Holidays and Homes on the North Shore

This time of year, our little harbor town looks quite festive. Our street department crew decorates all light poles in downtown Grand Marais in addition to the businesses sporting their holiday decor. Sales abound with a theme of “shop local.” Grand Marais homeowners decorate their yards and homes with lights and blow-up santas. The public utilities commission runs a contest every year for the “best decorations”, awarded to one special ambitious homeowner. In previous years, I too, would put up a christmas tree and lights. The last year I attempted such feats, I had spent weeks (and possibly months) collecting pink and purple ornaments and lights. Some were even vintage-courtesy of our wonderful local thrift store. I spent a decent amount of time putting up my tree, carefully placing the adornments on the branches. Once finished, I stood back and admired my vintagey pink and purple creation. Worthy of Martha Stewart if I might say so myself. Upon returning home a few days later, I opened the door which was adjacent to my christmas tree. To my dismay, the beautiful tree now had three new ornaments-my cats. Martha Stewart no more.
Flash forward a few years to the first christmas in our new home. Being in rural cook county, there is no need for lights and santas. Our north woods sport their own naturally festive holiday look, including my new property. As I lit a fire in the fireplace that christmas eve, I reflected on how lucky I felt to be enjoying my own brick and mortar home. All the blessings and trials that had brought me to that place.
When you are ready to take the plunge, and make the transition from renting to owning, or are ready to call Cook County home, come on in to Red Pine. Many of us live “over the river and through the woods.” We all have experience in buying and/or building our homes and getaways locally. Whether off grid, or just around the corner, our Agents are a wealth of resources and expertise to make your home-owning dreams a reality. Thinking of listing your property? We will put these same skills to work to acquire you a buyer, all with that friendly, small town manner Cook County residents are known for. Stop by, our coffee pot is always on.



A Commute You Can Live With


Everyone really loves the fact that moose populate the Arrowhead region. Many a tourist has spent countless hours on the infamous Gunflint Trail in the hopes that they might see one of these iconic creatures. Our Red Pine agent Gail Englund lives off the grid on the Gunflint Trail. I have heard countless stories of the exciting wildlife she gets to see on her commute to and from Grand Marais. Yesterday on her way home as she neared a small lake, a large and proud bull moose stood in her way. Gail, being well versed in wildlife watching, slowed to a stop and turned off her engine. As she was digging for her camera, two cows sauntered out from the woods. One cow nuzzled the bull, the other pawed the ground. Were they competing for his attention? As Gail opened the car door to get a better shot with her camera, both cows took off in opposite directions. The bull wandered off as well. Gail continued her drive home, and upon arriving started her evening chore of loading and stacking wood. Realizing later on that the wheelbarrow was still sitting at the bottom of the stairs, she made her way outside to bring it back to the woodpile. Glancing up, she noticed a large dark figure near her salt lick. A bull moose. The same big bull moose she had encountered earlier. As she snuck to her car to grab the camera in hopes of finally getting a shot of the large animal, he took off. Luckily for Gail, she just might get a few more chances to get that picture.


Our only Trick-or-Treater

This was our only trick-or-treater on Halloween. It’s Sherriff Pumpkinhead from Hovland stopping for a visit. He is actually one of our favorite and more eccentric clients, and wishes to remain anonymous. But to be sure, he is our looniest seller…Pumpkinhead

Time to Find Your Bargain

As fall turns to late-fall and the tourist season winds down, we still find ourselves busy with late season real estate activity. We’ve had a lot of buyers finally looking at land. In fact, we’ve had more showings in the past few weeks than we had all summer. This isn’t atypical, as this time of year buyers like to walk the land and see how things look without the leaves hiding the beautiful views, or the neighbors clutter. Still, the numbers for 2014 do not look great for vacant land sales in Cook County. According Multiple Listing Service statistics, land sales are off by 33% from last year at this time. That’s all types of land – lake lots, building sites and remote “40’s”. But, in general they are all down with no particular better sector than another. Prices are down by 15% and the total number of listings is growing, up 9%.

Primary home sales have been good. It’s the secondary properties – vacation homes, cabins and retirement homes that have been slower. Although condo sales have been strong if priced around $100,000. It seems buyers are also less inclined to buy something that needs a lot of work. Turn-key is the way it needs to be.

Are there any bargains? I think so. How about a cabin on a lake that was listed for $199,000, and on the market a long time, sold for $150,000? How about 5 acres with a fabulous Lake Superior view near Grand Marais for $52,000? Many sellers are saying, “Bring me an offer”. Maybe it’s time to make a move on that property you’ve been watching for some time.


Fall Sunsets on the Shore

Most folks who are acquainted with the shore know it’s just plain gorgeous up here. Fall happens to amp that up another notch. Besides our terrific leaf color, fall sunsets on the north shore are STUNNING. To me, it feels like I can’t have possibly witnessed such splendor before. Driving from Lutsen half the week, I happen to have a front row seat to this beauty as I follow the lake home. In addition, I have taken the time this fall to “take the long way home” and drive our many gravel county roads. Sometimes the beauty is too much, and I cannot possibly soak in enough of it. Even the air smells beautiful, as only damp fall air can. Living on the shore has it’s unique challenges, as does any location, but the trade off is more than worth it. If you have considered moving our way, it’s a great time to buy that home of your dreams; the crew at Red Pine can help you every step of the way.


(photo courtesy of Don Davison)

Mike’s Wild Ride


As a recent blog post stated, our Broker Mike Raymond is a pilot. The moment I learned that he takes folks out for such things as moose viewing and fall color tours, I have been secretly wanting to hop on one of these rides. This week, I got my chance. I got the call mid Tuesday afternoon to meet at the airport. I had been a little nervous and anxious most of the day as I had never flown in a small aircraft before. As I sped up Devil Track Road, my anxiety turned to excitement as I neared the airport. A few minutes after arriving, I heard the hum of an engine and watched as Mike and the green and white Cessna appeared from around the corner. We chatted for a bit as we waited for John, our photographer for the trip. John appeared and we loaded up. The interior, which Mike referred to as “avocado” was quite comfortable. Seat belts and headsets on, we taxied down the runway, as Mike spoke into his microphone in pilot language I could not understand. In the blink of an eye, we were off, gently gaining altitude above the vast boreal forest. It was surreal, watching the trees decreasing in size, seeing ponds, lakes and streams from a viewpoint that most do not get the opportunity to witness. At the same time, my stomach started giving me the dreaded feeling of motion sickness. I brushed it off, taking a few quick pictures on my cell phone. We soared over the harbor, over the city streets and homes that looked like something I can’t describe. Stunning, different, small. Then Lake Superior, which was again indescribable. We circled an area of the shore, as our photographer took photos of one of the most fantastic lots we currently have offered for sale. Mike then announced we would be heading over to Caribou Lake before returning to the airport. And then what I most feared happened. I had been trying to ignore those icky feelings that were swelling in my body. Ignoring them no longer I glanced around, eyeing a Ziploc bag in the pocket in front of me. Thank god I hadn’t had a big meal that day. And thank god the sights were so stunning that no one appeared to notice my mortifying condition in the back seat. I managed to glimpse from time to time the surroundings, including my treasured piece of property near Pike Lake. Before I knew it, we were getting ready to land, which I am sad to say I missed watching. Mike expertly landed the small aircraft, gently coming to a stop. In a flash, Mike was out of the plane, beckoning me to exit. Since there was not a hole in sight for me to crawl into, I gathered up what was left of my bruised ego and climbed out of the back seat of the plane, Ziploc bag and all. Would I do it again? In a second.




Waves of September

I’m not sure how our distant neighbors in the more southern regions are fairing this fall, but when I walked out the door yesterday morning the first thought that came to my mind was “BRRRR.” I had really begun to take the warmish weather for granted. Sure I knew it was going to be short lived, but the overnight drop was a little startling. Along with the cold winds came monster waves on our Lake Superior. For those of you who don’t know, our Red Pine office is perched on the beach near Artist Point in Grand Marais. And as it so happens, right smack dab in the middle of wave central. The waves were so powerful that they touched our office building, pushing and pulling the beach rocks and debris with them. Next door at Sydney’s Custard the waves were also caressing their beach front dining area. Out came the plywood, temporarily protecting our wonderful glass view of the big lake. A few of our agents were nervous, watching those big waves come across the beach and to the outside of the wall where they sat. Sydney’s owner, Bruce, paced nervously in addition to our dear broker Mike Raymond as he lamented on the fact that our building no longer has shutters. All this excitement and I was working out of town! Previous experience tells me that I will have a chance to see such sights again, and probably sooner than one might think. The only evidence from the picture below of such calamities is a bit of beach debris. Hmmm.




First Colors of Fall

Earlier today I received a call from a nice man who is thinking of moving to the area. “Are the winters as hard as everyone says?” he asked. “No” was my quick reply. We continued to discuss how long I had lived here, and the difference of living inland versus near the big lake. Lake Superior tends to keep the heavy snowfalls at bay, but graces us with cold gusts of wind. Inland, massive snowfalls seem frequent, but with that snowfall comes free insulation. With fall quickly moving into what is left of our “summer” I have already begun lending my thoughts towards the upcoming winter. In all that hustle and bustle, I often remind myself to stop for a brief moment to take in all that is around me. The first red maple leaves of the season. The way the dew coats the dirt roads in the morning. The crisp fall air and the decreasing length of days. Ah, yes, that is why I live here. Are the winters hard? Some parts, yes. But without that winter, we wouldn’t get fall’s treasures. And the terrific feeling of being alive, here in Cook County, breathing in the cool fall air while admiring nature’s colorful majesty. You might just have to take a trip up north and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.



North Shore Sights We Rarely See


As many folks know, I am a pilot and give scenic airplane rides here in Grand Marais. Lots of people say they would never fly in a small airplane, but the best way to see some of  the incredible sights in our vast wilderness is to soar above at a relatively low altitude and slow speed. I flew with Jon Ofjord the other day and he took many nice photos of the area on a calm, beautiful evening. The picture attached here is of the Devil Track River canyon with white water falling over some of the many falls and rapids located there. You won’t see this from 30,000 feet. In fact, you can hardly see these falls from anywhere unless you have a long rope to enter the steep canyon, or a way to peer down from above.


Many local residents have their favorite hidden hot spots and scenic treasures. There are gorgeous stretches of beach that not many people ever explore. Many rivers and even the smallest streams in the county have cascades, water falls and deep pools that are far off of the beaten path. Places to fish, swim or picnic. Where are they? Twist my arm and maybe I’ll share a few. Some have been passed down from generation to generation, discovered by a late relative who found a sweet spot while working on a logging project deep in the forest many years ago.  Regardless of how these treasures are found, don’t expect these places to be offered up without some heavy pleading,  and possibly,  some kind of bribery.


Fascinating Red Squirrels

The red squirrel. Loved or hated, this little creature populates our north woods. While I personally find them adorable, many cabin and property owners have a very strong dislike for their gregarious destructive nature.

This time of year our north woods is making a slow transition into fall; the first few leaves are starting to change, the air feels a little more crisp. The fireweed is blooming, the berries are picked. The creatures that call Cook County home are preparing for winter; including the little red squirrel.

As the forage is slowing it’s growth, the goats, sheep, and I like to head to “greener pastures.” We spend late summer and fall grazing the woods on our property, munching on hidden treasures only found in the thicker foliage. Last September, as we were walking down one of many paths on the 11 acres we call home, I suddenly remembered the little red squirrel and a strange characteristic I had heard of some time ago. In preparation for winter, red squirrels collect mushrooms. They gather quite a variety, including many poisonous fungi. Then, this smart little creature lays them up on branches; pine boughs in particular, to dry. Realizing that I was in prime red squirrel country, my eyes starting scanning the dense boreal forest in front of me, leaving the goats and sheep to their antics. Suddenly, right before my eyes, there was half a mushroom perched on a pine bough. I squealed with delight, thankful only the livestock could hear me.

Now, whenever I get the opportunity to wander around red squirrel country, I take a quick peek at the branches around me. Sometimes I find mushrooms almost as large as a red squirrel sitting precariously on a bough. Other times it’s a partial piece, and once I was fortunate enough to watch a little guy in action, mercilessly running up and down a tree caching his treasure. So, next time you find yourself in the boreal forest, don’t forget about the little red squirrel. You might get lucky and find one of these.




What's Up At Red Pine