Blue Nights on the Gunflint Trail

Blue Nights on Round Lake, Gunflint Trail

“In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue . . . .  You find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue depends, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades. . . . The French called this time of day “l’heure blue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour – carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights, you think the end of days will never come.”  – Joan Didion

I checked out Joan Didion’s Blue Nights on a whim last week and was struck by how in the very first chapter, she managed to articulate a seasonal concept that I’ve always felt, but never been able to name. There’s a certain magic and promise in the long days and short nights that mark the weeks on either end of the summer solstice. It’s as though the world decided to give our summer days a little more length and a little more poignancy because of how very short our summer season is. Yet I’ve never had a way of describe this time of year beyond “summer,” which is too open-ended a descriptor to really sum up how the season really feels. But considering that here in canoe country, we immerse ourselves in the color blue all summer long, “blue nights” is a most apt description for Minnesota summer. We paddle and play in blue, we swim in blue, we sleep in blue. It’s a season both delicate and fearless, filled with a sense of “if not now, when?”


As Didion notes, “Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.” Soon enough, we’ll be trying out that new overnight oats recipe, pulling out the wool sweaters, making our homes snug as the breeze rustles an autumnal chill through the aspen and birch leaves.

But for now, the hygge days are far away.

During these blue nights, we anchor our boats and cast for walleye and bass until the sun disappears completely behind the far shoreline of Round Lake. We let the summer breeze blow through the cabin curtains all night long. We marvel at legions of dragonflies soaring overhead. We watch the loons dive around our canoe. The birds chirp long into the evening and the evening air smells of roses and other wildflowers.


We know this won’t last forever. We soak it up and wring as much summery goodness as we can from these golden days and blue, blue nights.

2 Responses

  1. Margaret Voigt says:

    One of the most beautiful places on earth!. The owners and staff are wonderful and the Boundary Waters go on and on with such beauty and peace.

  2. john jacobsen says:

    I really enjoy your article on blue nights. I can track right with you. thanks.