Thursday, March 19, 2009

Out of Order

For some reason, the next series of posts from our long weekend in Grand Marais are out of order. Sorry!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"BIG Bunny II" - Lutsen, MN

After we finished skiing, Alex and I took in the scenery around Lutsen. Alex just purchased a fancy camera and was anxious to take pictures. We were glad that he finally got his camera because in the middle of the gondola ride, my camera decided to quit on me.  

I had never been in a gondola and it seemed harmless . . . until we got in. It was a bit frightening as we slowly moved up the side of the mountain. Alex was taking pictures from every possible angle and each time he moved so did the gondola. I asked him to refrain from moving.

After Alex stopped moving, it was actually quite peaceful and beautiful. It was neat to look out over Lake Superior to see it frozen as far as the eye could see. Since it was getting warmer the snow was starting to melt and began to reveal the streams underneath.

This was just the beginning of our relaxing getaway. Although I can't say that skiing was all that relaxing. I was sore and stiff for the next 2 days. So it was good that we did not have much planned.

"Lake Superior Split!" - Grand Marais, MN

The rest of weekend we spent in Grand Marais. It is a very small town. If anyone saw the moving "New in Town" it was pretty much like that town. I think the sign said it has a population of 1,500. I have to wonder if that doubles during the summer because it was pretty much a ghost town. There were several restaurants and stores we were interested in that were closed for the winter months. 

One place that was open was Sven & Ole's Pizza. Everyone that we told that we were heading to Grand Marais said we had to eat there because they have the best pizza. We did have lunch there on Friday and everyone was right. It was great pizza. Alex and I did get to thinking that it was pretty much the only place to get pizza in town. So there isn't much to compare the pizza against. There were no Papa John's or Donato's. In fact there were no fast food restaurants with the exception of Subway. Either way it was really good pizza.

After lunch we headed over to Artist's Point. It is a small island that is connected to the shore by dirt and rocks. (I read that in a menu.) We had a great view from our hotel. The hotel we stayed in was right on Lake Superior. We were fascinated by the lake in its frozen state. I felt like I was in Alaska.

It was very cold on our walk out to Artist's Point. The wind was really kicking up and it made it difficult to see where you were walking on the rocks. There were definitely points where I think I was actually standing on the frozen lake. 

Probably one of the most memorable things that we saw over the weekend was watching Lake Superior split. Since the wind was blowing pretty hard it was able to move incredibly large sheets of ice and push them into other sheets where it actually crumbled into large shards of ice. Alex and I were walking back and heard a loud crack. We turned to see the ice moving and breaking. It sounded like glass shattering. The mounds of ice probably grew to at least 6 feet high as we watched. People in town said it can get up to 12 feet high. I thought that it looked like Superman's house. (I wish my camera was working so I could have made a video.)

Alex was able to get a lot of great shots around town. He found snow covered canoes which obviously were not being used and for good reason.

Each morning we were able to catch the sunrise and sunset outside our hotel window. It was absolutely beautiful. I love the reflection of the sun on the ice. Minnesota is full of beautiful scenery.

"If I Could Talk to the Animals" - Grand Marais, MN

There is definitely not a lack of activity or Mother Nature in Minnesota during the winter. Alex and I took a horse sleigh ride one evening. I think we both romanticized it thinking we would be in some sort of "Santa" sleigh with benches pulled by beautiful horses. Well that wasn't the case. The "sleigh" was a box with hay and runners. So we bundled up with several other couples and headed out on the trail which turned out to be more of a roller coaster than anything. There were moments I thought I was going to fly out. At the end of the ride there was a bonfire and hot chocolate not to mention a million stars in the sky! Amazing!

Alex and I contemplated going for a dog sleigh ride or actually learning how to mush. We decided to save that for another trip. However, we did find a dog sleigh race that we were able to watch. It was called "Mush for a Cure" to raise money for Breast Cancer. The dogs were so cute. 

As we waited for the dogs to pass, I tried to get to a better spot. I took one step off the trail and found myself knee deep in snow. As Alex literally picked and pulled me out, a local turned around and said "Unless you are a moose, stick to the packed snow." A little embarrassed I simply stated that "Clearly, I'm not from around here." I did get to thinking . . . where were the moose.

We read about the Gunflint Trail being a great spot to find moose. Apparently they like to lick the salt off of the roads during the winter. Alex and I went for a very scenic drive and found every kind of animal except for a moose.

I have never seen so many deer in my life. The horse sleigh driver called them "trail rats." After the 50th deer (no joke) of the weekend they didn't seem quite so cute.

Feeling pretty defeated from not seeing a moose we headed back into town. In front of us I saw a critter walking down the side of the road. As I said "What is that?" it turned its little red face around. A red fox! It was so cute and actually pretty friendly. Alex slowed the car down and I rolled down the window. The red fox actually sat down on the side of the road and stared at us. I started calling the fox, "Come here foxey . . ." and it got up and started walking towards us. As Alex was taking a million pictures he told me to be prepared to roll my window up because he didn't want it jumping in. I told him I doubt that would happen. Apparently, Alex has heard of foxes attacking humans. Whatever . . .

On our way back to Minneapolis I caught out of the corner of my eye a bald eagle sitting in a tree. Alex immediately pulled over and took some amazing shots. It was so neat to see our national bird and an animal once on the endangered species list. We caused about 4 cars to pull over to see what was going on as well as a lot of rubber neckers driving by. I can't believe I was able to see the eagle. He blended very well into his surroundings. Of course, Grandma always said I had "Eagle eyes." 

Alex and I had a great time in Grand Marais. Even though we didn't see a moose we experienced and saw a lot more than I thought we ever would in our lifetime let a lone a weekend. To top it off, I think winter is coming to an end. We have had beautiful weather in the Twin Cities. It is sunny and warm! I can't wait to see what the Spring and Summer will bring . . .

"BIG Bunny I" - Lutsen, MN

Minnesotans tend to fly south for the winter, however, Alex and I flew even further North this past weekend for a relaxing getaway in a small harbor town called Grand Marais. I think the cold and snow is still a novelty for us. We had a great time and saw beautiful scenery. Even though we experienced a lot it was still very relaxing.

Our first day we headed over to Lutsen Mountains for skiing. As many are aware I have never set foot on a ski slope until now. Preventing any potential arguments stemming from Alex instructing me on how to ski for the first time, we decided to purchase ski lessons for me. Fortunately I was the only one in the class. 

WARNING: Your computer is not running slow. It is just me skiing . . . Instructor Derek witnessed record breaking speed with me. (For the record, I felt like I was flying down the "Flapjack.")


All laughs aside, after several runs down "Flapjack," I graduated to the "Big Bunny." It was time to conquer my biggest fear of the day . . . the chair lift. I am the yellow dot several chairs in front of Alex. At this point I was having severe anxiety. I had no idea what to expect even after Instructor Derek told me what to do. Despite what he said I wiped out coming off.  The rest of the way down was fine since Instructor Derek guided me through the slope telling me what to expect. 

I wish I could say I was a pro after my lesson but that wasn't the case. Alex and I went down the "Big Bunny" two more times before I called it quits. My second time I mastered the chair lift but I wiped out as I was heading fast for a tree. After a long break (Alex tackled a few more difficult slopes) I attempted "Big Bunny" again and wiped out coming off the chair lift. By that point I was completely freaking out. I snowplowed all of the way down. 

I was all smiles at the bottom and ready to call it a day. Alex was very patient and supportive. It was a great experience overall. I will consider going again next winter. If I do, I will need to build up some serious leg muscle. I was sore for the next day and a half. Let's just say I won't be competing in any Olympics any time soon.

Snowcalypse 2009

As many were aware the Midwest was supposed to be hit pretty hard with snow last week. The radio stations were calling it the "Snowcalypse 2009." Now I may just be used to the snow, but it really did not turn out to be the storm they predicted for our area. However, for your viewing pleasure, here is the beginning of the snow storm or what I would say an average snowfall looks like in Minneapolis.