(I fear the link above may not work. Please inform me if so.)
Being under the impression Thelma was completely fixed, the time had come to drive it a long distance. I intended to go from Bemidji (top of the state) to the Iowa boarder and back. I changed my mind and, felt taking advantage of some of the most spectacular views this state has to offer, I chose to go East and up the North Shore.
Thought my mom might want to tag along so at 6am I met her in Grand Rapids (it would have been out of the way to come get her at home). I love driving the North Shore. Highway 61 will take you from Duluth along Lake Superior where you will encounter some of the most breath-taking views, to Grand Portage, cross the boarder and HWY 61 will eventually end at Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. If you’re a camper and hiker like myself you’ll thoroughly enjoy the dozen or so state parks that make up the Superior National Forest. If you’re more into canoeing or kayaking like I wish I was you’ll still fall in love with this gem in the world, but you’ll also more enjoy the BWCA – Boundary Waters Canoe Area which is 1703 square miles and covers 1,090,000 acres. Just to say, us Northern Minnesotans love our forests, love our waters, and love to keep it preserved for all to enjoy.
My pictures can’t even do justice to the absolute purest heaven that is the North Shore. Mom and I arrived in Duluth around 9. We stopped for just a minute down in Canal Park. I love this part of Duluth the most. It’s at the mouth of the harbor and you can sit all day if you want watching big barges coming and going underneath Duluth’s famous Lift Bridge while dining at Grandma’s, Old Chicago, Bellisio’s Italian Restaurant, or grab a brew at Canal Park Brewery. That time of day nothing but the little gas station was open. I was meeting a man about a cooler, pottied, and we were on our way.
…My mom is an odd lady. She’s old, as most mothers are, married for 47 years, but she’s constantly flirting with the young guys. Had to pry her away from the cashier….
Our next stop was Betty’s Pies – a ma n’ pa-type diner with tasty hot food, coffee that hits all the right spots, and you guessed it, PIES!
They have around 20 pies to choose from and have great big boards posted at various corners of the restaurant listing what pies are still available and what has sold out. Order your slice first before someone else gets it!
Betty’s Pies is outside of Two Harbors and my own tradition to stop when I’m in the area. My mom had never been there so it was an even more special treat. We filled up on a hot breakfast, early morning pie, couple cups of coffee with just the right amount of flavored cream and sugar to make you go, “Mmm” with every sip, and thanked goodness they had just run out of bread pudding because that would have been coming with us.
After Betty’s Pies came Gooseberry Falls. Mom twisted her knee a couple weeks back so we couldn’t get a whole lot of good hiking in, but I was still able to show her the shoreline and the falls. In 1900 the Nester Logging Company set up shop at the mouth of Gooseberry and built a logging railroad inland to reach the standing pine. Remnants of this can still be found at the beach.
After Gooseberry was Split Rock Lighthouse. I love lighthouses. I love this lighthouse because of the story of The Edmund Fitzgerald. Lake Superior boasts some wicked stories of sinking ships; the Edmund Fitzgerald is it’s most famous.
Minnesota state parks are great in that if you want to get a day pass to see a park it’s $5, good for all day, and good for all parks within the state. An annual pass is only $25. I can tell you Wisconsin gives hour passes for $5. One hour. Just sayin’…
After Split Rock was the place I dreaded most on this trip. The Palisade Head. Rising over 300 feet above Lake Superior, one of the North Shore’s tallest views is a must see. And I like seeing it, I just didn’t want to drive up there. The road up is an extremely steep service road, barely fitting one car one way. The speed limit is 10mph. Thelma sputtered to its opening…and thought about dying. I had to stop and say a prayer. When I did Thelma attempted dying again and I felt God was trying to tell me something. Mom wouldn’t let me listen. This is why we came this way – to see if we could make it up a steep hill. How would I know if I could get over the Rockies? Up the windy road we went. I kept asking God, “Please let there be no one coming down. Please let there be no one coming down. I can’t stop or move over. I don’t want to die…” I had to go 25mph or Thelma would have stalled out. Around a bend she went, I focused on not going over the left side and failed to see on the right was a gigantic boulder. SMASH!, wreeeeEEEEEEE, I scratched Thelma all along the side of the boulder. My mom yelled and screamed, “Cathy! CATHY! Watch out!” I had no idea it was coming! It’s such a large vehicle. While I was trying not to fall off one side I was missing a large rock-like protrusion on the other. I slowed and Thelma almost died. Couldn’t stop. Had to continue to the top.
Mom had never been to the Palisade and she’s nervous about heights. Not that she’s afraid to be up high, but that one could so easily fall off of such a tall place.
There were two men preparing for a climb. We waited a bit – Mom was excited to get a picture of them going down, but they were taking awhile and we had to keep driving. We still have a few more hours to our destination.
After Palisade was a quick stop into my most favorite sate park, Tettegouche located in the town of Silver Bay. If you ever desire a visit, I highly, highly, highly suggest reserving a cart-in site. They’re all along the lake shore. H, I, and J are fabulous. They have easy beach access, J having the best spot for a secluded spot on the rocks to watch the sunset or enjoy a full moon with a bottle of wine and your honey. I’m a Cab Sav man myself, but you bring the wine that suits your mood. I has it’s own private beach inlet with a good collection of flat rocks for stacking or skipping stones. Keep in mind these cart-in spots book fast so reserve early. H especially. If you want H plan to book 8 or more months ahead of visiting.
Mom and I didn’t do any hiking in Tett, I only wanted to show her where I enjoy my fall camping. That’s the thing about camping in Minnesota. We boast the largest, thirstiest mosquitoes known to man so if you want to camp, I suggest doing it in September. Oh beautiful September. It’s cool nights, warm days, and no bother from our blood-sucking friends. Ticks aren’t so bad either!
We took in the sights along the drive, stopped at scenic outlooks when we desired, but until our destination there weren’t anymore scheduled stops. We passed Temperance River State Park, another beautiful place to camp and snapped a few photos of their littler falls, but besides that, we drove until we were done.
Our final destination, the most unique and historical resort you will find on the North Shore, was Lutsen Resort in Lutsen, MN. I will admit, I discovered this with my former boyfriend. We wanted a romantic getaway and instead of our usual camping we decided to spice it up and stay at a resort. Lutsen’s main lodge has a Scandinavian design with hand-hewn beams and stone fireplaces. The rooms are your typical “lodge” rooms – bed, bath, television, and not much else. I love it, personally. But if you like something more spacious, more modern, with a fridge and not so rustic, they also have log cabins, villas, condos, and townhomes.They also have a salon and spa if you want that couple’s massage package.
Lutsen has a fine dining restaurant overlooking the lake, it is beautiful, but the price is high and the food only okay for the price. I will always tell everyone I know, go to the pub instead! You don’t need the fancy sea bass with wild rice dish, get a burger, couple pints, and split some fries.
My favorite memory of Lutsen was coming up the week after Valentine’s Day 2014. There was a blizzard (another thing Minnesota is famous for) and we were stuck there. We ate at the pub every night along with the five other couples staying in the lodge and watched the Olympics. It was the best! The other guests, bartender, and myself talked over beers about downhill skiing and which country was doing better than the other in warm Sochi.
A brief history of Lutsen: In 1885 a Swedish man, Charles Axel Nelson, built his homestead on this most beautiful piece of land and called it Lutsen. Fishing, logging, and trapping were the main sources of money and Nelson’s home was a common spot for these type of men to stop along their path northward. Where the lodge is today is where Nelson’s house used to be. The home expanded to accommodate so many visitors and eventually turned into the Lutsen we know and love today. The Swedish-style hewn pine timber lodge was designed by renowned architect Edwin Lunde for which he received an architectural award; pretty neat!
Mom and I had the fortunate opportunity to be staying at Lutsen during a wedding. It was a rainy, gloomy day, but the clouds parted for a brief moment, letting warmth and sun through, just when the bride and groom were saying their vows down by the beach. Precious and perfect…didn’t get a glass of champagne though. 😀
Our breakfast was at the CoHo Cafe in Tofte, MN, next to the BlueFin Bay Resort (mentioning it to those of you who don’t do “rustic”). The little cafe has a nice, woodsy view, and at the moment was pretty empty so pleasant. We both ordered granola pancakes. Crazy. Good too! Funny, while there the lights went out! So we ate by morning light. It was spectacular!
It was a wonderful and magical weekend away. My mother hasn’t seen much of the North Shore and I was very excited to be the one to show it to her. I wish we would have had more time so I could have taken her to Grand Marais (pronounced mah-ray) and all the way up to Grand Portage on the Canadian boarder. That will be another trip for another time!
Our trip ended at Lutsen. I was able to share with my mother the place I love to go to the most, all the special stops, and we made it there in one piece. The next day Thelma didn’t want to move. It took a half dozen tries to keep her on and running and any stop we made was a struggle. It was clear there was more wrong with her, but what I didn’t know.