For years Adam and Kasey Van Tassell dreamed of owning and operating a small family oriented outdoor recreation resort. In July of 2015 that dream became a reality when they purchased Birch Forest Lodge. Along with their 3 children, Adyson-12 years old, and Brock-9 years old, and Chase-3 years old they look forward to hosting you at Birch Forest Lodge. Kasey loves hiking and picking wild raspberries and blueberries. Adam loves fishing and photography. Adyson, Brock and Chase love to play outside and are always ecstatic when a family with kids their age check in. To read the full story of how the Van Tassell family found Birch Forest Lodge continue reading…
Kasey first came to Northern Minnesota in August of 2004 when she traveled to Northern Minnesota to visit Adam who worked in the summers as a dock boy on a small fishing resort on the edge of Voyageurs National Park. While dating in college Adam had told her about the beautiful sunsets and fantastic fishing found on the serene lakes of Minnesota, and she decided that she needed to see it for herself. Little did she know that not only was she about to experience Minnesota for the first time, but Adam was planning to propose to her at nearby Vermillion Falls.
The following summer the newlyweds took jobs working in Southern Utah for a youth adventure camp where they taught kids how to wake board and water ski. They loved working in outdoor recreation and found that they also loved working together. At the end of that summer they made a goal to someday own a business together where they could work as a team and share their love of the outdoors with others. Their adventurous spirit took them to Key West Florida where they worked for a small tourist submarine company taking people on underwater excursions. In Key West, Adyson joined the team.
After a year and a half living in the Keys, it was decided that Adam needed to return to school to finish his bachelor’s degree. After much prayer and consideration, Adam enrolled in a small school in Hawaii where he studied and Kasey put her degree in Accounting to use-to pay Adam’s tuition. While in school Adam participated in a handful of entrepreneur groups and competed in a couple of competitions. Adam won one of the competitions when he wrote a paper on how to acquire and operate a small family friendly fishing resort in Northern Minnesota. To write that paper Adam did extensive research on resorts in Minnesota and selected a couple of them to focus on. One of them was a small resort called Birch Forest Lodge in Orr Minnesota. In 2009 Adam graduated with a business degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
In early 2010 Brock joined the crew and they moved to Ely Minnesota where they worked for a BWCA canoe outfitter for the summer. In 2011 the Van Tassells joined up with another couple who wanted to buy a lodge and together they took on a run down fishing lodge on the Gunflint Trail. For 4 summers Adam and Kasey ran the full time day to day operations as well as the marketing for the lodge. They loved it. But life had other plans, and in December of 2014 they found themselves having to sell their stake in their beloved lodge. Nearly 10 years had passed since Adam and Kasey had promised one another that someday they would pursue a family oriented outdoor recreation business of their own. They decided that time had come.
They scoured the internet looking over listings, opportunities and deals for small resorts and lodges. Early in 2015 Adam began negotiating with 4 properties. One was in Belize, one in Utah, one in Washington and the other in Alaska. After much consideration they narrowed the choice to Alaska. However, when Adam traveled to the business in May of 2015 something didn’t feel right. He realized that while operating a remote lodge in Alaska would be a dream come true, it would be very difficult for Adyson and Brock. Adam and Kasey pulled out of the deal and May closed with no prospects for their family. A couple of days later, Adam was working at his computer when he felt something prompt him to search one more time, this time in Minnesota. Within minutes Adam had found a listing for Birch Forest Lodge and called the realtor. Four days later they had a purchase agreement signed. Thirty-one days later they signed the final papers and took over operations of Birch Forest Lodge. After all that searching, Kasey and Adam kept their promise to each other and returned to Northern Minnesota.
The 2015 season was a blur as they took over the resort in mid season, learned Pelican Lake, met the guests and tried to remember where all the water lines were. The family spent the winter grateful for a full off season to better prepare for the 2016 season. 2 weeks before fishing opener, Chase was welcomed to the family. Keeping a lodge going is a hard enough task as it is, but to once again be dealing with an infant, the family had to make a few adjustments. Adyson and Brock had to step up their game and help more with lodge chores while Kasey took a step back at times to focus on being mom. Even with Chase messing with the family sleep schedule, the crew pushed forward and made some improvements to the property during the 2016 season including; a new deck on the lodge, expanded the lodge store, new dock at main lodge and connected air conditioning to 5 cabins. In 2017 a space above the lodge was remodeled creating the Black Bear lodge room, all mattresses were replaced and new boats added. In 2018 a new 4 bedroom/2 bathroom cabin-The Retreat- was added.
In 2019, the Van Tassell family made another change to their lives. They purchased a small resort in Belize so that they could continue to work as a family year round in the resorting industry. Now they move to Belize each October and back to Minnesota in late April. To see more info on their Belizean adventure check out CottonTreeLodge.com.