The rest of the photos for this day of travels are linked here.
As we scouted about for “things not to miss” in this part of the country, the North Shore Scenic Route kept appearing in brochures and on maps. Highway 61 follows Lake Superior from Duluth all the way to Thunder Bay, but we decided that going as far as Silver Bay would be sufficient for this late afternoon trip. The traffic through Duluth wasn’t unbearable, even in late afternoon, and we negotiated the narrow lanes in the midst of construction without much of a delay. On the east side of Duluth, however, the scenic route becomes the 61 Expressway, and for much of the distance north we had a perfect view of scrubby trees with only momentary glimpses of the water. The construction zone was a bit confusing as well, and we missed a turnoff to the “real” scenic route, but didn’t figure that out until our return trip in the late evening.
After passing the very tiny hamlet of Silver Bay, we drove north on Highway 1 to find the community of Finland, where something Mo read in a brochure led us to believe there was a Finnish town with shops and Finnish culture to view. We did find Finland, and the culture consisted of a small wooden carved statue at the “Heritage Site” in a grassy patch along the highway. That was certainly a bust!
We headed back to the highway to try to find Lake Superior. Earlier in the day we had attempted to get a campsite at Tettagouche State Park, but when we finally arrived there, both of us were relieved that we had been unsuccessful. Tettagouche was a bit of a scrubby, barren place, with campsites tucked into the stunted trees of this harsh shoreline. Our state park pass for the day did gain us free parking, though, so we found a trail down to the beach and took Abby for a walk and a swim in Lake Superior. The trail was well built, and the views were good, but the beach was quite tiny. It certainly didn’t meet my original expectations of this huge expansive Lake Superior, the largest fresh water body in the world!
After a bit of a hike, a swim for Abby, and some photo opportunities, we drove back south on Highway 61 in hopes of seeing some more of the lake, and possibly some beaches and waterfalls. We found the Split Rock Light Station where there is a fee to simply hike around and photograph the lighthouse. In the adjacent state park, however, our trusty pass gave us the opportunity to hike the trails to an excellent viewpoint of the lighthouse. Gooseberry Falls state park turned out to be the best of the three, with many miles of trails, a lovely campground on the shoreline, and several waterfalls along the Gooseberry River. The day was getting a bit late for photographs but the hike was great and the falls were dramatic; cascading over shelves of dark metamorphic slate. Even at that late hour there were quite a few people hiking around the falls trails.
We continued on our way back to Duluth and stopped again at Two Harbors, where another lighthouse stood watch over the bays. Here we saw the huge iron ore loading docks for the big ships moved ore over Lake Superior. The sun was setting, it was after 8, and I was getting hungry. Look out when I get hungry and my blood sugar drops! We tried to find “food” using Garmin Girl, since on this little jaunt we were in the Tracker with the MoHo safely parked many miles away in Jay Cooke. We also found the turn for the real scenic highway 61 and saw great views of the lake and distant shores of Wisconsin in spite of the dimming light. Garmin Girl tried to take us to some brewery in downtown Duluth, but it was a bit much for our tired bodies in grungy shorts so we passed on that suggestion and continued until we found a Perkins cafe not far west of Duluth.
The food was marginal at best, but it was food, and the waitress was entertaining. There were some rather strange looking people in that restaurant, and I am sure we fit in just fine. By the time we got back to the MoHo, Jeremy was waiting with plaintive meows, wondering why all the windows were open and the fans on full blast when it was freezing cold. I wondered the same thing as we battened down the hatches, donned sweaters and jammies and fell thankfully into a warm bed. Sometimes the feeling of being horizontal after a day like this one is just too wonderful to describe.