I love Northern Minnesota, from Grand Marais all across the Iron Range. It has an edge-of-the-earth feel you just can’t find many places. For some reason, Ely stands out for its small town ambience and stunning surroundings.
7 a.m.: Hike along the Kawishiwi Falls Trail with Trouble the dog while my wife sleeps in. It ends at a beautiful waterfall and if you go early, you don’t run into many people. I’ve always believed that if your dog had a good day, you probably did too.
8 a.m.: Head into town for breakfast at the Chocolate Moose (101 N. Central Av.). I love to sit on the porch and read the local newspapers. The Timberjay does a great job for a small town paper, and I love reading about bear and moose reports, as well as the occasional investigative piece on some town scandal.
10 a.m.: A stop at the Jim Brandenburg Gallery (11 E. Sheridan St.) to see the National Geographic photographer’s incredible work. The artist is a state treasure, and his photographs from the wild outback of the area allow you to see places you can’t get to without a lot of effort. Then, a drive out of town, past Kat’s Drive-in Liquors with the cool pig sign, down the country roads to see the lupines in bloom while listening to WELY, “End of the Road Radio.”
Noon: If I’m lucky it’s July 4 and there is the annual parade down main street. Trouble would bark at the horses and everyone would laugh. Otherwise, on a hot day, we might stop in to the Ely Steak House (216 E. Sheridan St.) for a beer and a burger.
3 p.m.: Leisurely kayak trip around the lake, maybe the lovely Fenske Lake.
4 p.m.: Read until I fall asleep on the porch of the cabin.
8 p.m.: Walleye à la Burntside at the stunning Burntside Lodge (2755 Burntside Lodge Rd.). A Manhattan or a gimlet would do nicely.
9:30 p.m.: A fire on the dock at our rented cabin until a thunderstorm rumbles in to put it out, and us to sleep.