Up North: Weather and beauty in northern Minnesota

Last week I had the pleasure of sampling the weather and majesty of northern Minnesota. Please allow me to digress from the usual weather content in this space to share some of the beauty and my perspective.

For those of us who grew up in the Twin Cities, a trip up north reminds us we live in a diverse and stunningly beautiful state. Majestic forests. Rocks and rivers. Lakes and ledge-rock. We are truly blessed to live in this amazing state we call Minnesota.

When I was young our family would load up the '57 Chevy and take day trips to Gooseberry Falls to play in the rivers along the North Shore. Seeing the striking beauty of Lake Superior for the first time is an amazing experience for many.

Lake Superior at Grand Marais. Paul Huttner/MPR News

As a 6th grader at Deephaven School I was among the first few years class groups to take a week-long environmental learning trip to what was then Camp Isabella. That trip was a key developmental piece in what ultimately would be a career as a broadcast meteorologist in Minnesota.

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Today's Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center grew out of those early Camp Isabella years. Over the past 45 years literally hundreds of thousands of Minnesota and Upper Midwest students have gained valuable education about and appreciation for our natural environment in Minnesota thanks to Wolf Ridge.

To me and many of my Twin Cities friends, northern Minnesota is a part of our collective Minnesota soul. As I sit here in the Weather Lab back in the Twin Cities writing today, I find I am still firmly in a '218' (area code) state of mind.

Superior Artists Point
Artist's Point on Lake Superior at Grand Marais. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Ely to Grand Marais

My journey began near Ely last week. If you've heard me during member week at MPR you know Bear Head Lake State Park is one of my favorites.

McGhiever via Wikipedia Commons.

Bear Head a jewel in the Minnesota State Parks system. The campground is great. The beach is awesome. The remote campsites are a little like being in the BWCA with excellent campground facilitates nearby. And for families with small kids who want a little more shelter I highly recommend the camper cabins, if you can get one. They book fast.

Burntside solstice sunset
Summer solstice sunset at Burntside Lake near Ely. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Burntside Lake

In my many trips to the Ely area over the past 40+ years, I can't believe it took me this long to get to Burntside Lake. This amazing 7,000+ acre lake is studded with over 150 islands. The west end of Burntside is an entry point to the Crab Lake zone of the BWCA. Pristine water. Rugged natural forested shoreline. Sigurd Olson's Listening Point.  Does it get any better?

Burntside cabin point
Paul Huttner/MPR News

During our stay at Burntside Lodge we had the pleasure of meeting owners Lonnie and Lou LaMontagne who graciously gave us some of the history of the lodge and this amazing lake.

Burntside lodge
Paul Huttner/MPR News

The array of cabins perched on ledge rock shoreline and tucked into wooded hillsides is remarkable.

Burntside stairway
Paul Huttner/MPR News

Many of the cabins were expertly hand-hewn by Finnish craftsmen in the early 1900s.

Burntside cabin 24
Paul Huttner/MPR News

Even the ceilings are cool.

Burntside cabin ceiling
Cabin ceiling at Burntside Resort. Paul Huttner/MPR News.

No matter where you stay in the Ely area, the nearby hike to beautiful Bass Lake Falls is worth the trip.

Bass lake falls
Bass Lake Falls. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Purple Lupine studded roadways in northern Minnesota are a treat this time of year.

Ely purple lupine
Purple Lupine near Ely. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Grand Marais

For me, a complete visit to the North Shore includes a stop in what I consider to be Minnesota's best true seaside town of Grand Marais.

GRM town
Grand Marais. Paul Huttner/MPR News

The natural beauty of Artist's Point is a must see.

GRM Art 3
Visitors at Artist's Point. Paul Hutner/MPR News

Here you can try your hand at improvised art cairns with multi shaped rocks on the shore. The collective results can be amazing. They remind us most things are temporary, big waves on the Great Lake will reclaim them in the next storm.

GRM Art 1
Cairns at Artist's Point. Paul Huttner/MPR News

North House Folk School

One of the many amazing places in Grand Marais is the North House Folk School. This remarkable school teaches northern arts in a beautiful setting in the bay at Grand Marais. Director Greg Wright was extremely gracious during our last visit to Grand Marais and gave our small group a guided tour of the facility.

North House 1
Greg Wright, North House Folk School. Paul Huttner/MPR News.

The school includes the popular sailing schooner Hjordis.

North House 2 Hjordis
Paul Huttner/MPR News

Basketry teacher Beth Homa gave us a brief education on her beautiful work.

North House 3 Beth Homa baskektry
North House Folk School teacher Beth Homa. Paul Huttner/MPR News

If you get to Grand Marais, I encourage you to stop by the North House. It's uniquely Minnesotan and the location right on the bay is worth the stop.

The Angry Trout Cafe, the World's Best Doughnuts and the Gunflint Tavern are just a few of the many places people often stop in Grand Marais.

Gunflint Tavern owners Jeff and Susan Gecas were gracious to give us a tour of the newly designed rooftop bar and deck. The view above the Bay at Grand Marais is remarkably beautiful.

Gunflint Tavern roof deck
Guests enjoy the new Gunflint Tavern roof deck. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Back in the Twin Cities getting a haircut in Chanhassen, I stumbled upon the cool new Prince mural on the side of the Chanhassen Theater.

Prince mural 2 cu
Prince mural in Chanhassen. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Yes, it's good to be back home in the Weather Lab. But hitting the weather reset button in Minnesota's north woods is good tonic for the soul. Thanks to all the truly amazing people, and many MPR supporters we met last week up north.

Cascade River. Paul Huttner/MPR News