Beargrease 2017: A Handler’s Memoir

A long standing tradition in Northeastern Minnesota is the one and only, John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. For those who are not familiar with the race, it serves to honor John and his contribution to the North Shore. For nearly twenty years, John and his brothers delivered mail to communities from Two Harbors to Grand Marais while out on their hunting and trapping routes. Each year, at the end of January mushers ready their dogs and head out on the trail for a grueling 350+ mile race, paying homage to John’s mail run.

My husband has handled multiple times for friends of ours, I’ve been at various checkpoints and assisted so I know a thing or two. This year my husband couldn’t fit it into his work schedule, so the next best stand-in…Helga of course! How hard can it be? After all, Phoebe’s husband Oscar was only running the mid-distance (120 miles). Pulling an all-nighter? No problem!

We rose early Sunday morning and finished loading up essentials such as: headlamp with extra batteries, snickers, reese’s peanut butter cups, sour patch kids, chips…check, adult pedialyte (tomato juice with other essential vitamins and minerals), celery sticks and of course a blanket and pillow. I was still operating under the assumption I would have some time to sleep.

The start of a sled dog race is exciting. The adrenaline is addicting and can be felt from dog to musher to spectator. As the dogs get harnessed up and put on the line, they are yipping and tugging – ready to go! When you bring a dog team through the chute, it makes you almost want to hop on that sled and drive them out yourself, until you jump into a warm vehicle. Then the thought melts away.

The mid-distance race starts in Two Harbors with checkpoints in Finland and Caribou then finishing at Trail Center, up the Gunflint Trail. Oscar arrived into Finland in good time and we bedded the dogs down for a rest. Around 7 pm that evening, we shipped him back onto the trail towards Caribou. Reality started to set in once he left the chute. It was dark, the temp was dropping and we were on our own. No more friends and family to keep us company on this long night ahead.

We made it to Caribou, strung out the line, cooked up a beaver meat stew for the dogs and checked the GPS tracker religiously every two minutes. Standing next to the fire, waiting for Oscar to come in, there was no wind and complete silence. Other than the sound of our breathing and the fire crackling – it was quiet. I peered up for a moment and will never forget how bright the stars looked in that clear night sky. For a moment I thought, this isn’t so bad.

Oscar rolled in shortly before midnight and headed back out for the finish after 4 am. We picked up the hay, loaded the blankets, line and prepared another dish of beaver meat stew and set out for Trail Center. When we arrived, it was a hard choice between catching some shut eye or eating real food. My teeth groaned for a tooth brush and my mouth was nearly raw from all of the sour patch kids. We opted for real food and I’m not sure if it’s just because I was sleep deprived, but it was the best breakfast I’ve had! I highly recommend the roast beef hash!


There was a sense of “we’ve made it” after breakfast. You know when Harry and Lloyd finally made it to Aspen? Insert Phoebe and Helga. We checked the tracker one last time. It said Oscar would be in around 9:30 am. We decided to set our alarms for 9 am. That would give us some wiggle room in case the tracker was off a little. We settled in for a nice three-hour nap. At 8 am we were abruptly woken by a fellow handler, “Helga, Phoebe! Get up! Oscar is a mile out!” What!? We jumped out of the truck and ran to the finish just in time for Oscar to make his way out on the lake.

Image result for lloyd and harry we made it meme

There was a sense of accomplishment to make it all the way through. It was only the mid-distance, remember? Running the mid-distance as a musher has been something on my bucket list for a long time. However, after handling for it, I felt the need to re-evaluate this line item. My new goal is to run the rec race from Two Harbors to Finland and call it good.

Now that I’ve had a good week to recover, I look back to the time when Phoebe asked me to help handle. We both had the same thoughts. “It’s only one night,” we said. “We can do this, it’ll be fun.” It was fun at times, it was peaceful at times. But it was also tiring and I tip my hat to those who handle and run dogs. It’s not as easy as it looks.

Until next time, don’t forget to look up every now and then. 

~ Helga



Meet the Chef Dinner | February 4 at 6:30 pm

For those of you who know Chef Rob Wells, our chef for a decade who has provided creativity, and quality to our dining; Rob left the first of the year to head off for a change in career. We wish him the very best and he will be missed. We are fortunate to have found an excellent new chef, Ian Heieie, who is joining us from “The Bachelor Farmer” in the Twin Cities. Ian arrived mid-December and shares our respect for utilizing quality, locally-produced food and we’re happy to have him part of our family.

To celebrate Ian’s arrival and introduce him to all of you, we will be holding a “Meet the Chef” dinner on February 4th. This intimate, 4-course dinner, presented by Chef Ian with wine pairings by North Shore Winery. A true farm-to-table experience, Chef Ian will be serving dishes prepared with a farm-raised Mangalitsa boar from Yker Acres. Durning dinner Chef Ian will be visiting with us about the menu items and his culinary philosophy.

Cost is $50 per person. Call 218.663.7212 for reservations. 

Dinner Menu

First Course | Roasted bacon, brussel sprouts, poached egg and grain mustard vinaigrette.
Second Course | Fresh cow’s milk cheese and Lacinato Kale Cannelloni.
Third Course | Grilled pork leg, sweet and sour beets, roasted potatoes, creme fraiche and pickled shallots.
Dessert | Curried squash creme brulee, whipped creme and candied apple.

“First Tracks” on the Mountain

Lutsen Mountains

I’m not sure how to describe my love of skiing, alpine that is. Cross-country is too much like working at a labor camp so I save that for rare occasions. I grew up skiing and conquering the art of bombing hills at the ripe ole’ age of 5 and I haven’t looked back since. I don’t care if it’s -20F in January or 65F in May, if there’s snow I’m there.

Lutsen Mountains Magic Carpet

Mom, I’ve got this.

A couple of weeks ago I hit the slopes for the first time this year and I couldn’t have had a better experience. Though there were only a few runs open, there was plenty of snow for the special skier I had with me; my coming 3-year-old son Theo. My husband would rather him spend his time at the rink because after all, we do live in the hockey capital of the world. But if I could persuade Theo just slightly, I was going to give it my best shot.

To start the day, we went down Big Bunny. Why not? This was only his first time ever on skis and he was going to be a natural. I had this visual in my mind that I’d put the harness on him and we’d be skiing gracefully down the hill all day long. After performing a series of squats and begging him to stand up and not sit in my arms while I desperately wished I had a sweat towel and a Bloody Mary, we made the mutual decision to work Flap Jack instead.

After the second run down I was no longer allowed to help him. I was instructed to “stay over there Mom,” which meant I was supposed to ski on the side of him and “don’t help me!” If I aided him in any fashion, I was disrupting his skiing. There was only one situation in which I could step in – stopping him before crashing into the fence at the bottom.

After 3 ½ hours of skiing, I decided to call it a day. But not after coaxing him with hot chocolate because we had about 50 “one more time” trips down the hill. We came, we conquered bombing the hill and he was sleeping before we got to highway 61.


If you have a little one that you want to get out on skis I encourage you to do it – but stick to Flap Jack. I gave up on thinking I would teach him how to carve the hill or slowdown in his first lesson. We just focused on balance and making it fun. The ski hill offers free passes to those 5 years old and under which is all the more reason to expose the little ones to another outdoor activity like skiing.

I couldn’t have been more proud of him and it went down in the books as one of my best times at the ski hill. I see skis in our future and a lot less ice rinks 😃

Until next time, peace, love and pogo sticks.

~ Helga


The Deep Freeze

Last week every meteorologist warned of the coming cold snap and each night we watched intently as they described the overnight and midday temps for the coming day. What is it about the weather that gets us so riled up? This past Thursday morning, it was cold! All night the wind blew against the house and when I headed off to work, I made sure to snap a picture of our temp gauge in the darkness of our kitchen. I just knew it had to be cold and when I got to the safety of my car, I took a look; what! -23! Yes! Once you reach the 20s, now we’re talking. That single digit and teens are small potatoes.

This past Thursday morning, it was cold. All night the wind blew against the house, box and when I headed off to work, I made sure to snap a picture of our temp gauge in the darkness of our kitchen. I just knew it had to be cold and when I got to the safety of my car, I took a look; what! -23! Yes! Once you reach the 20s, now we’re talking. Those single digits and teens are small potatoes.

I couldn’t wait to share this important information with the one person I knew would appreciate it more than anyone – the patriarch. After all, he’s a logger and also farms. Weather is an intricate part of his daily life. I dialed him up and tried to keep my composure as I made some quick small talk and then came in for the clincher – “So, what temp did you guys have this morning?” He responded calmly with, “Ah, about -9; what’d you guys have?” I couldn’t wait to blurt out, “-23!” I got a big, “Oh boy” from my dad and I was gleaming with pride.

I arrived at the office and settled into the morning banter which of course, surrounded the weather. As we exchanged pleasantries about how cold it was at our homes, I whipped out my phone to pull up the image I took of the temp. As I looked at it, I was dismayed. Now in the light of day, I could see the truth. It read -23 C. Nooooooooh!

As proud Minnesotans, we live for these days. They’re what give us our grit and heartiness to wear shorts while shoveling the driveway. When someone asks where we’re from, we don’t just say Minnesota, we say “Northern Minnesota.” After all, it’s about 3 degrees colder up here and that’s a big deal. With the temps on the rise to the mid-20s, this will all seem like a thing of the past…until next week.

In the meantime, grab some goulash with a side of tapioca and everything will be ok.

~ Helga

P.S. In case anyone was wondering, we had -24F Saturday morning. I didn’t capture a photo for evidence, but you can take my word for it.

A Griswold Family Thanksgiving

Now that I’ve had some time to unwind from Thanksgiving, I can look back on it and laugh. Why do we do this to ourselves? You’ve heard the saying, “There’s one in every family…” maybe two, three, four, ten? Who’s counting really?

This year’s joyous gathering was no different than the past. There were still the old favorites like too much food that no human should physically consume in a week let alone 4 hours. Mom’s favorite (because she makes 98% of them) “The Parade of Pies” – literally 13 this year!

The winning carrot!

The winning carrot!

The endless sharing of recipes or new takes on an old goodie; who grew the biggest or the most veggies this year – again, the award goes to mommy dearest. And who could forget the one dish that always seems to be forgotten in the oven until that wonderful burnt squash aroma starts filtering through the house.

Our family starts planning for Thanksgiving after the last piece of pie has been eaten. “Next year, we should have it at the farm next,” says Aunt Louise. “No, Fin and Margaret should host because they should be finished building their house,” pipes up Margaret’s mom. Really?? Because who doesn’t enjoy the process of moving, followed by a herd of hungry hippos crashing through the door! Well, next year’s location is still TBD.

I liken our family Thanksgiving to the Griswolds. If something can go wrong it will, and if it hasn’t gone wrong yet…it will. But even as the house exploded around us, I had to remember…this is…my family. And no matter what, we care about and love each other. Well, most of the time. We may be a special kind of crazy, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Until next time, be yourself. Everyone else is taken. (Oscar Wilde)

~ Helga

Today’s Forecast: 1″ – 78″ of Snow

When the first reports of snow started trickling in at the beginning of the week, I was excited and skeptical at the same time. Reports from the various news stations ranged from 1-3 inches to over a foot! Hmm, would that be enough snow to practice my backwards 360? Probably not, but it was a nice thought.


If you’re like me, you bought your season pass the day they went on sale back in August as you sat at the beach lathering up the SPF 70 – and you were excited for all the Fall colors not necessarily because of the immense beauty, but because it meant snow was finally imminent! But alas, even though it might take a few more snowfalls in order for us to really enjoy some winter activities, let’s use this time to get our gear ready.

  1. Head out to the garage or down to the basement to find your skis, poles and boots.
  2. Find a video of snow falling, I recommend this one from YouTube.
  3. Wipe the dust off and shake out any nuts the squirrels might be hiding in your boots; sorry buddy, you can’t burrow in there.
  4. Check the weather report, they might just be calling for another inch of snow.
  5. Remove last year’s wax if it’s still there.
  6. Apply a good base layer.
  7. Dig out your favorite jacket and layers.
  8. Crack open a cold brew, craft brew or home brew and
  9. Keep a close eye on the weather report.

Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.


Bluegrass Masters Weekend is Almost Here

Campfire music


Get ready to celebrate the North Shore Music Association’s 26th Annual Bluegrass Masters Weekend this coming Friday – Sunday, November 4-6! This is a one-of-a-kind weekend as the resort is filled with the nation’s best bluegrass players and instructors. It’s a unique mix of music, along with interactive workshops, plus a concert on Saturday night.

This year’s featured instructor is Jim Hurst from Nashville. Over the past three decades, he’s performed with artists including Holly Dun, Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans and Missy Raines. Hurst joined Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band in 1995, and during that time he met Raines. The two of them formed the duet “Jim Hurst and Missy Raines” and recorded two albums that won them the International Bluegrass Music Awards for Guitar Player of the Year and Bass Player of the Year in both 2001 and 2002. Over the years, Jim has also maintained a strong solo career and taught workshops all over the country. In 2015 he was nominated for Guitar Player of the Year by IBMA. He has won numerous awards for his work.

View the schedule.

Make plans to join us for this weekend-long jam session!

Fall Color Update | Friday, September 30

We’ve been on quite a few hikes this week and the colors are definitely changing. There is still a band of color inland a few miles, on the mountain and hillsides. The green that has been prevalent on either side of the band is starting to become more yellow with orange popping through.

The weather was rainy with cooler temps at the beginning of the week, but warmed up Thursday to the mid-60s and the outlook is that it will stay mild through the weekend.

Along the shore, colors are at about 25% peak, inland roughly 50-60% and up the Gunflint, about 25% peak. Below are some images that were taken Wednesday and Thursday on a few hikes.



Honeymoon Trail, near Wild Country Maple Syrup


Honeymoon Trail



Fall’s color tour is on its way

We rolled into September with very mild temps, but yet a sense of change in the air. The amount of green down by the lake is misleading to the time of year we are in, but the fall colors are slowly appearing. The same goes for a few miles up inland. Last weekend, we took a hike up past the Temperance and though along the drive we were greeted with vibrant oranges and reds, just a few miles up on the trail itself, was covered with bright green and not a shade of fall to be found.


It seems as though there is a band or color that runs parallel to the shore, just a few miles inland. Any further on either side is predominately green. But with the temps starting to dip into the 50s and low 60s, we’re expecting colors to start becoming more vibrant and widespread over the next week.


White Sky trail, heading to Caribou Lake lookout



Lookout at Caribou Lake


Check back for updates as we go through the week!

Fall Food and Wine Event Set for November 11-13

Fall Wine croppedWe are excited to announce details for this year’s Fall Food and Wine Event. The weekend will be comprised of three events; a Friday evening reception, a six-course dinner on Saturday, followed by a Sunday jazz brunch.

This Fall’s culinary adventure will feature dishes inspired by the flavors of a Minnesota harvest paired with wines from the Mondavi family and the newly opened North Shore Winery. We also look forward to welcoming guest chef, Judi Barsness as she teams up with our executive chef, Rob Wells in developing and presenting a series of “chef duet” courses.

Learn more by visiting the event’s page.

Space is limited and this event fills up quickly. Call 844.373.8817 to register today!