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I Spy With My Little Eyes…: Reflections of a new Cook County resident by Traci Crotteau

Aug 13, 2018 06:36AM ● By Editor

I know. I know. I know. I haven’t written in a bit. It’s summer. What can I say, except that I have been adventuring, discovering and enjoying all that is Cook County.

This summer has been glorious. A nice mix of warm, sunny days sprinkled with just the right amount of rain to keep us out of fire danger. I hope EVERY summer will be this magical.

The Crotteaus have had some visitors this summer. Who knew I’d be so popular with the friends and family when I moved to Grand Marais? Let’s just say, I’ve done a lot of catching up and I’m loving it! I hope more of my friends and family come visit us and enjoy this spectacular Minnesota treasure that is Cook County.

As a journalist I was trained to write about what I saw, heard, tasted, smelled and touched. So, that’s what this “Bubble Thoughts of a Cheechako” will focus in on.

What have I seen my first summer in Cook County?

The sun. Warm and lovely. Remember when I didn’t know if I lived up the hill or not? Well, I’m not quite 100% sure yet, but I think I live up the hill. In any case, on any given day, my house is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than down by the lake. I love this. I like to be warm. Summer is my favorite season. It used to be my favorite season because that’s when my birthday is, but now I love summer because it’s warm, lazy and we are outside a lot. Okay, it’s still partly my favorite season because my birthday.  

I saw, and continue to see sparkling Lake Superior in all its glory. Sometimes it takes my breath away. I really feel as if I’m at the ocean, minus the sea smell. I half expect to see the tide going in and out throughout the day, and I get a bit shocked when that doesn’t happen. I have enjoyed watching the sail boats. There’s just something so majestic about them sailing on the calm waters. I enjoy seeing the boats parked in the harbor and really like the houseboat that’s been there most of the summer. I have never seen anyone on it, but it looks so neat and I want to go inside and explore. However, I might get in trouble if I explore it uninvited. I admire it from the shore. Promise.

I saw incredible scenery during our trip into the Boundary Waters. Six portages deep into the wilderness of Cook County. No electronics. Just a canoe and my little family, and water for miles and miles. Wow. If you can manage a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) I highly recommend it. It’s hard work and not much fun sleeping on the ground day after day, but the scenery is incredible and the return to nature unmatched.

In my own backyard (okay, a mile down the road, but I tell people it’s my backyard. ((Sort of the same concept as when Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house)) is an access to the Superior Hiking Trail. Another absolutely stunning sight. The canyon that oversees the Devil Track River…aaaaaaaa! I cannot express it, so you’ll have to go and see for yourself. I hear the river is down more than years past, so I hope to see it rushing and wild in years to come.

I have also noticed too, now that summer is ending, that my children and their friends have grown. A foot, at least! It has surprised me. Long and lean and tan with natural sun-kissed highlights in their hair. Summer has a way of doing that to kids. I think it’s that return to nature thing.

What have I heard my first summer in Cook County?

Seagulls – I swear I’m at the ocean.

Thunder! Yay!

Rushing rivers and waterfalls.

All the lovely birds that come to visit. We have a White Throated Sparrow that puts the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to shame. Every morning, even before the sun is up, he can be heard through our open window that lets in the warm morning breeze. I think he must stand on his tiptoes to belt out his song! Check out his tune on YouTube if you’re not sure what it sounds like exactly.

Cows. Never mind.  Those are just the neighbors. There aren’t a lot of cows in Cook County, so that sound is kind of privy to us. I digress.

Bands playing outdoors. There is so much local musical talent here. I can’t believe I get to reap the benefits of this.

What have I tasted this summer in Cook County?

The Flourless Chocolate Torte at the Gunflint Tavern. Bbbwwaaaaahhhaaahhhaaaa! Hey, it was my birthday, so I had to have one.

In all seriousness, and food is serious. I’ve been able to hit most of the restaurants in the area now that it’s summer. A lot of them had closed up shop by the time we set up camp in Grand Marais. So this has been fun. And yummy.

Of course, the Fisherman’s Picnic brought in more deliciousness.

Don’t forget World’s Best Donuts.

Uuummm, I can’t believe I’m writing this out loud, the Flourless Chocolate Torte may have a contender. The Strawberry Malt at Trail Center. EEEekkk! The malts there are I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.

Oh, and I ate a few mosquitoes and gnats this summer. No flavor, but boy did I work hard to spit those buggers out in a hurry. A side note: this happens every summer, everywhere I’ve ever lived, and they’ve never tasted any different, which I think is a plus for Cook County. I’m not sure what would happen to the Cook County economy if our bugs started tasting different than other parts of the world?

I’m sorry to say I have not tasted any of the medleys coming from Kaw Khang Authentic Thai Food. I am going to very, very soon and I have this feeling I will not be disappointed. If you haven’t heard, a lovely lady named Parinda Phumipraphat cooks Thai cuisine at the Community Center in Grand Marais. She usually advertises her meals on the Facebook page ‘Grand Marais Area Sell and Swap’ or on her ‘Ka Khang Authentic Thai Food’ Facebook page. When she advertises that she’s preparing a Thai meal on Facebook, then you need to place your order with her and she cooks it all at the Community Center and you go there to pick it up. Shrimp Pad Thai here I come!

What have I smelled this summer in Cook County?

Because taste and smell go hand in hand, it was only natural to follow with the smells of Cook County.

My son played Parent Pitch baseball (go Wildfire! Parent Pitch Champions 2018, BTW). Right, what does that have to do with smell? Yes, there were smells from baseball, oof, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. Anyway, my son played baseball and often times would practice at the ball field down at the Grand Marais Municipal Campground and Marina. The smell of campfire and food grilling made me so happy. Those visiting Grand Marais and staying in the campground really know how to do it! We also had campfires in the boundary waters. It brings me back to such wonderful childhood memories.

As if campfires and grilling food aren’t enough to push a person over the edge, the smell of outside was marvelous.

Damp leaves on damp earth.


And all the beautiful flowers people planted or nature popped up as little surprises for our eyes AND noses (can you say lupine?). I literally would be taking a walk and close my eyes to absorb the smells of nature around me. 

What have I touched this summer in Cook County?

This one is a bit difficult only because I don’t go around randomly touching things (I do, but that’s for another article). I pinky promise I did not touch the tourists without their permission.

I would say this portion of this article is a culmination of the things I’ve already talked about.

I touched the cool waters of Lake Superior.

 I waded in the warmer-than-Lake Superior waters of boundary waters lakes and felt the mud between my toes.

I held baby frogs and touched the petals of those flowers I mentioned earlier. I touched wild raspberries. I ate them too.

I let my fingertips touch some really amazing art pieces at the Grand Marais Arts Festival.

 I pet many a happy dog and patted the heads of many energetic, light hearted children.

I shook a lot of hands with strangers visiting Cook County. I got to hear their stories too. For instance, why they came to Cook County and how they even heard of little Grand Marais from the faraway places they came from.

 Cook County has brought so many fun things to discover and adventure in. And I am glad to be a part of it all. I hope you have enjoyed your Cook County summer too. I’m sure you’ve seen, heard, tasted, etc. much more than I have. Please take time to revel in them.

Before I sign off, there is one favor I do want to ask you. I tossed out a question to a long time Cook County-ian “Does anyone famous ever come to the area to visit?” The answer was yes. Mostly professional athletes. I personally have not seen anyone famous, but maybe you have. If you have, would you please consider emailing me your famous-person-in-Cook-County sighting at [email protected]? It would be fun to see who from the land of the rich and famous comes to visit us.

The gal I posed the question to, recently sent me a Facebook post from ‘The Mayhew Inn, Grand Marais MN’ Facebook page. Turns out, Genevieve Gorder of HGTV fame and her famous interior designer fiancé, Christian Dunbar, stayed at the Mayhew Inn. This is the Mayhew’s post from July 19.

Please continue to have a safe and fun summer! And let’s prepare ourselves for the fall color tours that are about to tantalize our five senses. This is the Cook County Cheechako signing off. 


Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here