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TRAVEL JOURNAL INDEX >Welcome to the Best Motel EVER (so far)

Lutsen, MN   06/25/06 (Day 61)

Welcome to the Best Motel EVER (so far)


Unfortunately, the Cascade Lodge doesn’t have internet access (though it’s coming, they swear) and we’ve got work to do (it’s true), so we check out and soon find ourselves at the best deal on the North Shore.

Just a few miles down the road we find the Best Western Cliff Dweller. Run by a friendly guy named Ray, the place is immaculately clean, nicely decorated and has rates that include a free breakfast that features freshly baked muffins and other goodies in a dining room overlooking Lake Superior. Even better, every single one of the 22 rooms has a big balcony hanging over the lake shore and internet access. All for $66 a night! Really, why would you stay anywhere else?

Our great new digs, and all the awesome things to do in the North Shore, keep us here about three times longer than as we’d intended. One day we hike seven or eight miles of the Superior Trail. Another we drive into Grand Marias to pick up the Gunflint Trail, which is not an actual trail but a paved 50 mph road that leads to trails and endless canoeing and camping options on the back to back lakes and ponds to be enjoyed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

If you get hungry out the Gunflint, we highly recommend the Black Bear Bar & Restaurant. It’s a casual place (your wine comes in a jelly jar) decorated in a hodge-podge of found objects from saddles to salt shakers to snowshoes. Bar stools carved from massive logs are plastered with funny/smart bumper stickers, the waitresses are cheery and fast and the food (burgers, chili, salads etc) is affordable and great. They also have the smartest dessert ever: a mini sundae that is little more than a perfectly concocted bite, but isn’t that all that’s really called for anyway?

We toy with the idea of canoeing to one of the many remote campsites in the Boundary Waters for a couple of days, and then we remember one thing. The mosquitoes. Now, we realize that we’ve perhaps mentioned mosquitoes once or twice before during the course of our trip, but the North Shore variety takes the cake, and by that we mean they’re big enough to pick it up and fly off with it.

So we settle for a day of canoeing (let’s hear it for lightweight Kevlar canoes!) across Bearskin Lake and Duncan Lake where get out on the shore and hike over to look out at the watery border with Canada. On our way back into Tofte at dusk (which is about 9 pm in the summer around here) we see a moose in a pond, a wolf on the bank and two foxes curled up in a ball on the road. Yes, we are very, very lucky humans.

Pretty hungry by the time we’re done with all that paddling and wildlife gawking, we pull into The Angry Trout, an adorable café dockside in Grand Marais. Turns out the place does a better job of being a truly organic/sustainable eatery than most we’ve seen in far bigger cities. The fish is locally caught, other ingredients are organically grown, the napkins are made from organic cotton and the furniture was made from largely recycled wood. They even sell copies of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, arguably the world’s first widely-read environmental book. Oh, and the food is fantastic.




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