Hostel north of Grand Marais is a North Shore first
No one believes Kate and Jeremy Keeble when they tell people that they’ve opened the first hostel along the North Shore. The hostel part, yes. The historic part, no.
Kate Keeble tells them that she can’t think of any other one.
And it’s true, the Hungry Hippie Hostel just north of Grand Marais is the first of its kind from Duluth to Canada.
The next thing people tell the Keebles is that they can’t believe no one had ever thought of opening one before. The North Shore is a tourist haven, and it also happens to have the Superior Hiking Trail running along the backbone of the lake uplands.
Hungry Hippie Hostel is a quarter-mile from the trail as it crosses Cook County Road 14. It’s a half-mile to the lake and 8 miles to Grand Marais.
“It’s definitely a niche that we need,” said Anna Klobuchar, the information center coordinator for Visit Cook County. Klobuchar once boarded horses across the gravel road from what is today’s hostel, which sits on an old cattle farm. That means the grounds are uniquely open compared to other forested land in the county. The hill provides what Klobuchar calls a “breathtaking” view of Lake Superior.
The hostel is a converted barn, rustic and quixotically appointed by the Keebles with mostly recycled materials. It holds 25 people and has a bathroom and shower area. Up in the old hay loft are six bunks. Below are five private rooms with queen-size beds. A common area in the middle of the ground floor serves as a lounge and eating space.
Outside is a large deck and plenty of yard space for lounging or a cookout.
“I love what they’re doing with it,” Klobuchar said.
The allure of a hostel is the shared spaces that bring customers from all walks of life together, Kate Keeble said. The other appeal is the cost.
“It’s an alternative to an expensive motel in Grand Marais,” she said. A private room is $55 a night. It’s the same price for a family room. Single bunks are $25. Extras include shower ($5) and laundry ($7.50) service.
In April, there was a waiting list — a first since opening in January — of mostly students from the art colony and North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Kate Keeble said.
As trail conditions improve, the Keebles expect to host trekkers of the Superior Hiking Trail. They plan to offer pickup service for hikers.
Gayle Coyer, executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, said she can’t wait to stay at the hostel and write about it for the association’s newsletter.
It’s just what hikers have needed on what can be a remote part of the trail, Coyer said. There aren’t nearly as many options outside of state park facilities north of Grand Marais.
“No one’s gotten together to create one,” she said of the hostel’s unique status. “It’s a nice option for lodging or tenting. The more, the better.”
About 50 percent of the customers so far have come from the Twin Cities area, Keeble said. It means that word is getting around on social media.
The Keebles bought the 10-acre farm property in October 2012.
It was something the couple couldn’t pass up, Jeremy Keeble said. They have two children, Addie and Mavis. The name of the business defies the 30-something couple. They are typical North Shore self-sustainers but not hippies in the traditional sense.
The Hungry Hippie Hostel, Kate Keeble said, was inspired by the old children’s game “Hungry, Hungry Hippos,” which they play with their children.
They brainstormed about what they wanted to do with the place. It came with a dozen apple trees and several acres of cleared land, “which is hard to find in Cook County,” Jeremy Keeble said.
They like the idea of locally sourced food, and bees, a garden, berry patch and cheese making are on the list of things for the future.
Then the idea of people staying and enjoying some of the fruits of their labor came to mind. It seemed the natural thing to do, they said.
Jeremy Keeble recalls his adventures, including on the Appalachian Trail, and the hostels he stayed in and the people he met.
The idea of meeting other outdoors adventurers and providing a unique place to stay sealed their decision.
The couple received a $46,504 loan from the Cook County revolving loan fund. A new septic system was needed as well as plumbing and a heated concrete floor in the barn. Many of the items used to refurbish the barn came from materials scavenged from the casino remodeling job in Grand Portage, where Jeremy Keeble works.
The end result is sure to please those who stay at the hostel, Klobuchar said.
“It’s exactly what people want,” she said. It’s not only hikers who want an option, she said. People want unique experiences. She said she often gets calls about such places to stay for those doing fall color tours.
“They want the mom-and-pop place,” she said. “This is where I’ll send them.”