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.
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.
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.
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.
While working from my home office one recent afternoon, a bald eagle flew by my window and landed in a nearby tree. I grabbed my camera to get a photo of this majestic bird. Eagles have been very symbolic for my husband and I. It seems they appear when we are looking for direction, such as our decision to move to this area, or to buy our Lutsen home. Last October, on the day that we first saw the house that is now our home, we walked down to the dock as the real estate agent was opening the lockbox. We looked at Caribou Lake, and then looked up to see two immature eagles soaring together overhead. It already felt like this was home. A few days before that, as we sat eating breakfast at the iconic Lutsen Resort, we pondered our plans to move up from the Twin Cities and launch a career in real estate. I asked him if he thought we had what it would take to pull it off. Before he could open his mouth to answer, a bald eagle flew by slow and low right outside the window. Since eagles have frequently been a sign to know if we’re headed in the right direction, we instantly knew that we were and are on the right path. And we still feel that way, six months in.
You, too, can “work from anywhere”, including the north shore. Cook County is starting to turn up high-speed, fiberoptic cable in many locations. Call today to start looking for your place in paradise.
Returning recently from a trip out of state, I am once again reminded of how great life is here on the North Shore. Those of us who work here trying to make a living can get rather focused on deadlines, appointments and racing around trying to keep the business going. For sure at times we do forget to “smell the roses” and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. But, I’m certain every resident in Cook County appreciates the views, lake moods, wildlife and general scenery here. That’s how most of us came to live here. Yet, when I see a visitor sitting on the beach for an hour pondering the vast blue sea spread out to the horizon, I sometimes wonder how that scene can command such attention for so long. Then, I remember my feelings as a kid when we’d crest the hill on I-35 in Duluth and get that first glimpse of the St. Louis River, the Duluth/Superior cityscape and the huge expanse of Lake Superior. What huge excitement to see such a foreign vista for Midwesterners on a vacation, and only a short driving distance from the Great Prairie. Even more awe surfaced when cresting the hill entering Grand Marais from the west and seeing the highway run down to Wisconsin Street and on into the endless blue at street’s end. Wow, you could easily sit and take it all in for an hour. Maybe I’ll have to schedule an appointment…just me and the big lake.