Four hours and four minutes northeast of where I live (five hours or more with stops for gas and eating), there exist a town that everyone in the world visits at least once. Or twice. Or three times. Or more. At least it feels like that everytime I go there. This town was voted best midwestern small town in 2017 by USA Today. It also was voted coolest small town by Budget Travel Magazine in 2015. It is located on Hwy 61 which is renowned for its scenic drive. It is literally smack dab on the shore of Lake Superior. This charming town is a hub for various arts, music and crafts. The surrounding landscape is a feast for the eyes. Trails abound for miles, the most famous of which is called the Superior Hiking Trail. It extends for hundreds of miles and offers superb views and rich treasures to explore.
The town? Grand Marais. French for “Great Marsh”. Interested in the origin of the name and other tidibts? Check it out here….
I really like this town. I would relish the opportunity to live in Grand Marais. Actually, I would relish living anywhere along the north shore of Lake Superior. Except.. I don’t want to live in Grand Marais. Disclaimer: this is strictly my opinion. I don’t speak for the vocal millions who will probably oppose me. Grand Marais attracts tourists like my wife attracts mosquitos. It doesn’t matter the season. Anybody remember “Field Of Dreams” with Kevin Costner?
If You Build It, He Will Come (after a few seconds at the very beginning, you can click to skip the ad)
Grand Marais was built and…They. Will. Come.
For that reason, I don’t stop in Grand Marais much. It’s not that I’m not a people person though some may say otherwise. I confess I do enjoy my solitude. It’s just that if I want my space invaded, I can hit the Minnesota State Fair just a few miles away. Why go four hours and four minutes away for that?
Well, on December 23rd, I spent a good two to three hours in Grand Marais. “Wait…didn’t you just say…?” Yep. My plans changed.
I was on my way to County Road 1, a left turn off Hwy 61 a bit north of Silver Bay. I was going to drive through Isabella and explore the countryside all the way to Ely. All along the way, it had been sleeting off and on and the roads, while plowed, offered its normal winter driving challenges from time to time. As I pulled onto County Road 1, the road was a little less plowed. It continued to get more and more iffy for my Ford Focus. Had I a four wheel transportion, it would have been fine. A Ford Focus is no four wheeler. I finally gave up shortly after getting to Isabella and turned back. I decided that since I was up that far and only about an hour from Grand Marais, I might as well make something of the drive.
Imagine my delight when I pulled into Grand Marais and there were hardly any souls out in the streets. “Hardy Minnesotans-ha!”I said to myself. And I knew once again that Jesus was watching over me! As I pulled into the parking lot where Lake Superior butressed Artist Point and the lighthouse on the breakwall, I could see this was going to be a very good day in Grand Marais. I saw a total of 5-10 people my whole time out there shooting for two to three hours. I was able to enjoy the scenery of white snow covering the reddish rocks from a storm days before. While gale season was long over, there was still enough agitation of the Lady’s water that wave after wave was rolling into and over the rocks. I walked and explored Artist Point (seen in the back left of the image below), aptly named for the view it offers for painters and more. Ice formations, both smooth and jagged, full of wonderous shapes and sizes, populated Artist Point all along the water’s edge.
On the other side, I traversed the breakwall toward the lighthouse. I frequently veered off the wall and onto the rather treacherous icy rocks. The two images I share in this blog were earned as I took a couple of hard falls in getting to those locations. One was enough to strip off skin around my left elbow even though it was covered under a heavy winter jacket. I’ve since gotten myself a pair of ice cleats/crampons for such jaunts in the future – lol.
For a short two minutes or so, the sun made an appearance. Some of you may have seen an image on my FB page that says “Merry Christmas”. That was taken during those short two minutes or so. The rest of the day was a gray, moody, sleety and awesome day of shooting. Sunshine is great but overcast days are just super days for shooting. Colors, textures, moods and more can be had that are harder to come by when the sun is shining. I spent the time I had shooting, exploring, lingering before views, just taking it all in.
Finally, the sleet started picking up in intensity and I decided it was time to call it a day as I had a long drive back home. As I left Grand Marais, I was grateful for the interrupted plans. I don’t know what I missed on County Road 1, but the solitude of Grand Marais was well worth it. That day, they didn’t come.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite places to visit, whether crowded or secluded. Share them in the comments section below along with any other thoughts/comments you may have regarding this blog or the images. Thanks for allowing me to share with you “images from a quiet world”.
Interested in the two images for your home/professional environment? Clicking the links below will take you directly to the gallery page where you can order them.