My fellow Minnesotans! I'm going to discuss a little area we like to call Ely. Yes, Ely, Minnesota. For those of you out of state or maybe even in another country, Ely is the quintessential "neck of the woods." As we are approaching the settling of winter, let's talk about the things Ely has to offer this time of year!
As a little girl, we would go to Ely in the summer for a few weeks and stay at a resort on Burntside Lake. Some of my best memories were in Ely. Everyone from all walks of life visited Ely in the summer, but now that it's winter- what's going on?
Basically, it depends on YOU, what's your thing? You want to try Dog Sledding? A real mushing experience? Ely has more dog sledding opportunities than just about anywhere else in the country! You don't need to be experienced at all- just show up and the experts will show you everything you need to know! I've only done this once, and let me tell you how cool it was! I mean, it's a wild feeling zipping through the forest being pulled by beautiful Huskies! The fresh snow flying, the excitement of the dogs, the calling of the musher... totally recommend this at least once in your life!
If you're into snowmobiling and you're lucky enough to get your hands on one, Ely has some of the best trails around. The Taconite Trail is the main hub for snowmobiling, and along the way you'll discover some of the most scenic forests, best pit stops, and the best over all "Up North" feeling you can possibly hope for. I'm not into snowmobiles, but plenty of my friends are and they swear by the well groomed trails of Taconite.
You're experiencing TRUE Minnesota when you venture out onto one of our over 10,000 frozen lakes, sit on a comfy chair over a hole in the ice with your brewski, talk some smack with your friends, and wait for a delicious walleye, trout or crappie to become your dinner! I've partaken in this experience as well, and even though I went into it with my reservations (I DETEST being cold) I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the fish house, the way my feet stayed nice and cozy in my Mukluks, and was swept away by the camaraderie of my group. Ice fishing is far from boring, it's a lot of fun actually and I say- go for it!
Are you one of those freakishly fit people who love to burn calories in any way possible? Cross Country skiing is for you! Ely has lakes, shoreline, trails... equipment rental and an annual snowfall of at least 75 inches plus to provide exactly what you need to fall in love with the North Country. Go fast- get your heart rate going on some of the best trails around, or maybe set a comfortable pace and take in the beauty and winter stillness around you. Bring your Go Pro or a camera to capture the exquisite forests and lakes - nothing can compare to being this far into nature, you may even see a deer, moose or an owl on your way!
Ely also has lots going on by way of celebrations. All year round they have festivals, but the Ely Winter Festival is one you might want to make sure to take part in! Not only do they have an art walk featuring some of the best nature photography around, but the whole main street turns into an outdoor gallery of sorts. Don't miss the famous Ice Sculptures, they are imaginative and a sight to see! The Winter Festival takes place in February, so make sure to pack your warmest jacket along with a good pair of boots to keep your feet warm! I recommend purchasing a pair of boots in Ely...
Speaking of boots. I cannot finish this blog without showing some love for Steger Mukluks & Moccasins. Home to the best winter boots ever, Ely can proudly boast being the hometown for Will Steger, explorer, adventurer, and the man known for leading the first confirmed dog sled journey to the North Pole without resupply. This man knows hard winters. This man knows the importance of keeping warm. Steger Mukluks are the best boots I've ever owned. Ever. They are light. They are warm. They are flexible. They come in different styles and colors, and they last a very long time if you treat them well. I had mine for over 10 years, and wore them inside my home because they were like slippers. Whatever you do, make sure to check out this charming place on Sheridan Street.
Well friends, I could say so much more about Ely and all of its restaurants, lodging options and so on, but then this would go on forever. I think I'll do another blog about those things at some time, but I'll just leave you with this one bit of advice. Go North, friends, go North. Ely welcomes you with open arms and great big smiles, a cup of chai or coffee, along with the opportunity to be free from your constraints if only for a while... Safe travels, my friends, and stay warm.