Shall I say this is Chapter 2 of Torn? That would assume there might be a 3rd and I’d hate to commit…
People all over are envious of those of us who live in Grand Marais. It’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” (Budget Travel Magazine), A “Top 10 Beach Getaway” (Outside Magazine), and a “Next Great Adventure Town”(National Geographic Adventure Magazine) but it isn’t the end of the Gunflint Trail.
I spent my first 23 years of my life living in St. Cloud, Minnesota. At the time I lived there the population of the city itself was around 40,000 but with the students of St. Cloud State University, the surrounding towns of Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park along with all of the rural towns nearby it always felt much bigger. An interstate runs through it, major highways bisect it and it’s anything but quaint. When people ask me what I miss about living there I can honestly answer, “Nothing.”
We moved to the end of the Gunflint Trail in 1993 and for the first five years we had no indoor plumbing. While it was a major adjustment from living in St. Cloud I embraced it immediately and fully. Seeing the northern lights at 20 below zero from the seat of the outhouse, washing linens in a ringer washing machine and living in a 20×24 house I felt like I was the luckiest girl alive.
We made trips to Grand Marais, Duluth and Thunder Bay, Ontario but we lived at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Sometimes weeks would pass by before we had to make a trip to town. Those days are a distant memory but one I am so fond of and long to experience again.
I still consider myself a very lucky and blessed woman. How many people get to experience the things I do? I have canoes and boats with direct access into the Boundary Waters just an hour away from my house in Grand Marais. Just 60 miles will take me to the edge of the wilderness where pines sway to the music of the loons.
My shoulders relax when I think about the calm and quiet of the Seagull River. Where boat motors may occasionally buzz and traffic is the crunch of vehicle tires on gravel. Where the sound of a siren is almost non-existent and a Jake Brake(break) would be one of our crew members at lunch. A place where we know the day of the week by the arrival of a single delivery truck.
I know I am very fortunate to have a house in Grand Marais. Lake Superior is forever changing in color and shape and creates a most inspirational backdrop to life in town. The Sawtooth Mountains, the sailboats in the harbor and our iconic lighthouse add beauty and charm to our quaint village. It’s a place tourists flock to because of all of the recreational opportunities and terrific restaurants.
Most of those people are so accustomed to noise they don’t even notice all of the sounds that interrupt my thoughts. Maybe I have a sensitivity to noise because I have lived for so long where it is quiet. But in the summertime in Grand Marais with the windows open I hear every sound. Car alarms beeping, power ratchet racket from the nearby auto shop, dogs barking, music from restaurants, shouts of people or children playing nearby and the almost constant sound of traffic. Sometimes my ears burn with the sound of the squawking of seagulls or as I refer to them, Sky Carp.
I know there are far noiser places to live. There are people who live near airports and next to busy interstates and I’m sure if you tested noise levels Grand Marais would be considered quiet. But my ears want to be able to hear the leaves rustling in the wind, the waves lapping on the shore and even the chatter of a chipmunk. My ears long to hear the noise of my other world at the end of the Gunflint Trail.