Staying warm with nostalgia, Green Gate Guest Houses, MN
AUTHOR: Lisa Frank, Yonder Hospitality & Sustainability Development
Green Gate Guest Houses in Biwabik, Minnesota is one of those places that checks all the boxes for a classic “up north” winter stay, but with a farm twist. An experience falling at the intersection of adventure, wellbeing, and sustainability, Green Gate has the perfect mix for what I seek in a getaway.. May it be the reclaimed timbers and vintage fixtures that define an era of time, or well-appointed details that inspire the sentiments of home...Green Gate is pure nostalgia. Sitting amongst years of restoration, there is a reminiscence of the past that was sure to inform my experience and connection to the place.
In the winter season at Green Gate, freshly groomed trails lead from your door out and to the property’s renovated sites, inviting you to put on a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis to take it all in. For the very first time, I fastened a pair of snowshoes around my boots and ventured out for a morning hike. As I heard the snow beneath my feet and took in my surroundings, I felt a familiarity...an affinity for the outdoors that grounded me.
Owned and constructed by Shawn Callahan, the guest houses and its surrounding landscape are impeccably maintained as it’s being restored to be as robust and diverse as it once was years ago. Once the site of a turn-of-the-century mining town, the guest houses have evolved to be a one-of-kind space rooted in history and reflective of the region’s characteristics and culture. It’s the kind of place that connects you to the past - as well as helps us make sense of the present.
Shawn generously invited me for conversation in his farmhouse over a slow poured cup of locally roasted coffee. A highlight of my time, I quickly realized the synergy between his journey to Green Gate and my desire to pursue a life closer to nature and with less impact on the environment. We shared stories about preserving natural heritage for its role in providing us with the essentials to thrive - food, clean air, shelter, and the many ecosystems that contribute to the ways we live and breathe. With intentions to transform the property to a working farm alongside having recently implemented a solar energy system freeing his wilderness campus from the grid, I knew I’d be walking away with insights beyond a grounding snowshoe experience.
Of the guest houses on his properties, I stayed in the historic hand-hewn log cabin with a 15’ x 15’ footprint. Shawn shared that the tiny log cabin has been moved three times, he says “the cabin has likely traveled more miles than the carpenter who originally constructed it.” Relocated to Green Gate and restored one final time, that little log cabin is a gateway experience to seeing how we have an opportunity to repair and cultivate relationships with the places we visit. What I learned from Shawn is that it’s not just about him, his guest houses, or the guests, it’s about all stakeholders - the land, the nearby community, and the wildlife. It’s destination stewardship that ensures Green Gate and the surrounding area will survive and thrive for future generations of travelers and locals alike.
I’ve come to understand that nostalgia keeps us aligned with our values as it allows us to remember the best parts of the past. Through Shawns sustainable historic preservation efforts, I’m not only reminded of the past, but I’m also reminded of the value of preserving the best of the past in an effort to keep what makes this place so special and alive.