Lake Superior

Our next stop on our northern United States adventure found us in Superior, Wisconsin, on the southwest corner of Lake Superior. We had scheduled three nights in Superior with the intention of driving up the west coast of Lake Superior which is locally known as the North Shore Drive. I suspect it got that designation because the road actually heads northeast and that particular coastline is the northern most coastline in the United States. But, frankly, I was just confused.

Upon our arrival at the campground we inquired as to where I could get a good eight mile run in and to our surprise and delight, we were informed that the property abuts a 68 mile former rail line that has been converted into a multi-purpose trail. The only downside is that one of those purposes is ATV.

So, with minimal services hooked up I changed into running gear and took off while Connie completed the job of setting up house and then go do grocery shopping. The run was really great. The surface started out as gravel that is really well maintained. After a couple of miles half the trail is paved and the other half remains gravel. The paved side of course has some gravel on it from the ATV and bicycles going back and forth between the two surfaces, but none-the-less a good surface. The best part is that the trail is nearly perfectly straight. I could see a long way ahead and what I saw was just delightful. There was a bit of a downhill in the fourth mile. I only noticed it because there were some teenagers riding towards me and they seemed to be working pretty hard peddling their bicycles. When I turned around I could feel the rise, but it was really nothing compared to where I have been this spring. I had a good run and felt great at the end.

The next morning Connie and I drove up the North Shore Drive. Our first stop along this beautiful scenic highway was Gooseberry Falls State Park and Rest Area. This was the second state park in Minnesota we spent any significant time in. One thing that really stood out to me with Minnesota State Parks is the impressive gift shop each park (or at least the two we went to) has. I mean gift shops that are as well or better stocked with local branded stuff as any National Park gift shop I have ever been in. It really is quite impressive. I noticed that the gift shop at Gooseberry Falls seemed to be doing quite well with sales.

We visited the falls along with about a hundred of our closest friends. Most everyone had a camera. In fact it looked as though a local photography group or class was enjoying an outing at the falls as there must have been half a dozen folks with cameras on tripods capturing their own personal best representative image of the falls. I had left my camera in the car, so I just watched to see what others were seeing to frame within their cameras. Thankfully, Connie brought her camera and she captured some pretty great images. She even let me sneak a few in. If she lets me I will include some Gooseberry Falls images in web album that accompanies this article.

From Gooseberry Falls we continued in a northeasterly direction on the North Shore Drive to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Historic Site. This is another jewel of the Minnesota State parks. It too has a wonderful gift shop. We were more interested in getting a look at the lighthouse and what can be seen from within. We were delighted to learn that the grounds had been recently restored, a project costing millions of dollars, but leaving the facility looking very much like it did when the United States Coast Guard operated the lighthouse. The lighthouse was put into service in 1910 in answer to the damage or loss of 29 ships in the area during a storm in 1905. The lighthouse remained in service until 1969 when it became obsolete due to radar. However, from its earliest days this particular lighthouse has been one of the most visited lighthouses by the public in the United States. That status is due to the lighthouse’s location with regards to the scenic highway that has carried so many Americans along the “north” shore. The restoration efforts were very professionally done leaving seamless transitions between old and new bricks and mortar. The restoration work was completed in time for the 100 year anniversary of the lighthouse. I think the images I captured of the lighthouse and the interior of the keeper’s home are pretty special. I hope you enjoy them.

From Split Rock we continued up the road to the town of Grand Marais where we spent some time walking around the town and poking our heads into a few shops, including a fudge shop where we got a sweet treat to help keep the driver awake for the long ride back to Superior.

Our day was long, but it was certainly one in which our eyes got a great workout as we enjoyed the scenery and the closer looks we were able to take of Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Grand Marais.

The next day was to be spent between the Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center and Museum in Duluth and another driving tour to the Apostle Islands along the real south shore of Lake Superior. We were awakened at about 2 AM by a steady and hard rainfall that continued well into the morning. I skipped my run due to my knowledge of how much rain had fallen and how much loose dirt there had been on the trail coupled with the fact that it continued to rain at a pretty good rate when I should have been running. We knew we could do the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center in the rain, so we headed off to do that and then decide how to spend the balance of the day. The museum was great and we survived the second graders who were there on a school field trip. I was surprised to learn just how busy the Lake Superior ports are in comparison to our nations seaports. There is an incredible amount of cargo shipped out of and into these important lake ports. There have also been a lot of ships wrecked in the lakes.

We stayed at the museum until well into the early part of the afternoon. We then went in search of lunch. By the time we finally got lunch I realized I was absolutely exhausted. After a short discussion we decided that home was the place we should be. By now it had finally stopped raining, but there was a pretty dense fog forming, so a drive along the shore would not have been very fruitful anyway. A nap was a much better choice for me.

We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant right downtown in Superior. Le Bistro had a great web site and a good looking menu. The location was a bit of a surprise. It was in an office building directly across the street from the police station. It was an odd location, but the food was wonderful and the service could not have been better.

All in all our visit to the west or north shore of Lake Superior was just wonderful, even if partially rained out.

Next stop Iron Mountain, Michigan. But before you read about that enjoy our photos from the Lake Superior area by clicking on the link below.

Lake Superior Area


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