Northern exposure


I spent the weekend in Minnesota along the edge of Lake Superior, an area called the North Shore. I’d been to Duluth once before – but that was in November, and I was really only there during the dark. I needed to see it in the summer, in the daylight.

I was not disappointed. Northern Minnesota is magic, and I had the dreamiest time.

On Friday, I drove north from Minneapolis and was in Duluth by 5pm. I checked into the Hampton Inn (which is basically just like the Hamptons), and immediately changed into my walking clothes; it was 85 degrees outside, and my very top #1 hobby is walking around. Talk about low-maintenance – someone marry me!


After a shower, I headed out on Friday night to realize a dream I’ve always held: to eat alone in a legitimate restaurant, a place with a menu and a server and a cloth napkin. For the amount that I hang out by myself, I don’t know that I’d ever gone out for the express purpose of dining alone – but I’m happy to report that everything went really well. I ordered Pinot Grigio and the truffle mac & cheese with bacon (a respectable Grown Up Lady meal). And because I tend to excel in situations where I don’t know anyone, I struck up conversation with the man sitting next to me.

He was a complete weirdo.

I wasn’t being flirty or anything – I just wanted to talk to someone. I wound up having my leftovers boxed up and walking back to the hotel, turning around every block or so to make sure he wasn’t following me. He wasn’t. I am not blogging from the grave. Hooray!

I had big plans for Saturday: I was going to hike 18 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail. With just 3 weeks to go until I set off to thru-hike the Colorado Trail, I felt the need to get some mileage in – but Mother Nature (that old hag) had other plans. When I woke up on Saturday, it was pouring rain.

Ever delusional, I got in my car at 7:30am and headed toward the trailhead. “It will burn off in the next 30 minutes,” I thought. “Rain never lasts.”

Oh sweetie. Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, all of which were apparently filled by ceaseless precipitation.

It kept raining. So I kept driving north. For hours. All the way to Canada.

And since I didn’t have my passport, nor a legitimate reason to flee the United States of America (besides the national debt, portion sizes, and Pat Robertson), I turned around. Still in the rain.

North Shore

When I stopped at the Java Moose in Grand Marais to order a chamomile tea, I noticed a massage parlor across the street – and it struck me. That would be a great place to wait out the weather. Whilst someone rubbed my body.

Let me tell you, the worst mistake I ever made was to have smelly massage oil smeared all over my skin, only to have the rain let up and therefore head out into the boggy, mosquito-ridden wilderness of Minnesota. I now have West Nile. I don’t even need a test – it’s just a fact.

I wound up hiking for a little bit around the Temperance River – which, for the record, shows no temperance. It shows rage.


Then I hiked 6ish miles around the Split Rock River, which I felt earned me all sorts of snacks and sweets. So I ate cookies and drove back to Duluth.

If you’re looking for natural beauty, lighthouses, interesting people-watching, and gift shops with names like Moose-scellaneous, get ye to the North Shore. It’s one of the most lovely, charming places I’ve ever been.


The whole time, I felt a million miles away from Seattle Pacific University, the school that used to be my address.

I don’t understand why some of us get to live longer than others. I don’t know why I was able to spend my weekend up to my eyeballs in beauty and charm, feeling wonderfully independent and alive, while others were forced to grieve. But I know that I can’t be okay unless you’re okay – because to quote the ever wise Frederick Buechner, “there can be no real peace for any of us until there is some measure of real peace for all of us.”

Seattle, from one waterside town to another, I’m sending you all my love.



  1. Terry McNichols on June 9, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    Ken and I spent 2, 3-month periods in Duluth when he was working around the country. Absolutely loved it. But both of those times were spring and summer. I wouldn’t want to be there in the winter. We explored everything within driving distance and actually crossed into Canada where you were. Just to say we had. Duluth is really a beautiful city and I spent a lot of time walking along the waterfront trail.

  2. Pat Cassidy on June 9, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    Fun read Annie!! My mom was born in Duluth–many times I was there to see grandparents and Aunts & Uncles. Has a special place in my heart! Love your travelogue!!

  3. Michael on June 9, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    You made me laugh and cry and love. And you mocked Pat Robertson and quoted Frederick Buechner. Annie ftw. I’d marry you…if you came to Ohio with a suitable young man ;-)

  4. Becca Groves on June 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    …moose-scellaneous. Hilarious. And just so you know, you threw me into a full on “Rory, why don’t we ever go anywhere” tizzy when I knew you were tromping around my favorite place in Minnesota. We now have plans to head up early august.

  5. Andrea on June 9, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    I had thought that lighthouse you posted on Instagram was Split Rock – my mom painted it many times in my childhood. It was one of her favorite places. Our paths cross, just never at the same time.

  6. Peg Achterman on June 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I hope you’ve read some of the articles about SPU’s response – truly God-inspired. Even some craggy old journalist friends have commented that they’d never seen a community like this one. I’m grateful that I will join their faculty in fall.

  7. mom on June 9, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    um, the question begs asking….when it is dumping rain in the Rockies in July, and there are no masseuses to be seen, and you are 50 miles from the nearest road, then what’s a girl to do? I’m glad you cut your teeth walking in Seattle! your post made me laugh. I love you.

  8. Nancy Holte on June 14, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    Hi Annie,

    This is Beth’s friend, Nancy. So glad we can be friends, too! :) I can only assume you’re awesome because you know both Beth and Becca. I’m just a few years older than those two. Like old enough to be a very young (ha!) mom. Glad you had fun in one of the most beautiful (and buggy) spots of MN. In reading through your other posts I noticed your Larabar car. Is that who you work for? Being as I’m dairy, soy, and gluten intolerant, (and a little bit lazy) I pretty much keep them in business. :)

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