North Shore Life: What’s it Really Like? | January

This is part of a year-long blog series about what it’s really like to live on the North Shore of Lake Superior. If you missed last month’s entry, you can find it here

Do I even need to mention it’s been cold?

Like the rest of the Midwest, the North Shore has been thrown into deep, subzero temperatures, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. The schools have been closed, the winds have been howling, and we’ve been quickly going through the firewood and hot cocoa. Yesterday morning it was -24 degrees (F) when I woke up, and the windchill temperatures were somewhere between -45 and -55. According to our local radio station, this morning it was -40 degrees up the Gunflint Trail at Seagull Lake. Actual temperature. 

It’s completely silent as we venture out for afternoon walks. The chickadees and squirrels must be hunkering down somewhere, waiting out the deep freeze. The deer have made their annual trek from the higher terrain to the lakeshore, where the weather is milder and there’s more food. We haven’t heard the coyote pack in quite a while, either; perhaps they followed the deer.

What it's like to live in Grand Marais


The only creature who seems to be enjoying this cold snap is our Alaskan husky, who relishes his walks and rolls around in the snow whenever he’s let out for a break. I suppose wearing a thick fur coat next to a woodstove would get uncomfortable after a while.

Speaking of Alaskan huskies, this last weekend was the Beargrease Marathon, the longest sled dog race in the contiguous U.S. It spans nearly 300 miles, beginning near Duluth and ending near the Canadian border in Grand Portage. I was surprised to learn that the frigid temperatures are actually helpful for sled dog racing: the dogs run faster when it’s this cold.

Lake Superior Ice

Since adopting a retired sled dog, I’ve become absolutely fascinated by Alaskan huskies, at how adapted they are to working hard and running fast in such extreme conditions. Since Alaskan huskies as a breed are defined by their ability run and pull a sled–not by certain appearance standards–they are incredibly healthy, competent, and intelligent. When we got Leif, his owner said to be careful about letting him off the leash at the beginning, before he re-learned where home was; a distance of 20 or 30 miles wouldn’t seem far to him if he got loose.

This last autumn I witnessed Leif running along a road at his full speed, returning to me after he realized he’d wandered ahead too far. I know all dog owners consider their own dog the best thing in the world, but I’m being quite honest when I’m saying I’d never seen a dog run as fast as Leif did at top speed. Needless to say, he’s always down for being a running buddy. Though I have a feeling he’s not overly impressed with our training regiments.


Thankfully, our series of heavy snowfalls has given the ground a thick blanket of insulation from these frigid temperatures. And as one of the few places in the Midwest with a generous snowcover, our little B&B business has picked up again as visitors trek up to the North Shore for skiing, snowmobiling, snow sculpting, and all those lovely winter things that aren’t happening farther south due to the lack of snow.

And though it’s still much quieter now than in the summer, it’s been nice to have some of our local businesses reopen for the winter.

Writing update

A few new things happened in the writing world this month: I’ve had a breakthrough idea for my fantasy novel, a development that seems to make everything “click” now, where it just wasn’t working before.

As far as blogging goes, I started writing on Medium as well as on WordPress. If you’re on Medium yourself, or just want to check out another platform, you can find me here.

Winter on Artist's Point, Grand Marais

Additionally, there’s going to be another little change starting here at Northern Words: the introduction of Northern Notes. Northern Notes is my upcoming email blog post series. Back when this blog started, I was backpacking Ireland and Scotland and updating my family and friends with posts about my travels. My blog has grown since then, but I loved the early days of personalized updates about where I was traveling and what I was up to.

Since we’re hoping to do more adventuring, I decided to start Northern Notes to keep my devoted readers in the loop about our travels, while also keeping some of our details off the wide-open web.

If you’re interested in following along and getting more personalized updates on my travels and writing, you can sign up for Northern Notes here.



And, of course, here are this month’s book recommendations:

Educated by Tara Westover


A memoir that reads like a novel, and reminds you that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Tara Westover grew up in the mountains of Idaho with a family who never brought their children to school, to the hospital, or even got birth certificates for them. Her memoir details how she escaped and, against her family’s wishes, attended college and continued her education all the way to earning a PhD. Some of the descriptions of abuse within the family were difficult to read, but it was a fascinating look at her journey from being enmeshed and controlled by her parents to learning to be her own person.

The Illustrated version of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling


I got these books for Christmas, and they are gorgeous. The books I have, 1-3, contain the entire text of the novels alongside beautiful and imaginative illustrations of the scenes. It’s a way of reading the books that draws you deeper into the story and makes you feel like a wonder-filled child while reading them. Whether you’re introducing a child to the Harry Potter world or are a seasoned fan interested in a new version, I’d highly recommend these books.


That’s all for now, friends. Stay warm out there. <3


One thought on “North Shore Life: What’s it Really Like? | January

  1. Rae, I look forward to your updates from the North Shore. I have lived in Ohio for the past 11 years, but I used to live in Montana. I can remember some winter weather that matches what you have experiencing of late. Stay warm and enjoy your Alaskan Husky.

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