Cook County, Minn. – Travel — Businesses along the Gunflint Trail (also known as County Road 12) in Cook County, Minn. are hosting the first annual Biggest Blueberry Contest which began on Friday, July 21 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 12. Blueberries will be measured by weight, and must be picked fresh and not store bought. The weekly contest has three rounds, with prize drawings occurring on the last day of each round:
- Friday July 21 – Saturday July 29
- Friday July 28 – Saturday August 5
- Friday August 4 – Saturday August 12
There are weigh stations at Bearskin Lodge, Boundary Country Trekking, Nor’Wester Lodge, Way of the Wilderness, Golden Eagle Lodge, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Rockwood Lodge, Tuscarora Lodge, Gunflint Lodge and Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center, all of which are along the Gunflint Trail. Berry pickers submit their biggest blueberry at these locations. In addition to prizes for the biggest blueberry, all submissions are entered to win randomly selected prize drawings. Prizes range from free canoe rentals to slices of blueberry pie.
“The winner intends to make pies with her crop of blueberries, and her goal was to fill her freezer,” says Dave Seaton of Hungry Jack Outfitters (hjo.com).
His wife Nancy Seaton, who came up with the idea for the contest, wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are “tons” of blueberries on the Gunflint Trail, which people (birds and animals) love to pick and eat. Dave Seaton says, “People who are not usually competitive are really jazzed about the contest. It has attracted the attention of visitors, locals and neighbors, and gives people something light and fun to talk about”.
Blueberries in the Gunflint Trail area begin to ripen in mid-July (see photos taken on July 16) and tend to peak around late July or early August. Wild blueberries are easy to identify, looking much like the grocery store variety, only smaller. The plants are woody shrubs, usually less than two feet tall and resemble miniature trees. They grow best in dry, well drained, rock soil with good sun and are often found in recent burn areas. For more information on berry picking and the biggest blueberry contest, go to www.visitcookcounty.com/berry.
The Gunflint Trail
Beginning in the center of the town of Grand Marais, County Road 12 (also known as the Gunflint Trail) is a 55-mile paved road that adjoins U.S. Highway 61. County Road 12’s route goes through the Superior National Forest to Saganaga Lake near the Canadian border. According to Explore Minnesota, there are no towns along the route, but side roads lead to resorts, campgrounds, canoe outfitters, and boat ramps. Many nearby lakes are within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is primarily accessible by non-motorized boats. There is great fishing along the Gunflint Trail, and miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Wildlife abound, so there’s a chance of spotting deer, moose or bear, seeing a wide variety of birds, or hearing the howls of wolves.