March 16, 2016

Up North

There is a place where the tranquility of life and nature is experienced beautifully. This way of living is found on the shores of Lake Superior in a town called Grand Marais, Minnesota. It is located close to the Canadian border, and is one of my favorite places because it allows me to escape reality and discover life in its purest form.

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View from my uncle Todd Mestad’s cabin


I am able to become mindful of the beauty that surrounds me, which is why I want to share a little slice of this north country heaven with you. There are many options for relaxation and adventure that I have found during my time in this town. Here are a few of my favorite spots that must not go unnoticed during your time in Grand Marais.  



Gunflint Trail
The place you are most likely to spot a moose. Beginning in Grand Marais, this scenic byway leads up to the Canadian border. If you’re having trouble spotting that moose, blow off some steam hiking, fishing or canoeing on Gunflint Lake. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try zip lining over the trails where you can overlook the treetops of the north woods.



Crooked Spoon
After working up an appetite exploring the Gunflint Trail, dine at what I consider to be Grand Marais’ most exquisite cafe that makes divine contemporary American cuisine. Each meal is treated like a piece of art, and it looks like one too. Fresh, hand picked ingredients make up these tasteful masterpieces. You must indulge in the food here; your tastebuds will be forever grateful you did.



Sivertson Gallery
This art gallery showcases “art of the north.” It’s a beautiful gem nestled in downtown Grand Marais. Grab a cup of hot tea inside and mindfully browse the beautiful work of regional artists that include Canadian Inuit and Alaskan native art, Canadian First Nation and Native American art (Andy Warhol’s Cowboys & Indians portfolio, currently on view at WAM, provides thought-provoking commentary on less realistic, yet more widespread, images of Native American culture). As mentioned on Sivertson’s website, “Exhibiting artwork that reflects the character of Lake Superior remains the gallery’s dominant focus.” Ceramics, photography, paintings and jewelry are just a few of the many art mediums that are on display and available for purchase. The design aesthetic in the north is simply charming.


North House Folk School


Norweigan Ale Hen by Todd Mestad

This is the campus where craftsman hone their artistic skills. Todd Mestad, my uncle, is one of them. According to my uncle, “North House Folk School has provided me opportunities to learn new traditional craft from shoemaking (three pairs!), wood carving in the Scandinavian tradition, crafting a Norwegian whittling knife and leather sheath among others. The best part is this all takes place in one inspiring institution on the shores of Lake Superior in the real cool community of Grand Marais.” Tour the quaint campus, enroll in a course and visit the gift shop.  It is worth visiting because, true to its mission, you are able to watch the beautiful process of learning and creation of traditional northern crafts that inspires the hands, the heart and the mind.



Three pairs of shoes by Todd Mestad


My uncle introduced me to the north shore. Growing up, I remember him traveling up north to take art classes and coming back with these amazing, unique pieces. These regular trips up north lead him into buying a place that overlooks one of the five Great Lakes right outside of the small town. I have his generosity and great taste in living to thank for finding and sharing Grand Marais with me. I invite you to explore this north country.


Layna Mestad I’m a senior majoring in Strategic Communications with a focus on Art History and Museum Studies. I’m Minnesota born and raised and am a lover of the north shore and antique shops. I love to find a quiet corner amidst the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities to curl up and read a book, most likely about the happenings of the sixties. Art and history make me intrigued in the world that surrounds me. I will forever be a student to that fascinating combination. I am so excited to be a part of WAM and promote this museum to the university community and beyond.


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