June 28 – July 7, 2019
I’ll warn you up front that this is a long post about a favorite spot so far this season. We’re all set up in a private campground in Two Harbors, Minnesota on the Lake Superior north shore for 10 whole days.
Superior Hiking Trail
The reason we’re here for longer than our normal 3-4 day stop is so Pat can embark on his first backpacking trip of the season. He’s been plotting and planning for months and finally has all his supplies for the big 6 day/5 night adventure. My role in all of this is to drop him off on a Sunday after lunch, hike the first half mile for the scenic view and farewell photo, then return to hang out with Jackson until the Friday afternoon pick-up.
Here’s the view at the scenic spot after almost the first half mile. Lake Superior is in the distance and he’s hopeful that the rest of the trail will be just as grand. Off he goes and I depart. I’m not supposed to hear from him for the next 5 days and I have plans to get a haircut, go agate hunting on the beach, see the two state parks he’ll be hiking through, and make a crafty mess in the motorhome.
It’s day one on my own and I get a haircut first then take Jackson down to Agate Beach in Two Harbors after lunch. It’s a bright, sunny day and actually a little hot in the full sun. I’m happy in my shorts and t-shirt.
Down at the harbor I’m fascinated by the fog that’s rolling in this time of day without a storm in sight. You can just make out the Two Harbors lighthouse right above the tree in the middle of the photo. By the time we leave in about 45 minutes, the lighthouse is completely shrouded in the fog and the fog horn starts sounding off.
At first I think a ship is coming in and I’m very excited until I realize it’s just the harbor navigational aid peeking out of the fog bank. I don’t know about Jackson, but I was cold and wishing for my jacket by the time the fog wrapped itself around us on the shoreline trail.
I just love fog especially over the water and was completely captivated by it. Like a living thing on the lake bringing things into focus and obscuring others. Here’s that navigational aid again, fog coming towards the ore dock and finally the ore dock almost completely blurred from view.
Lake Superior is known for its lovely agates and people comb the beaches looking for them. I had no idea until we saw it listed as one of the top things to do in the area. After chatting up the owner of a cute little gift shop in town, I head to the spot she recommended for the best beach hunting ground.
This is Flood Bay and the spot I hope to find that perfect rock. Just what is a Lake Superior agate you ask? Well, it’s made of the mineral chalcedony, a type of quartz, with colored bands throughout. The bands are colored by mineral impurities, and in this area iron is the culprit giving the agates a reddish-brown to orange color. If I was really into the geology of the whole thing I’d tell you about the basalt, lava flows, and glaciers that all played a part over a billion years ago, but I’m not so I won’t. I just like pretty rocks and Lake Superior agates are certainly that.
Photo on the left – what they look like based on a picture at the state park visitor’s center. Photo on the right – what I found. Hmmm. Not exactly a stunning haul, but then I wasn’t seeing very pretty rocks and losing interest to be honest when I got a text that stopped the hunt altogether.
Pat needs a pick up at a wayside park up the road. He doesn’t answer his phone when I try to call. I’m worried that he’s injured, but head his direction figuring I’ll find out what’s up soon enough. I arrive to find him by the parking lot unhurt but exhausted. The backpacking trip has come to an end after about 16 hours and 18 miles due to a crisis over water and disintegrating boots. Nothing that a trip through the McDonald’s drive-through and about 12 straight hours of sleep can’t fix.
At least this time he takes some pictures to share. Well, just the two actually – one of his campsite on the first night and one of his sad boots. Apparently the trail was very sloppy with deep boot-sucking mud. He knew his boots need replacing, but had no idea the mud would ooze inside and actually start unraveling the toe stitching.
For our next outing, we headed to Duluth to the Duluth Trading Company to get new boots for Pat. We ended up with three pairs of shoes and a few other odds and ends. I needed a replacement for my campground slip-on shoes and my tennis shoes since they both had holes. Right in the garbage they go. And of course you know why Pat’s getting a new pair. Those old boots are unceremoniously chucked in the dumpster since they failed him so.
We like everything we purchased and we certainly laughed at the marketing.
After our shopping spree, we headed down to the aerial life dock to check out the Duluth harbor.
The aerial lift dock at half open for the sailboat.
There’s a guy missing his sailboat.
We hung around long enough to spy a big ship in the distance. Just what we wanted to see go under the bridge.
It’s the Michipicoten, a Canadian self-discharging bulk carrier, with a deadweight of over 22,000 tons. Don’t ask me to define deadweight. There are formulas and other bits of mumbo jumbo and I still don’t get it. Just know it’s a darn big ship and very heavy!
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Now we’re on to Goosberry Falls State Park. I went by myself after I dropped Pat off for his trip, but since he didn’t really get to see it, we’re going back again.
There are two tunnels on the way from Two Harbors to Gooseberry and I thought the chunky rock opening was most interesting.
Goosberry Falls State Park actually has three sets of falls – upper, middle and lower. This photo was taken with me standing at the top of upper falls.
Middle Falls to the left and middle & lower to the right.
And a wild iris for my friend of the same name. You know who you are.
Split Rock Lighthouse
We weren’t too far from Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, so decided to keep on going to see that one on the same afternoon.
The most beautiful lighthouse setting I’ve ever seen. And we’ve seen a few lighthouses.
Split Rock Lighthouse from another angle. And the view from the lighthouse – a misty cove with a kayaker.
The lupines are going crazy on the sides of the road and people are pulling off in droves to take pictures. Like bluebonnet season in Texas. I’d driven this stretch of road between Two Harbors and the state parks a few times by this point and had my best flower spot all picked out. After our lighthouse visit concluded, I bee-lined it for “the spot”.
So lovely and those flowers were tall!
I couldn’t get enough of them in shades of purple, pink and white.
So we were walking around the campground with Jackson when another black lab named Maggie came running out to greet us. Her people told us that we really should take a ride back up the north shore to see Palisade Head. They insisted it would be worth it.
Palisade Head was something and busy with rock climbers.
This gal was dangling at the bottom trying to get her footing again.
The view from Palisade Head was even better. More delicious fog.
A few more from the outing.
We made the trip up this way once more. This time it was to grab lunch at Betty’s Pies which was mobbed every single time we went by. No exception when we went and the people watching was almost as good as the lunch and pies. I had to try the Pastie (pronounced pass TEE), which is a meat pie filled with chicken in my case, rutabaga, onion, carrots and parsley. Rrrrrutabaga! When was the last time you had some if ever? My mom used to fix them when I was young. I just remember them being orange and able to stink up the entire house. I’m glad I tried one, but I’m not seeking out another.
The Town of Two Harbors
I’ve fallen in love with this little place. We wouldn’t have stayed for 10 days if not for Pat’s hiking plans. I’m sorry his trip didn’t work out as planned, but so glad we had extra time here to explore the area. It’s a nice friendly, wholesome town and this is how I know. We went out for pizza one night and a family of 5 rode up on bicycles just as we were parking our car. We left about the same time they did and they hopped on their bikes and rode off. Not a lock on one of those bikes. On the way home from our pizza outing we stopped at the store. Our total came to $11.04 and the cashier tells Pat that $11 is close enough. You just gotta love friendly small towns.
We headed back to the harbor one last time to soak in the sights and sounds. The seagulls were quite vocal around the lighthouse.
Here’s that navigational aid I showed you in the fog. Most of the time it looked just like this.
A few more harbor views.
I keep mentioning ore docks and here they are. In this area, they mine taconite which is sedimentary rock containing iron. A very big business and those huge ships cruising through the Great Lakes are full of it. We watched the train back up on the dock our first night here. Each train car load is dumped into a chute that’s lowered over the waiting ship. We’ve heard it takes all day to fill one of those ships with trains coming and going. There are ore docks all up and down the north shore, but these in Two Harbors are the easiest to see up close. Another regional thing I knew nothing about.
Whew! A really long post, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. Two Harbors was one of the few places I’ve been sad to leave, but we’ll be back one day.
Next Up: O Canada! And more Lake Superior. See you on the way!