I'm kind of like the guy who doesn't want to leave the party. It was hard to leave Grand Marais. As I mentioned I passed on Blue Waters, Sven & Ole's Pizza and My Sister's Place. I also passed on Sydney's Frozen Custard, Hughie's Tacos, The Howlin' Wolf and Harbor Lights, and maybe a few more. You will be delighted to know there is no McDonalds or Starbucks in Grand Marais. But no town can escape fast food entirely and they do have a minor store front Subway and a Dairy Queen. The Dairy Queen redeems itself a tad in selling cheese curds.
Alright I'll go already. I drove up the Gunflint Trail
. The Gunflint Trail is a dead end road 57 miles long that ends at the Trail's End National Forest Campground on Gull Lake. That was my eventual destination. Grand Marais is the springboard to this trail. It leads you into the upper reaches of wilderness nestled and hemmed in on both sides half-way up by the totally primitive Boundary Waters Canoe Area
. The Gunflint Trail was the romance of Minnesota that caused this native Hoosier to acquiesce to moving to Minnesota on mustering out of the US Navy in 1970. Of all places, the Newport Naval Base Library, I found a book titled The Gift of the Deer
by Helen Hoover, a Chicago native living through the winter on Gunflint Lake. She went on to write four books in all. I was hooked. The Gunflint Lodge and Justine Kerfoot played a major role in those books as neighbors.
Even so, I am a vicarious guy. I haven't spent a lot of time on the Gunflint. I haven't even canoed in the BWCA. Nancy, my wife has. She was not with me this trip. Will she be envious? She is experiencing a trip in Bolivia that I probably cannot equal. If she were with me I know by now she would be punching me on the shoulder and saying I have to get in and see a cardiologist. :D True, I've been pushing the limits gastronomically but I am not finished. So let's go...
The Trail is marked by this sign on a water tower in Grand Marais.
As previously mentioned I wanted to hit half-way up at the Trail Center Lodge around lunch time.
Interesting place. This is the bar.
Did you guess my reason why? I wanted to try the northern most breaded pork tenderloin sandwich
in America. This is the "Smitty's" Tenderloin.
I couldn't resist selecting the Tater Tot option over fries, chips or cole slaw.
Why Smitty's? The owners are from Iowa and they named the sandwich after Smitty's Restaurant in West Des Moines. They believe their sandwich is better. Not having tried the Iowa sandwich I will have to take their word on it. They hand pound each pork loin, dip it in an egg wash, lightly coat it with flour and Cajun seasoning and fry it. They don't use crackers or corn meal.
It just happened that the waitress once lived in Indiana and goes to the Indianapolis 500 Race every year. She had been to more than I at 40 races. She knew her tenderloins. We couldn't figure out why we hadn't run into each other. After all there are only about 300,000 attendees.
She sweet talked me into a pie. I felt I had to make amends to the readers for missing an opportunity, so here is the Fruits of the Forest pie. It is a combination of cherry and rhubarb and it was very good.
Satiated, I head directly to the campground. I virtually had my pick of the over 38 sites as there were only about three other campers. I was delighted to select Site #8 devoid of any close neighbors.
A view from the campsite of Gull Lake.
Then I crashed! A whole two hour nap. It had been quite a week. I had bought some hot dogs and buns with the honest intent of cooking them over a fire I made later that night but decide just one more exploration had to be made.
I drove back down the trail to the famed Gunflint Lodge
. They have a dining room and a bistro. I opted for the bistro as I did not have an appetite for a full meal.
The Red Paddle Bistro
had the perfect northwoods motif.
I ordered their Gunflint Ale made by Leinenkugel's.
My final meal of this trip was this Walleye and Wild Rice Quesadilla. How fitting. It was very good but I could only manage half of it and doggy bagged the remainder.
I met Bruce Kerfoot, the current owner of the family lodge dating back to 1927. I believe he is about my age. I mentioned to him how the Helen Hoover books influenced me and he related how he knew them from back in the 50s and they lived another mile and a half down the road. I also mentioned I read Snowshoe Country
by the Jacques, a short illustrated book taking place over the winter in 1943. Kerfoot said when they stayed that winter they did not tell his parents they were writing a book. They did not want to influence the Kerfoots to behave differently on account of it. A little touch of history made my trip complete - a culmination after nearly 40 years. I was awed.
Back at the campsite devoid of TV, radio, computers, cell phones and electricity, and completely off the grid, I made myself a campfire and reflected about the trip and what I would say to you. This is life
but I miss my wife
And I now bid you adieu for the evening.
. . .
<message edited by Davydd on Fri, 06/5/09 11:23 AM>