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Ready or Not Here I Come: Reflections of a new Cook County resident

Mar 12, 2018 07:39AM ● By Editor

Ready or Not Here I Come

by Traci Crotteau

I know. I know. I’m stealing cheechako, but I’m going to use that word anyway. Cheechako means a person newly arrived in the mining districts of Alaska or northwestern Canada. I lived in Alaska for eight years and was probably considered a cheechako for two of the eight. Today I’m going to use it to represent someone newly arrived...anywhere.

In any case, this is me, Traci Crotteau, writing what will be a collection of stories on what it’s like to be the newbie in Cook County. You guessed it, I recently moved to Cook County. Now, I’m a cheechako to Cook County. This article, and others to come, will be the bubble thoughts of...a newly arrived!

My family and I had an inclination that we would be moving to Cook County way back in July 2017. We finally got here in October. Since, July, maybe even June, I had been scouring the internet for a home for our little family to make a nest in. Cough. Cough. As I looked, and looked, and looked some more, I quickly realized this will not be an easy feat. Two and half months before we actually made it to Cook County I came to the realization finding a family home, on one income, in Cook County, was not going to be easy. 

But our house hunting experience will be for a different ‘Bubble Thoughts of a Cheechako” time. I just wanted to set the stage. Since we figured out we were in no position to buy a home in Cook County, while still owning our home in Lakeview, Oregon we set out to find a temporary place to lay our heads. I looked, and looked, and looked some more for a rental. Gulp. Did I mention finding housing in Cook County is challenging? No need to tell you, you already know this.

Finally, I joined the Facebook page “Grand Marais Sell and Swap.” Pleaded and begged for a rental lead. It took a bit, but we ended up renting a house that was for sale, really hoping it wouldn’t sell before we could find our “nest.” We are ever so thankful to the Maruskas for letting us rent while their house was for sale. They also ended up being a great resource to tap for any questions we had about our new town! 

And so, with a place to lay our heads, a new job for my husband to look forward to and family to see along the 1,800 mile trek east then north, we set out on our new adventure. 

I’m a Minnesota girl, born and raised. My roots lay deep in Thief River Fall (TRF), MN. If you look on a Minnesota map, TRF is directly across the state (to the west) from Grand Marais. It’s the home of the Arctic Cat and DigiKey companies. You would think in the decades and decades I’ve lived in Minnesota I would have been to Cook County at some point. Nope. I moved here sight unseen.

And when I got here...WOW! The scenery...stunning. The people...Minnesota nice. The Gunflint Tavern’s Flourless Chocolate words...mmmm...too busy savoring. Sorry, got a bit off track.

Where was I? Oh yes, I moved here sight unseen...and when I got here, I really felt I was home again. I am used to my surroundings being lush and green and near water. We moved to Cook County from High Desert Oregon. Don’t get me wrong, Southern Oregon is beautiful in its own way. Sage brush, juniper, mountains and breathtaking sunsets. But it IS the desert, so not really all that lush and green. And because of drought, not really a lot of water. It’s also ranching country. So I had to learn new lingo and get used to free range. Cows really do walk down the middle of busy highways and you have to stop for them, or you DIE!!! Oops, I mean cattle - there’s that lingo thing. 

It really was good to be home.

Our first few weeks in Cook County consisted of us moving in, taking in the fall colors and beginning our journey in Cook County.   

One of the first things that I had to learn about Grand Marais is direction. People kept asking me if I lived north or south of town. Ummm - I thought Highway 61 ran east and west? Head scratch. Ummm...north? Maybe. Well, that way (finger point) (which I really think is west). Maybe. Do you live up the hill? Ummm...I’m not sure. I live up a hill, but is it The Hill? I know. I know. Cheechakos! I’m going to share a secret now, I’ve been here almost six months and I’m still not sure if I live north, south, east, or west of town. Nor do I know if I live up the hill. I will work to get this figured out.

The other thing I had to learn quickly. Which businesses were open year round, open part of the year, open only summer, only closed during September to April, only closed during December, only closed December 20th through January 3rd. You get the picture. I have another secret...

I imagine over time I will get the rhythm of Cook County. Until then, here is my less-than-six-month take away.

Things that make me sad:

- The lack of affordable housing and housing in general 

- The lack of workforce in order for our beautiful Cook County businesses to flourish and be successful

- The cost of electricity (ouch)

- The cost of fuel (ouch)

- I don’t have a garage. Why don’t people in Cook County have garages???

- I’m not rich..wait that doesn’t belong on this list

- Minnesota taxes

- The cost of Minnesota vehicle registration

- The cost of groceries

Things that make me happy:

- The scenery! Everyday, so delightful! Lake Superior you know I love you!

- The people. Everyday, so helpful and truly caring.

- The educators at ISD 166

- The Cook County Co-op 

- The YMCA

-  Cornerstone Community Church

- The Gunflint Tavern Flourless Chocolate Torte. Sigh. So happy...

- (wish we would have had something like this in small town southern Oregon)

- Sven and Ole’s 

- The clear night sky

- The cross country skiing trails

- Living closer to my family 

- All the art opportunities

- The Gunflint Tavern Flourless Chocolate Torte...hee hee

Things I’m looking forward to:

- Seeing Cook County in summer

- Seeing our new home in the spring and summer settings

- Having visitors come visit our home and showing off Cook County to them

- Visiting all the businesses I didn’t get to visit because they were already closed for the season

- The Gunflint Tavern Chocola....hee hee

As you can clearly see, my happy list and things I’m looking forward to list is a lot longer than the sad list! Thank you Cook County for being good to me and my family as we navigate our way.


The Cheechako 

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