Grand Marais is Special
Wandering around the village, I stop by the impressive West Bay Diner & Delicatessen to get an afternoon coffee and meet the extremely busy, amazingly efficient, cute superwoman who co-owns the restaurant with her husband and writes books on the side. Sensing my afternoon slump, she starts a fresh pot brewing and invites me to look around. There are fun things to purchase – like homemade baked goods (including the largest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen), jams and jellies, honey (guessing it’s from her personal hives), fresh eggs (again … proprietary and confirmed by one of the author’s books nearby) plus all manner of practical and artistic creations.
I read Ellen Airgood’s (a.k.a. Superwoman’s) book South of Superior a half dozen years ago when it first came out and remember being impressed by the story. Now having seen Ellen in action, I’ve gone back and reviewed her history. My suspicions are correct; she works WAY harder than I do.
After meeting some other town members, I’m certain this personality type is emblematic of the folks who live here- and elsewhere – in the Upper Peninsula. The local Finns call it “Sisu,” which roughly translates to “gritty,” or “hardy.” Its’ a town whose history begins with the Chippewa Indians, moves through commercial fishing, lumber, and into present day tourism. With the paving of H58 in 2010 – the county highway running between Munising and Grand Marais – the town’s future is on firm footing.
Happily strolling in the sunshine, I stop to chat with two local gentlemen outside of the Superior Shores Market and explain that we are making a video of the Grand Marais area to use on our website. I ask them what they would include if they were making the video. One replies, “Don’t take pictures. What Grand Marais offers you can’t capture in photos. Write about the people instead. Write how we are all here for each other and anyone who might need a hand.”
There’s a glorious freedom, beauty, and yes – isolation, to the West Bay and greater Lake Superior shoreline here in Grand Marais. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (https://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm) and Grand Sable Dunes lie to the immediate west. There are critical dunes and a protected Piping Plover nesting area (https://www.nmu.edu/eegs/great-lakes-piping-plover) to the east, with the Lake Superior State Forest Campground and Muskallonge Lake State Park close by.
My favorite siting of the afternoon is a modified SUV parked outside the local brew pub, The Dunes Saloon & Lake Superior Brewing Company. Someone carefully built a permanent canoe-hitch and fenders (front and back) out of driftwood for this vehicle. There’s raucous laughter emanating from the windows of the establishment. The sun’s shining, tulips are blooming, my coffee is delicious – it’s the perfect time to take a tour of Grand Marais’s four museums: the Pickle Barrel House, the Lightkeeper’s House, the Old Post Office, and the Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum (http://www.grandmaraismichigan.com/museums.php).
I’ll save my impressions of the museums so I don’t spoil the fun for future visitors. However, I do want to share what I learned about the Burt Township School system. As you would expect, it’s small but offers some unique opportunities to its students. For example, it manages its own 1,300-acre forest. What a phenomenal opportunity to teach about forest ecosystems, silviculture, and conservation! Add to that an education on alternative energy as the school has its own wind turbine. And although there are only 28 students in this K-12 school, they participate in the Northern Lights League and compete in co-ed soccer, and boy’s and girls’ basketball. (http://grandmaraisschools.org/)
This is their stated mission:
Burt Township School believes that creating a diverse and dynamic, environmentally focused, technologically superior school serves as a catalyst to prepare our students to compete in the local and global community. Burt Township School strives to facilitate learning through a maximum of course offerings and learning environments to lend way toward productive, engaged citizenship in the technological, global economy.
My report wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to the local snowmobile club, Grand Marais Sno-Trails, home of “Da Crazy 8s.” This club maintains trails number 8, 88, and 888 and operates three groomers to keep the trails in top winter condition. After navigating the forest area between Grand Marais and Newberry this spring, I appreciate the simplicity and fun of getting to a destination speedily by snowmobiling. You can read more about this club on Grand Marais’s Clubs and Organizations page (http://www.grandmaraismichigan.com/clubs-organizations.php).