Lake Superior Adventures: The Grand Portage – Part I

September 16, 2022:

The lonely wind whistled and roared as I sipped on a cup of hot coffee in the Trailside Suites.

*Coffee – I’m a ‘coffee snob’ aka a person who loves to try regional and local roasters over generic chains (although I do love my Starbucks). The most dangerous drinking game is how long can I go without coffee :).

Today’s blend: Arco coffee from Superior, WI – picked up from the local grocery store. Arco was founded in 1916 and has been making coffee for over century – that is impressive.

The Gooseberry Trailside Suites is an amazing place to stay and I hate to leave, but it is time for another set of adventures further up the North Shore.

Today I’m heading to the tip of Canada, just shy of the border to Grand Portage, MN.

You can’t control the weather, but you can control you attitude…so instead of getting frustrated by the wind and heavy rain blocking me from the best photo ops and hiking trails, I saw the beauty in the rain and the majesty of the crashing waves against Superior’s rocky coast.

Checking out just after ten, I headed north through light fog.

I love driving – it relaxes me as I play my favorite music on Spotify. Today I blasted an eclectic mix of a few favorites from The Four Tops and Temptations to Daryl Hall to bluegrass and classical to country hits. You never know what might pop up on my playlists. I listen to everything.

I stopped at several waysides attempting pictures of the crashing waves against the high cliffs but didn’t get far. Sometimes you need to put the camera up and just take in the moment.

One of my favorite stops was the Father Baraga Cross turnout. Outside of the voyageurs (French fur trappers) and early tradesmen, missionaries were many of the first to go into the heart of the Great Lakes.

Father Baraga was a Catholic priest from Europe who heard about a need for clergy in the Great Lakes region. He moved to Michigan with a focus of loving and connecting with the Ojibwe people. He was loved by many Ojibwe, Metis and French Canadians. He stood as an advocate for many Native groups.

Like many frontier priests, Baraga was responsible for serving a large area. He spent much of his time walking, snowshoeing and canoeing in the winter to reach people in need to provide the sacraments – he once traveled 100 miles for a baptism.

In 1846, when Father heard rumors of an epidemic in Grand Portage, he rushed to help. He and a Native guide paddled across Lake Superior – but were caught in a violent storm that nearly killed them.

Praying that they would survive – they made it through the choppy chaotic waters – reaching land near present day Schroeder, MN at the mouth of the Cross River.

Upon their landing they erected a small wooden cross in Thanksgiving. The wooden cross was replaced by a granite cross that stands at the site today where the Cross River mouth and ledge rock create a stunning backdrop of God’s grace even in storms.

credit – North Shore Visitor – Cross on a sunny day

Next up: I took time to stop at Temperance State Park – which is great for hiking along the Temperance River Gorge on most days. I was sidelined by the pounding rain, but enjoyed learning about the park on the website. I will return!

I stopped in the quaint town of Lutsen, which is a popular ski area in the winter. The Sawtooth Mountains rise

Noticing a roadside coffee shop I decided to pull over and enjoy another cup of coffee from a local roaster. This time – Fika, an artisanal roaster based in Lutsen.

Pronounced fee-kah, Fika is a Swedish word meaning coffee break and it defines this roaster’s mission: to offer moments of quiet indulgence in an otherwise hectic day.

If you love coffee – this is definitely worth the stop…I enjoyed a hot maple latte which had the perfect balance of sweet and robust.

Next door, you’ll discover lots of treasures and gear at Clear View General Store. The staff were super helpful (I bought a poncho – never hurts to have extra gear) and a savory trail snack for later.

After a brief ‘fika’ at Lutsen I continued north (technically east as the coast juts east into Lake Superior – but north is easier to keep up with for me at this point 🙂

I scoped out Cascade River State Park, even though it was too rainy to explore the amazing trails.

I then headed north to Grand Marais, my home for the next two nights.

Grand Marais is a charming ‘sea’ side community known for its mix of recreation and artist colony. I instantly fell in love.

While I planned to keep driving north (returning to Grand Marais in the afternoon), I decided to check out my hotel. The Best Western Superior Inn is by far one of the nicest places you will ever stay. It is right on the lake, updated and modern with lake character – can’t wait to check in later 🙂

For the next thirty-odd miles the road showcased staggering coastal views of rock and tumultuous waves. Even in the storm a sliver of clear turquoise water reflected in the gray sun.

The Grand Portage area is a MUST SEE on your North Shore Tour. It is located on the northeastern tip of Minnesota were the land meets the lake and border with Canada. The land is completely on the Anishinaabe Reservation. Also known as the Ojibwe and Chippewa – these are the ‘original people’ – the natives who have long lived and cared for the land of this Great Lake and beyond.

In my next post we’ll explore Grand Portage and its dynamic history from Native American roots to fur trading and beyond…

#minnesota #northcountryminnesota #lakelife #lakesuperior

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