Minnesota’s North Shore Part 1

As promised, with this post I’m sharing images and narrative from my trip north from Duluth (after Dean replaced my freshwater tank) to Grand Portage way up near the Canadian border.

The image above is very typical of the drive along the north shore of Lake Superior.  Truly lovely, and as you can see I continued to have amazing weather.  I’m actually writing this while staying at Straits State Park in St. Ignace, Michigan.  I’ve been driving way too many hours each day then poking around the communities and lake area where ever I land to post to this blog.  On top of that, WordPress and.or my Mifi have been incredibly SSLLLOOOWWW.

I had a fairly long drive (for driving a motorhome) and had planned to stay in Grand Marais.  One of the first things that caught my eye on the drive was this log structure that is Norwegian in type:

I’ve been fascinated with these structures for decades after I saw one on Washington Island.  I even corresponded for years with the person who had a small business importing complete cabins directly from Norway that were built there, disassembled, and then put in shipping crates to the United States.  This particular structure is actually a business, not a home:

Here are more details of this log structure (except for the teddy bear that is a bonus):

In the parking lot was a station wagon with alot of nice things to say:

I stopped at Grand Marais with the intention of getting settled into my reserved space in the campground.  As I posted previously, in the few moments I opened my door to check things out at the extremely small, tight space that I was assigned (and the last one available), I had black-fly issues.  One black fly flew into Ecovision right onto my front window while another flew straight to my neck.  I was able to squish both before they grabbed a chunk of skin off any part of me.  Unfortunately, I strongly attract and strongly react to black-fly bites.  I get red lumps the size of a quarter that hurt and persist for over a month.  I had about a dozen of these in May while on photo safari in Tobermory, Ontario, so I knew I had to get out of there and did.

I headed further north about 40 miles to the Grand Portage Reservation.  The Reservation is very large at over 73,000 square miles.  It is 12 miles from the first Reservation sign to the town of Grand Portage.  The “town” is mostly a casino complex and the marina and RV park where I stayed.  When I arrived several anglers were cleaning their fish:

After I picked my site and paid, I got back into Ecovision and headed further north.  I wanted to see where one catches the ferry and half-day tour boat to Isle Royale.  It was closed at that time of early evening and I’ve found it difficult to communicate with the company other than through their website where they take (and prefer) on-line reservations.  I did see one of their boats at the dock, the Sea Hunter III:

The Sea Hunter III

It might of have still been possible for me to get on the next day’s 8:30 a.m. trip to Isle Royale, but I just cannot leave Henry alone for the seven hours I would have to be gone.  Next year I’ll have to figure something else out.

On the way back to the campsite I stopped to take a photo of what I believe are wild-rice fields:

I continued south of MN-61 the mile or so back to the campground.  I had plenty of freshwater in my new tank so I just plugged in electric for the one-night stay.  No black flies or even mosquitoes so Henry and I had a nice long walk before cozying up for the night.

To finish this posting, this is a photo of the peek-a-boo view of Lake Superior’s Grand Portage Bay that Henry and I enjoyed the next morning while eating our breakfast outside:

Next I’ll post Part 2 that will include images of the Grand Portage National Monument, a second and much better visit to Grand Marais, and the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse.

Minnesota’s North Shore Preview

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Here’s a lick and a promise of several posts to come on the amazing north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. This post is about after the north shore.

I drove from Gooseberry Falls State Park stopping a couple times (details to follow). I landed in Duluth at noon so that Dean O’Brien could discover then rewire a 12-volt outlet that had been wired in backwards by an Indiana RV mechanic last fall. Grrr. Thank you, Dean (I met his son, Jordan, and Jordan’s cute black pug, Connie, too).

I headed next to Ashland, WI, to see Northland College and visit with folks at the Chequamegon Food Co-op. Nice! More murals and two blocks from Lake Superior.

It was very early and I thought I’d find a campground further down Hwy. 2, but Megan, the Co-op marketing and member services manager, told me about Ashland’s Kreher Park right on Lake Superior. That sounded just right and I headed over. Because it was so early, they had quite a few campsites. So I took site #3 with view of lake and near the showers.

I did import and label all of the day’s photos from my iPhone and Nikon onto my laptop, but that’s as far as I got yesterday on this blog :).

I spent the rest of day reading outside with Henry, having leftovers for dinner in my RV, catching up on email and Facebook, and later walking Henry along the lakeshore in the setting sun. Oh and took many more photos:). but that’s a given.

Heading to Rapid River, MI, soon! Below is view from my RV at Kreher Park.
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Enjoyed Grand Portage Reservation and National Monument

Grand Portage reservation in taupe and monument in green

Henry and I had a quiet, restful night staying at the campground on the Grand Portage Reservation.  It is very close to the Canadian border and we were surrounded by many Canadian RVs.  From the time you see the sign for the Grand Portage settlement you drive 12 miles in this large reservation.  On the map, the campground, marina, and casino are on Grand Portage Bay.

I bought a small ceramic heater at the Grand Portage and had it going all night to help dry the carpeting.  No more new water so the new freshwater tank did the trick.  But the carpeting throughout and pad underneath will take some time to dry.

Slept so well and was glad I pushed to get this far.  I let my soul have its way and decided to head back south and not do the Canadian portion of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.  The delay and expense of a new freshwater tank meant I would have to rush and just not have the experience I want.  So after feelings of sadness, I came to deep acceptance and then happily moved on.

Stops today included views of islands, Grand Marais, huge Cleveland Cliffs facility in Silver Bay, and Split Rock Lighthouse.  I thought I might go all the way to Duluth, but I’m at Gooseberry Falls State Park in their visitor center charging my iPhone and Macbook Air.  I took a chance because I really wanted to stay here, but they didn’t have any reservable sites.  So we got here around 5 and they had one site left!  I’ll take it!  I used the $25 Minnesota State Parks gift certificate from my son and daughter-in-law, which was the exact cost.  So all good.  No hook-ups though, which is fine because I have water in my brand-new tank, plenty of food to eat (way too much, as a matter of fact), and I can bundle up under covers to stay warm.  So this is a brief posting before Henry and I get settled in for the night.

This is the view of Grand Portage Island that I enjoyed this morning before heading south. Pretty nice, eh?  I’ll post more about yesterday and today hopefully tomorrow.

Up the North Shore to Grand Portage

New tank tested fine so I unhooked and disengaged and headed out before 10 am. Returned unneeded items to Menards, got gas, and headed north on M-61.

I pretty much kept going, passed on Grand Marais after black/fly attack upon just opening my door, and kept going to Grand Portage where we are now.

Henry likes it here, and more and more he is enjoying our vagabond life on wheels. He makes new friends wherever we go and gets lots of pets.

I’ll try to post this. My Mifi is working just fine, but connection must be very weak. I’m on the Grand Portage reservation right near Canadian border.

I’ll decide tonight which way to head. I suspect backwards again.

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After the Apostle Islands

A few interesting things happened after I returned from the islands.  I was pretty foggy-brained, but it was only 2 in the afternoon and beautiful so I decided to explore an area that I hadn’t yet.  So I drove north on 13 through the town of Red Cliff and the big Legendary Waters casino complex.  This is on the reservation of the  Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.  Near the casino is also the Buffalo Bay Campground on Lake Superior, but I don’t go to casinos so haven’t check this campground out.

I kept going on 13 and decided to find Little Sand Bay on Lake Superior.  I knew Apostle Islands National Lakeshore had a kayak launch there and I assumed there was a beach.  For some reason I envisioned sleeping on a beach.  I saw and followed National Lakeshore signs turning right off of 13.  The county road was paved although narrow and sloped.  I kept driving and driving and wondered if I had taken the wrong county road.  But I kept going even down a steep decline where road crossed a rocky stream then a steep incline back up.  I took a photo of this sign for my sister, Wendy, the equestrian:

I just kept driving through coming to a more forested area and then my reward!  What I first thought was a huge brown hawk flew not more than ten feet above my motorhome!  There were other birds around it and there seemed to be a commotion of some kind.  I couldn’t identify what hawk it was, but it kinda took my breath away.  I actually wondered if it wasn’t an immature eagle.  Naw.

So I continued driving and finally saw another sign so knew I wasn’t lost.  At Little Sand Bay not only does the National Lakeshore have kayaking and other facilities, but the Town of Russell has campground called the Little Sand Bay Recreation Area.  The campground has self-registration and it was very nice.  On their website they list 32 RV campsites with electric,  tent sites, and one group site.  Here is more information from their website: Reservations by calling  (715) 779-5233, e-mail or by mail at Little Sand Bay Reservations; PO Box 79, Bayfield, WI 54814.  And I’ve inserted their campground map.  It’s amazing quiet place for kayaking, boating, and swimming and right on the big lake.

Not actually being a beach sleeper, I parked and Henry and I just ate a late lunch and relaxed a little.  Then I decided to head back to Bayfield to buy a few things at the IGA and maybe buy some postcards and a tshirt.

Back on the county roads and up and down by the creek I came again to the area where I had seen the bird.  There was a red truck pulling a pop-up headed in my direction, but stopped.   And then I saw the huge brown bird again!  I paid close attention to its size, length of tail, and other identifying features.  As it flew across the street back into the woods I noted it had a relatively short fan tail with white feathers and looked sort of like this, which is an immature golden eagle:

Immature golden eagle

But not quite, and I don’t know if golden eagles are in this area.  I’ve seen these magnificent birds in Arizona and even videotaped a pair.  When the sun hits their brown feathers they turn to gold in the sunlight!  At that moment the mystery of why these brown birds are called Golden Eagles was solved.

I had stopped Ecovision to observe carefully and experience this huge bird (can you tell I’m a city girl :-) as had the red truck.  When the bird flew back into the woods, the red truck came forward.  I rolled down my window and signaled the driver and he opened his window.  I asked him if he knew what kind of hawk it was, and he said he didn’t but he thought it was an eagle because of its size.  I gasped and said I thought so, too!

I’ve been searching images on the Internet and just don’t know if it’s truly an immature bald or golden eagle (under age three) or another raptor of some kind.  I’m going to ask around here and then when I get home ask my cousin experts Margaret and Robert Walter.  I have enough details for my cousins to be able to figure it out.  Whatever bird it was, I felt gifted to see and feel its presence.

So I continued on and just went back to Bayfield.  I looked but didn’t buy a tshirt then did buy a few things at the IGA.  Then back to my campsite to hookup and settle in for the evening.  I thought I would only stay that one more night so only hooked electric up.  I added some freshwater to my storage tank and made a little dinner.

In the early evening I spent time planning my next couple nights of camping.  I kept striking out with Minnesota State Parks on the north shore of Lake Superior.  Many don’t have hook-ups or sites were non-reservable.  I was able to reserve for Thursday night in Grand Marais, which is only about four hour from here so could stay here another night if need be.  So I decided to see if the Two Harbors campground would get back to me and decide in the morning.

This morning I decided to just stay put another day.  I’m going to hang out a little with Henry, rest, do this posting, find a laundromat to wash my bedding, and maybe have a meal in town.  So I paid for another night here at Apostle Island Campground and found out that the only laundromat is in Washburn a little south of here.  Like the idea of a new town so it’s time to end this posting and head south.

Tomorrow I’ll drive to Duluth and hope to get to the Whole Foods Co-op. I’ve been to Duluth several times including when I worked for Michigan Sea Grant and later when taking a travel writing course through the Split Rocks Art Workshop.  It is lovely with steep cliffs and a wonderful walkway along the lake right downtown.

Lakewalk in Duluth, MN

My first experience of Duluth was driving into a parking lot for a meeting and seeing large electrical plugs in front of every parking space.  I had no idea what they were for so I asked someone.  I was told that because it gets so cold in Duluth, people plug in their car’s engine block heaters while they are working to make sure they can start the car when they leave!  Boy, that’s way too cold for me!  It’s a pretty city though and well worth visiting.