So glad my friend Denise highly recommended we drop by Naniboujou Lodge, just north of downtown Grand Marais. We didn’t eat brunch there but what a remarkable place! The massive dining room has a high ceiling boldly decorated in zigzaggy stripes of red, yellow, orange, green and blue – and other Cree Indian-influenced designs, plus an enormous fireplace made of cobblestones. As resorts go, it’s not big or fancy. The rooms are reasonably priced, maybe because there aren’t a lot of amenities that I could tell other. The Lake Superior beach front is the main draw.
Grand Marais reminded me of summer resort towns in northern Michigan, with tourist shops and a wickedly good donut shop (World’s Best Donuts). These towns never quite feel like real places to me, although I’m sure they are to the townies. We wandered through the Sivertson Gallery, full of North Woods crafts and artwork. At the North House Folk School (which offers classes in folk art and traditional northern crafts), I talked with a woman who was boiling wool to use to make hats, shoes and puppets. We also dropped in at smoked fish shop #3 of the trip – -the Dockside Fish Market, which felt very much like a summer resort hot spot with tables in the back overlooking boats docked in the harbor.
On the drive back, we stopped several times to take short hikes along waterfalls and gorges at Cascade River State Park and Temperance River State Park with strange yellow-brown water, the color of root beer, that I learned later was caused by tannic acid – a natural plant compound used to tan hides and make dry wine. We watched daredevil kids jump off high rocky perches in the woods, way down into a pool of water at the end of one series of waterfalls, near the beach. This reminded me of Ithaca, although the birch and pine forests reminded me of northern Michigan. We also stopped briefly at Betty’s Pies, which was doing a land office business at 5 p.m. Pie before dinner? Why not — we’re on vacation.
Back in Duluth, we wandered around the imposing Fitger’s Building, a former brewery turned into a hotel and shopping complex. Behind the building, we sat on a walkway overlooking the water and watched the sun set, then went back into the building for a burger and beer at the pub. People were lined up outside the Portland Malt Shoppe, in an old lakeside building, when we left the pub, which was a perfect thing to do on a late summer evening with slightly cool temps and a light breeze. But we were too full for ice cream. Next time.