Dog Days of Spring

Fearless in summer 2014

Fearless in summer 2014

I know that it will be awhile before spring officially arrives. I’m guessing there will be a cold snap and a snowstorm or two before it completely warms up, but we were blessed with a wonderful weekend. The first weekend of March was the “Dog Days of Winter” celebration up the Gunflint Trail. Last weekend could well have been the “Dog Days of Spring” at my house.

My husband Chuck and I took advantage of the springlike day on Sunday and took a short walk up County Road 7 to County Road 13 in Grand Marais—known as either Olson Brothers Road, Lamson Farm Road, or Fall River Road—depending on what generation you’re from. It’s a short walk for our “puppy”—almost twoyear old heeler/border collie mix Trouble—but too long for our almost 14-year-old golden retriever Fearless.

So we took the puppy on the walk with us, which usually isn’t a problem. Old dog Fearless doesn’t pay too much attention to what Trouble is doing. He’s hard of hearing and doesn’t see well, so we can normally get the leash on Trouble and get out the door without him noticing. For some reason, that was not the case this day. When he saw us getting her pink leash, Fearless lumbered down the basement stairs and sat stubbornly in front of the door.

He really wanted to go for a walk, but we know that he can barely walk to the end of our driveway, much less the half mile or so to County Road 13, so I gave him a big hug and petted him and said, “Stay.”

I felt terrible making him stay home. He watched sadly out the glass door as we walked down the driveway with the hyper puppy. The walk with her was fun because she’s a bit like Tigger of Winnie-the-Pooh, springing along beside us with a doggy grin; sniffing furiously and chasing pebbles and bits of ice. She could have walked—bounced—for miles.

When we got home, Fearless was still awake and watching, so I decided to take him for a short walk. I headed back down the driveway with both dogs, with Fearless walking slowly, painstakingly placing his old paws, while Trouble bounced and danced and had to be reminded frequently to heel.

As we headed down hill on the driveway, Fearless actually jogged a bit, a happy golden retriever smile on his gray muzzle. When we got to the bottom of the driveway and went to turn around, Fearless resisted. I swear he looked longingly up County Road 7. Was he remembering the hundreds of walks we had taken with him since puppyhood?

Although he was huffing and puffing, I couldn’t refuse. We crossed the road as quickly as I could get him across and walked slowly up the road for a little while. I figured we’d go as far as our neighbor’s driveway and turn around, but then I remembered how Fearless likes to splash in the water by the big culvert at the curve in the road, so we went a little farther.

The culvert was still frozen and snow-covered, but both dogs enjoyed sniffing the spot. Fearless was a bit shaky getting through the ditch’s deep snow as we returned to the road, but his eyes were bright and he still wore a grizzled dog smile. But I figured that was enough of a walk.

We retraced our steps, with the puppy leading the way and the old dog plodding along, slowing the process even more with much sniffing and attempting to eat dried grass.

Although the puppy could have probably gone on a third hike up and down the road, it was good enough. I was glad I didn’t have to carry a 70-pound plus dog home. And Fearless seemed more than happy to get inside to collapse in his favorite sleeping spot in the living room.

It was a good enough adventure for the start of the dog days of spring.


Of course what he most intensely dreams of is being taken out on walks, and the more you are able to indulge him the more will he adore you and the more all the latent beauty of his nature will come out.

Henry James

Where are we in March?


We thought our February WHERE ARE WE? location would be easy as it is located in a busy establishment in downtown Grand Marais. However, we had more incorrect than correct guesses, such as the Cook County Historical Society Museum or the long-defunct Leng’s Fountain. We only had one person who knew the photo of the antique phone booth (circa 1952, according to Jeff Gecas of Gun Flint Tavern) was taken in the Gun Flint Tavern.

Congratulations to Dayna Gallagher who made the correct guess. She wins
a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the March photo. We think this one is really
tricky. If you think you know where we were when we took this picture,
send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next
month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County
News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the March WHERE ARE WE? must be received by April 13, 2015.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
Questions? 218-387-9100

 Going to the dogs

Our family is getting back into our normal routine after a fabulous few days playing tourist on the Gunflint Trail. For four years now, we’ve reserved the beautiful, big, Caribou cabin at Hungry Jack Lodge during the Mush for a Cure event, to be near all the fun activities surrounding that celebration. When the 2015 fundraiser was cancelled, we kept our reservation, planning to have a family get-away anyway.

We all fondly remember the first year we stayed up the Trail for the Mush for a Cure. That weekend also ended on a beautiful sunny day with us playing on the ice in snow pants and T-shirts. My grandchildren look forward to the weekend as much as a birthday or holiday celebration. Throughout the year, they ask, “When is Mush weekend?”

When it was cancelled, we were all disappointed. We have hoarded pink clothing and accessories for years, ready to craft a costume to fit in with the Mush for a Cure theme of the year—one year it was the ‘50s; one year a pajama party and last year a somewhat creepy zombie affair.

Well, we were almost all disappointed. My lone grandson Carter wasn’t too sorry that he didn’t have to get decked out in pink along with all his girl cousins.

But all of the grandkids were sad that their fun winter adventure might not happen. But none of the grownups—grandma and grandpa or parents—wanted to cancel either, so when Forrest from Hungry Jack called to see if we were still on, we said yes!

And as plans were made, the grandkids excitedly looked forward to “Not Mush Weekend.”

We had a fantastic time, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, making a snow castle and having snowball fights during the day and playing cards an

One of the young mushers taking part in the Dog Days of Winter.

One of the young mushers taking part in the Dog Days of Winter.

d board games at night.

It turns out we still got our mushing fix. Sarah Hamilton of Trail Center Lodge rallied Cook County residents to host “Dog Days of Winter,” an event on March 8 just for the fun of it, all on Poplar Lake. It was a delightful event, with not only sled dogs, but skijoring. Seeing the skijoring was fun because we’ve never seen that human-dog interaction before.

It is an amazing sport, with some dogs taking off like rockets, dragging their person along smoothly and effortlessly on skinny skis. Others take a bit of encouragement and although no one fell in the Dog Days of Winter event, I’ll bet skiers do sometimes get tripped by their enthusiastic pups.

We had quite a bit of discussion about whether or not our dogs could skijor. Our younger dogs certainly have the energy, but we decided we’d be risking broken bones if we let them pull us across the lake and through the woods. One sighting of a squirrel and we’d be done for!

We always enjoy watching the sled dogs, but I think the Dog Days of Winter was extra fun because there was so much happening all at once. There were dogs taking off and dogs returning nearly simultaneously. There were dog sleds driven by local elementary school kids with just two dogs and there were adult mushers enjoying a day out with a new team of eight dogs. Most delightful I think were the families mushing together. There were more than one tandem sleds, like a bicycle built for two, with an adult in the back supervising as a child drove the dogs.

It all reminded me of P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! A dog party!

And of course, uber hostess Sarah had hot dogs, marshmallows and cocoa down on the ice next to the bonfire. It was a great event and if Mush for a Cure doesn’t come back, I hope Dog Days of Winter does.

We agreed that something could be added to make it even more fun, if anyone has the time and the energy. Dog Days of Winter would be the perfect place to offer dog sled rides. I know that a number of kennels and resorts offer day trips, but it isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I plan a day of winter fun. But when I saw the mushers gliding across Poplar Lake, I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to try that!”

A short ride up and down the lake would be the perfect way to try out the historic pastime. Go, dog. Go!


Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?

Jonathan Safran Foer

Promoting Rosebud

A look at our pretty little town from The Point

A look at our pretty little town from The Point

Apparently, we’ve done it. After all the votes were counted in the Budget Travel contest, Grand Marais has been crowned America’s Coolest Small Town. Now when you click on the link to go vote, you see a map of the United States with a little celebratory banner declaring “Winner” on Minnesota’s Arrowhead.

Good job everyone, near and far who spread the word about the contest. It will be fun to check back to see just how Budget Travel highlights our little North Shore town.

In keeping with my Grand Marais “pep fest” theme last week, I’ll remind all the Cook County High School alumni of another cheer, “ S- U- C- C- E- S- S, that’s the way we spell success!”

I think something that helped us is the video shared with Budget Travel by our tourism entity, Visit Cook County, which was seasonally appropriate. The snowy scenes playing online looked not just cool, but cold. Snow and ice may make for miserable driving, but they equal amazing photos and video. The Cook County commercial was beautiful, enjoyable— and cold. That might have given us the edge.

But what put us over the top was that we worked together to garner the most votes. Just about everyone who voted shared the information with someone else, who shared it with someone else. People reminded one another to vote. It was a great example of cooperation—something we don’t always see in Cook County.

The whole effort reminded me a bit of the movie Funny Farm starring Chevy Chase. Do you remember the popular 1980s comedy about the city couple—Andy and Elizabeth Farmer—who move to the peaceful little town of “Rosebud” so Andy (Chevy) can write a novel? As they become familiar with the rural village they’ve moved to, they discover that all is not as idyllic as they had believed. The novel doesn’t get written, but Elizabeth finds success as a writer of children’s books based on her husband’s interactions with Rosebud’s quirky residents.

As the couple’s relationship with the community deteriorates, so does their marriage and they decide to divorce, but to do so they must sell their cozy farmhouse. And to sell their house, they realize they have to convince the townspeople to pretend that they are beloved community members and that the new residents would be just as welcome. The Farmers bribe citizens to act like the people they had imagined them to be.

Their plan works wonderfully with previously cantankerous neighbors creating a Norman Rockwell picture of a rural town. The prospective buyers are delighted and ready to take possession of the Farmers’ farmhouse when Andy and Elizabeth realize they don’t want to divorce and they don’t want to leave Rosebud.

If you remember the movie, you know that the citizens of Rosebud are not happy with the decision and although Andy soothes some ruffled feathers with a large donation to the town’s coffers, things quickly get back to “normal” with Andy feuding with half the village.

Am I the only one to see the parallel between Funny Farm and the America’s Coolest Small Town contest? In our effort to convince Budget Travel and the people who might come vacation here, we all displayed our friendliest attitudes and worked together to promote all that is appealing about our community. Now that we’ve found S-UC C-E-S-S, will things get back to “normal”?

Will we return to bickering about the myriad local political issues we find to argue over? Will we continue to fight for—or against—communication towers and chevron signs? Will we argue over biomass and bumps on the highway? Septic systems and school funding?

I’m sure we will. Because that is who we are. We’re not just a scenic spot on Minnesota’s North Shore, we’re a community of opinionated, involved, and sometimes obstinate people. But that’s okay. Just like the Farmers learned in Funny Farm, that’s part of the charm of living in America’s Coolest Small Town!


An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.

Thomas Jefferson

A Grand Marais pep fest

Unless you have been living under one of the ubiquitous ice-covered rocks along the North Shore, you know that Grand Marais is in the running for the Budget Travel magazine title of America’s Coolest Small Town. I’ve been voting as often as the magazine website will let me. I think it’s a well-deserved honor. I love our little harbor town.

Even in the recent cold spell—which could earn Grand Marais the title of America’s Coldest Small Town—I appreciate being here. I love that the drive down the hill from my house in the woods of County Road 7 to downtown Grand Marais is always different.

No matter what street I turn on to reach downtown Grand Marais, the lake and the sky are there to welcome me. But I never know what welcome I will receive. Some days the vista is pure blue, with no apparent separation between the earth and sea. Other days the sky is bright blue with huge cotton ball clouds or wisps of white hovering over periwinkle water. There are days when the sky is gray and the wicked water is darker gray with foaming white caps.

For quite a few days in February the water was hidden under a sheet of ice with a dusting of snow. Today though, the lake had changed yet again. When I turned onto 8th Avenue, I saw that the part of the harbor was open. The white ice sheets were stacked, floating almost in a circle around the west break wall.

The beautiful Grand Marais harbor!

The beautiful Grand Marais harbor!

With all the votes that Grand Marais has received in the America’s Coolest Small Town contest, it is apparent that I am one of thousands who loves Grand Marais. Or I’m one of thousands who is fiercely competitive. I want my hometown to beat the likes of Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Old Orchard Beach, Maine; Pismo Beach, California; Snohomish, Washington; or Washington, North Carolina. All with more residents than we have in our entire county!

Despite the larger size of those cities, I’m confident that we can win this race. The contest has become a pep rally of sorts, like the uproarious event before a big game. Casting my vote for Grand Marais makes me feel like I’m back in school, answering the cheerleaders’ call, “C’mon 7th grade, don’t be shy, stand & give your battle cry!”

“V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the 7th grade battle cry!” was the answer the 7th graders and 8th graders; the 9th and 10th graders, the juniors and seniors would shout. My friends and I would scream ourselves hoarse trying to be louder than the other classes.

The competitive drive was stoked when Grand Marais was oh-so-close to winning—ahead by about 4 percentage points—when Budget Travel extended the voting deadline from February 25 to March 4. The injustice of it all infuriated many voters. We were well in the lead as the February 25 deadline passed.

But voting has taken a nice jump since then. Just as each class at a pep fest got progressively louder, egged on by the chance of failure, Grand Marais supporters are hanging in there, persistently clicking to vote for Grand Marais as often as the system will let them. If you’re not clicking to claim V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, join us. Click and vote at .

If we don’t win, if one of the towns is able to mount a last-minute voting rush to defeat us, there will be a lot of disappointed people. But it’s okay. The consolation prize is pretty good. We get more than a pretty picture on the cover of Budget Travel magazine—we get to live in that picture!

I would like to spend my
whole life traveling,
if I could borrow another life
to spend at home.

William Hazlitt

Where are We in February?


Where are we?

Where are we?

Our January WHERE ARE WE? location turned out to be pretty easy. We had a few wrong guesses, but most people recognized the shoreline near Five Mile Rock, near Mile Marker 116. Thanks Kristi Silence for sharing the lovely photo.

And congratulations to Olya Wright of Grand Marais! Olya was drawn from all the correct entries and she and her parents will receive a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the February photo. If you think you know where we were when we took this picture, send us your answer. You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the February WHERE ARE WE? must be received by March 16, 2015.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
Questions? 218-387-9100

Top shelf research

It is time to do the column I set out to do several months ago before I was distracted by coffee cups. I can hear my friend Dan in Florida laughing, “You and your coffee mugs!” but honestly, I did not set out to do a series of essays on cups. I meant to write an Unorganized Territory about a silly thing that takes place at the News-Herald office nearly every day.

As an introduction to the need for a scientific—or semi- scientific— study of our office phenomena, I recalled a silly investigative report on the Today show. Readers may remember that I spent several inches of column space sharing the results of a study done in Australia on whether or not the color of your coffee cup makes a difference in the taste of your java.

According to the people who conducted the study for Flavour magazine, the color does make a difference. But who really cares? Why conduct this coffee cup study?

No explanation is given in the report as to why Flavour magazine publishers felt this was important. So we will be left to wonder.

However, I do have a reason for wanting to do an investigation into the odd human response to a simple shelf in the News-Herald office. I want to do a study just because I want to know why!

So what is this intriguing behavior? It’s not the fact that nine out of 10 people call or come in to the office to renew their “prescription” instead of “subscription.” That makes perfect sense to me. The words just get jumbled up in the average brain.

No, the weird thing that happens day after day, year in and year out, has been noticed by all of us in the office. It isn’t just me. All of us at one time or another have chuckled and wondered.

The scene of the top shelf mystery...

The scene of the top shelf mystery…

Here’s the scenario. We have a metal shelf next to the front counter. The top shelf is slanted a bit, to better display whatever is on top. The other shelves are typical horizontal shelves. There are three horizontal shelves. Each week when the current edition of the News-Herald arrives, we move the newspapers down a shelf. So, at any given time we have four issues of the News-Herald on the shelves, with the most recent issue sitting on the very top, slanted shelf.

Sounds like a reasonable way to display the paper, right?

Apparently it is not. Because inevitably, someone enters the office to buy a copy of the News- Herald. They approach the metal rack. They peruse the shelves. And they reach for the older newspaper on the second shelf.

At least once a day, one of us in the office has to say, “The most recent issue is on the top….The very top…The top shelf there,” as we point to the current issue.

For a very long time I thought it just happened to me. Then one day, someone else mentioned that people never seem to want to take the papers off the top shelf. After that we all became aware of the odd habit of newspaper-buying people. And we all wonder why.

I think that we should conduct a study to find out why people are hesitant to take papers off the top shelf. Sillier things have been done.

Look at all the research that received the “Golden Fleece Award” from the late Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire. Studies by the National Science Foundation for comparing aggressiveness in sun fish that drank tequila versus gin; a Department of Defense study on how to buy Worcestershire sauce; or a NOAA study on whether or not marijuana is harmful to scuba divers and more.

Where do we apply?


Research is what I’m doing
when I don’t know what I’m doing.

Wernher Von Braun


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