Snow! On the North Shore


Ah, the lure of deep, fluffy snow on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. I’ve dreamed about seeing this for years, but I’ve always been too nervous to book a weekend getaway nine hours north when winter weather is so unpredictable.

Once, eight years ago, I decided to bite the bullet and go North in March. But I was disappointed that there was no snow on the lakeshore, and even though there was snow on the hiking trails it was already warmer up there than in Iowa, making it feel more like spring than winter. Plus, I saw about a hundred deer on the roads up there, which made me super fearful that I’d hit one with my tiny car.

But I took a chance a couple of weeks ago and booked a cabin at my favorite getaway, Cascade Lodge, for the weekend of March 10-12. The 10-day forecast was decent, and the Cascade Lodge folks were tempting me daily with beautiful snow photos on their Facebook page.

My drive north on Saturday was without incident, unless you count a very brief snowstorm near the Twin Cities and a scary wreck on the side of the road on Hwy. 61. Both made me slow the hell down and focus my eyes on the road in front of me.

I stopped twice in Two Harbors (about 20 miles or so north of Duluth), first to buy six-packs of my favorite new beer – Castle Danger Cream Ale – that you can’t buy in Iowa, and then to eat a late lunch (okay, pie and ice cream) at Betty’s Pies.


I arrived at Cascade Lodge at around 4:30 in the afternoon and got settled into Cabin 11 – not my normal choice but it’s really the sweetest little cabin you ever saw (above). Cascade Lodge is under new ownership, and the best thing they’ve done is upgrade all the mattresses from rock-hard to pillowy softness, with new duvets and Faribault Woolen Mills blankets thrown in for good measure. Heavenly!


The North Shore was, indeed, covered with white, fluffy snow, though not quite as deep as I was hoping. Some of the piles were taller than me, but the snow on the ground was more like 8 inches, even though they got three feet of snow in one 10-day period just a couple of weeks ago. Here’s my little car parked next to my cabin:


I spent the first night eating a bowl of potato-leek soup and drinking a pint of Cream Ale (on tap!) at Cascade Restaurant, which is located right next to the lodge. It was Friday night, and they had a good band playing. Later I built a fire and started reading a new book in my cabin.

The next morning, after eating pancakes and drinking a whole lot of coffee, I bundled up and took off for a snowshoe hike. It was cold – my feet and fingers were absolutely frozen just walking over to the diner – so I brought a whole arsenal of outerwear with me: stocking cap, earmuffs, two pairs of gloves, scarf, coat, and down vest, in addition to the fleece-lined leggings, pants, hiking boots, two pairs of wool socks, and fleece and flannel shirts that I was already wearing. I drove the 12 miles south to my turn-off at Onion River Road and headed inland, where the snow was visibly deeper. I parked in the large parking lot near the Oberg Mountain Loop (and two other trailheads) and geared up. The parking lot was covered in thick ice, so I put ice cleats on my hiking boots, grabbed my snowshoes and poles, and headed for the trailhead (part of the Superior Hiking Trail).


It didn’t take long before I realized that I was seriously overdressed. I knew this would happen – it always happens – so I brought a backpack in which to stuff the extra layers as I peeled them off. First came the heavy gloves, and then the coat. I ended up doing the hike in two shirts, a vest, earmuffs, scarf, and light gloves. I could have survived with less.


I’ve hiked this trail many, many times. You basically take an easy switch-back trail up the “mountain” – really, more of a big hill – and then walk the loop trail that goes all around the top, with incredible views of Lake Superior and inland overlooks with trees and smaller lakes. It’s spectacular in the fall and very pretty in the spring. With about two feet of well-packed snow on the trail, it took a bit longer to hike and looked completely different than I’d ever seen it before. You could see THROUGH the trees for once; the valleys below looked like a black-and-white photo; and the lake and sky converged into one steel-gray vista. I loved it.



I saw very few people at the top. I wanted someone to take my picture, so I asked a couple if they would mind, and that resulted in this photo:


You will notice that I have snow on my legs; that’s because as I was changing directions on the trail to turn and face the camera, my snowshoes became entangled and I fell into a deep drift. Not my finest moment. Other than, that I had no other mishaps.


The rest of the time I spent on the North Shore was either in my cabin or in Grand Marais (nine miles north of Cascade), above. I ate veggie chili at Gunflint Tavern and a wild rice pizza at Sven and Ole’s. Since I had a little extra time to kill, I also spent an hour or so reading and sipping a latte in Java Moose. The afternoon was cold, windy, and snowing, and it felt good to hunker down with a good book and warm coffee. The evening was perfect for a long bath, flannel jammies, and a fire in the fireplace. I headed home the next morning.

I’m already looking forward to my next (non-snowy) trip to the North Shore in June.


1 comment so far

  1. Tim & Janice Coble on

    Great pics and looks like it was a great time!

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