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Your 2015 Beer Vacation

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The WDIO Eyewitness News Team is ready for Hopped Up!

We just came down from the Hopped Up Caribou Beer Festival, and it was a blast. Several hundred people came out to enjoy beer from 15 Minnesota brewers including Schell’s, Summit, Third Street, and up-north favorites like Castle Danger and Carmody.

The Full Barrel package, which includes a special private reception with the brewers and appetizers like stout-drenched oysters and chocolate covered bacon, a Bloody Mary breakfast, and two nights of lodging in our beautiful resort, sold out early this year. But we like to reward those who plan ahead. If you book for 2015 by the end of July, we’ll give you this year’s rates. Check out this year’s offerings for prices.

Then, call to reserve at (218) 663-7241. We’ll see you soon!

4 Ways To Do The Lutsen 99er

It’s one of the biggest, baddest bike races in the area. This year’s 99 mile race (there are also 39 and 19 mile versions) is on June 28th and it’s already sold out. The course description is this:

“We will start at Lutsen Ski Resort, in Minnesota’s Sawtooth Mountains overlooking majestic Lake Superior, as we begin a fantastic Category 3 climb. Once over the ridgeline, the course takes advantage of the glacially sculpted terrain, rolling hills, and numerous lakes and streams at the southern range of the Boreal Forest. You will be riding on sections of road and trail that see as much moose traffic as people traffic at any given time.”

Here’s how you can get involved.

Race It: We said it was sold out, and it is. But email mnevents@lifetimefitness.com and you can get on the waitlist.

Volunteer: This is a way to get involved in a hands-on way and do some good too! Races depend on volunteers to run smoothly so visit the volunteer page for information.

Spectate: Even easier than volunteering, though you won’t get quite as much of an insider look. Check out the course map to learn the best spots for spectating.

Ride It: The trail might be occupied June 28…but the rest of the summer? It’s all yours. Any race that draws 1,000 riders and a wait list has to have some pretty decent views, doesn’t it? And if you need a place to stay while you plan your bike weekend in paradise, well, we have you covered.

Cross River Heritage Center Opening

Built in 1929, Schroeder’s Cross River Heritage Center has become a place where visitors can take in local heritage and culture. The center, which opens for the season on Friday, May 23 and will throw an opening party on Friday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m., is a Tudor-style structure – the only one in Cook County, it’s said – that locals and tourists have come to recognize as a landmark.

During its life, the building has been a boarding house, a restaurant, a general store, a post office, a gas station, and a meat market. These days, it serves the mission of the Schroeder Area Historical Society, which is to “research, document, record, and preserve the unique history of the Schroeder area,” according to the Cross River Heritage Center website at crossriverheritage.org. Some of the stated goals of the center are to collect local artifacts and preserve them, develop exhibits that are educational and interesting, and to build community.

The center provides historical displays, as well as rooms that are furnished and renovated with the express purpose of telling the story of the history of the area. The Edwin Lundie room is a room that is meant to demonstrate the style of the Minnesota architect who designed a number of North Shore structures, and the Stickney Inn room aims to recreate the look of what a room at the Heritage Center might have looked like in the 1930′s, during the time of innkeepers Horace and Nell Stickney.

Displays in the center were created over some 5,000 hours in 2008. “Mapping Schroeder Area History: 150 Years” and “Building Community 1915-1950: Homesteads, Roads, and Resorts” are the names of the displays, and they collect audio and video oral histories, memorabilia, and photographs that tell the story of the region.

The Cross River Heritage Center is located at 7932 West Highway 1 in Schroeder. The opening party will go until 8:30, and refreshments will be served. There will also be an art show happening during the same time, so there’s most definitely something for everyone going on. Go to the Cross River website for more, or call 218-663-7706.

Brewers Confirmed For Hopped Up Beer Festival

We’ve been busy making plans for the second annual Hopped Up Beer Festival. Last year’s event was so much fun (partially due to the amazing caribou antler visors…see photo) that we had to do it again.

You can dip your toe in the water (beer?) with a one day ticket, with pours from regional brewers, the chance to meet some of these local heroes, tasty food, and music by a band from an Indiana funk-fusion-jam band called (what else?) Fresh Hops. True craft beer fanatics will take it to the next level by staying over for two nights, which includes a six pack sampler to take home, a private Brewer’s Reception Friday Night and a Bloody Mary Breakfast Saturday Morning!

Here are the local breweries confirmed, with more to come:

  • Bent Paddle
  • Boathouse
  • Fitger’s
  • Town Hall
  • Summit
  • Schell’s
  • Lake Superior
  • St. Croix
  • Castle Danger
  • Bell’s
  • Carmody
  • Third Street

Endless Winter More Chances to Ski

The seemingly endless snowfall this winter has one notable upshot: Lutsen Mountains are open to skiers and snowboarders for an extra weekend this year. The resort was originally scheduled to close during the “Mountain Meltdown” event on the weekend of April 12-13, but the deadline for that last chance to carve up the mountains in one’s chosen fashion has been extended due to the 11-plus feet of snow that has fallen atop their manmade base of 40-60 inches, and the year will now end after the Easter weekend celebration on April 18-20.

Jim Vick, Marketing Director with Lutsen Mountains, says that the ski resort is able to present an Easter event for the first time in several years, due to the way the winter has played out. On Sunday the 20th, there will be a non-denominational service on Moose Mountain at 7 a.m., followed by an Easter-egg hunt at 9.

“We’ve been able to add Easter activities in,” Vick says, “both a sunrise service and then a giant Easter-egg hunt. 500 eggs will be hidden on the mountain, some of them candy-filled, and some of them prize-filled. It makes for a fun day.”

Vick and Lutsen are excited to be able to have an Easter celebration this year, due to the aforementioned snowfall totals and some simple calendar luck. “On the years where Easter falls really late, we don’t have this opportunity,” he says. “This year, we do.”

The expectation is that hundreds of people will make their way to Lutsen for the final weekend of skiing, Vick says. It’s less than the thousands they might see in a usual weekend during the regular season, but it’s more than none at all, which had been what the plan originally was. “We announced [Easter weekend] a few weeks ago, and we’ve already seen traction on our reservations,” Vick says.

Skiing and snowboarding during the quote-unquote “spring” is much the same as during the regular season, but people are advised to protect their eyes from glare with sunglasses or goggles, to layer their clothes as preparation for any kind of temperature fluctuations or weather-condition changes, and to be aware of snow conditions so as to be as safe as possible on the slopes.

Full information on the weekend is available at www.lutsen.com/easterweekend, or by calling 218-663-7281. A special Easter Weekend half-price-ticket deal is also available on the Lutsen website, as well.

How to Pack for A Ski Trip

It’s ski season! Are you ready? Whether you’re going to Lutsen for a whole week with the whole family or just a weekend with a friend, packing can be the hardest part. What you’ll pack depends on who’s coming, where you’re staying, and what kind of gear you already own.

If you’ve skiied before, here’s the simplest approach: Before you go, lay everything out on your bead. Now, close your eyes and visualize that you are completely ready to go down the hill. Imagine being fully dressed and fully equipped. Now, starting at the top of your head and going down to the soles of your feet, slowly check for each item. Hat? Goggles? Scarf? You’ll know what to do.

Now, to get a little more specific:

Skis and Poles

If you already own skis, bring two pairs just in case. If not, kids who stay with us get free rentals! And for the adults, Lutsen Mountains rents skis.

Socks, Gloves, and Hats

You can never have enough, especially if they get wet. Bring several pairs of socks and at least two pairs of gloves. Bring an extra hat, too—if you don’t end up needing it, someone else will.

Goggles and Helmet

Easy to forget. Hard to do without.

Lift Tickets

What goes down, must come up! We offer our guests special rates on lift tickets and kids 6-12 ski free, stay free, and rent free with a family package.

Extra Washer Fluid, Fix a Flat, and Jumper Cables

Trust us. You’re driving to a northwoods ski resort, and honestly you just never know. Plus, maybe you’ll be the hero that gives someone else a jump.

Clothing

Everyone has a different opinion on this, so go with what works for you. Just remember to dress in layers. Unless it’s 20 below and windy, it’s better to wear an undershirt, a shirt, a fleece jacket, and a windbreaker than one massive parka. Remember if you overheat, you can start to sweat, which will actually chill you faster.

The Little Extras

Advil, sunscreen, Chapstick, sunglasses in a hard case, cough drops, mini candy bars …and a tough ziploc bag to carry it on the slope! Off the hill, you’ll want camera batteries, phone charger, playing cards, and duct tape, because this is life and things happen!

Best Spring Break Ski Vacation Ever

As far as we’re concerned Spring Break exists for one reason: to party on (and off) the slopes with your friends while leaving your worries and troubles at home. That’s why we’ve put together the Best Spring Break Ski Vacation Special Ever! And we’re not shy about it.

 

5 nights for $160 per person

Boom. All you have to do is round up five of your best friends and book our Spring Break Stay More Save More package in an Alpine Condo for 5 nights. Don’t have that much time? That’s ok it’s only a few bucks more. Have too many friends? We’ve got town-homes that sleep 12!

 

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Lutsen Mountains’ most popular resort

Skiers and boarders in the know always choose Caribou Highlands when booking their Lutsen Mountains vacation. We’ve got an indoor pool, two whirlpools, two saunas, free s’mores, complimentary movies, and the area’s most talented massage therapists – our competition isn’t even competition! And this year, as you know by now, guests at Caribou Highlands will have the Best Spring Break Ski Vacation Ever!

 

Cherry Fired Prime Rib + Shot-Ski + Mountain Nightlife
= Good Times and Great Memories

Whether you’re staying in at Moguls Grille and Tap Room or hitting up the area’s biggest music venue, Papa Charlie’s – end your day skiing and start your night off right with hearty slice of our famous Cherry Fired Prime Rib and a Shot-Ski!

 

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A Mountain of Gratitude: Thanksgiving on the North Shore

Thanksgiving is close. You can always tell the nearness of this holiday by the cold weather, the flurries of snow, the grocery store ads for cranberries, and by the endless Facebook posts about thankfulness.

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Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. It’s probably you! And, in all honesty, it should probably be me too. Sure, some of these posts make you roll your eyes, but it can’t really hurt to make an extra effort to give thanks. While I’m a little late to the gratitude party, I decided to compile a list of my own.

What I discovered was that a lot of the things I’m thankful for correlate with the North Shore.

For starters, I’m thankful for family. Holidays are particularly tough for me since my mom passed away. Our family had the smallest house, but for some reason we were always the hosts for get-togethers. That tradition dissolved with my mother’s health unfortunately. But the simple fact that it is Thanksgiving reminds me of family I haven’t seen in a long while, and seems to bring them closer even though (with the exception of my cousin, Wally, and his family) are all at least 5 hours away. Seeing Wally was always my personal favorite part of Thanksgiving, and now I’m practically his neighbor. I wish I could see the rest of the fam as much as I see him now, but I’m grateful for their understanding. When I moved to the North Shore there was a lot of people that thought I was nuts, and have lost touch with me over the years. But not my dad and grandma. They understood how good of an opportunity this was for me. And adventure. And though they miss me (and are missed dearly in return) I’m thankful for their trust. And the occasional baked good via the US Postal Service. :)

I’m also very thankful to be able to say I’m a published author. No matter what happens to me tomorrow, next week, or 50 years from now, I can say that I fulfilled one of my major goals in life. I suppose a certain amount of thanks is due to North Star Press for trusting in a quirky wizard story set in the 80s, but a lot of thanks is due to this area as well. As I said in an interview, I instantly fell in love with the North Shore when I moved here. I suddenly wanted everything I ever wrote to be set in this surreal, magical place. Inspiring? Yes. But also serene. Peaceful. QUIET. I started and failed many projects living down in the Cities. In the five years after college, I had nothing to show for it, book-wise. Yet my first full summer on the Shore, I was able to hash out the skeleton of Coming of Mage, and spent the following year fleshing it out for publication. Proof’s in the pudding, as they say.

And, as hectic as it can be sometimes, I’m thankful to have a job. A job that allows flexibility to write, a job that has given me the chance to prove my skills in many areas outside of just bringing food to someone’s table, a job that allows me to mingle with people on vacation–and maybe help me feel like I’m a little on vacation myself, even when I’m on the clock. I’m thankful for my shift on Thanksgiving, where I’ll get to recapture some of that feeling of get-togetherness with many families. I’m thankful that my shift ends when most retail folks’ shifts begin. I’m thankful the trend of “Black Thursday” hasn’t bled to the North Shore, and that folk up here have no problem hanging “Closed” signs to spend a day with family.

Speaking of my shift, I’m thankful that I’ll get to take part in the epic feast at Moguls–and that Wild Game Meatloaf is going to be included in the spread. I love ya, Turkey, but you ain’t got nothin’ on buffalo, elk, and beef wrapped in bacon and smothered with mushroom gravy. (Okay, easy, everybody–of course there’s going to be turkey too.)

I’m thankful I won’t be stuck in traffic this holiday season. Or any season. For me, traffic is a thing of the past. Do you know what it’s like to go to work and rarely see a car on your commute? I only have one stoplight to worry about…and miles and miles of mountainside views and lakeside vistas. Now that’s something to be grateful for.

And lastly, I’m thankful for snow. Yes, I said it. I’m shocked enough to hear myself say it. But snow in Lutsen means skiing and snowboarding. To be honest, I’ve never once been on a slope, but even I realize skiing and ‘boarding is the lifeblood of this area. People will flock to this area this winter and I will serve them drinks, make them happy, and they’ll fill my pockets with their gratitude. It’s a long draught between summer and ski seasons and all of my friends up here rely on the dutiful adrenaline junkies that we see this time of year. So, thank you, Snow, for cresting those runs with fresh powder and breathing some life into my little world up here. Maybe I’ll even strap on a snowboard this winter to show my appreciation.

Maybe.

I could go on and on and will for the rest of the day….to myself. I’ll spare you all the nostalgic niceties I’ve kept bottled up all year. But, long story short, Thanksgiving is more than Turkey (or Meatloaf) and stuffing. It’s more than how close you live to your loved ones, or how far. It’s more than the sweet deal you’re going to get on that flatscreen TV at 3 in the morning.

Thanksgiving is remembering why you get to have these things, and who–or where–to thank for it all.

What are your Thanksgiving plans? Got some wild traditions to share?

- Mikel

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Remember, Remember the Gales of November

“Time sure flies” and all the rest that follows the cliched adage. But it certainly does fly, doesn’t it? Especially this time of year. My favorite time of all. That precious rent in the fabric of reality that is the week between Halloween and my birthday.  How lucky I am that each year my favorite holiday kicks off a one-week lead-up to my second favorite holiday.

Surprisingly, this was the first time since moving to the North Shore, that I was actually here for my birthday. I usually spend it road-tripping, returning to civilization for a few nights to remind all my family and friends that I’m still alive in the savage wild of the North Woods.

I get to live in the hub of tranquility and peace, and my dad thinks I’m the wildly brave lumberjack type. It’s sort of cute in a way.

Either way, I’ve always been curious what the Shore could offer me as a birthday gift (as if it could offer more than it’s given already). Halloween was awesome–we actually got Trick-or-Treaters. Like 10. That’s probably all the kids in town, right? Still, it was a thrill, bringing me back to the fond memories of the small town I grew up in, handing out candy at my grandparents’ house.

Best Halloween yet.

After that, I resolved to spend my actual birthday at Moguls, where my new family–my coworkers–would be, either for work or for play. I, of course, was there for the ‘play’ option.

And play I did.

While my birthday did bring out a few friends, the place was packed with the locals of Lutsen. I could tell you they were there for me, but, in actuality, it was the monthly Mug Club meeting. Convenient, no?

There was food and drink….and drink, and drink, and drink. I definitely underestimated the, er….generosity of the locals when it came to buying a fellow a birthday pint. That generosity, coupled with the Club’s complimentary “Birthday Das Boot“–which is exactly what you think it is–meant that I was royally…not parched.

It was a grand time. Or so I’ve been told.

In fact, it was so grand it made history! Okay, my birthday didn’t make history, per se, but the day itself did. November 7th was the kickoff of a bold, new tradition here on the North Shore: the Lake Superior Storm Festival.

You heard me. A new festival. Is there anything better? The Storm Festival celebrates the infamous Gales of November, the wild winds that stir up Lake Superior this time of year, which led to both the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and all those awesome photos you see of waves crashing up over lighthouses and roadways. For years, these winds have brought intrepid stormchasers to the North Shore, inspiring art and battening hatches.

And the Gales are no joke. It’s like someone flips a cosmic switch at midnight on Halloween and triggers the angriest waters Superior has ever drudged up. Icy whiteheads crash against the rocks of the shore, unleashing their fury at being awakened after a summer of sleep.

See? I told you: it inspires art.

And now it has its own festival. A weekend-long celebration, complete with a ‘polar plunge’ into Superior, themed radio programming, and ‘Boreal Cyclone Pie’ crafted by the masters at The Pie Place–which I can assure you was devoured to the last crumb, as my friend and I discovered the next day when we tried to buy a slice. Perhaps next year I can find out what’s in it.

Is it another excuse for a festival? Maybe. But when have Minnesotans ever needed an excuse for a festival?

Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s a badge of courage. Leave it to the North Star State to celebrate the brisk baby cousin of a hurricane, right? But that’s what so great about it. Instead of whining about the chill in the air, we grab it by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, and make a coat out of it. One we wear proudly.

Have you ever been up to the Shore this time of year? What do you remember most?

- Mikel

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North Shore Haunts

As October draws to its close,the North Shore reveals its true colors. Yes, the reds and oranges were beautiful, but the patchy golds and bare browns seem to lend themselves perfectly to the haunted feel of the season. Jack O’ Lanterns pop up in windows, witches huddle in the corners of yards, and fun-size candy bars appear on every store shelf…only to disappear seconds later!

Halloween has long been my favorite holiday. Sure, Christmas has presents, but Halloween has tales of ghosts. When this time of year rolls around, it seems like people lose that chip on their shoulder; they want to be scared. They want to believe in the supernatural, even for just a few weeks.

I’m a superfan of the paranormal (shocker) and the North Shore is perfect place to tap into Minnesota’s spooky pipeline. Think about it: you have the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth–mansions are always haunted, right?–then miles and miles of small towns and old ports, downtown Lutsen which just screams pioneer days, and then Grand Marais, a quaint li’l town with decades of history literally carved into the rocks in the harbor. Pick a house in Grand Marais. Chances are it’s over a hundred years old. Some of them have to be haunted, right? I mean, that’s just simple mathematics.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m taking the ghost thing a little too seriously, but it’s in my nature. About this time of year 8 years ago, my buddy, Kell, and I decided we were going to clear up the rumors regarding a haunted building on our college campus. As a writer and photographer for the university newspaper, we owed it to the student body to get to the bottom of this mystery. So we got special permission to stay over in the supposedly haunted Riverview Hall.

Let’s just say we got results. Big time. And ever since then I can’t help but root out ghost stories in every town–nay, every house–I visit.

So I had to wonder: just what is this area hiding, ghost-wise?

If you do a simple Google search for hauntings in the area, you get next to nothing. You might stumble on the clearly very credible Ghostsofamerica.com. The few stories shared there seem to point to the Maple Hill Cemetery as Grand Marais’ spook central. Believe it or not, I don’t make a habit of snooping around graveyards, but admittedly, I’ve done more than one double take as I come over the hill into town at the end of a late shift, thinking I see a flash of light or hazy glow.

But when it comes to ghost stories, website fodder is kid stuff. If you want to know where the ghosts are hiding, you gotta shake up the locals.

So I shook.

The first thing I noticed was nobody had a spooky story that happened to them, but redirected me to a friend or acquaintance. Odd.

Come on, guys, it’s Halloween, I thought. Live a little.

I kept digging. Something spooky had to have happened to somebody in this town, right?! Otherwise about a billion horror movies set in remote locations have been lying to me.

A fellow coworker told me about the Grand Marais Art Colony, easily one of the oldest institutions in the “Big Marsh.” Once upon a time, this friend of mine experienced a phenomena ranging from the feeling of “not being alone” to wildly spinning clock hands. This was the good stuff. This is what I wanted to hear.

The Art Colony building was once a church, built in 1916. I wouldn’t be surprised at all with a history like that, that it might have a paranormal presence or two. Just the age alone would almost guarantee that.

But what about a building that wasn’t so old?

While discussing the Art Colony incidents, another coworker told me snippets of another story from the area, one far more recent–of course, it didn’t happen to him.

Obviously.

So, I tracked down the source of the new story, a real skeptic that I’ll call “Sam.”

Hey, this ain’t a newspaper, I’ll use all the aliases I want, buddy!

As I sat down with my trusted notepad, Sam made it clear he didn’t really believe in this crap–he just…experienced something.

Yeah, yeah, got it. Get to the ghosts already!

Sam was setting up for the Lutsen Fire Dept’s annual pancake breakfast fundraiser around 6 a.m. The Lutsen Fire Hall was recently expanded–there’s an old section and a new. Once upon a time, it was a very small schoolhouse. Anyway, Sam was getting the coffee ready in the newer section of the hall when he heard something. A commotion, he described it. Coming from the older section of the building.

Sam assumed it was a female volunteer that is usually the first person in every year. He would assume this all the way up until the very end of his experience that morning.

Though Sam thought it strange that this volunteer would be in the old part of the building, it was far from impossible. Blocked by towering firetrucks, he couldn’t actually see who was over there.

Then, a heavy door clicks shut audibly. She must’ve left, Sam figures.

Shortly thereafter, a sound Sam could only describe as ‘a large piece of furniture moving’ erupts from the old section. Surely the volunteer has returned, and apparently doing some heavy rearranging for the event. Finally, Sam investigates the old building.

He finds it empty. The door is open. The light is on. Weird, sure, but possible. Sam instinctively shuts the open door. The second the latch clicks, an impossibly close voice whispers directly into his ear:

“Go.”

When I asked Sam if it was the woman’s voice, he shook his head. Definitely a man’s voice. Deep.

Go.

For a moment, everyone in Mogul’s tap room listening to this tale is struck silent. Goose bumps run the length of our arms and eventually we all laugh away the moment, shaking away the shivers.

After that, the proverbial fingers really start to point. Suddenly, everybody has a story. Most of them have to do with another former church-turned-art-studio down the street from my place. So I start digging.

That’s when the stories really start flowing…

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