8.15.2021 [archived ~ originally published 8.25.2019]
The Hide-Away Inn is a small family run resort in the very northern part of Itasca County. In fact, as the crow flies, it is just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Charles Blackmer was on a trapping expedition in about 1918 when he canoed across Deer Lake and saw a beautiful expanse of sandy beach.
For nearly 100 years, the Hide-Away Inn has been owned and operated by three families with Blackmer blood running through their veins. Charlie and Vega Blackmer started the resort in 1921. Their eldest son Charles “Sonny” and his wife Mary ran it from 1945 until 1963. It was then sold to the oldest grandchild of Charlie and Vega, Dennis “Denny” and Sue Carlson. This summer marks the 56th year the Carlsons have had the resort, and the 98th year since the resort opened.
Based on the research I have done over the past three years, I believe that this is the oldest resort in Itasca County that has remained with the same family.
In the Beginning
Charlie Blackmer was born in Vanderbilt, Michigan in November 1886. There is a Blackmer family from Michigan listed as living in Itasca County on the 1895 Minnesota census. Perhaps this was a relative who told of the virtues of the area. According to the June 1917 WWI registration papers, Charlie is a famer in Spring Lake. He is married and has a dependent. Besides farming, Charlie hunted, fished and trapped to support his wife, Vega, and daughter Lorraine. He traveled the waterways up to the Bigfork River, to Deer Creek, and into Deer Lake in the northeast corner of the county.
When WWI was over, and there was an interest in developing tourism in northern Minnesota, the Blackmers decided to invest in land for a resort which included the sandy beach Charlie admired on his first trip into Deer Lake. Charlie built a lodge and a few cabins. In 1921, Hide-Away Inn was established and became the first available resort on Deer Lake for fishermen and hunters who were eager to be in the remote wilderness. And it was remote. “Grandpa would have to row all the way across this lake, up Deer Creek to Pinnette Lake,” Denny explained. “They would come into Effie on the train, then someone would take them by horse to Pinnette Lake.”
The log lodge was spacious with the front half of the building used for feeding guests and socializing. The lodge and cabins were constructed of log, using the palisade (vertical) method – the 6”-8” logs were easy to handle. Vega cooked and Charlie guided the fishermen and the deer and duck hunters.
One thing that makes this resort interesting are some of the individuals who patronized Hide-Away during the 1920s and 1930s. No mobsters that they know of, although it is rumored they might have been at another resort on the lake!
Guests of Notoriety
Andrew “Andy” Tribble was a Harvard graduate and real estate entrepreneur from Kansas City, Missouri. Andy thoroughly enjoyed traveling to the remote resort and did so for so many years that he became a family friend. Charlie named one of the lakes in the Deer Lake chain Tribble Lake, and when a cabin was added in the late 1920s it was known as the Tribble Cabin. Andy knew a lot of people and enjoyed introducing them to his favorite vacation get away. During the 1920s and 1930s the following guests, who later in life attained notoriety, are featured in the photo albums of the Hide-Away Inn.
Dr. Charles Wm. Mayo, whose father and uncle were co-founders of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He was born in 1898, graduated from Princeton in 1921, and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1926. Most of his fishing, trapping and hunting vacations at the resort were during his college years, before he married in 1927. Mayo had a very distinguished 31-year career in which he established a name for himself as a surgeon, statesman, author, and United Nations alternative delegate. Dr. Mayo was influential in getting an amendment passed in 1964 to revitalize mining on the Iron Range and also had a hand in the eventual legislation creating the Voyagers National Park.
Joseph “Joe” Brooks was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1901. A 2018 documentary describes him as “a man who was the epitome of the word ‘sportsman.’ Joe Brooks could have been a standout in multiple sports on a professional level. He was a great baseball player who played for a short time for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a bruising boxer, a scratch golfer and a hulking football player. Yet Joe, more than anything, was a legendary fly fisherman.”
Brooks had some tough years during his early adult life. Prohibition didn’t keep him from drinking, and he partook in many of the risky, salacious behaviors that went along with alcohol. He married in 1926 and was divorced within four years. The Brooks family lost track of him, but this seems to be the time when he visited the Hide-Away Inn on vacation. He loved to fish and hunt and enjoyed the company of others at the resort. Fishing became not only a pastime, but a career.
It is said that Brooks did more to popularize and expand fly fishing than any other individual. He wrote for various national magazines and in 1953 began writing for Outdoor Life, one of the most prestigious sporting magazines of the time. In 1968 he became the publication’s fishing editor. In 1964, Brooks was featured in a segment about fly fishing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Before his death he had authored ten books about fly fishing.
Lewis Hyde Brereton was born in 1890, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1911, and was appointed a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps shortly after his 21st birthday. Following his involvement in WWI, Brereton became a commanding officer at Kelly Field, Texas. He was responsible for the advanced flying training of pilot candidates and considered a pioneer in aviation. His time vacationing at the resort was in the later 1930s.
Brereton continued his illustrious military career into WWII as one of the few senior U.S. commanders who served in combat theaters continuously from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the German surrender. He saw action in more theaters than any other senior officer. When he retired it was with the rank of Lieutenant General.
Families for Five Generations
It became popular among resorts to occasionally offer an activity that would bring the locals or those from another resort to visit.
Dinner and Dance at Hide-Away Inn ~ 7-11-1930 Bigfork Times
“Charles Blackmer, the genial proprietor of Hide-Away Inn on Big Deer Lake is giving a fish dinner and dance at his resort next Sunday, the 20th.
The guests will drive to Pickerel Landing from where Mr. Blackmer will take them to Hide-Away Inn by motorboat. The motorboat ride through the Pickerel Lake thoroughfare and across Big Deer Lake is in itself worth going out there for. The road to Pickerel Landing is good at all times and there will be plenty of motorboats to accommodate everyone. This service will begin at 10:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day.
Dinner will be served from 12 o’clock noon on, until everyone is taken care of. If you are unable to go in the afternoon, come anytime and Mr. Blackmer promises you will be taken care of. An excellent three-piece orchestra has been arranged for which will furnish music for the dance in the evening.”
When the CCC camp was built across the lake, the dances were much more frequent. “In fact, that’s how my mother met my dad,” Denny said. “Dad was from Argyle and in 1934 he was sent to the Deer Lake Camp.”
Myron Carlson and Lorraine Blackmer married in 1936 and established their own small resort, Evergreen Inn on nearby Pickerel Lake. Denny was born in 1938, and as the oldest grandchild, he had an opportunity to spend nearly twenty years learning to fish, hunt and trap from a man of great experience, his grandfather. Denny began guiding fishermen into the remote lakes about the time he started high school. He continued to help his dad at Evergreen and his Uncle Sonny, who had taken over the Hide-Away, during the summers through his college years.
Denny married high school sweetheart Sue (Pederson) in 1959. They were both teachers and taught in Hibbing. When the opportunity to purchase the resort came up, the Carlsons were thrilled to be able to spend their summers at the resort and to keep the Hide-Away Inn in the family.
The resort has ebbed and flowed with the needs of the guests. There have never been more than 5 cabins, which was just enough for the family to maintain on their own. For a time, there were also a dozen campsites. Hide-Away currently has two modern cabins, one that was built in the late 1930s, and two campsites. Since Sue’s passing in 2015, Denny manages the resort with help from his youngest daughter Libby and her husband Greg, who are also teachers. Denny is in charge of cabin reservations. He proudly shared his reservation system – a large poster board divided by columns and rows – “over 90% filled for next year,” he says.
“We have guests who have been coming for five generations.” Denny said. “And we have families that take the entire resort. We love having them here. Our beach is a favorite place for families, and one cabin is only 25 feet from the water.”
No wonder the Hide-Away is booked well into next year, the unique blend of remoteness and intimacy make it seem like it is solely yours while you are there! Hide-Away will be 100 years old in May 2021 and the Carlson family is already thinking about how to celebrate.