Today we set off for north country. We drove from our hotel in Woodbury, MN up to Duluth, MN and points north along Lake Superior. We noted several streetlights along the interstate that were “equipped” with their own resident hawks, looking for breakfast apparently. When we got to Duluth, we followed a scenic drive called Skyline Drive. It runs along the hills north of the city and has some spectacular views of Lake Superior along the way.
Lake Superior is our last Great Lake to visit. We have viewed the other four on previous trips. I recall thinking Lake Michigan was like an ocean. So is Lake Superior. We were only on the narrower portion of it, but you could barely make out the shore across the way.
After passing through Duluth, we followed Rt 61 along the Lake. We stopped to view the lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN. It was a quaint, red brick building. Very picturesque. After taking a few photos, we had a quick lunch at the Old Harborside Cafe & Bakery. Just burgers, but made just for us – fresh and flavorful. The interior had quite a number of oil lamps, old photos and railroad memorabilia. The area was a railroad hub in the past and there is a museum nearby, though we did not go to see it. We were headed to Gooseberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse.
We decided to go past the state park to the lighthouse first, then catch the falls on the return trip. It turned out to be a wise choice.
Split Rock Lighthouse is in the town of Castle Danger, just south of Beaver Bay. It is set on the top of rock cliffs, much like many Maine lighthouses. We noticed that there was a roadside pullout with a fairly good though distant view and decided to check it out on the way back. We pulled into the parking lot for the lighthouse visitor center and gift shop and went in. We discovered that you can’t see the lighthouse from the visitor center. You have to pay $8.50 per person for a “45 minute guided tour.” I assume that includes the time it takes to walk to the lighthouse, tour it and walk back. If you just wanted to go on a self-tour, you still had to pay $8.50 per person. Maybe it’s the New England frugality in me, but I couldn’t justify paying that much money to take a few photos of a lighthouse! We left. We went back to the roadside pullout and I took some free photos from that spot. With the zoom on the camera as well as the digital zoom, they are very clear and lovely because they show the location of the lighthouse on the cliffs.
At this point we were just a little more than 100 miles from the Canadian border. We had taken scenic drives along the way up. The only wildlife we had seen were the hawks just outside of Woodbury (a suburb of St Paul). Where was it? We continued to look.
We turned back and stopped at Gooseberry Falls State Park. The walk to the falls, which is well kept and obviously takes more work than the lighthouse, was free. How nice. We decided to head to the middle and lower falls, rather than the upper falls based on distance and my ability (or disability, if you prefer) to climb hills and stairs. The trip to the middle falls is actually “handicapped accessible” as it has paved ramps as well as the stone steps. I use quotes because it is still a strenuous climb up the ramps. We took some photos and made our way to the lower falls as well, along a boardwalk. Going down the steps to the boardwalk was not too bad, but my knee was not happy going back up. We took our time and I eventually made it back to the parking lot. It had been worth the effort. Due to the rain they’ve had here recently, the falls were running as hard as they do in spring. They were quite a sight!
We headed back toward Woodbury, still looking for wildlife. With the exception of a few birds and a squirrel that had been “napping” in the middle of the Rt 61, we still hadn’t seen anything. About halfway back, we were lamenting the fact that we couldn’t find wildlife in Minnesota. We picked up Rt 35 so we could get back a little earlier. Stopped at Hardees in Hinckley, MN for supper, then back on the highway. There was a sign alerting us to possible deer crossing for the next 2 miles – we laughed out loud! Sure enough, about a mile through, we came across a deer – or rather, what had been a deer at one time. At least I think so. I’m pretty good with jigsaw puzzles, but there were an awful lot of pieces. Not sure how long those pieces had been there – sure looked “weathered.” That’s when the rest of the handful of animals showed up, as well. A few skunks and raccoons also “napping” along the side interstate – including one raccoon who was on his back with a paw raised in greeting – at least I assumed it was a greeting – maybe not . . .
Okay – I’m being slightly sarcastic. But really – where are the live animals? I’ve seen more deer in New Jersey than Minnesota. And the gators in Florida were real, not tire treads left along the interstate. I guess I’ll have stick with Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota for wildlife.
We are going to see eagles tomorrow. We’re going to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. Surely we will see eagles!