In Search of Lake Wobegon: Ely, Minnesota

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The fresh water is warm and inviting at Farm Lake

The road north to Ely trails along Lake Superior and then up into the Superior National Forest. 3.9 million acres of lakes and land lush with pine, fir and spruce trees.

For hours, we drove through enchanting, winding roads. The trees grew taller as we furthered toward the Canadian border. Seemingly no other cars were on the road. We pulled over to turn off our engine and breathe in the fresh, fresh air and hear: silence.

Eventually the twisting road split at Farm Lake and we made a right for Kawishiwi Trail to the Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast. The Blue Heron is a quaint cabin on Farm Lake. The rooms are called this & that, so forth, so on, other and etc. We had other – a corner room looking out onto the lake and forests. The walls were thick, round logs as that of a log cabin. Next to the bedside was a Scandinavian-American humor book, which I peered through in the evening. The sun still sat high in the sky in this late hour as we were so far north.

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The running theme

The main town we were near is Ely. Nestled in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, is a frontier cum resort town filled with cafés, restaurants and boutiques geared toward the canoeing and fishing hobbyists visiting from all over the world.

We enjoyed the farmer’s marketDSC00299 where children played kubb (of course – another ode to Sweden in Minnesota) and people brought their creations and baked goods to a large green park at the edge of the main street.

A blue grass band hummed and strummed their tunes.

 Where to Eat

1. Insula

Sit at the bar and enjoy a scrumptious cheese board with a cool cocktail made with Minnesota-made akvavit.

2. The Chocolate Moose

It’s as cute as it sounds. We sat here for lunch. Order a bloody mary and it comes with a small beer. That’s a thing. Pretty much everywhere in Minnesota & Wisconsin actually.

3. Burntside Lodge

The lodge at Lake Burntside is a fine dining, white linen establishment where patrons eat overlooking the lake whose beauty is famous from the Canadian to Iowan border and beyond. I’m sad to say we didn’t get to make it here on our short stay, but read on and you’ll see why we’ll keep coming back to Ely for years to come.

The night turned into morning as we woke to the home-cooked breakfast of banana-stuffed French toast, scrambled eggs and sausage, homemade yogurt with almond oil and a mountain of fruit served by our kind hosts.

 

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Kawishiwi Falls

The sun made everything glisten, the skies crystal blue and the air temperate, Andrew and I drove a short distance to for a hike on Kawishiwi Falls, ironically not on Kawishiwi trails. Stepping into the birch forest it was suddenly dark and protected in shade. I wondered if a bear, or moose, or wolf was hidden in the trees. After a few minutes of narrow, winding paths we reached the Kawishiwi Waterfall.

I bent down on one knee to capture photos of the cascading water. I see Andrew in the corner of my eye get down on one knee too.

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Adoring my early 1930s French engagement ring and my love of course

Right there at Kawishiwi Falls we pledged our eternal commitment to each other and to the adventures to come.

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Engaged selfie

What followed was an excited blur of calls, texts, and selected Instagrams for our friends and family… and obsessively photographing my left hand. For the full picture, check out what my fiancé Andrew made here.

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Getting canoe ready (not pictured: choppy waves from day prior)

In the afternoon, we took a canoe into the series of protected lakes strung together known as the Boundary Waters. No motorized vessels may enter the water. Without question, I put on my life vest to ride the choppy waters from the day’s breeze. The current helped us into a small passage and into the next lake with everything stood calm and still. A few tree stumps from another time jutted out of the water. This greenish-brown reeds of wild rice were rampant near to where the water edged with the islands. Silent. Pristine. Breathtaking. We returned toward the lake we started in – Farm Lake – where the waves were now white capping and pushing against. We paddled hard, mimicking sailing tacking into the wind and into the waves so that we would be pushed sideways. Bounce. Bounce. Out of my seat and crashing back down we steadied against the current until we could come about to ride it back into our dock.

Relaxing on the dock post weather

It was exhilarating enough to be fun and not totally terrifying, but I was very happy to be back on dry land. And wouldn’t know it the fresh water, which is actually quite warm to the touch, turned to glass once again later on.

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The day turned to night and we made s’mores over the fire. As the last moments of dusk melted away, the loons, moose, wolves and whoever else is out there woke up and chitter chattered along the edges of the forest. We sat on the dock and in the crystal clear pitch black, with no glow of towns insight, even the milky way could be seen.

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Magical Ely, you are part of us now.