With an estimated 2,568 islands on Rainy Lake – both in the United States and Canada – there are many opportunities for people to enjoy the island lifestyle by purchasing their own bit of paradise. The allure of long summer days at your own island cabin is easy to understand and in this age of hyper-connectedness, the idea of a retreat surrounded by water and loons is soothing. But for a few determined owners, embracing an island lifestyle year-round, requires an entirely different commitment and hardiness. Certainly, there is great reward but there are challenges to island living: everything must by hauled across water (or ice), the weather is always a factor for the commute, proper winterization is a must, and you must be fairly handy to fix and maintain all the things that can and do go wrong.
Joe Mershon and his wife Jami purchased Race Island in 1989 as a vacation property. The island is a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. They made the move permanently in 2003 and have been island dwellers ever since.
“Island living is the most exhilarating and rewarding lifestyle imaginable for anyone lucky and able enough to do so,” said Joe.
The couple has been a fixture on the lake scene ever since and while Joe admitted that the daily commute to town via snowmobile or boat during the four seasons is at times challenging, the experience overall is very rewarding. The self-sufficiency, DIY attitude and sense of remoteness is part of the lure for the couple.
“All of the folks in the neighborhood, whether full-time or summertime residents are also ‘islanders’ or ‘lakers’ and share similar activities and strong feelings about Rainy Lake. We look forward to local get- togethers on the various islands and local resorts. They are always the highlight of any weekend in any season, but summertime gatherings are typically the best,” added Mershon.
Dick and Jean Stadt have owned a place on Grindstone Island for 31 years and are true ‘year-rounders’ spending the entire time on the island. The couple was and continues to be drawn to the lifestyle because of the peaceful living and being surrounded by the beauty of the lake during each of the unique seasons.
“The toughest thing is waiting to drive to the mainland via snowmobile or truck in the winter. It’s helpful that we’ve got great neighbors that help with plowing which makes it easier on me, said Dick who’s retired.
“The key to waiting during ice-in is to be prepared and be careful when dealing with early ice. My wife is great, she always make sure we have enough provisions,” he added.
As to how long they will continue to live year-round on the island?
“We’ll live this lifestyle as long as our health holds up.”