Northern Wilds Magazine
Their love for the outdoors prompted the Korwin-Kuczynski family to move from North Dakota to Duluth. | SUBMITTED

Finding Home on the North Shore

For many visitors to the North Shore, the thought of what it would be like to move to such a beautiful area is an enticing question. And for some, that question is so enticing that it becomes a reality. Three different families who recently moved to the North Shore share what their journeys have been like, including the challenges and unexpected joys along the way.

One such family is Brady and Ellie Korwin-Kuczynski, a young couple who moved from North Dakota to Duluth in 2019. For both of them, a passion for the outdoors and a desire to be close to nature were key factors in their decision to permanently settle in the area. Brady, who grew up in Brainerd, and Ellie, originally from northcentral Wisconsin, both developed a love for nature through their upbringings. Their individual journeys took them to Fargo, where they met. Though they appreciated the adventure of living in Fargo, they both began to feel a deep desire to move back to a place that felt more like home and that would enable them to grow in their passion for the outdoors.

“I really missed the hills and woods,” Ellie said, “and Brady missed being around lakes. We had been to the same few parks near Fargo multiple times and were really looking for something more.”

While they wanted to be near wilderness, it also was not practical for them to live somewhere too remote since Brady’s work as a civil engineer necessitated being somewhere with a larger population.

“We wanted to live somewhere close enough to visit our parents, which really narrowed down our choices to Minneapolis or Duluth,” said Brady. “And from there it wasn’t much of a choice—Duluth really felt like the right place for us.”

The Korwin-Kuczynski family enjoy a day on the Superior Hiking Trail. | SUBMITTED

And so in the spring of 2019, the Korwin-Kuczynskis made the move to Duluth with their two young children. One of the things they most enjoy about Duluth is how easy it has been to connect and build friendships with others who are interested in the outdoors. Ellie joined a mom’s group that gets together for outdoor adventures with their kids. The opportunity to raise their children with an appreciation for the outdoors is one of the things they love about the community.

“It was very refreshing to come here and find people who wanted to go camping with us, or who would tell us about mountain bike trails or places to go fishing. We found a lot of people who like to do the outdoor things that we like doing, and who were happy to help us figure out how to do that with kids,” Brady said.

One challenge they faced was finding affordable housing. With an extremely competitive housing market and more expensive rent than in Fargo, the Korwin-Kuczynskis rented a small apartment as they began the search for a home.

“Brady started his job that May and then we house shopped all summer, which was challenging since things were going so quickly,” Ellie said.

But after many months of house hunting the search paid off, and the Korwin-Kucynskis bought their first home. Happy to have found a city that feels like the right fit for them, they plan to keep exploring more of the area and taking on bigger adventures.

Like the Korwin-Kuczynski family, Lesa and Mike Hofer of Grand Marais were drawn to living on the North Shore because of a deep love for the outdoors. Both were familiar with the area since childhood, and for Mike, his vision of moving to the area began when he visited Trout Lake with his father as a third grader.

“I remember really vividly we were in the boat, and I looked around and thought ‘I’m going to live up here,’” he said.

That dream of living on the North Shore began to fall into place when Mike and Lesa met in the summer of 1999. They visited the North Shore together that autumn, and almost immediately they started talking about finding a place in the area. A year later they purchased 55 acres of land outside of Grand Marais, and began visiting on the weekends as often as they could, leaving the Twin Cities after work on Friday evenings and arriving late in the night at their land. For the first 18 months they owned the land, the Hofers had a six-person tent they would set up, even during the winter.

“We really enjoyed that first year and a half, and had a lot of memorable experiences,” Mike said. “One morning we found ourselves in the midst of a pack of wolves that was trying to ambush a herd of deer. It sounded like a stampede. We poked our heads out of the tent and saw the wolves, and then just as quickly as they arrived, they were gone. It was really amazing.”

Mike and Lesa Hofer were drawn to living on the North Shore because of a deep love for the outdoors. | SUBMITTED

Mike went on to take a timber framing course at North House Folk School, and they built up a timber-framed cabin on their land. The Hofers continued to visit on the weekends and talked about the possibility of moving to their cabin permanently someday. That opportunity came in the summer of 2017, when Lesa was offered a job at Great Expectations School in Grand Marais. While Mike was not quite ready to leave his job yet, Lesa moved to the cabin that August and lived there for two years while Mike finished his job in the
Twin Cities.

“That was a really special time for me. The cabin is rustic, with no running water and a long driveway, but I got to learn how to do things I had never done before,” Lesa said. “And at Great Expectations I felt like I was finally with my people. I really love the people I work with and really respect them.”

Two years after Lesa moved to the cabin, the timing was right for Mike to leave his job, and the two of them have been enjoying the simplicity and deep sense of community they have found in Grand Marais. Mike has been following his passion of making maple syrup, and has formed good connections with other maple syrup makers in the area.

“When we wanted to move up here, we moved up for the scenery and beauty and more of a simple life, but now we’ve really found it’s the people and sense of caring that really make this our home,” Lesa said.

For Nelson French of Silver Bay, retiring to the North Shore has brought him closer to an area that he has poured much of his time and energy into. French worked on the establishment of Tettegouche State Park in 1979, and as director of The Nature Conservancy oversaw the Palisade Valley addition in the early 1990s. Now as a Silver Bay resident, he gets to enjoy the beauty of the area he spent much of his career improving.

Originally from Hibbing, Nelson French’s career brought him to the Twin Cities area, and moving to Silver Bay is a return to his northern Minnesota roots. | SUBMITTED

Originally from Hibbing, French’s career brought him to the Twin Cities area, and moving to Silver Bay is a return to his northern Minnesota roots. Building his own home had long been a dream, and when he and his wife Marilyn found their land, they built a log home on the property, where they have been living since 2011.

“My wife and I had decided that we wanted to be on the North Shore in our later years, and here we are,” French said. “We were very familiar with the area so we found property that was close to this area that I know and love, and that I feel good about with my work of continuing to make it a nice place.”

When the house was complete French spent several years commuting from Silver Bay to Duluth for work. These last three years he has been retired and has been able to fully enjoy becoming part of the Silver Bay community. In addition to outdoor activities like snowshoeing, fishing and canoeing, both Nelson and Marilyn are both actively involved in the community, with Marilyn working at the Veteran’s Home and French lending his knowledge and experience to several committees, including the Silver Bay Economic Development Authority, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Silver Bay Business Park Advisory. He was also recently named Vice President of the Friends of Tettegouche State Park.

“We’re fitting into the community well and finding it a great place to be,” French said.

Moving forward, French sees opportunity for Silver Bay, a region with some of the North Shore’s best ATV and snowmobile trails and an increased interest in activities like hiking, biking, rock climbing and kayaking. The access to high-speed internet also makes the North Shore a potential destination for young professionals who can work from home.

“I would encourage anyone who is interested in moving to the area to seriously look into the lifestyle and what it’s like to live in such a rural area,” French said. “But if you want to move out of an urban environment to live in a place where you can walk out your door and go snowshoeing, definitely consider the North Shore.”

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