Friends of Rockwood, the Holman Family

“I feel like I’m visiting friends, not going to a resort, when we head to Rockwood,” said Derek Holman of Big Lake, MN.

“They take good care of stuff, have great advice if you ask, and offer top-quality equipment,” he added.

Derek has been married to April Holman for 26 years. Only after meeting each other in a summer work project with St. Cloud Park and Recreation did they realize they’d grown up just two blocks from each other.

In the early years of married life, Derek, an elementary school teacher, spent his spare time coaching youth sports. Although he’d visited the BWCAW with friends right after college in 1992 and fell in love with the wilderness, he didn’t go back until the summer of  2008 with April. 

“That’s when I really got hooked,” Derek said. He’s made almost 30 trips in the BWCAW since, utilizing only three entry points more than once. 

The couple made their second trip in 2009, using Rockwood for outfitting. At the time, Rockwood Lodge and Outfitting was owned and operated by Mike and Lin Sherfy. Not just hooked on the wilderness area, the Holmans got hooked on Rockwood.

In 2016, Derek took the opportunity for a last-minute solo trek in the Boundary Waters. He left the metro area after midnight, planning to arrive at Rockwood before sunrise to start his trip. On the way up, he received an email from a guy named Carl Madsen from Rockwood, who gave him a heads-up weather report for the next few days and told him that his permit would be ready when he arrived. 

Unbeknownst to Derek, Carl, his wife Stephanie Lightner, Stephanie’s sister Carol Seim, and brother-in-law Mike Seim had just purchased Rockwood from the Sherfys. Derek was the new owner’s first outfitting/bunkhouse customer. 

“With that email, Carl won me over right away,” Derek said.

The Holmans are proud parents of three children: Halle (18), Mya (16), and Bruin (4). Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters are a big part of their life together.

Once Halle turned five, Derek started a tradition of a “Daddy and Daughter” BWCA trip that has continued ever since. When Mya turned five, the tradition continued. Those Daddy and Daughter trips, including Daddy and Son when Bruin turns five, revolve around the Rockwood Bunkhouse and Poplar Lake entry to the BWCAW.

Starting five years ago, the family spent a week at a Rockwood Lodge cabin. This has become an annual tradition. Using the cabin as a base, they hike many of the local trails or go canoeing and paddle boarding on Poplar Lake. “That’s our family’s favorite week of the year,” Derek said.

Derek adds that as the end of their Rockwood week draws near, they immediately book a cabin for the following year. He used to wait until February or March for booking, but the cabins were almost all booked, and they had trouble scheduling for the week they wanted. 

“We just like being on the Gunflint Trail,” Derek said. They’ll be coming back year after year.

Two dogs round out the Holmans family. Echo is the BWCAW Black Lab that has accompanied Derek into the wilds and loves to hike and stay at Rockwood. Yogi is a young Newfoundland whose exuberance and size keep him from traveling to the Gunflint for now.

The website Faces of Big Lake, MN, a community service of local Realtor Liz Fagan, featured an introduction of Derek Holman last year. Asked what he’d do if he won the lottery, Derek replied, “We would move to the Gunflint Trail, where there would be wilderness at our doorstep. I’d also like to volunteer in the wilderness, clearing trails and helping the Rangers.”

While we’d hate to lose the Holmans as customers if Derek wins the lottery and becomes our full-time neighbor and friend, we would not be disappointed.

When they end a Rockwood visit, the family gives unique gifts to Carl, Stephanie, Mike, and Carol. This year, April found the perfect dishtowels to gift the Rockwood owers. The towels were embroidered with the words, “People tolerated, Dogs welcome.” A fitting gift for dog-friendly Rockwood Lodge.