The north shore

Last year I was at least a week late (maybe two) for the peak of fall color for my annual trek to northeast Minnesota.

This year, I was at least two weeks early. Maybe three.

It also rained all day Sunday — my only full day on the north shore. So I spent a fair amount of time inside: driving, reading, even napping. But I also took a walk (with a jacket and umbrella).

But I am getting ahead of myself. Saturday Dave and I drove to Duluth. En route, we spent a few hours at Jay Cooke State Park just outside the city. It’s a beautiful park, with the St. Louis River flowing through it and a swinging bridge. There was a bizarre wedding (or cult activity or virgin sacrifice) going on at one of the picnic areas. I love Minnesota.

Saturday night we went to Canal Park by the waterfront. This is a big tourist area with shops, restaurants, bars, antiques, boat rides, an aquarium, IMax theater, and more. It was chilly out, and I was hungry. We tried one bar but the service was wretched. So we ended up at a higher-end Italian restaurant where I drank expensive wine.

The next morning we drove up the north shore in the aforementioned rain. I took literally no pictures the entire day. We walked to the water falls at Grand Portage State Park, visited the Grand Portage national historic site, and dropped by the Naniboujou Lodge — a real gem right across the highway from Judge Magney State Park (a few miles north of Grand Marais). Judge Magney State Park will forever remain in my mind as the place where I wrecked my Volkswagen Beetle several years ago. I was the only one in the parking lot. (It’s a long story.) Then, as now, it was cold and raining.

In Grand Marais, we went to my favorite places: Gunflint Tavern (for beer and veggie chili) and Sven and Ole’s (for wild rice pizza — my favorite pizza in all the world). We stayed the night at East Bay Suites. The room was small but it had a (fake) fireplace and a (real) balcony — upon which we could watch it rain. This morning we woke up to a sunny, beautiful day. Too bad we had to leave.

We walked around the Grand Marais harbor area and took a few pictures before driving down the shore. We stopped at Cascade Lodge for breakfast. That’s where I normally stay on the north shore (the lodge, not the restaurant) so it felt like home there.

Farther south we stopped at Palisade Head for a brief walk and some photos. Our last stop on the north shore was Split Rock Lighthouse, a historic attraction I’ve driven by and photographed from a distance many times but never actually toured. It’s pretty cool. There’s a visitor center, lighthouse tours, and a walk down the lake to get the best view of the lighthouse.

I wish I would have had one more day.

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