Minnesota’s North Shore: A winter wonderland

Photos by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lake Superior’s daily ice show 

Winter visitors to Minnesota’s North Shore come for endless cross-country skiing, the state’s most challenging and extensive downhill runs at Lutsen Mountains, snowshoeing at state parks, snowmobiling through Superior National Forest, and the many laid-back evening concerts.

It’s all fun and easily fills a long weekend or more. But in my humble opinion, few activities beat seeing what Mother Nature tossed onto shore during the night.

Lake Superior is, after all, the world’s largest freshwater lake. It stays open all winter, vast and immense, shimmering in every shade of moody blues. There may be quiet days, but the cold surf   gently laps and lulls you to sleep or angrily splashes against rocks and sculpts new layers of ice.

Cobblestones look encased in glass. Rocky outcrops drip with icicles like stalactites in caves. Snow swirls into intricate drifts.

The best time to troll the shore? Early morning when sunrise gilds the ice and snow and casts a warm yellow glow.

Views from Lutsen Resort’s cove

These photos are from just one small stretch of America’s North Coast–the one where the Poplar River burbles into Lake Superior by 125-year-old Lutsen Resort, the oldest continuously run resort in Minnesota.

The beauty changes each day–even each hour. Morning mist curls and wafts across the lake like steam in a kettle. Midday blues melt to the horizon, making it difficult to see where the lake ends and the sky begins. On the clearest days, we saw outlines of the Apostle Islands. On some afternoons, clouds gathered thick and steely gray and fat flakes fell in thick winter curtains.

Needless to say, 2011 has delivered a winter wonderland for anyone hearty enough to get out and explore it. It’s worth the extra layers. Just have the hot cocoa ready to go.

North Shore slideshow
(Slideshow music excerpt from Rachel Portman’s “The Ocean,” from the “Cider House Rules” soundtrack.)  

More Great Lakes vacations on 10,000 Likes: Lake Michigan’s winter beauty in Door County, Wisconsin.