THE CHILL and intensity of the wind tells me a storm is on its way. Perfect. Just what I need. A Minnesota snowstorm.
I walk up to the cabin and fiddle with my keys, running through the twenty or so I have until finally finding the correct one. The northern Voyageurs National Park Ranger Station exemplifies 1930s outdoorsman architecture, right down to the natural finish on the logs used for the walls. The building is modern and up to code, but from the outside it looks like it was plucked straight out of an old-world fairy tale.
“It’s Christmas Eve eve,” Owen says, slapping me on the shoulder. “The day before Christmas Eve. You can really feel it in the air.”
“Funny, I thought that was the first sign of hail,” I quip, unlocking the door.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this Christmas.”
“I’ve got a good feeling that we’re about to get snowed in.”
We walk into the cabin, and Owen heads straight to the fireplace. When we started as federal park rangers seven years ago, the cabin had the feel of an office building forgotten by time. Over the years, Owen transformed the place into a quaint little retreat, complete with pictures of us and our families. He got away with it by claiming the place needed to feel “warm and inviting” to visitors. There’s technically an office in the back, but otherwise it’s our secluded home during the winter months.
I peel off my jacket and hang it on one of the hooks by the front door. Owen kicks off his boots and has a fire going by the time I’ve removed mine. He doesn’t waste time—he disappears into the kitchen and starts humming “Jingle Bells” before I even make it to the couch.
“Carter,” he calls out. “You want a cup of hot chocolate?”
“We’re rugged outdoorsmen,” I call back. “Rugged outdoorsmen drink coffee, not hot chocolate.”
“Is that a no? Because I’m not making coffee on Christmas Eve eve.”
I groan aloud and throw myself back on the couch. It strains beneath me—the furniture is worn with love—and I settle myself with one foot up on the cushions and the other planted firmly on the rug.
“Fine,” I reply, my tone betraying all of my irritation. “I’ll take a cup of hot chocolate.”