Made it out of St Paul, whew! But where are we going. We have in mind recapitulating a trip we made in 1975 or so when the boys were young and we visited in Edina, MN to attend Erica Rudin’s Bat Mitzvah. So it was clear that out next stop had to be on or near the North Shore of Lake Superior. Carol, in the mean time, had been studying maps and found several interesting side trips that coincided with her desire to go kayaking in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA).
The first stop was Two Harbors, MN, just north of Duluth. Here we stayed in a lovely public campground on the edge of town and right on the lake. We started out by touring the town and its piers and lighthouse area. We were stunned to find a very small locomotive collection, two engines, one very old and quite small and the other, well I’ll insert the pictures and they tell the story of this 2-8-8-4 monster built in 1943 (for those who don’t have fond memories of steam the numbers mean the locomotive has 2 wheels on the front guide truck and a total of 16 drive wheels in two groups of 8 followed by 4 more wheels on the trailing truck).
We kept hearing noise from the area where the piers were located, but could not see what was going on. As we continued the tour we got around the other side of the harbor and were able to see a lake freighter between the piers taking on ore in a gravity feed down the chutes from the ore pockets on the pier as they were designed many years ago. Although the industry has declined significantly from its hey day in the ’30s it still continues to mine and load ore for the making of steel in other ports on the Great Lakes. The next day we drove up to Gooseberry State park where we planned to see the falls and then bike to Split Rock Lighthouse about 6 miles further up the coast. We stayed a bit longer than planned at Gooseberry and then found that the bike trail out of the park was under construction and we would have to drive a couple of miles up the road to begin our ride. Ultimately our ride became a total of about 6 or 7 miles none of which were level. The downhills were terrifying and the uphills grueling, we enjoyed the ride and the visit to the lighthouse was fascinating. Of course there was much more to see than we were here last in 1975, a large visitor center has been built and much of the equipment has been restore or reconstructed. When the Coast Guard closed the lighthouse in the 60’s they has stripped it of any useful equipment and essentially abandoned it to the state. This had been the most visited lighthouse in the service until that time so its reconstruction was a matter of time and money. I am sure it is once again one of the most visited lighthouse locations (along with several others we have visited :))
Showers and dinner back at Gee 2 prepared us for our next adventure further up the coast. We headed up to Grand Marais a mere 50 miles from the Canadian Border. There is the beginning of the Gunfllint Trail and we had set our sights on driving the trail and camping along it. We noted that all the campgrounds along the trail are operated by the National Forest Service. We have always found those parks among the prettiest. Given that we wanted to see Grand Marais as well we chose the first campground on the way, Devil Track Lake is its name and I can highly recommend any site in that campground, but #10 is truly exquisite. Carol backed Gee 2 into the site so our curb side faced the lake and the rest of the coach was nestled in the trees such that once we closed the front drapes we were totally private. The sites on either side of us were occupied and not much else in the campground. We were unaware of our neighbors and they of us unless we chose to step out on the road to greet them on the way to and from the boat launch. We inflated our Sea Eagle kayak and launched it on the lake for a mornings play right from our site. Our plan had been to go further into the BWCWA, but the shortest routes were measured in days and even the shortest hike we could find was 52 kilometers. We spent much of the rest of the day sitting in the sun, on our oh so private and beautiful campsite, reading. You should know that all of this luxury cost $7.50 a night (that is a 50% discount for surviving to 65). Thank you fellow taxpayers. Of course there was no running water, sanitary sewer or electricity available, but what do you want for $7.50 a night. We were well prepared for an extended stay as we had just been dry camping (with electric) for 7 nights at the convention. Our generator supplied all the electricity we needed. We did drive into Grand Marais twice, the second time because there was a semblance of cell service there so we could be in touch with family. This was our last time on the network until we reached Sault Ste Marie, two days later.
We left our site in the woods as the campground was starting to fill with the weekend approaching. At the border the Canadian inspector was most concerned about the car in tow which I assured him was ours and we did indeed intend to bring it back to the States with us. He did not ask for papers.
Before we reached the border we entered the Grand Portage Reservation and stopped at Grand Portage National Monument. This was the location of the Rendezvous where the Voyageurs from Montreal met the trappers who had spent the winter collecting furs to trade with the East. It was managed by the Northwest Trading Company until the border between the US and Canada was established at which point the trading post was moved to Fort William on the other side of the border. This is a wonderful stop and the costumed interpreters were excellent. After a couple of hours we continued on to Thunder Bay ON where we eventually found our targeted campground and set up for a night. We thought we might stay two nights, but after a drive through of the town we decided that there was little of interest to hold us. In the morning we broke camp and drove to Fort William and parked in a very empty lot as the place was not yet open. This is done on a much grander scale than Grand Portage. It has been operating since the 70’s and has a lot of people playing the roles of life at the fort in1815. It is better not to admit being from “America” as the Scots are not particularly well disposed to the people who defeated them in the War of 1812. We managed not to get arrested, but were challenged a couple of times in the name of fun. Among the highlights of our visit was a chance to join the crew of a Voyageur canoe and paddle it on the river that the Fort sits on. It is no small task to paddle a broad beamed 24 foot birch bark canoe with a couple of kids waving paddles at random. And two other adult visitors and a crew of two from the Fort.
By noon or so we worked our way back to the entrance and after lunch on Gee 2 we set off for Sault Ste Marie where I am sitting now in Glenview Cottages and Campground. We are just down the road from Blueberry Hill where we remember staying with the kids on that long ago trip. We will be going on a Lock Tour soon. It is a two hour boat ride that includes going up the American Locks and down the Canadian Locks and a tour of the area as time permits after the locks.