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Why I Like Grand Marais

One of my favorite destinations on the North Shore is the town of Grand Marais. As well as being the gateway to the Gunflint Trail, it's filled with great shops, restaurants, and galleries, and hosts a very progressive community of painters, sculptors, and other artists.

And true to reputation, Grand Marais has also been good to me for photography.


Watching the sunset.

Being on the rugged and wave-swept north shore of Lake Superior, the town must have been vastly helped in its early days by a partially natural harbor formed by a rocky outcrop now called Artists Point. Two concrete breakwaters have been built to close the mouth of the harbor, one west from Artists Point and one southeast from the shore. There are two U.S. Coast Guard lights, one on the end of each breakwater, to mark the harbor entrance. Last year I kayaked in the harbor and then out into Lake Superior, around the Point and a mile upcoast during a beautiful calm day.


Anchored in the harbor, breakwater behind.

The breakwaters are a combination of concrete and natural rock covered with orange and white lichens.


Lichens.

These are the lighthouses, one center and the smaller one to the left edge, a light only. The harbor entrance is about 80 yards wide.


The lighthouses. The arc of light was an unexpected bonus.

Every once in a while the lake will get restless. Sometimes the winds and waves are strong enough to blow spray over the breakwater - not pictured below, but not uncommon when a good low pressure system moves in.


Waves on the rocks.

One of the neatest places in the town is the North House Folk School. It's a collection of buildings on the west side of town that hosts a variety of classes on "traditional" crafts - many of which are insanely cool. Boatbuilding. Northern Ecology. Outdoor Skills and Travel. Sailing. Sustainable Living. Timber Framing. Woodworking. The school also owns a 30-foot schooner with distinctive maroon sails that they give tours on throughout the summer months. I would imagine it's a good income supplement to keep them running and support their more important work.


The North House schooner on the lake.

Coming back to port at sunset.

Grand Marais is actually one of the places that I most look forward to going - or returning to - every year, if not more than that. It's a quiet, welcoming, and beautiful place whose virtues, I think, outweigh the often wild weather.