The Surbaugh family on the shore in Grand Marais, Minn.: Kate, Lexi, 2, Tristan, 6, Steve and Will, 8. Kate and Steve moved up north when Will was 10 months old, and they say they enjoy the close contact with nature and the sense of community.
Stephan Hoglund, Stephan Hoglund
For more information about the Surbaugh family and Cascade Vacation Rentals, visit cascadevacationrentals.com
For this family, moving up is moving Up North
- Article by: JULIE PFITZINGER
- S pecial to the Star Tribune
- July 25, 2010 - 4:36 PM
Last year, 8-year-old Will Surbaugh was waiting for the bus to take him to school in Grand Marais, Minn., when a large moose strolled into the front yard of his family's home. Will knew to step behind a tree so he wouldn't be spotted; he waited there for the moose to leave and for his bus to arrive. His parents, Kate and Steve, didn't hear about the encounter until dinnertime, when Will casually mentioned it.
Such is the life of a child being raised in northern Minnesota. The Surbaughs, who lived and worked in Minneapolis until Will was 10 months old, now live about 8 miles outside of Grand Marais and have since added Tristan, 6, and Lexi, 2, to the family.
Their house, one of the original homesteads in the area, was built in 1915 and sits on 75 acres of land. They have chickens in the yard, fresh vegetables in the garden and three popular new additions: a mama goat and her kids, Cookie and Stewie.
From here to there
Kate and Steve, who met at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., worked for a canoe outfitting company in Ely before moving to Minneapolis in 1998. Life was hectic and before long, with their dot-com jobs foundering, they decided to relocate to Grand Marais. After getting Realtor licenses, they purchased Cascade Vacation Rentals, a property management company based in Tofte -- a 30-minute, traffic-free commute along a peaceful stretch of Hwy. 61.
"For us, it seemed like the time was right to go up north," said Kate. "After Will was born, we found that our priorities really changed."
Although their nearest neighbors are a half-mile away, the couple said the sense of community where they live now is stronger in many ways than it was in Minneapolis, where people often feel anonymous, Steve believes.
"This is a more multigenerational area than where Kate and I lived in the Cities," he said. "Growing up in Indiana, I lived in a community where my family always spent time with older and younger people, and I like that our kids are having a similar experience here."
A trip to the Cities
The Surbaugh family travels to Minneapolis a few times a year ,and while the kids are intrigued by things like automatic doors ("We always have a few hayseed experiences," joked Kate), their parents do admit to missing a few metro perks: Neighborhood movie theaters and Indian restaurants top the list.
"If we want to go out for dinner and a movie in Thunder Bay, which is 85 miles away, or Duluth, which is 100, we have to pay a baby sitter to stay with our kids for about eight hours," said Steve.
However, the Surbaughs say it's worthwhile to raise their family in a natural environment where they can enjoy nine nearby state parks or simply their own back yard, even in February, when Kate said "things get pretty quiet."
They have no immediate plans to move back to the city, although the thought does occasionally cross their minds.
"I think it would be difficult for anyone up here to never think about going to the city, but it's highly unlikely that we would even consider it before the kids get out of high school," said Steve. "My kids live on a big piece of land. They can play outside and see all kinds of wildlife. It's a pretty unique experience."
Julie Pfitzinger is a West St. Paul freelance writer.
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