Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Camping Vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior

Well, last week we spent camping on the North Shore of Lake Superior -- more specifically, we camped Wednesday night and Thursday night in Tettagouche State Park, near Silver Bay. We were lucky to have many friends who offered to lend us camping equipment. By the time we were loaded up and ready to go (a three-day process), the car was packed to the gills. We had to substantially re-pack in the Twin Cities (where we stopped overnight) in order to make the groceries fit.
The weather was cool-ish -- highs in the 60s, lows in the lower 40s -- but we anticipated that, and dressed accordingly. The kids slept in real sleeping bags (borrowed) and wore winter hats to bed. We cooked over a campfire -- a frozen meal the first night and brats and hot dogs the second. (Sorry, camping purists, but we're taking baby steps here.) S'mores both nights. They're messy, but they kind of define the nadir of every camping trip for the kids.

Besides trying to start and keep our campfires (B and M got to build and light the fires using wooden matches), we spent our days doing one of two things: hiking to some amazing scenic location (a big waterfall or lakeshore) or watching the kids throw rocks into water. You would think they'd be bored on those rocky, cold beaches, but far from it -- they actually really enjoyed running around, leaping from rock to rock, finding little "tide pools" (their term), and just generally exploring. And throwing rocks into the water. They must have logged several hours throwing rocks into the water. The older kids called it "spelunking" because of the sound the rocks made going in. Then I showed them how to skip rocks and that was a whole new thing.
We saw lots of waterfalls. Two-Step Falls was just a tenth of a mile from our campsite (we could hear it all night long); there was kind of a rocky grotto there that the kids enjoyed playing in. Later, we hiked to the High Falls, the tallest waterfall completely in Minnesota (a 60-foot drop). We crossed a suspension bridge to get to the other side of the river. We also hiked to a spot on the shore called Shovel Point, and stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse (but didn't go in -- the cost was prohibitive).
by far the best waterfall was the one at Gooseberry State Park. Not only is it spectacularly wide, you can also sort of "interact" with the falls and the river -- the kids were running all over the place, jumping over little rivulets and across sections of the river on rocks. (As were all the other tourists -- maybe 100 people total in that section.)
Not surprisingly, the hotel was a big hit as well. We drove to Superior on Friday afternoon and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. The kids loved the pool. We loved the bed. :) The next day we toured Canal Park (Duluth's waterfront) -- saw a couple of huge ships, watched the lift bridge go up and down, watched a tiny pedestrian drawbridge, walked out to the end of the pier, etc. Capped by a really bad, overpriced meal at Grandma's, a Duluth institution.
S and the girls at the end of the pier.

M in front of Split Rock lighthouse.

The girls in front of the Upper Falls at Gooseberry.

B and M in the middle of the river at Gooseberry -- we actually had to make our way carefully across a number of stepping stones to get here.
On the ride home, the kids listened to two Laura Ingalls Wilder books: The Long Winter and Little House in the Big Woods. The kids were enjoying the first book but S complained it was too long and "dark." So we listened to the second title from the Twin Cities all the way back home -- not a bad way to end.
All in all, we decided it was a lot of work -- but also well worth the conversations and memories.
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