Devoted to maximizing our summer trips, we just got back from an extended weekend in northern Minnesota thanks to terrific hospitality from our wonderful families.
The tour initiated in Grand Rapids to visit Megan, Matt, and their German Shepherd Elsa in their new home. The company was our reason to visit, but we got a nice touch of the city's character at Brewed Awakenings, a local coffee shop focused on organic ingredients and bursting with small town charm. Spending only a short time in the city, talking with my sister, and going to a few shops showed me a community with immense pride in its artistic and friendly atmosphere.
We then trekked to Side Lake, where Anna's parents were our next gracious hosts at the wonderful Pine Beach Resort. Books, boat rides, and bonfires are regulars up there, but this time we had an added bonus of Dave and Anna putting on a water ski clinic.
We stopped short of Ely at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the state's oldest iron ore mine reopened as a tourist attraction. Those who are claustrophobic or quiver at the sight of bats might want to steer away. An original elevator shaft takes you half a mile underground. You ride iron ore carts and try (huge emphasis on try) to grasp what it was like working that far underground.
Soudan was considered the "Cadillac" of mines in terms of working conditions, but this gives you a better appreciation for what a miner's life was like. A humbling experience complete with historic insights into the region known as the iron range. Cool fact, one square foot of iron ore mined out of Soudan weighed about 325 pounds. Now imagine that early miners did not even have hard hats at times. Probably why the worker who cleared ceilings of loose rock took home the biggest paycheck!
We proceeded to Ely and stopped by the water, checked out the downtown shops, and ate a fantastic lunch at the Chocolate Moose. We were not there for the area's main attraction, the boundary waters, which is a pristine wilderness area for those who like to canoe, camp, and appreciate nature.
We headed back to Side Lake to wrap up the weekend. The drive back was accommodated with one of the most vibrant sunsets I have ever seen.