It was good to get away for a few days. To leave the city far behind us for a quieter world. We hiked rugged paths to see waterfalls, stuck our feet into the painfully cold water of Lake Superior, and relaxed on the shore by the light of the fire in the evening. For many Minnesota families, north shore vacations are long-standing traditions that have perhaps become a bit “whatever” as the sights have been seen over and over again. But for us, it was a first. It was an adventure. Everything was new to us, and I can’t help but dream of a time—years down the road—when we’ve been so many times that we’ve discovered all the hidden gems that are waiting for us to find. Something about that feels like a Minnesota badge of honor that we’ve yet to achieve.
On this trip we collected several firsts: The first time we toured the Split Rock Lighthouse; the first time we saw the view from Palisade Head; the first time we rode the gondola up the Lutsen Mountain. And the first time we trekked out to Wild Country Maple Syrup.
It was our first full day in the area, and we had so many possibilities for our To Do list that we almost skipped it. We’d already stopped at Caribou Cream, a small store where syrup and other giftable items are sold on the honor system as there are no employees there working the shop. We were charmed by the shop and its contents, so we bought some syrup and headed on our way wondering if another syrup place was worth our time.
“Why not?” we decided and drove down the country roads that twisted and turned into the woods. The paved roads became dirt and every time we wondered if we were lost, a sign that pointed the way to Wild Country Maple Syrup kept us going. Soon, we could see the syrup lines running through the forest, and eventually the road ended at the headquarters of the operation. We headed straight for the small store to find that it was much like the one we’d seen at our previous stop. But we were quickly greeted by one of the owners who offered to show us around. He took us into the sugar shack and walked us through the process of making the syrup. We got to see where they bottle the syrup and sample the different types. Everyone we met was so friendly; we ended up chatting for quite some time.
We left with more syrup, of course. Because how could we resist after getting the grand tour and the nicest welcome we could have asked for? Note to self: check out the recipe section of their web site because we have a lot of syrup now.
Back at work a few days later, I was pulling books for my library’s Family History Month display, and I happened across a picture book about a family with a tradition of making maple syrup in the spring: Taffy Time by Jennifer Lloyd. The story centers on the youngest member of the family who wants to help, but keeps getting in the way and making mistakes. The little girl’s father explains the process of making the syrup as part of the story, and it was fun to see a smaller version of what we saw at Wild Country depicted on the pages of the book.
If you happen to be in the Lutsen, MN area, consider stopping in at Wild Country. For those who can’t get to the North Shore anytime soon, there are always picture books. Taffy Time is one of many picture books about making maple syrup. Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin is another title with local interest—though the story of a child collecting so much that they can’t carry it all extends far beyond the Minnesota borders. Rhoda’s solution to her problem is one that will please both young rock collectors and their parents–much like our vacation to the North Shore. ;)