By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Mikko Koivu’s My North
Since joining the team in 2004, Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu has called the state of hockey home. One reason the Finnish-born superstar has felt so at home here is the amount of Finns who’ve preceded him in planting their blue cross flags around the state. And, not only does Minnesota boast the biggest percentage of people with Finnish ancestry in the country, we also boast our very own Finland…and it’s only four hours north of the Twin Cities in the Superior National Forest. Unincorporated and with a population less than 200, Finland might not be huge, but its idyllic perch is a great place to explore and spend a night or two. Here’s our prescription for a pretty perfect Finland day.
Stay at Crooked Lake Resort
It doesn’t get much more tranquil than the 11 trapper-style cabins that comprise family-owned Crooked Lake Resort. Tucked haphazardly along the Crooked Lake shoreline in the Superior National Forest, they’ve got almost all the comforts of home including stoves, microwaves and sink basins. Notably absent? Running water. You’ll head to the resort’s central faucet for drinking water and the outhouse, like the great Finnish immigrants of old. Your stay also comes with canoe or row boat use, and, in a hat tip to a Finnish/Minnesotan tradition, in the bath house they’ve also got a traditional sauna.
Have Breakfast at Our Place
After waking up in a building with no plumbing, treat yourself to a big breakfast in a more modern establishment. Finland’s equivalent of an aw-shucks diner, Our Place has the sort of home cooked greasy-spoon fare that makes you glad the fanciest thing on the breakfast menu is corned beef hash. The fact that it’s steadfastly still cash only is almost as charming as its cabin-y northwoods decor.
Explore the Finland Historical Site
In 1986, nearly 100 years after being settled by Finnish immigrants in the 1890s, a fueled-up group of Finlanders got together and decided it was high time to start archiving the town’s storied history. Somehow no one had gotten around to it yet! Shortly thereafter the county deeded the John Pine pioneer homestead to the newly-formed historical society. Over the next 30 years the society added other historical structures to the property including a school building, blacksmith shop, sauna, museum and visitor center to help make sense of it all.
Grab a Lunch Burger at the Trestle Inn
Worked up an appetite? Finish your history lesson with a meal at the historic Trestle Inn. Built by the founder of Crooked Lake Resort and his son in the early 1980s (using Douglas Fir timbers from an abandoned railroad trestle bridge they found one day while hunting), the restaurant and saloon proudly accommodates those looking for food, drink and a place to relax. Like the Fir timbers used to build the Trestle Inn, the foods you’ll find here are hearty, with few pretenses. For example, the Trainwreck burger consists of a beef pattie topped with a bratwurst pattie and cheese.
Waterfall Hop the Baptism River
In town, just west of MN-1, the two branches of the Baptism River combine and start their meandering journey eight miles southwest to Lake Superior. You can’t exactly follow the river by car but you can jump over to it on a couple of notable stops along the way. So once you’re fueled to burger/brat perfection, hop in your car and start picking your way down MN-1. Make your first stop Illgen Falls (marked “Illgen Cabin” on Tettegouchee State Park maps) for a small-scale (45 feet high) primer of what’s to come at the second stop, the High Falls, which, at nearly 100 feet high is among of the highest waterfalls in the state.
Do Dinner at Four Seasons Supper Club
Complete your Finland adventure with dinner at local favorite, Four Seasons Supper Club. Just off MN-1 on your way back into Finland from the falls, Four Seasons doesn’t seem like much from the outside, but its legendary comfort food menu makes it a must-visit for northwoods road trippers. Fridays are an all-you-can-eat fish fry, and Sundays have a home-style dinner special that starts at, wait for it, noon, but there’s also always on the menu classics like the Shore Lunch Walleye Sandwich and a monte cristo they call the St. Urho in honor of the “patron saint of Finland.” (Fun fact: St. Urho is not the patron saint of Finland, nor anywhere else. He was invented by a creative northern Minnesota man sometime in the 1950s, but despite his dubious heritage, his legacy is still celebrated each march in Finland’s St. Urho Days!)