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A North Shore Tradition by Molly Brewer Hoeg

Long gone are the days of 3-pin bindings and bamboo ski poles. We have replaced our ancient wool sweaters and baggy pants with wicking layers and slim thermal ski pants, but the experience remains the same. Gliding down the secluded cross-country ski trails on the North Shore, losing ourselves in the woodsy environs and breathing in the crisp fresh air hasn’t changed in 26 years. Susan and I were only casual friends on that first trip in 1993, but we both loved crosscountry skiing and the North Shore. Young mothers at the time and eager for an escape from our technology jobs in the Twin Cities, we set off for a weekend filled with as many kilometers of skiing as we could manage and a cozy B&B set on the edge of Lake Superior. It proved to be a winning combination. We planned our next trip on our way home, already expanding it to three days. Over the course of those years, we conquered every inch of ski trail on the North Shore and on the Gunflint Trail. Simple B&Bs, cabins and lodges were our preferred lodgings, and a fireplace was a requirement for evenings spent relaxing after a full day of skiing. We developed a time-honored routine. Now, being empty nesters and retired, we no longer need the time to decompress, but our love of skiing endures and we cling firmly to our tradition. In fact, last winter we treated ourselves to four nights mid-week at Bluefin Bay Resort, perfectly situated for revisiting some of our all-time favorites. We chose the Sugarbush Trails near Tofte for our first ski outing. The trails had been refreshed by the recent snowfall and fresh grooming, with just a trace of sparkly powder still lying in the classic tracks. The deep blue sky outlined the tall trees along the trail and limbless birches like poles sent long shadows across our path. The stillness was disturbed only by the crunch and squeak of our poles piercing the groomed snow and the swish of our skis as we made our way through the woods. When we stopped and lingered, we could hear birds singing. Minnesota Trails

The trail, a white corduroy carpet, rolled out ahead of us as we skied, dipping, turning, rising and falling – beckoning us on. We warmed quickly as we climbed, but the downhills stripped us of all residual heat as we rushed through the frigid air. The sun’s heat was soothing and we turned our faces to soak up its rays. After a while the distance between us on the trail grew, but we didn’t mind skiing in true solitude, lost in our own thoughts, taking in the wilderness of the North Shore. To change things up, we spent one day snowshoeing on the Superior Hiking Trail. Getting a shuttle to Sugarloaf Road allowed us to do a one-way trip along the ridge to Caribou River. We set out in deep untouched snow, the trail only a vague indentation in the landscape. Our footprints were soon joined by other tracks, human and animal. Plenty of deer had scampered around and rabbits left their signature imprint, but what drew our eyes were the impossibly large wolf tracks. They stayed with us, leading the way for the duration of our trek. We moved through forest at first, dense pines that created chilly pockets of deep shade. Eventually the trail made its way to the edge of the ridge. There, the woods opened up to reveal a 180-degree view of Lake Superior. Its blue was muted by sheathes of ice that stretched out into the distance, still a dramatic backdrop. We plunged down into ravines and looped through the woods, relishing our private retreat and never seeing a soul. We had no regrets about abandoning our skis for the day. For our finale, we skied the Northwoods Trails in Silver Bay. Narrow classic-only trails with trees hovering at the edge of the tracks created a sense of intimacy and

privacy. Susan called it “old fashioned.” It was the kind of skiing that allowed us to lose ourselves in the journey. It was about the experience, not the speed or kilometers. Just like that first year, we discussed possibilities for our next trip on the way home. After all, we haven’t missed a trip since 1993. It has become the backbone of our friendship as we navigate what life throws at us. We may not ski as far or as fast as we once did, but we still go out there. Wearing ourselves out, spending all day outdoors and drinking in the natural beauty rejuvenates us. We earn our evening fireplace time. And we’ll be back again this year, toting our skis. All photos by Molly Brewer Hoeg Molly Brewer Hoeg (left) and Susan Schultze on the Pincushion Trail System in Grand Marais on the 26th anniversary of their annual ski trip. (inset photo) First ski outing at the former Stonehearth Inn B&B in Little Marais.

Winter 2018-2019 13

Profile for Minnesota Trails Magazine

Minnesota Trails Winter 2018/19  

Our comprehensive guide to winter adventures in Minnesota. Ski trails, fat bike events and features about ice climbing and winter camping. D...

Minnesota Trails Winter 2018/19  

Our comprehensive guide to winter adventures in Minnesota. Ski trails, fat bike events and features about ice climbing and winter camping. D...

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