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episode 1.3 ~ better with a mountain

This week, I was going to write about golf.  But last week I was treated to a wild reality check.  Really gave me some perspective.

I was sent on a mission to put up posters for our super sweet beer festival next month.  A totally noble cause–any PR I can do in the name of beer is all in a days’ work, know what I mean?

However, the mission location was the Twin Cities.  This was a mission behind enemy lines.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Minnesota and the Twin Cities are very cool.  It’s a pretty happenin’ metropolis, without a doubt.  But to a guy that’s spent the last couple years on the North Shore, it’s also a pretty wild ride.

First of all, there’s lanes of traffic.  Second of all, there’s traffic.  I almost forgot what it was like!  Up here, I typically share the road with deer and the occasional fox, not other cars.

At first, it was sort of exciting:  the hustle and bustle of people, the stacked skyscrapers, the Pizza Huts.  But by Hour 5, I was ready to bolt back to the North Shore.

How lucky I am to live up here is a theme I’ve explored at great length in the short run of this blog, but spending the whole day in the Cities really cemented it.  I don’t want to bash the Cities by any means–Minnesota, on the whole, still equals cool in my book.

Having said that, I can see why so many of the visitors checking into my resort are from the Cities.

Lutsen really offers an exotic taste for people on vacation.  We have the same stuff to do up here, but with just a hint of the extreme.

We don’t have marathons, we have Trail Races. Going for a jog takes on a whole new meaning when you’re barreling down a narrow dirt trail, surrounded by trees, inches away from a rushing river.

And we don’t just bike either.  Ever hear of the Lutsen 99er?  It’s coming up this weekend.  Now that’s hardcore.

And golfing?  Forget about it!  You haven’t golfed until you’ve golfed on a mountain!

(Hey, what do you know?  I found a way to work golf in after all.)

But you don’t have to be into a sport to get a kick out of visiting the North Shore.  Even doing some of those everyday activities, like s’mores at a bonfire, can be more extreme with a mountain in the background.

I don’t want to come off as an elitist or anything, I just want you to know how grateful I am to be here.  I know I’m lucky–and I want you to feel lucky too, even if it’s only for a weekend.  After all, everything’s better with a mountain.

I’ve seen your commute.  You should check out mine.

But be warned, it’s kind of addicting.

– Mikel

episode 1.2 – north shore for dads

When I was very young, my Grandpa Chuck used to talk about the Gunflint Trail.  He had this promotional video he got from a sporting goods store; it was about 15 minutes and offered a quick glimpse of the Trail.  Even though there wasn’t much to it, he’d watch it at least once a week and tell me how much he’d love to go there.

I watched the video with him (a lot, actually) and always wondered where the Gunflint Trail was.  I’m sure he told me but, like most directions, they don’t mean much to you when you’re a kid.  To me, it was just kind of a mythical place.  I didn’t even bother to check a map.

It’s funny that years later this “imaginary” place that my grandpa mentioned is now my, well, stomping ground.  I mean, I lived on the Gunflint Trail–the very place Grandpa Chuck said was his favorite place in the world.  When I talk to him on the phone, I can tell it just blows his mind that I’m living up here.

That’s why it’s tough, as Father’s Day approaches, to think that he’s never been able to visit me up here.  Nor my dad.  He’s a busy guy and, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a drive.

I always imagine what we’d do if we just had a day.  I’d take him to all my favorite spots.  Like the Devil’s Kettle, where they still don’t know where the water goes.

Devil's Kettle, 2010. Why yes, that IS a raging waterfall flowing around us. Don't try this at home, kids!

Or Palisade Head, where it’s so high up, but you feel like you’re soaring over Lake Superior.

Palisade Head, 2010. I won't tell you who took the picture--but I will tell you they were too close to the edge!

It’d be a big change from the stuff my dad and I usually do on Father’s Day:  go see a movie, hit up a Chinese Buffet…you know, the usual.

But “usual” is a pretty relative term.  And I started to wonder what “the usual” was up here for Father’s Day, what with the lack of movie theaters and Chinese Buffets.  What do dads do on the North Shore?

So I ran it by my main man, Shem.  Saying Shem’s a good bartender is like saying Mozart wrote good jingles.  He’s legendary.

He also happens to have a pack of strapping young lads at home.  So surely he’d know what a does for fun ’round these parts.

And of course, since he’s a bartender, I opened with what his Dad’s Day drink of choice was going to be.

A Bloody to start, he said, and a champagne Mojito for happy hour.

Good answer.

The rest of his answers were good too.  Surprising to me, although they probably shouldn’t have been.

Shem said his Father’s Day would probably spent by taking the kids and hiking the Temperance.  And later find a nice, quiet patch of beachfront and build a fire.

He said he might paddle a canoe and, if he was lucky, catch a fish for dinner.  Perfect day.

It was so simple.  Peaceful.  Such a juxtaposition compared to what my dad and I would do.  Where the old man and I would at the very least rent a movie and order a pizza, Shem was looking to catch his dinner.  And instead of a movie, his “big screen view” is a bonfire in front of the endless blue-and-white whorl of Lake Superior.

Then I remember how lucky Shem and I are to live where we do.  I was thinking about it all wrong–I was wondering what Shem’s alternate plans were, in lieu of the things my dad and I would normally do.  But it’s not an alternate choice–it’s the best choice!

So I won’t be able to get my dad up here this Father’s Day, but I will get him up here.  Soon.  He’s missed out on this for too long.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!  If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the restaurant.  We’re doing All-You-Can-Eat Ribs and a FREE tap beer for dads!

That might actually get my dad up here this year…

 

– Mikel

 

 

episode 1.2 – north shore for dads

When I was very young, my Grandpa Chuck used to talk about the Gunflint Trail.  He had this promotional video he got from a sporting goods store; it was about 15 minutes and offered a quick glimpse of the Trail.  Even though there wasn’t much to it, he’d watch it at least once a week and tell me how much he’d love to go there.

I watched the video with him (a lot, actually) and always wondered where the Gunflint Trail was.  I’m sure he told me but, like most directions, they don’t mean much to you when you’re a kid.  To me, it was just kind of a mythical place.  I didn’t even bother to check a map.

It’s funny that years later this “imaginary” place that my grandpa mentioned is now my, well, stomping ground.  I mean, I lived on the Gunflint Trail–the very place Grandpa Chuck said was his favorite place in the world.  When I talk to him on the phone, I can tell it just blows his mind that I’m living up here.

That’s why it’s tough, as Father’s Day approaches, to think that he’s never been able to visit me up here.  Nor my dad.  He’s a busy guy and, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a drive.

I always imagine what we’d do if we just had a day.  I’d take him to all my favorite spots.  Like the Devil’s Kettle, where they still don’t know where the water goes.

Devil's Kettle, 2010. Why yes, that IS a raging waterfall flowing around us. Don't try this at home, kids!

Or Palisade Head, where it’s so high up, but you feel like you’re soaring over Lake Superior.

Palisade Head, 2010. I won't tell you who took the picture--but I will tell you they were too close to the edge!

It’d be a big change from the stuff my dad and I usually do on Father’s Day:  go see a movie, hit up a Chinese Buffet…you know, the usual.

But “usual” is a pretty relative term.  And I started to wonder what “the usual” was up here for Father’s Day, what with the lack of movie theaters and Chinese Buffets.  What do dads do on the North Shore?

So I ran it by my main man, Shem.  Saying Shem’s a good bartender is like saying Mozart wrote good jingles.  He’s legendary.

He also happens to have a pack of strapping young lads at home.  So surely he’d know what a does for fun ’round these parts.

And of course, since he’s a bartender, I opened with what his Dad’s Day drink of choice was going to be.

A Bloody to start, he said, and a champagne Mojito for happy hour.

Good answer.

The rest of his answers were good too.  Surprising to me, although they probably shouldn’t have been.

Shem said his Father’s Day would probably spent by taking the kids and hiking the Temperance.  And later find a nice, quiet patch of beachfront and build a fire.

He said he might paddle a canoe and, if he was lucky, catch a fish for dinner.  Perfect day.

It was so simple.  Peaceful.  Such a juxtaposition compared to what my dad and I would do.  Where the old man and I would at the very least rent a movie and order a pizza, Shem was looking to catch his dinner.  And instead of a movie, his “big screen view” is a bonfire in front of the endless blue-and-white whorl of Lake Superior.

Then I remember how lucky Shem and I are to live where we do.  I was thinking about it all wrong–I was wondering what Shem’s alternate plans were, in lieu of the things my dad and I would normally do.  But it’s not an alternate choice–it’s the best choice!

So I won’t be able to get my dad up here this Father’s Day, but I will get him up here.  Soon.  He’s missed out on this for too long.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!  If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the restaurant.  We’re doing All-You-Can-Eat Ribs and a FREE tap beer for dads!

That might actually get my dad up here this year…

 

– Mikel

 

 

episode 1.2 – north shore for dads

When I was very young, my Grandpa Chuck used to talk about the Gunflint Trail.  He had this promotional video he got from a sporting goods store; it was about 15 minutes and offered a quick glimpse of the Trail.  Even though there wasn’t much to it, he’d watch it at least once a week and tell me how much he’d love to go there.

I watched the video with him (a lot, actually) and always wondered where the Gunflint Trail was.  I’m sure he told me but, like most directions, they don’t mean much to you when you’re a kid.  To me, it was just kind of a mythical place.  I didn’t even bother to check a map.

It’s funny that years later this “imaginary” place that my grandpa mentioned is now my, well, stomping ground.  I mean, I lived on the Gunflint Trail–the very place Grandpa Chuck said was his favorite place in the world.  When I talk to him on the phone, I can tell it just blows his mind that I’m living up here.

That’s why it’s tough, as Father’s Day approaches, to think that he’s never been able to visit me up here.  Nor my dad.  He’s a busy guy and, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a drive.

I always imagine what we’d do if we just had a day.  I’d take him to all my favorite spots.  Like the Devil’s Kettle, where they still don’t know where the water goes.

Or Palisade Head, where it’s so high up, but you feel like you’re soaring over Lake Superior.

It’d be a big change from the stuff my dad and I usually do on Father’s Day:  go see a movie, hit up a Chinese Buffet…you know, the usual.

But “usual” is a pretty relative term.  And I started to wonder what “the usual” was up here for Father’s Day, what with the lack of movie theaters and Chinese Buffets.  What do dads do on the North Shore?

So I ran it by my main man, Shem.  Saying Shem’s a good bartender is like saying Mozart wrote good jingles.  He’s legendary.

He also happens to have a pack of strapping young lads at home.  So surely he’d know what a does for fun ’round these parts.

And of course, since he’s a bartender, I opened with what his Dad’s Day drink of choice was going to be.

A Bloody to start, he said, and a champagne Mojito for happy hour.

Good answer.

The rest of his answers were good too.  Surprising to me, although they probably shouldn’t have been.

Shem said his Father’s Day would probably spent by taking the kids and hiking the Temperance.  And later find a nice, quiet patch of beachfront and build a fire.

He said he might paddle a canoe and, if he was lucky, catch a fish for dinner.  Perfect day.

It was so simple.  Peaceful.  Such a juxtaposition compared to what my dad and I would do.  Where the old man and I would at the very least rent a movie and order a pizza, Shem was looking to catch his dinner.  And instead of a movie, his “big screen view” is a bonfire in front of the endless blue-and-white whorl of Lake Superior.

Then I remember how lucky Shem and I are to live where we do.  I was thinking about it all wrong–I was wondering what Shem’s alternate plans were, in lieu of the things my dad and I would normally do.  But it’s not an alternate choice–it’s the best choice!

So I won’t be able to get my dad up here this Father’s Day, but I will get him up here.  Soon.  He’s missed out on this for too long.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!  If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the restaurant.  We’re doing All-You-Can-Eat Ribs and a FREE tap beer for dads!

That might actually get my dad up here this year…

 

– Mikel

 

 

north shore quick fix #1 – the luna moth

Look who came to visit me at work this morning!  

Not exactly uncommon in the northern states, but the Luna Moth is still a lucky find!  

Practically glowing green, this moth comes from a silk-producing caterpillar of the same color that hangs out on Birch trees.  We definitely have plenty of those up here!

I’m a big bug nerd from way back and this guy gave me an electric jolt as I was opening up shop!

Nature score!

–Mikel


episode 1.1 – chef justen’s fishin’ spots

Down in the restaurant, the #1 most-asked question is “What beers do you have on tap?”

But the second most-asked question is “Where’s the good fishing at?”  Oh boy.

There’s a lot of lakes up here and I’m not exactly the “bait my own hook” type.  But there is one guy who knows North Shore fishing spots inside and out.  And luckily for me (and my tables) he happens to be a chef too.  I mean, right there in the kitchen is my go-to guide to Fishing 101.

Being that we’re just past Fishing Opener, I thought I’d ask the big guy if he knew any good lakes I could post about.  In classic Justen fashion, he gets a huge grin on his face and whips out his trusty Area Lake Guide.

Of course he marks every good bite he gets with an X.  Obviously he keeps track of the species.

And if that’s not enough, he throws down his favorite ways to prepare each fish.  Talk about above and beyond the call of duty!

So, what was going to just be a casual blog with directions to a lake has become the Official Chef Justen Comprehensive All-Inclusive Fishing Guide-O-Rama!

Here we go:

#1 – Northern Light Lake

Apparently this lake lives up to its namesake, yielding Northerns as well as Perch, if ye be packin’ a large purple spoon, says Justen.  The lake is also known for its sunfish, bass, and the occasional walleye–but Justen’s had the most luck with Northerns and Perch.  Watch the narrows for lilypad and wild rice patches and rocky bottoms.  And if you’re looking for a moose (my third most-asked question), Justen just saw one a few days ago on the east river bend.  (He marked that too, shh!)

And what does the ‘chef half’ do with Perch?  Keep it simple:  beer batter.  Accented with a Lemon-Dill Aioli on Toasted Ciabatta makes a heck of a sandwich.

#2 – Pine Mountain Lake

Speaking of rocky bottoms–which I try not to–this arrowhead-shaped lake is pretty much known for having one.  Justen’s usual catch here is splake, a hybrid combo of brook trout and lake trout.  He uses a yellow spinner with eyes to snag these bad boys and when he does he smokes’em, whole.  And if you catch one of those Brown Trout, Justen suggests going for a honey-glazed kabob.

#3 – Elbow Lake

Another sweet spot for perch.  And my motto is “If it’s shaped like a fish, it must be good fishing!”  Not really–but if I had a motto, that’d be it.

If taking a canoe up the Gunflint isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Tofte Charters also offers a relaxing fishing excursion out on Lake Superior.  And if you catch it, Chef Justen (or one of the equally awesome Moguls chefs) will even cook it up for you.  Slam dunk, right?

Happy fishing, kids!

–Mikel

episode 1.1 – chef justen's fishin' spots

Down in the restaurant, the #1 most-asked question is “What beers do you have on tap?”

But the second most-asked question is “Where’s the good fishing at?”  Oh boy.

There’s a lot of lakes up here and I’m not exactly the “bait my own hook” type.  But there is one guy who knows North Shore fishing spots inside and out.  And luckily for me (and my tables) he happens to be a chef too.  I mean, right there in the kitchen is my go-to guide to Fishing 101.

Being that we’re just past Fishing Opener, I thought I’d ask the big guy if he knew any good lakes I could post about.  In classic Justen fashion, he gets a huge grin on his face and whips out his trusty Area Lake Guide.

Of course he marks every good bite he gets with an X.  Obviously he keeps track of the species.

And if that’s not enough, he throws down his favorite ways to prepare each fish.  Talk about above and beyond the call of duty!

So, what was going to just be a casual blog with directions to a lake has become the Official Chef Justen Comprehensive All-Inclusive Fishing Guide-O-Rama!

Here we go:

#1 – Northern Light Lake

Apparently this lake lives up to its namesake, yielding Northerns as well as Perch, if ye be packin’ a large purple spoon, says Justen.  The lake is also known for its sunfish, bass, and the occasional walleye–but Justen’s had the most luck with Northerns and Perch.  Watch the narrows for lilypad and wild rice patches and rocky bottoms.  And if you’re looking for a moose (my third most-asked question), Justen just saw one a few days ago on the east river bend.  (He marked that too, shh!)

And what does the ‘chef half’ do with Perch?  Keep it simple:  beer batter.  Accented with a Lemon-Dill Aioli on Toasted Ciabatta makes a heck of a sandwich.

#2 – Pine Mountain Lake

Speaking of rocky bottoms–which I try not to–this arrowhead-shaped lake is pretty much known for having one.  Justen’s usual catch here is splake, a hybrid combo of brook trout and lake trout.  He uses a yellow spinner with eyes to snag these bad boys and when he does he smokes’em, whole.  And if you catch one of those Brown Trout, Justen suggests going for a honey-glazed kabob.

#3 – Elbow Lake

Another sweet spot for perch.  And my motto is “If it’s shaped like a fish, it must be good fishing!”  Not really–but if I had a motto, that’d be it.

If taking a canoe up the Gunflint isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Tofte Charters also offers a relaxing fishing excursion out on Lake Superior.  And if you catch it, Chef Justen (or one of the equally awesome Moguls chefs) will even cook it up for you.  Slam dunk, right?

Happy fishing, kids!

–Mikel

episode 1.0 – meet the voice

Happy Saturday, Everybody!  Man, it’s gorgeous out there!  And it’s like Monarch Butterfly City everywhere you look!

Well, let’s get the introductions out of the way:

Hi, I’m Mikel and I’m addicted to the North Shore.

Just look at that face!

Why?  Well, let me answer that question with another question:  Have you been here before?  I mean besides the endless list of stuff to do, it’s eye-candy in literally every direction.  Waterfalls, mountains, wildlife…and that lake!

You might be thinking I’m a little biased, being a local and all.  But I wasn’t always a local.

Two years ago, I was just a chunky dude living in low-rent housing in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  My time was split between working at a book store, a video store, and eating too many fast-food tacos.  I was a struggling writer–and by ‘struggling’ I mean ‘uninspired to the max.’

Then both my jobs went belly-up.  Apparently the book-selling and video-renting industries are in decline?  Could’ve used a heads-up there.  But it turned out to be the best thing detour I’ve ever hit, because it led me to an awesome gig serving at a happenin’ li’l joint on the mountain called Moguls.

Turns out that most famous celebrities started out serving, so I decided to stick with it.  And even though I loved Lutsen and loved Grand Marais right off the bat, it felt a little like a prison sentence.  I mean, I had to up and leave everything I was used to:  movie theaters, shopping malls, McDonald’s.

Up until I moved back.  After a year and a half, I thought I’d go back to my old stomping grounds–and found out I was just too North Shore for it all.  I missed Lake Superior being right out my door a million times more than I missed traffic lights.

So now I’m back, working at the restaurant I love, at the resort I love, in the area I love.  My book is due out next summer (set here in Lutsen–what a coincidence!) and I get to hike all the trails, run all the rivers, tackle all the waterfalls, and drink all the local beers I want.

But why the life story, Mikel?  Couldn’t have you spared us your autobiography and got to the good stuff?

Okay, okay, maybe I’m a little wordy.  But when you read this blog, I want you to know who’s writing it.  I want you to know what kept me here and what brought me back.  This isn’t a travel brochure or a pitch from the Board of Tourism–it’s a story.  A story that isn’t over.  I’m not done experiencing the North Shore yet, and you might as well come along for the ride.

Because two years ago, I was asking the same question you are now:  What the heck is there to do around a ski hill in the summer?  And what I found out really blew my mind.

And because this place picked me up and saved me.  I owe it one.

So gear up with me for a summer you’ll never forget.  I’ll be here every Monday with all the local scoops, descriptions, and details.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even catch you at the pub!  Cheers!

 

– Mikel

 

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