Cold Weather Friends!

In 2003, I was fortunate to be selected for an internship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs.  The internship was a requirement for one of my graduate degrees, but it ended up being so much more than a prerequisite, it permanently altered the trajectory of my professional life post graduation.  I had learned from my time in the Navy not to take for granted the opportunity to explore a place that I would only call home for a short period, so I made a conscious effort to fill all my off-time with activities specific to the area.  There were a handful of other interns intent on doing the same, and that’s how Missy and I became friends.

When she saw my Facebook post earlier this year with the general outline of my summer moto trip, she sent me a message asking where exactly in Minnesota I was planning to go.  When I said I was interested in going to Isle Royale National Park, she sent a message back saying that she was a kayak guide in Isle Royale for a few years.

Well hell, wouldn’t it be cool if we could meet up?

OK, let’s do it!

And just like that, I canceled the plans I had made for that area, and turned all North Shore Minnesota planning over to Missy.  

Reunited in Grand Marais, MN! Missy and I hadn’t seen each other for almost 20 years, since we were interns together at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO!

As we were communicating back and forth about camping up there, I asked her how cold it would be at night.  She replied that it would be like the time during our internship when we camped in Aspen, CO in July and I got up in the middle of the night and put on every piece of clothing in my backpack, and then still made a fire.  Yes, I’m a big baby in the cold :-/

We met up in Grand Marais, where we camped for three nights at Grand Marais RV Park and Campground, right on Lake Superior.  The campsites were super close to each other, but the only thing separating my site from the beach were a few bushes.  It was so quiet in the campground at night that I went to sleep to the sound of the waves lapping onto the rocky beach…while wearing two pair of long pajama pants, 3 shirts, fuzzy socks, gloves, and a hat while snuggled in my sleeping bag under my woobie (Army poncho liner for the uninitiated!)!  The temps were upper 40s-lower 50s each night.  But the sights, and hanging out with Missy, were oh so worth it!  It rained on and off for the three days, but the rain always seemed to stop when we needed it to, so it didn’t interfere with our sightseeing at all.

This is the backside of my campsite.  There were a few bushes between that tall tree on the beach and where my pop-up camper was set-up.
When I mentioned to the girls in Duluth that I was headed to Grand Marais, they instantly recommended the Angry Trout for dinner.  Already on Missy’s list of places to eat, it did not disappoint.  In fact, we ate there two out of three nights! 
Angry Trout meal: fresh catch of the day, herring, with Minnesota North Shore wild rice and salad.  They also had specialty sodas- the cream maple soda was so smooth and tasty.  It’s been really hard to eat healthy on this trip- salads typically show up as wilted iceberg lettuce, croutons, and shredded cheddar cheese, if salad or vegetables are even offered at all.  So, this dish was a real treat, and was one of the best meals of the trip by far!
We were able to see the Grand Marais lighthouse from across the harbor, from up close when we walked out on the breakers to it, in clear sunshine, in the rain, and sometimes barely at all when it was shrouded in fog.  No matter the angle or conditions though, it managed to stand out along the shoreline, even if just in momentary glimpses.
I stopped dead in my tracks when we crested the trail and I saw the view from Palasade Head Overlook, part of the Tettegouche State Park.  It was a really foggy morning when we headed out, so by the time we arrived at this site, south of Grand Marais and about halfway between Illgen City and Silver Bay on MN-61, the misty air was rolling in and out of the shoreline, providing an endlessly changing scene below us.  I have not seen the movie, but apparently there’s a dramatic scene in “The Good Son” that was filmed at this site.
Another view from Palasade Head Overlook
A little further south on MN-61 in Silver Bay is Black Beach.  The beach appears black because tiny pieces of taconite (a low grade iron ore mined locally), washed ashore from mining operations, have mixed with the sand. 
Another stunning view of Black Beach.
I benefited greatly from Missy’s local knowledge throughout our stay on the MN North Shore, and am beyond grateful for her willingness to share her love of this area with me. I would’ve never experienced any of these amazing places without her guidance and thoughtful planning.  At one point, she turned off MN-61 onto a small county road, drove for a little over a mile, then parked next to a couple of other cars on the side of the road on a gravel patch.  No markings or anything, just a trail leading off into the woods!  We hiked a little ways and ended up at the top of Illgen Falls. 
Illgen Falls is a beautiful, 40-ft waterfall in the Tettegouche State Park.  It was so peaceful and I loved being in the woods, but I wanted more of the lake and shoreline 🙂
Sugarloaf Cove was the site of pulpwood logging operations between 1943-1971.  In 1999, restoration efforts began and today, the site houses Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center.  There was interpretive signage along the trails leading to the cove, and the cove itself was an oasis of nature and peacefulness.  An example of incredible restoration and stewardship.

When I had toured the Water Street Houses in Sault St. Marie, the docent at the Baraga House had told me about the Baraga Cross on the MN North Shore when I mentioned to him that I would be visiting the area.  I had pretty much forgotten where exactly he told me it was, so I was surprised when I saw the sign on the side of MN-61 for it, and then again when Missy had it on her list of sites to show me.  Known as the “Snowshoe Priest,” Father (and later Bishop) Baraga was born in present-day Slovenia, and traveled to the Lake Superior area to minister to the Native Americans around the 1830s.  A minimalist, he traveled primarily via snowshoes and canoes, choosing to live as the Natives did, and even spoke eight different Native languages.

The plaque on the cross reads “Father Frederic Baraga, learning of a possible epidemic afflicting the Native Americans at Grand Portage in 1846, set out in a small boat from Madeline Island in Wisconsin with a Native American guide.  An unexpected storm threatened them but their lives were spared when they were blown over the sandbar and into the quiet mouth of the Cross River.  In thanksgiving, they erected a small wooden cross which was later replaced by this granite one.”  A sign in the parking area indicated that a small mass is held at the site every Sunday.

The rain started to pick up as we made our way north, back towards Grand Marais.  We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting shops around town and then heading to a state park community building for a little wifi access so I could blog while Missy did a little schoolwork.  We wanted to be caught up for our next adventure… Isle Royale National Park!

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