This may be close to the most perfect day possible in Northern Minnesota. The skies are so blue and the sun so white brilliant that I have to squint even through my sunglasses. The temperature this morning was in the high 50’s and now as it is getting close to noon we are approaching 72. Humidity seems non-existent today. We are continuing our travels east on Highway 2 and just passed Grand Rapids. I know there is also a much larger Grand Rapids in Michigan, but this one is a pleasant small town of under 10,000.
Our campsite last night had electricity but no water, but the park showers were less than 100 yards from the site, so we both took advantage of the unlimited, free hot water. Our site, one of the few pull through’s with electricity, seemed to be right in the middle of the path to the showers, but once we were parked, no one seemed to use the path through our campsite. Of course, the campground was close to empty, so that may have helped. The long, long, very long, trailer was parked in the site adjacent to ours, and the owners had several small children, but with all the thick forest we never heard them at all. Night was perfectly cool for sleeping and quiet this morning except for the songbirds.
This morning I took advantage again of the nearly instantaneous wireless connection to search for our next port and we decided on the Jay Cooke State Park just a few miles south of Duluth. Often the state parks are a bit spendy with the extra fees tacked on, but the campsites are usually spaced well, and much more private than many public RV parks. Our plan today is to park the MoHo and then use this magnificent day to explore Highway 31 north of Duluth to Silver Bay.
Lawns. I must talk about lawns in Minnesota. Lawns here must have a great deal of importance in Minnesota culture. At the visitor center yesterday there was a very large glossy brochure, placed right next to the large “Travel Minnesota” brochure, titled:”How to Manage your Minnesota Lawn”. This morning as we drove back to the highway through the local neighborhoods, we saw many small tidy houses surrounded by acres and acres of huge lawns, all brilliant green and manicured to perfection. Often as not, on this Wednesday morning, there was someone out in a very large lawn machine mowing. Although one time we did see a lawn that had to be five acres with two people busy operating regular walk behind gas lawn mowers. Of course, irrigation is non-existent, as this place gets enough summer rain to support all this verdant landscape.
Our drive east of Bemidji passed the southern portion of the Chippewa Forest, more verdant green hardwoods, interspersed by spruce bogs, firs, and red and jack pines. Lakes are becoming so common that we roll our eyes and say, oh gee, another lake. It’s much like that feeling in Europe when you think, “oh, gee, another beautiful cathedral”. Reading the AAA Road Guide made us want to stop and drive some of the side roads, but Mo reminded us that the goal of this trip is actually Toronto and Niagara Falls, so we need to somehow stay focused and refrain from wandering off in every tantalizing direction. As Laurie said recently, this is the big difference between touring the country in six weeks and crossing it without a deadline.
Early in the afternoon we passed through the town of Cloquet, on the St Louis River. In addition to many well cared for Craftsman homes and neighborhoods, there was a small unassuming gas station perched on the corner where we planned to turn east. A closer look at the AAA guide book revealed this gas station was one of 13 structures built by Frank Lloyd Wright. What a little treasure! Continuing along the river to the smaller town of Carlton, we were impressed with the entire area. The homes were tidy, the yards immaculate, everything seemed so fresh and inviting.
Earlier in the day I managed to get a reservation for an electric site in the state park for tomorrow, but they wouldn’t allow me to book anything for today. We decided to take our chances and when we checked in to the park, were able to take site number 1, first-come-first serve site number 1. Although on the main road, it was better than taking another site closer to our reservation for tomorrow because we didn’t have to move. We do know better than to travel on Labor Day weekend without reservations, and out west it would be impossible. (I am remembering a Labor Day at the California coast in a marina parking lot!). But we are doing it anyway and are hoping for a small city park or out of the way RV park to take us in over the weekend as we continue traveling east. The reservation at Killarney Provincial Park awaits us for Sunday night, and one way or the other we will get there!
Jay Cooke State Park is bisected by the St Louis River, and includes a swinging bridge that has been restored, several CCC stone buildings, and 4 large loops in the campground. It was perfect for us, and we set up quickly so that we could get to the Scenic North Shore route before too late in the day.