This ones for you pops!!
Respite. A break. A breather. A lull. A reprieve. All definitions of respite – all words to define the desire that pulls me to the very northern tip of Minnesota – aka The North Shore.
Non-Minnesotans would ask, “North Shore to what?” Answer: Lake Superior. Most resources list this most massive of the five great lakes as the largest fresh water lake by surface and third largest by volume – in the world. Reaching depths of 1,332 feet, this glacial lake swallowed up the giant ore boat made famous by Canadian singer songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” based on the true life story of this ship getting caught in one of many magnificent raging early winter lake storms.
I have been coming to the North Shore for 45 of my 50 years. I have traveled extensively, but few places have drawn me back like the North Shore. My mother was born and raised in Duluth which sits on the most southern US tip of the lake – this bay being flanked by Minnesota to the west and Wisconsin to the east. Our family started making the trek to the North Shore back in the 1960’s, mainly a weekend trip, several weekends a month year round.
This journey north was a respite for my parents to get a break from their busy lives in and around the Twin Cities. For my three older brothers and I it was a chance to perfect our hot-dog skiing skills on the slops of Lutsen Ski Resort. The views of Lake Superior were truly breathtaking from high atop the resort. In 1972, my skiing season was cut short when I broke my leg skiing. In those days there were no ambulances in that area, so I was taken to the hospital 30 miles away in Grand Marais, in the back of my Dad’s boss’s wood-paneled station wagon.
Other weekends found us cross-country skiing on the Gunflint Trail northwest of Grand Marais or along the backside of Moose Mountain; hiking the paths emanating from Lutsen Lodge or Cascade Falls behind the Cascade Lodge where they make the best blueberry pancakes; jumping off the cliffs into the warm waters of the Temperance River; fishing for river trout in the fast running Onion River or going deep for walleye in the tranquil waters of Tait Lake; golfing with the black bears at the little 9-hole par-3 course at Lutsen Lodge or across the street at Superior National.
The inclusion of the next generation began in the 1990’s and still continues today. Almost 22-years ago, my husband and I drove our 20-month old daughter and our 1-month old son through a raging Minnesota winter storm, to my Dad’s cabin which sits on the shores of Tait Lake, 13 miles off the main road, the last eight on a one lane dirt road – no cell phone. We arrived at the warm and inviting cabin, with two very anxious grandparents standing watch at the front door. After my husband and I were seated in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine to calm our nerves, the kids were given a bath by the grandparents in the only tubs in the cabin – the two-sided stainless steel kitchen sink.
Last weekend found my daughter and I returning to Minnesota from our respective homes in New York City and Arizona to take ‘Grandpa’ up to visit the North Shore. Over the years this has continued to be his ‘go to’ place. The leaves were still in their fall finery – vibrant oranges and reds of Maples and Sumac; blinding yellows of the Aspen and Birch; all intertwined with deep green of the many evergreens that dot the landscape.
We hunkered down for the weekend at a condo at Surfside on Lake Superior. Our unit sat on the shores of the big lake the Ojibwe natives call ‘Gichigami’ – where we curled up in front of a warming fire; enjoyed smoked trout from Kendall’s Smokehouse where we have been buying smoked fish for 40 plus years; sipped a glass of wine while pouring ourselves into our book picks for the weekend. We also took advantage of the onsite Waves of Superior Spa by having a relaxing massage, followed by a delectable Sunday brunch spread presented by Chef Judy, sister-in-law to my Dad’s wife, at the Wave’s Cafe.
A little nostalgia was called for to relive some old memories to mix in with the new ones we were making. We had dinner at Lutsen Lodge where I spent endless hours of my youth playing in the game room or reading by the fire while the adults wiled away the hours in the bar after a traditional Minnesota wild rice soup and walleye dinner. We stopped into Sea Villa B-?, the condo we owned back in the 1970’s, and went back to visit Vennskaap Hyte on Tait Lake, the log cabin my Dad and his wife owned for many years. We stopped at a little shop that sold homemade maple syrup among other homemade Minnesota goods. The shop often incorporates the honor system to pay for goods, as the proprietor is often not able to be on site.