Sunday, January 5, 2014

#Travel // Minnesota North Coast // October 2013

The 24 hour period we spent driving north along Minnesota's North Coast, we experienced just how ferocious and beautiful the Lake Superior coast is capable of being. After the sea cliff hike outside of Bayfield, we made our way to Duluth short before the sunset. The ominous darkness spreading over the small city's skies was a fair warning we would be driving into something interesting. 

When I travel abroad, I have a hard time explaining what serious bodies of waters the Great Lakes are, when you hear 'lake' you think of a calm, little body of water good for some causal fishing and recreational water-sports. What most people don't know, and think I'm exaggerating about, is how ferocious these waters can get. Massive swells have actually killed those that undermined the powers of the lakes, especially Superior and Michigan. For the locals who do take them seriously, they prefer the title of 'inland seas' for the Great Lakes. 

While in Duluth, Torsten was able to experience the massive waves that crashed against the sea walls and the strong winds that were nearly blowing us away. Between the rain and harsh, cold wind I had no desire to leave the car, but that didn't stop Torsten from wanting a prime view. As we ventured under the bridge we even saw some crazy dudes with jet-ski's ripping through the waves like a couple maniacs!

After I had enough cold rain being blown into my face, I demanded we get dinner at one of my favorite pizza joints found in Minneapolis and originating in Duluth; Pizza Luce. We parked a few blocks from Superior Street, where all the action happens, then made our way along the saturated sidewalks for some divine, cheesy goodness. I was at the point where I was starving, wet, cold and really not wanting anything other than warm food and somewhere dry to enjoy it. No matter how tight our budget was, taking occasional breaks from sitting in a chilly van and eating sandwiches was a necessity. 

We spent the night in Duluth, where we experienced one of the coldest nights yet in the van. Nights were really starting to get cold, and even the stock-pile of comforters and fleece blankets I stole from home were barely keeping us warm with nothing else to heat ourselves at night. We persevered though, staying at hotels was not even an option.

We woke up seeing our breaths, preparing mentally for how cold the rest of our trip, due north, might be. We bundled up and stopped at the first tourist information booth outside of Duluth we could find. We really had no idea of what the North Coast had to offer, but we only planned a day to explore and knew we'd have no trouble finding something to amuse ourselves with until we hit the border. 

Two Harbors was our first source of entertainment, where an incoming vessel was attracting a large crowd of onlookers as it slowly approached the harbor, Torsten being one of them. I, however, was much more amused by the crowds themselves, with their eyes light up and snapping photos like crazy. This was like a legitimate town event we were experiencing. We spent at least 45 minutes sitting there, watching this ship come in.

I really didn't get it. How is this so exciting? The only con to having an  engineer boyfriend is his admiration for industrial boring-ness that he insists on seeing. Some of it is capable of being cool, but many times it is a whole lot of 'eh'. He claims to only look at the pictures on this blog, so I'm not too worried about insulting him. In his defense, he does join me in wandering art museum for hours, so I really have no complaints! But this? This was boring. 

The honor of being the most popular and must-see attraction on the North Coast goes to Gooseberry Falls. Torsten, myself and other the other tourists alike were impressed by the series of waterfalls and trails within this state park. The well-kept trails led to falls that looked as if they could be part of Mr. Wonka's chocolate factory. We wandered around here for  a while, checking out all the different falls and viewpoints. Even with a large, full parking-lot there was enough trail to cover where we never felt overwhelmed or annoyed with any of the other visitors. This stop was definitely my highlight of the day! Nothing beats a photographic hike, even one this busy and easy. 

After the falls, we pretty much drove straight until the U.S./Canadian border, taking the occasional break along the highway to view the gorgeous coastline. The only other real attraction that might have been worth taking time to visit, would have been the Grand Portage National Monument. Though we wouldn't know, I don't think I need to remind you the bitterness I personally had with the government shutdown affecting our trip! 

The closer we got to the border, the more desolate the coastline became. Undisturbed views of wooded coastline led the way, tempting us to stop just about ever ten miles to take it all in. As dusk approached we knew we still had a long way to drive until we could find somewhere open 24 hours to park our van outside and sleep. We took our last stop to catch the last bits of sun settle on the horizon before digging out our passports. 

Up next, we pass customs into Ontario, Canada, where we felt like the only humans alive!
Catch up with the rest of the road trip by clicking here


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