PEQUOT LAKES -- A narrow road winds its way uphill away from County Road 17 and toward a stone and wood refuge outside of Pequot Lakes.
The short trip seemingly leaves civilization behind as trees become the only landscape besides a glimpse of the Pequot Lakes bobber water tower in the distance. No other houses or buildings can be seen from any vista around the seven-bedroom bed and breakfast near Sibley Lake.
Inside, the bedrooms take on an identity with books and authors as each room has its own tiny library. High shelves near the ceiling offer a different reading experience. One room has sports bibliographies, another focuses on American literature, yet another on philosophy. Walt Whitman to E.B. White's "Stuart Little." In addition to the smaller reading libraries in the bedrooms, the bed and breakfast has a larger library room with world globe, round table and patio view.
The large home originally was constructed as a spot for the elderly in a foster care setting complete with small therapy pool. The house can sleep 16 people. Bedroom wings are separated by a great room with stone gas fireplace and surround-sound music.
When Keith and Rick Bollum bought the 3,500-square-foot building on 7 1/2 acres, they saw the potential.
Atop a gentle hill, the year-round Midgard Lodge near Pequot Lakes offers more than solitude amid the north woods. Owners are creating connections for activity-based retreats from horseback riding to dog sled outings. (Dispatch Photos by Renee Richardson)
"We wanted to turn it into a bed and breakfast type lodge," Rick Bollum said.
They opened Midgard Lodge in November. The bed and breakfast's first groups arrived for the New Year and in January. The goal is to create a year-round activity-based bed and breakfast. The Paul Bunyan bike trail is nearby along with options for recreation on area lakes, rivers and golf courses.
While the relatively new building was in pretty good shape, they had to take off all the pine doors and put a seal coat on them. It did not sound like a big job until they started counting. Nineteen doors.
Keith Bollum, formerly an antique book dealer in Florida, worked with area artists and photographers to include their works in Midgard Lodge. It may be one of the few bed and breakfasts where the displays are readily available to be purchased and taken home when the guest leaves.
The bed and breakfast's name was taken from Norse legend as Midgard was the realm where humans dwelt while the gods lived in Asgard. The theme also built upon the Bollums' own Scandinavian heritage.
The kitchen and adjoining dining room -- created in a bowed seating area surrounded by windows -- includes a commercial oven. With the fall season, gathered and shelled hazelnuts lay drying on a cookie sheet atop the oven.
The Bollums would like to promote Midgard Lodge as a reunion house and establish a relationship with Scandinavian countries for international travel. Connections may come from lakes area families with relatives overseas. Keith Bollum said the lakes area provides many attractions for those guests in terms of cultural and ecological tourism from Nisswa's Pioneer Village to the nearby Croft mine and other assets in Crosslake and the region.
Another goal is to promote Midgard Lodge as an environmentally friendly place where people could come and, depending on the season, ski, snowshoe or bike. The Bollums are building an inventory of outdoor activities by establishing working relationships in the area so they can offer guests a different experience. That may include a mid-winter dog sled outing, ice fishing or horseback riding and seeing buffalo.
"This is not a traditional bed and breakfast," Rick Bollum said. "While we do rent out to individuals and families, we are looking for groups of people -- groups of four to 16.
"... It's really a retreat."
Guests can determine whether the retreat means a break from the outside world and time to escape into a book while surrounded by a northwoods setting, or to have the retreat activity based.
Sixteen guests are enough to rent out the entire facility in terms of sleeping quarters. The entire lodge costs $516 for a weekday, $619 for a weekend day or about $2,890 for a week stay. The lodge has four baths, two laundry facilities and a kitchen with commercial oven and heated garage. The bed and breakfast can be rented as one unit or by wings, four bedrooms in the west wing and three bedrooms in the east wing, for a smaller family or group.
Mark Nazigian, a Minneapolis restaurant owner who has been in the Crosslake area fairly often, stayed at the bed and breakfast in mid-August. A group of about 14 people gathered for a casual investors meeting. The group picked Midgard Lodge after researching via the Internet. They cooked in the large kitchen, got in a little golf and a few even went jogging on the nearby Paul Bunyan Trail. Nazigian said the location let the group focus on its talks. But they also were able spend a day in Crosslake.
"We had an enjoyable stay."
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