Bazaar Times on the Mesabi

It’s the first week of November. That glorious season when some in northern Minnesota don orange and head into the woods while others, mostly women, make the rounds of the holiday bazaars


You can literally map a route across the region and spend days stopping into churches, community centers, armories and memorial buildings, shopping for all manner of gift and personal items from homemade bath bombs, quilts, mittens and kids toys to jams, jewelry and repurposed “junk.”


You can restock your Scentsy, Young Living Essential Oils and Tastefully Simple supplies, go in for the handmade items, or both!


And the luncheons. Holy Hannah, the luncheons. Sandwich loaf, chili, beef stew, chicken a la king, turkey salad, wild ride soup and more, lovingly cooked by the wonderful church ladies who make the world go ’round (and maybe an occasional Confirmation class volunteer). And for like, $8.00. With pie!


Buy gifts for others or yourself if you want, but don’t forget to do your “holiday baking,” too. Who will know you didn’t make those buttery spritz cookies? (Only everyone).

As if these gatherings of bakers, builders, creators and crafters aren’t enough to fill a couple weekends and empty a couple pocketbooks, all our favorite stores are hosting open houses with sales, snacks and surprises.


On my list: Rozalla’s Rack and Firelight Galleries, Smith’s Infusion, Irma’s Finalnd House, Material Girl,  Casey’s Drug, Fine Edge Custom Framing, Moxie, Silver Birch Gifts, Northern Comfort, Kunnari’s, the Knitting Knight, and Bender’s Shoe and Sport. Who did I miss? Let me know:


And happy hunting to everyone, whether you’re carrying a rifle or a purse!

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Experience a New Connection

By late September, 2017, the Mesabi Trail will be whole again once more. The completion of a massive construction project that caused the paved cycling trail to be rerouted for nearly two years is reaching its conclusion in Virginia. It was an inconvenience that may very well be worth it: trail users will now experience a new bridge and connection between Virginia and points south and west. Read more

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Three Days Away for 600 Bucks

What can a couple do for $600 or less?  Spend three days on the Mesabi! 


Find midweek rates from $59 to $109 double occupancy at most of our great hotels, motels resorts and B&Bs. View your selection here! 


Say you go with the $109 room for two nights, with tax and tips, you’ll be spending around $260 for two nights, leaving around $340 to work with. So let’s start spending!


Food and Drink

If your lodging choice doesn’t include a free breakfast, as many do, we’re sending you to Kunnari’s Kitchen in Virginia for krupsua (Finnish pancakes) for $4.69. With coffee, juice and tip, you’re looking at around $25 for a morning meal for two!


Lunch at Black Bear Bakery in Chisholm is $6.95 for a pulled pork sandwich and chips, keeping your tab around $25 with a cold beverage and maybe even a cookie to share!


Burgers are $2.50 on Tuesday nights at Mac’s Bar in Buhl, and tacos are $2.00 each at The Thirsty Moose in Hibbing on Wednesdays, making evening meals come in anywhere between $20 and $40 both nights with a beverage on the side.

Other places to stop for tasty but thrifty meals and snacks include breakfast or lunch for around $12 at Memory Lane Cafe in Gilbert and, right down the road, hand-dipped ice cream at Kandyz-n-Konez. Back on the east end of the Mesabi Coffee and Cream in Hibbing has tasty lunch items and treats as well!


For dinner, get a plate of homemade pasta with a salad at Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm for $11.95 and up, or share a wood fired pizza for around $17 with craft beer on the side at The Shop Coffeehouse in Virginia.


Let’s do the math:

Two breakfasts x $25

Three lunches x $25

Two dinners x $45

Snacks, two days: $24

Total: $210 – we’re down to $130!



The 218 Taphouse in Virginia has vinyl night Wednesdays and live music Thursdays. You can also take in some tunes at Music in the Park in Biwabik, every other Thursday through summer.

Admission to Minnesota Discovery Center, the museum of the Iron Range, is free every Thursday after 3 p.m. Explore the indoor and outdoor exhibits, and catch a trolley ride at 6 p.m. for just $4 per person.


Can’t do Thursday? Admission Tuesday-Sunday and Thursdays before 3 p.m. is $9 for adults. Add in mining-themed mini-golf for $4 a person.


Rent bicycles and spend a half day exploring the Mesabi Trail for around $60 with three-day trail pass.


The Soudan Undergound Mine State Park tour is a must, and only $11 per person.


Admission is free for a wealth of knowledge at these locations: Hibbing Historical Society Museum, Hull Rust Mine View,  the Virginia Heritage Museum, and Olcott Park Greenhouse and Botanical Gardens.

Enjoy works by local artists at the Lyric Center for the Arts (free), or view the City of Virginia’s bold, nostalgic murals on local buildings’ exteriors. Impressive artwork, stonework and more await at the Hibbing High School. Arrange a guided tour by calling the Iron Range Tourism Bureau. Free. All free!


I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with these last two: express your patriotism by visiting veterans memorials in Virginia and Chisholm, or stop by Hockey Plaza in Eveleth for a free education about the region’s most-loved sport.


We’ve spent around $120 for tours and rentals, and given you a whole bunch of free options. Not bad! 


Move Your Body

To stretch your legs, hike around Carey Lake in Hibbing for a three-mile jaunt, or explore the trails at Giants Ridge, the Laurentian Divide, or Big Aspen Recreation Area. Free, free, free and free.

If you’d like a little history to go with your exercise, both Hibbing and Eveleth offer walking tours, complete with brochure. Call IRTB 218-749-8161 to request maps.


If all this walking and cycling warms you too much, dive in. Our beaches are just lovely! Find them in Hibbing, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Gilbert, Eveleth, Biwabik, and Hoyt Lakes.


What’s Left?

We’ve given you three fun-filled days’ worth of ideas, and you still have $10 in your pocket! All that’s left now – besides that $10 – is to request information online, give us a call, or just plan it all out on your own!














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Kick up some dust before you walk down the aisle

Motoring Mesabi: Bring your Bachelor Party to the Range

The awesome golf on the Mesabi makes for a fun bachelor party, but did you ever think about hitting the trails in an ATV? We’ve got the state’s largest ATV rec area in Gilbert – we call it The Park – and you can spend the weekend there, or add some side trips on our regional trails.

ATVs crawl over rocks in the Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert, MN

Need machines? Rent ’em!

Off Road Rentals in Sturgeon River, MN is right on the way to the Mesabi Iron Range from the Twin Cities area. Talk to Shelly – she’ll get you set up with everything you need for a fun four-wheeling trip!

Rent ATVs, including side-by-sides, at Off Road Rentals in Sturgeon Lake, MN.

After your ride, it’s time to relax

If you’re a camping type of group, Sherwood Forest Campground in Gilbert offers great sites and a trail right to The Park. Plus, Gilbert kindly provides a liquor store, and restaurants including The Whistling Bird, Wandering Pines and two cafes, within walking distance from the campgrounds.

Jessica Leitz, owner of The Whistling Bird restaurant, serves up a Caribbean-style menu and plenty of other delish dishes.

Lodging to Your Liking

If you’d rather stay in a hotel, there’s a Super 8 in Eveleth with trail connection to The Park and BoomTown Restaurant right across the street. (There’s also an ATV dealer within spittin’ distance, in case you’re in the market to buy or need repairs).  At nearby Giants Ridge, stay at The Lodge, The Villas, or The Residence, for a resort-style experience – including golf if you like – plus onsite dining at The Burnt Onion. Take a break from riding to try the new climbing wall at Giants Ridge.

The Lodge at Giants Ridge offers 2- 3- and 4-bedroom suites.

Play on 4 Wheels, Go Home in 1 Piece

While you’re here, we want you to have a blast – but we also want you to be safe. Wear a helmet. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get crazy, you’ve got a wedding coming up! Check the rules before you decide.

Riders enjoy the Northern Traxx ATV Trail near Chisholm, MN.

Got extra time? Hang out with us!

With the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum (a sports fan must), mountain bike trails, mine tours, spa services and more, you might want to stay longer than you thought!

Riders at The Park in Gilbert, MN.

Questions? Just ask!

We’re here to help. If you need a party bus, ideas for evening entertainment, or anything else, give us a call at 218-749-8161, request or download some maps, and get the guys (or gals – we offer equal opportunity fun!), and get up here!

Water “play area” at The Park in Gilbert, MN.

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One Day on the Mesabi

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You’re ready to ride, are the trails?

This time of year, we’re all dying to get outside and enjoy our favorite activities, and that means the folks who maintain our trails are busy getting them ready for you. Take a look at what’s happening on the paved Mesabi Trail this time of year, and you’ll get a new appreciation for the work that goes into trail prep every spring!

Ride with caution in spring! You might find snow/ice on the trail in shady areas.

As you might expect, trail maintenance is constant in the riding months. The Mesabi Trail has one full time, year-round maintenance person, plus about five seasonal workers who are brushing and mowing the trail shoulders, using chainsaws to rid the trail of fallen trees, blowing rocks and debris from the trail and many other tasks.

Blowdown happens all year round, and with 120+ miles of trail, keeping the Mesabi Trail clear presents and ongoing challenge. Good thing the trail maintenance staff are up to the task!

A small crew obviously can’t be everywhere, all the time. In some communities, city staff lend a hand when it comes to trail maintenance. And the Mesabi Trail crew relies on riders to alert them to issues, too.

Good thing the Mesabi Trail crew sweeps the trail!

Another item the crew might have to deal with is, believe it or not, deer and other animal carcasses. Sometimes, you never know what’s under the snow! But lucky for you, when you hit the Mesabi Trail, THIS is what you’re likely to see! 

Or this!

Or this!

Covering wooded, industrial (iron mining), hilly, flat and in-town landscapes, the Mesabi Trail is a must-ride for any cyclist. To plan your Mesabi Trail adventure, or just to learn more about the towns and activities along the trail, click here:



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Must-See Mesabi for Families

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10 Ways to Make Winter Wonderful

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Made in Minnesota: 3 Easy Projects to Give or Keep

This time of year brings out the crafter in me. Maybe it’s from years of making homemade Christmas gifts and holiday decorations as a kid that puts me in the mood to create. Whatever it is, I’m not a year-long project person. I’m not even a weeklong project person. One day. A weekend tops. I’d rather be outside. Which is why I dig these two, kid-friendly, super quick-and-easy craft  projects, and one multi-step project that fits nicely with my twin loves of cooking and eating. Take a look!


So basic, but so cool. Who doesn’t like to look for rocks? And using the stencil cream was super easy. Everyone needs a paperweight, right?

This next one also involves an epic search for just the right piece (actually, we had a truck box full). Fun to find as part of a hike or just an afternoon outdoors. We cleaned our lake driftwood with a brush and dried in a closet with a dehumidifier. There are other prep methods, too, that are more time-consuming, but we aren’t making these to sell, just to enjoy for as long as we like looking at them.

Multi candle 2

We used a 1-1/2″ wood bore drill bit the same size as a tealight. You could sand the edges a bit, but frankly it looks find as is.

I love the look of driftwood, but I’ve seen nice birch pieces, too. Avoid pine! Too much sap.

With a runner underneath, or greenery around, this will make a great centerpiece.

With a runner underneath, or greenery around, this will make a great centerpiece.

If the driftwood needs stabilizing, sand the uneven part, or add furniture pads underneath. You can trim to fit or use the super small felt pad.

curvy candle

My fave so far.

So this last is one not complicated, but it does have many short steps along the way. We saved all the throw-away northern for a couple months, filleting and freezing them along the way (I must confess, I didn’t do much of the work in this step). Then it was just a matter of unthawing and getting to it.

Someone would love to help. Author's note: the corkscrew shown here is not necessary for this project. Just for opening the wine.

Someone would love to help. Author’s note: the corkscrew shown here is not necessary for this project. Just for opening the wine.

Cut 60-70 bit sized pieces and soak for 48 hours in one cup of non-iodized salt.

fish pickling kitty 2

Drain off the saltwater, rinse, and soak in white vinegar for 24 hours. Kitty is contemplating ways to get the dog to create a distraction.

You can download the recipe here, but in the final phase, you discard the straight-up vinegar, and boil together 1-1/2 cup sugar, 3 cups white vinegar, 4 bay leaves, 1 tsp whole allspice, 3 tsp mustard seed, 1-1/2 tsp whole black pepper, a couple peppers or 6-7 whole chili peppers, then cool to room temp (apparently, this is crucial. warm brine will overcook the fish and make it mushy). Add 2 cups white port wine, 2 large onions, sliced, and fish.


Put in canning jars, close tightly, and let stand in fridge for 8-10 days before eating with crackers. Yumaroo!

So good. So Minnesota!

So good. So Minnesota!

Thank you Aaron “Wally” Lingwall for this great recipe.



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Three Reasons to Love “Off-Season” Hiking

The leaves may be falling and winter fast approaching, but this in-between time of post-autumn-pre-winter is a great time to be in the woods. Need some reasons to bundle up and get out there? Here’s the top three, with some suggested trails to check out on the Mesabi:


1. You can see clearly now. Hunters know that falling leaves means improved visibility in the woods. But you don’t have to be carrying a firearm to get out an enjoy the trails, and any birds you might see along the way! Watch for grouse, whose beating wings and low-flying ways make them easy to distinguish. They’re covey-ing up for winter, feeding on the late season greens, like clover, as much as possible. If you’re walking with a dog, you’re almost certain to kick up a few of these. Other birds to look for: downy and pileated woodpeckers, chickadees, owls of all sorts, and flickers. Fewer leaves also mean more visible shorelines, so watch for otters, muskrat and waterfowl!

Fall trail

2. No bugs. Walk freely through the trails without fear of mosquitoes! It’s awesome. As always, check for ticks when you’re done.Sequence 1 01025420

3.   A new perspective. Fallen trees, rocks, game trails and land formations are much more visible this time of year. The dying undergrowth and falling tree canopy make exploring off trail easier. You never know what you might find! Don’t stray far from the trail, however. Bring a colorful bandanna and tie it to a tree along the trail; then make sure to keep it in sight while you explore.


Another hiking tip this time of year: wear orange garments. Find an orange hat, scarf or bandanna – for you and your pets. Use red if you can’t find orange. With bird hunters on some trails this time of year, it’s better to be safe than sorry!


Most US Forest Service trail systems, such as Big Aspen north of Virginia, and the trails of the Laurentian Divide allow hunting. Others, like Carey Lake in Hibbing and the ski mountain trails at Giants Ridge, are off limits to hunters. Bird season is open well into winter; Minnesota deer archery season is mid-September to December 31; deer firearms season in our neck of the woods is November 5-20.


View and download hiking trail maps here. Find info about Minnesota’s hunting regulations here.


Finally, bring plenty of water, a camera, and binoculars if you have them. Enjoy your time on our trails! Visit for lodging and dining info, plus other attractions and events.


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