms "down the path." For some, this might seem a bit Spartan. But we've stayed there and we see it differently. Just consider it luxury camping. The bathrooms may be down the path but once you get there they are much better than you'll find at a KOA or national park. The showers are new and spacious with plenty of hot water. You have unlimited amounts of wood and tinder if the nights get cold, and the stoves warm the cabins fast. The kitchens have full sized modern refrigerators, and all rooms have electricity. There is a fine new sauna. The 28 cabins range in size from two people up through 10, and with their low prices ($320 - 800 a week) many groups rent two. Dense forest separates the cabins, providing plenty of privacy. There are outdoor grilles and fire bowls. Plus you'll sleep in a historic 1920s structure.

23 of the cabins are on the water, with their own docks. The others are about 20 yards up the hill. Van Vac offers canoes which you check out and keep tied up at your dock, or you can bring your own with no docking fees. There is a floating raft out on the lake to swim to. The office has books and games to check out for rainy days. Swimming off the docks or at the central beach by the boathouse is available, but the water is rather frosty until July. Camp Van Vac is about 10 minutes from Ely.

There are several strong advantages to staying at Camp Van Vac, most stemming from the fact it is located further West on the lake. There are still cabins along the shore and traffic out on the water, but it is much less crowded or busy than further East. You'll hear and see more birds and four footed creatures, especially if you leave windows open at night so the sounds can awaken you through the screens. Your cabin really is in a rather dense forest. The howls of wolves and sled dogs are pretty memorable.

Van Vac is closer to the best fishing holes on Burntside Lake. If you're into wind surfing or sailing, Van Vac looks out on the largest open expanse of island free water on the lake, so if there's any wind stirring, it will be right off your dock. You're obviously closer than Burntside to all the attractions of the western part of the lake. This photo looks West, with the South mainland to your left and Waters Island the largest island in the distance, partly off the screen to the right. Far in the distance is the point where you turn South toward Hoist Bay and the river. Low on the horizon is Dollar Island, federally owned and open to camping.

This photo shows the western half of the Van Vac waterfront. To the right of the point you can see the roof of the boathouse. You can check out canoes, small motorboats or a pontoon boat. Any of them can be checked out for an hour, a day or a week, although most people check out canoes for the week and the motorboats or the pontoon boat for a day. Moving up the shoreline from the boat house are the small docks extending out from the cabins. As you can see, the tree cover is so heavy you cannot make out the cabins even though they're only a few feet from the water. As the photo above shows, you check out the canoe for the week and just tie it up at your own private dock when you're not using it. The water remains shallow out beyond the docks, so kids can snorkel or float in inner tubes up and down from the diving platform near the point to their own dock. It's amazingly clear, so is ideally suited to snorkeling. The huge expanse shown in this photo and the one above is great for windsurfing right in front of your own cabin, even though we don't see many people doing it.

This is Van Vac Point, a rock promontory marking the midpoint of the cabin collection. The ones to the east of this point tend to be larger and more elaborate, ideal for extended families or groups. If you look carefully at the peak of the rock sloping up from the water you can make out a mother and young child enjoying the sunny afternoon. This point is popular with cell phone users because it offers "the most bars" of any location along the Van Vac grounds. These rocks are also popular with sun bathers or people wanting a little privacy. It's a great place to watch or photograph specatacular sunsets across the water to the West, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) to the North, or sunrises to the East. Kids often fish for Trout from these rocks. It's also the best place at Van Vac to gaze at the stars, since it extends out from under the heavy tree cover.

But if Van Vac appeals to you, call or email as soon as possible. Many families have been coming here for a century, and open dates in July or August can be hard to find. If you can get away and really want to save money, Nancy offers work week in May. You can stay in a cabin for free in exchange for a few days of season opening physical labor.

Nancy Tubbs. 218.365.3782.

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