I never met Iona. From 1976 through the mid 90’s I drove past her place at Milepost 42 on the east side of Highway 61 many times without stopping. Still, she gave me a gift.
Born in Ilmajoki, Finland on May 4, 1909, Iona and her husband, John Lind, started Twin Points Resort in 1938 when family-owned resorts were a destination of choice on Minnesota’s North Shore. Their World War II era post card boasts “14 KNOTTY PINE CABINS, Friendly Place to Stop, Meals and Short Orders That You Will Enjoy, Standard Gas and Oils, and Clean Modern Rest Rooms.” The post card doesn’t mention the words Lake Superior or beach. Those things are assumed.
In Iona’s day, the resort would have buzzed with activity: Cabins filled with guests, children skipping rocks along the shoreline, couples stopping for ice cream and supplies at the little store and travelers filling up with food and gasoline. As night settled in, it would become quiet; the sky awash with stars, wind whispering between the cabins, campfires crackling and waves finding the shore. With John by her side until 1976 and her son, Alden, thereafter, Iona made her home along the lake for 57 years. It is safe to say that running the resort while raising a family consumed her summer days. It would have been good, exhausting work – the kind of work I dream of from an office cubicle and wonder if I’m cut out for.
As the decades passed, Iona met hundreds of travelers, and many became her friends. By the age of 86, she was ready to retire. It was 1995 and Alden let it be known that the family wanted their land returned to the public. And so, in 1996, after a series of complex legal maneuvers and the efforts of a group of conservation-minded citizens, Iona’s gift was made.
By the time I discovered Iona’s Beach in 2009, the land that was once the home of Twin Points Resort had been a Minnesota Scientific and Natural Area for more than a decade. In the years following Iona’s retirement, the store and cabins were razed leaving few signs of the life she made there with her family. But the beach remains.
On a point at the north end of the beach there is a cliff of pink rhyolite and felsite bedrock. To the south, a point of dark gray basalt reaches out to the lake. In between, for the length of three football fields, lies one of the most unique beaches Lake Superior has to offer. Formed approximately 1.1 billion years ago, the rhyolite at Iona’s Beach is a volcanic rock, high in silica, with just enough iron to color it with pink and salmon tones. Set beside a coveted Lake Superior agate, a single piece of rhyolite could be considered dull. Released by ice, wind and wave from the north cliff and tumbled into a multitude of pebbles called “shingles.” the true beauty of rhyolite is revealed when it is tossed on shore.
With eyes closed, and feet just close enough to the lake to chance getting wet, I experienced Iona’s Beach for the first time. Sitting in a gentle depression, the tumbled rhyolite was soft, warm, and uniform beneath my hands. My senses were filled with the scent of water and the touch of wind. My thoughts quieted. And with each receding wave, I was engulfed by gentle tinkling music as thousands of rocks came to rest upon each other.
This is Iona’s gift.