Savoring the Season on the North Shore
By Jack Stone
We say this every September/October: Is summer gone already? It seems like we were just putting on our Wilderness First Aid class the first weekend of May and here we are. But let’s not look at what is gone; let’s talk about what is ahead.
Throughout the summer we have people come into the store not knowing what they want to do or where to go. Yes, they have checked with their favorite outdoor stores south of us and have bought all the books. But now that they are here, they wonder what is there to do. In the winter we find this even more since many of those outdoor store advisors have never been here in the winter and have no idea what to say. The area has so much to offer all seasons of the year and visitors just need a little direction.
Let’s talk about what there is to do in the fall and early winter in the area. Yes, you can photograph the leaf colors but what else is there to do in Cook County and the surrounding area?
Let’s start with incredible hikes. Remember those summer hikes, such as Eagle Mountain, where you hiked in a beautiful canopy of trees but didn’t see much besides those trees until you got to the top of the mountain? Now is the time to take that same hike and see what the world is like all around the trail. The same goes for many of our trails in and around the Superior Hiking and Border Route trails. You can also hike trails west of Grand Marais, like the Cascade River State Park and off the Caribou Trail, and see a whole lot fewer people than you do in the summer.
How about some drives to see some of the backroads? Do you know where the Grade is? Otter Lake Road? Those are just two of the many.
Since you are in your car, how about bringing your passport and taking a short trip across the border? As you get to the information station about 200 yards past Customs, you can park and take a couple of really nice hikes. Stop in and ask for directions or just follow the signs.
One hike is to view the High Falls from a different perspective. It is a beautiful hike. Or drive across to the first left-hand turn onto Ontario 593 and you come to a large parking area. As you drive into the lot, keep going to the left and you come to a trailhead that takes you along and above the Pigeon River. As you leave there and remain in the parking lot, you see a road that continues to the Middle Falls of the Pigeon River. On the Minnesota side of the river, you have to hike a couple of miles through the woods to see these falls!
As you leave the lot and turn back to Highway 61, go left towards Thunder Bay and take a look at the picnic area at Little Trout Bay. Or drive up to the bike, hike and ski trails at Mink Mountain Resort. It is so close to us here in Grand Marais and yet so few visit the area.
On your way back to Grand Marais, you go through Grand Portage, home to the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and National Monument. The reservation has to be one of the most beautiful areas on the North Shore. It has a number of hikes, like Mount Josephine. It has a wonderful marina and the scenery is great.
Keep in mind this a Sovereign Nation. The Susie Islands and the Spirit Tree are sacred grounds. Do not paddle to the Susies or hike to the Spirit Tree without their express permission. Treat the area and the people with respect and they are more than happy to share their lands with you.
And of course, you can always stop in at the Casino. Don’t forget to drive into the State Park and see the High Falls from the Minnesota side and wave at others on the Canadian side.
Lastly, either give us a call or drop in and pick up our Cook County Hiking Map. The map shows you all of the hikes in Cook County. On the flip side, you can see all of the cross county ski trails and where you need to get your trail permits for each area. And if you are confused, stop in and talk to us. Our staff knows the area and we hike and drive these spots all the time. That is what we are here for–to make your visit more enjoyable.