July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

By chance, we stayed within a few miles of our daughters’ summer workplace.  In fact, we could see the wind turbine at their camp from the balcony of our room!

The girls at Wolf Ridge looking inland (the opposite view looks over Lake Superior).

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

The small indoor climbing tower. I still think it’s great the girls wanted to work together this summer.

Here’s a view of our B&B cabin from the river. I’m standing on a rock island in the river and wasn’t quite high enough to see all the water over the rocks.

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

Although we didn’t get a chance to use it, there was a fanciful wood-fired sauna! As if Dr. Suess wasn’t Finnish!

July 13, 2013 – Superior Hiking Trail

We spent the good part of the afternoon hiking on a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Temperance River to the Cross River and back again. Of course the part we covered was less than 1%  of the entire trail (unless you count going there and back – then more than 1.7%!) of the total trail length of 296 miles – Duluth to the Canadian border.

I promised you more self-photos – this along the stretch where the trail goes along the Temperance River.

OK, one more.

Although hard to see in this photo, this is one of my favorite vantage of any north shore stream.  Right here, the river take a sharp 90 degree turn and you can stand on a rock seemingly in the middle of the river and look upstream at eye level with the onrushing waters and look downstream to a waterfall.

Superior Hiking Trail Sign

Finally away from the river, we snapped a photo of a trail marker.

Superior Hiking Trail Boardwalk

Some parts of the trail are wet and have a boardwalk.

Superior Hiking Trail mud

Some portions are wet and have mud.

Other portions are wet and have rock guides.

Superior Hiking Trail maples

Part of the trail passes through a maple forest.

Superior Hiking Trail aspen

Other parts an aspen forest.

Yet other parts, a pine forest.

Superior Hiking Trail ferns

Then there are open areas covered with ferns.

Superior Hiking Trail fireweed

Even some openings adorned with fireweed.

Every once and a while, you get a vista of Lake Superior.

Superior Hiking Trail cross river campground

There is a beautiful campsite at the Cross River.

Cross River

Another rolling and tumbling stream – the Cross River.

Cross River

Cascades, pools, and waterfalls upstream – a great playground.

A parting shot.

July 12, 2013 – Mark and Linda Get-Away

The longest time off Linda will have all summer is this three-day weekend in the middle of July. So we escaped north to Lake Superior. First stop is the always spectacular Palisade Head.

We thought we’d join the self-indulgent trend of self-photos – this is one of many on the trip!

We took a hike along the cliff to the north until we reached the signs alerting us to go no further as not to bother the nesting peregrine falcons – but this is a great view back to the south towards Palisade Head.

Some nifty flowers along the trail.

Fortunately, I was able to hold on and pull myself up from the brink.  But I was a bit perturbed that Linda was snapping photos instead of offering a hand ;)

 

June 7, 2013 – Superior Good Bye

The last night before heading home.

We had a nice site on a small hill overlooking an arm of Bearskin Lake.

east bearskin lake

‘Twas a beautiful night, so beautiful in fact, it was one of the rare nights it was so beautiful that the fish were enjoying it with me and refused to bite.  But as a consolation we first heard, then saw a moose getting into the lake and sloshing around for a bit.

campfire

Aah, the campfire at the end of the day.  And look – bare legs so that means skeeters weren’t so bad.

Lake Superior Shore

One last stop on the big lake on the way home for lunch.

Lake Superior Pebbles

Superior pebbles.

Flat rocks, water, and a kid.  What else do you need?

June 6, 2013 – A Short Superior History Tour

Since Martin seemed captivated by the history of the quarry at Banning State Park, we decided to to some more history.  First stop today was the St. Louis County Historical Society’s exhibits in the old train depot in Duluth.  Among other exhibits was one room chronicling the immigrant experience.  It was interesting to me since both sides of my family immigrated in the turn-of-the-century timeframe. Perhaps in biggest contrast to today’s immigrants, there were huge dormitories built for incoming immigrants to have a safe place to stay for a few months until they earned enough to get a place of their own.

But the main attraction here is the collection of vintage local trains.  One of the most fascinating to me was this rail mail car. The attendant would reach out with a hook and grab a mail bag hung up at many locations along the route where the train did not stop.  The mail was sorted en route, and the cool part was if the mail was for a stop further down the track, the attendent would throw out the mail bag, which could have included mail picked up just hours ago!  Beat that Fed Ex!  Of course, if the mail was on a stop behind the train’s route, it wouldn’t get delivered that day.

How awesome is this snowplow train!

Here’s a fancy dining car from back in the day.

And here is the mother of all locomotives.  This coal-fired steam locomotive was 128 feet long!  Over half the length was the compartment to carry coal.  This monster burned one ton of coal every six minutes!  It could carry 28 tons of coal in its own coal bin.  It ran iron ore from the Iron Range down to Lake Superior and in its day was the most powerful locomotive in existence.  There were many other trains, including cranes, a rotary snowplow, and the first locomotive to arrive in Minnesota, via boat, of course, not rail.

Then it was off to Split Rock Lighthouse.

When the lighthouse was built in 1910, there were no roads, so all the building supplies were lifted up the cliff via a steam-powered hoist and derrick, including all the bricks necessary to built the lighthouse, foghouse, three keeper houses and barns, along with of course all the supplies and people for a number of years (if the lake was calm).  Five years after construction a tramway was built to make things a bit easier, but it was not until 1924 that a highway was built, allowing more reliable transport of goods.

Martin loved the new slogan of the Split Rock “Before GPS, there was a really big light.”  The lighthouse ceased operation in 1969.

Part of the lamp, with the reflecting glass engineered to produce a beam visible from the furthest distance from the kerosene lamp.

split rock lamp

Some of the mechanics of the apparatus used to spin the light.  On the very top of this photo you can see a green disk that contained 300 pounds of mercury to help keep the light level.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood – drop in.

June 4, 2013 – Itasca Day One

The next day we headed over to Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest and one of the biggest state parks.  An interesting story is about the nation’s first female park superintendent, Mary Gibbs. She was superintendent shortly after the park was formed, but before the lumber barons.  She had a showdown at gunpoint with the local logging boss regarding destruction of a dam at the headwaters, flooding the park, but making it easier to transport logs.  At the end of her life, she was just as fiesty, going on a hunger strike at the nursing home to protest being charged 75 cents extra to take her meal in her room instead of the dining hall.

Itasca State Park Sign

The north park entrance.

Itasca Cabin

Our cabin near the lake within the park.

Inside Itasca Cabin

The cabin is one of the gems built by the WPA in the 30′s. It had logs walls, wood floors, a sink, small fridge, sink, stove, but no oven, and bathroom without a shower.  But it was great timing to have the cabin over the 24 hours of rain on this segment of the trip.

Lake Itasca

One arm of Lake Itasca in the mist.

The light rain didn’t deter us from catching dinner.

rainbow on lake itasca

A rainbow was one reward for the rain.

It was an all white/yellow meal.  Fried fresh fish, rice side dish, applesauce, and with the leftover “Shore Lunch” fish brading, we breaded some onions for onion rings.

Lodge at Itasca State Park

After dinner, we toured the interpretive center and looked around the park.  This is the lodge for dining, with rooms on the 2nd floor, much like some of the classic park lodges in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

June 3, 2013 – Temperance River

Our second night was at Temperance River State Park.  The river is so named because, unlike most other tributaries to Lake Superior, this river does not have the characteristic rock or sand “bar” at the mouth of the river, thus it’s name!

Temperance River Campground, eureka apex 2-person tent

We snagged a good campsite, with nothing but trees and a short hill between us and Lake Superior.  I do not like the Eureka Apex tent – as you can see the rain fly makes you guess from which direction the the driving rain might arrive as the fly only covers 60% of the tent area.

hidden falls on temperanceriver

On up the river.  At one point, the entire river seems to emerge from a dark cave.

Up above, the entire flow of the river is constricted to this narrow passageway, very deep and bubbly.

A bit further upstream, the gorge widens a bit, and provides a permanent rainbow (at least on sunny days).

Temperance River

Upstream even further from the narrow gorge.

Finally around the bend, the river is at its “normal” width.

catkins

Spring catkins!

lake superior, bou at lake superior at dusk

Finally after dinner, we watched the evening ebb along the shore of Lake Superior.

June 2, 2013 – Martin-Daddy Week Begins!

This week is the 2nd annual Martin-Daddy explore the northwoods week in Northern Minnesota. We drag the canoe up for the girls to go on a BWCA trip and bum around waiting for them to come out. The first night we stayed at Banning State Park, which is about 60 miles south of Duluth on the Kettle River.

Boy on Kettle River

Martin along the Kettle River.

Banning State Park Camping Cabin

We stayed in a what they call a camping cabin – a cabin with a table and two bunk beds – no plumbing, no electricity. Good on rainy days or to keep bugs out and to have room to stretch around.

We made some foil dinners.

Hells Gate Trail Sign

We took the trail that was not recommended for young children – although shortly after the beginning of the trail we saw a family retreating with a stroller! I guess the vertical climbs 20 feet up rock faces was a bit too much for the stroller.  This is the friendly portion of the trail.

Kayak in Kettle River

The trail led to a rapids and we sat and watched a bunch of kayakers shoot through the rapids, most stayed head side up.

Martin points to a kettle – a geologic formation formed by rocks swirling in a hole until they drill down in the sandstone, making a pretty good cooking kettle in reverse.

Kettle Hole in Rock

A look up through the bottom of the kettle Martin pointed at in the previous picture. Most of the work was done about 10,000 years ago with the draining of glacial Lake Duluth.

The park was home to a turn-of-the-century quarry. Martin took us through the interpretive hike.

Banning Quarry Power house

This shot is looking inside the power house. It was a rather apocalyptic scene to view the ruins with trees growing inside the ruins of the building.

Before the power house, the holes were created by hand and blasted with black powder.

trillium

The woods were full of blooming trillium.

November 19, 2012 – Brief Morning on Lake Superior

Before the noon funeral, we were afforded a few brief moments on Lake Superior.

silhouettes on rocky beach at sunrise

We awoke before the sun and headed down to Brighton Beach.

ore boat at sunrise, lake superior

Merchant vessel Walter J. McCarthy Jr. heads out of port for points east.  She’s a modern great lakes boat, about 1/5 of a mile long, measuring 1,000 feet long.

November 20th on the lake in fall coats?

lester creek, creek in late fall

We also took a short walk up Lester Creek.  All of the shots today were taken within the city limits of Duluth, a great place to get outside.

June 7, 2012 – Someone Else’s Canoe Trip

While Martin and I were bumming around northern Minnesota, the girls and a couple of brother-friends were on a canoe trip.

I offered help, only as asked as Claire gets all things packed for the trip.

Aa beautiful day to hit the water paddling.

Emma, at the stern in her element.

Claire portaging the canoe between lakes.

All settled in at the campsite.

Creative cooling as always when camping – why not put some dried fruit and nuts in the biscuits?

Pump, pump, pump that water through the water purifier.

Some of the crew at the head of a portage.

The whole crew having a snack near the end of the day.  I take it as an encouraging sign that the bugs are not so bad to allow shorts.  I’m sure it must have been a great trip for the kids to manage successfully without parental guidance for five days in the wilderness.

June 6, 2012 – Last Day

Today was the last non-driving vacation day.  We arrived near Ely with some time to spare before picking up the kids, so Martin and I just hung out at the public landing on Snowbank Lake.

snowbank lake

Lunch on a deep, blue northern lake can’t be beat!  After picking up the canoers, cooking them up a dinner, I took a couple hours of quiet time and went back to Snowbank for a couple of hours.

smallmouth bass, smallmouth stringer

Once I found the pattern, the fish were easy to catch.  They weren’t falling for artificial spinners or plugs, they weren’t falling for leeches or crawlers suspended off the bottom in deeper water, they weren’t suspended over deeper water, but they were hanging out about 10-15 feet from shore, so I actually had to cast towards shore from the dock, not out into the lake.  The night was quiet, I only saw two boats go by, the same number of Bald Eagles that were screeching and circling nearby.

June 5, 2012 – Got Fish?

Today we settled in at friend’s cabin near Duluth.  Spent some quality time on the dock.

In between kayaking and floating around on the lake, Martin still found time to join us on the dock for some fishing.  He also managed to catch the biggest fish of the day.

Her looks a bit apprehensive about holding the prehistoric-looking pike.

A few ours on the boat yielded few fish, but fishing from the dock provided some pretty good action!

June 3rd, 2012 – Lock this Day Up, Part II

To top off our day, we spent some time near the St. Louis river south of Duluth.  Eventually the river drains into Lake Superior forming a large estuary and exits through the Duluth and Superior ship canals, and his held behind by Park Point (the beach from yesterday).  The Ojibwe call the river Gichigami-ziibi (the great lake-river).  It is the largest river to empty into Lake Superior.

There was 6-9 inches of rain the week before the arrived, so the river was near its peak flow.  There are the highest class rapids (class VI) at this point and below and ABOVE this picture is the take-out point for white-water rafters and more sedentary class IV rapids.

The root-beer colored water roars through this point in Jay Cooke State Park.

Further downstream, more ordinary standing waves and boils fill the channel.  The river was a loud, brash spectacle of water, rock and energy.

We stopped for dinner at Canal Park, and Martin worked up an appetite trying to pull the William A. Irvin, an ore boat anchored in the harbor.

After our visit to the river, we spent the night at Camp Miller in Sturgeon Lake, where I spent many summers as a counselor, naturalist, trip leader, and camp caretaker.  We stopped in and ended the day with a conversation long into the night with Bernie, a kindred spirit and fellow top-notch gardener and handyman.  The highlight was hearing about his maple sugaring and his first prize ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for his syrup.

June 2, 2012 – Lock This Day Up and Throw Away the Key

This was a day so wonderful you wish you could lock it up and throw away the key.  Martin and I bummed down from Ely to south of Duluth, stopping as we pleased.  In fact, it was so scenic, I’m splitting it into two days, since it can’t all fit in one post.  We even saw a moose near the road on the drive down to the lake.

shovel point

It was a rare calm day on Lake Superior.  This is a view of Shovel Point, north of Silver Bay.

We stopped in for a look at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland, MN, to see where Claire will be working this summer.  Here’s a sign taken just for Linda.

The hike up to Marshall Mountain was fun.

Here it is, up on the top of the ridge overlooking Lake Superior.

Raven Lake to the left and Wolf Lake, not visible in this photo, to the right.

A replica Voyageur canoe, capable of taking 24 people along.

wolf lake

From the shore of Wolf Lake, looking towards the south.

The buildings at Wolf Ridge have the seashorey kind of look – this is the science center.  I hope it’s a great place for Claire to live and work this summer.
view from shovel point

A view looking down from Shovel Point towards Duluth.

calm lake superior

A rare calm day – you can see Wisconsin on the horizon.

stones in water

These are some underwater rocks on the shore.  Superior’s got stones!

Straight down from these rocks, we saw a giant fish – hard to tell how big it was, but from the only thing nearby to get an accurate measurement, it appeared to be about 2 loon lengths long.

gooseberry falls

We also stopped a ways down the road at Gooseberry Falls.

park point

The last stop on this portion of the day was a different kind of Superior shore, this one, a very long sandy beach from Duluth to Superior.