I don't quite remember how I settled on the North Shore of Minnesota as an area to visit, but I sure am glad it popped up on my radar! Once I started researching and found so many state parks and hiking trails, along with a National Monument and a scenic byway, I booked my days and had all summer to look forward to our "vacation" during our fall job re-positioning. The highway along the north coast of Lake Superior runs from Duluth all the way to the Canadian border just above Grand Portage. The state parks are named in green print.
Our first day was a cloudy, cold, rainy day, so we figured we might as well make the drive back to the drug screening center and get it over with. After calling first to verify that their computer system was up and running again, we headed down the scenic Highway 61 back to Superior WI. After driving a little over two hours, we had our screening done in about ten minutes! We had some lunch at one of the few fast food places we still go, Culver's. If you haven't had the pleasure of a Culver's butterburger or frozen custard concrete mixers, you must find one...just sayin'! We had some time on the way back, and even though the sky was quite dreary, it had stopped raining so we stopped at Gooseberry Falls State Park for a leg-stretching hike and to view the famous falls.
A view from the Visitor's Center showed the fall foliage is in full glory.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were the primary builders of Gooseberry Falls, and a statue commemorates their hard work.
We ended up doing a full loop hike up to the Upper Falls...
down along the river to the Middle Falls...
crossing over a bridge below the Lower falls...
and up the other side for a different view of the Middle Falls.
The brown color of the water in the rivers here are not from pollution, but rather the water drains from swamps and bogs into the rivers. The decaying organic matter from these swamps and bogs creates humic acid, and this colors the water brown. There is also some iron deposits along the river's course that adds brown to the color.
The next day we drove north to Grand Portage National Monument. It was still overcast and cloudy, but the weather was definitely improving. We decided to take a ranger tour of the Heritage Area, and we learned a lot about this area. Grand Portage is where several different groups gathered, all in the interest of trading good. The North West Company basically set up shop here, as there was good access via waterways from both the east and the north west. Grand Portage was the largest fur trading depot on the heart of the continent.
16 buildings were set up inside a stockaded palisade, expressly for the purpose of hosting the annual Rendezvous, a gathering of everyone associated with the fur trade. The north men, called Voyageurs, spent their year traveling the waterways north through Canada, trading goods for furs. Travelers from Montreal, known as "pork eaters", brought manufactured goods to trade for the furs.
We saw the restored birchbark canoes that were used by these intrepid traders. The Grand Portage that the town is named for is the overland route used by the Voyagers between Fort Charlotte and Grand Portage. It is a 8 1/2 mile route between Lake Superior and the Pigeon River. It would take Voyagers a few hours to travel this overland rout, each one carrying two 90 pound packs of goods.
There were several exhibits in both the Heritage Center and the Visitor's Center. The prime pelts that were traded were beaver. It would take a total of four years, from the time the order was placed for beaver pelts in London, trade goods sent to Montreal, shipping the goods to Grand Portage, trading for the pelts, then reversing the process, before a hat was ever made out of that beaver pelt.
The view over Lake Superior from the Visitor Center.
From the National Monument it was a few miles further north to Grand Portage State Park, and the Canadian border. I'm standing on the United States side of the river, Canada is on the other side!
There's a nice hike up the river to High Falls, the highest waterfalls in Minnesota at over 200 feet, and a significant reason for the need of the portage route between Grand Portage and Fort Charlotte.
Leading up to High Falls are 9 miles of other falls and cascades. the entire route is hikeable, but not one that we did :-).
After viewing High Falls, we headed south again, stopping at an overlook of Lake Superior, and a group of offshore islands known as the Susie Islands. The fall foliage is pretty spectacular here as well.
Our last stop of the day was at Judge C.R.Magney State Park, home of the famous waterfalls known as the Devil's Kettle. It's about a mile hike upriver along the Brule River.
You then have to go down over 700 steps to reach the bottom of the valley.
Upper Falls is the first falls that you reach. Devil's Kettle Falls is another 700 feet up river.
The unusual thing about Devil's Kettle is that on the right hand side the Brule River goes over the falls, and continues downstream like normal rivers do. The left side of the river goes over the ledge into a cauldron of sorts, and geologists have yet to figure out where the exit point is. The consensus is that there must be an exit somewhere out in Lake Superior, but various tests that have been done to date have never been able to reveal where the flow of water going into the Devil's Kettle emerges back on the surface.
The next day we took a scenic drive along the byway known as the Gunflint Trail.
The Gunflint Trail is a 57-mile long National Scenic Byway that runs from Grand Marais into the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Up in this area you truly start to get a sense of why Minnesota is called the "Land of 10000 Lakes".
We explored several gravel roads going off into the wilderness, and this was our picnic spot for the day.
At the end of the Trail is Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, which had some interesting exhibits about the history of the Gunflint Trail. A lot of the exhibits were the same story we learned at Grand Portage Historical Center, but they were nicely done and worth the $3.00 entry fee.
There is a campground at the end of the Gunflint Trail, in a beautiful setting. It would be so nice and peaceful to stay out there for a few days and do some kayaking and fishing.
Sunday, October 11, was our last day in the area, as well as our 35th wedding anniversary. The day was beautiful, warm and sunny, and we spent the day visiting two more State parks.
Temperance River State Park was a short hike to the falls, first going by these hidden falls.
Way back in the crack is a powerful waterfall tumbling through a narrow area of the gorge.
We walked up and around to the top of the gorge and got a view of the falls from the top.
Further upriver we found the main Temperance River Falls. The rocky gorge area here is very interesting.
The view downriver.
We then crossed the highway and walked down to the mouth of the Temperance River as it entered Lake Superior.
I thought it was interesting how the trees grow right out of the sides of the gorge.
Again, the coastline reminds me a lot of Acadia up in Maine.
After another picnic lunch, we hiked in Cascade Falls State Park.
I have to include this shot because it was a tricky navigation to get down to the spot I wanted, and I did end up taking a tumble, although thankfully not hurting myself :-).
The Cascade River on it's way to Lake Superior.
So we had a wonderful time on the North Shore of Minnesota. Its another one of those adventures that I never would have thought of doing several years ago, but is now just another day in our roaming lives. We even stood out in the middle of a pitch black field one night looking for the "northern lights" that appear in the sky that far north, We never saw any brilliant colors, but definitely saw the white flashes.
After a couple days drive we ended up in Middlebury Indiana for a few days, as we had some work that needed to be done on the trailer and felt that the best place to have it done was at the Grand Design factory itself. It turned out to be a very good decision, as there was some damage (broken welds) to our main slide room and there was a high degree of certainty that a complete failure was very close. They fixed it all up for us, along with several minor items that needed repair, all under warranty. We were treated very well by the technicians at Grand Design, reinforcing that our purchase from them was one of our better moves. Their customer service has been phenomenal, and we would have no problems recommending to anyone that they should consider Grand Design for a new rig.
We also met up with our "mentors" for this lifestyle, Linda and Howard Payne of RV-Dreams fame, for the first time since April 2011. They were instrumental in getting us to take the plunge, I'm not sure we would have without their support and encouragement. We had dinner together one night, and spent a long time catching up on what we've all been doing. I'm so happy to hear that Howard considers us one of his many success stories :-).
From there we continued on towards Campbellsville, KY, stopping for a couple nights in Clarkesville IN to visit with Dan and Jonell, who are working at Amazon in the Jeffersonville facility this year. We are now settled into our regular spot at Green River Lake State Park, and have started our fifth season at Amazon. Al is resuming his role in AmCare, and this year I am working in the Receive/Prep area of the warehouse. We have eight weeks here, and then its on to Florida and family time. Thanks for coming along for the tour :-).