Outside, colorful Adirondack chairs give a front-row seat to the Lake Superior vista, and wooden benches circle a fire ring. Inside, North Woods decor covers the walls -- from deer antlers to a map of the Superior Hiking Trail, which passes just a mile south of the hostel.
The couple said they chose the name of the hostel after the children's game, Hungry Hungry Hippos. The "hippie" vibe also fits their eco-conscious efforts, using green cleaning products and installing fixtures to conserve water use. They're also self-professed "upcycle nerds," salvaging wood from dilapidated local buildings for the inside walls. The tin ceiling is made of repurposed old panels from a local restaurant's walk-in coolers.
Now it's Instagrammable, hip lodging, with comfortable queen beds in five private bedrooms on the main floor, walled off with sliding doors and chalkboards listing each guest's name. The two-level building also has a bunkhouse upstairs in a former hayloft that can sleep 10 people.
The kitchenette displays a list of local restaurants and has cereal, pastas and willow walking sticks for sale for hikers.
After trading life in St. Paul for the quieter northland 13 years ago, Kate Keeble worked as a chef at the Gunflint Lodge before she and Jeremy became caretakers of a resort in Grand Portage, Minn. They bought this former apple orchard in 2012 with dreams of reviving it as a working farm.
Instead, the family's laundry room now doubles as an office for Kate, who quit her full-time job within months of opening the hostel. Jeremy still works full time in construction as the couple raise their 2- and 9-year-old daughters.
"I'm the plumber, the reservation lady and the housekeeper," Kate said, adding that the couple are exploring opening another hostel on the North Shore. "We like turning old buildings into fun lodging."
A night in a hostel isn't for everyone, though. Guests arrive to find a package of earplugs in their room to combat noise from the thin walls and community space. And guests share two bathrooms, while the bunkhouse has a half-bath.
But for travelers on a budget, it's an affordable stay (private rooms are $59 a night while a single bunk is $25) and, like all hostels, it's a sociable atmosphere.