Saturday, September 29, 2007

Minnesota's North Shore

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year, however, it's also the busiest season as well. With Brandi and I both working at the University, Fall is a crazy time of year. We decided we REALLY needed to get away for a few days. We headed to the North Shore of Lake Superior for some R&R and to take in the peak fall colors before the weekend crowds showed up. We were not disappointed. We spent some time in the quaint northwoods town of Grand Marais, hiked to the highest point in Minnesota and spent a night camped on a 'secret' beach on the shore of Lake Superior.

We hit the road on Thursday morning and stopped in the harbor town of Duluth for a burger at Fitgers Brew Pub before making our way along the shor on highway 61 (see 'Bob Dylan song'). While the leaves in the twin cities are changing some, it quickly became evident that they were near peak color in the northwoods. The drought of this year has left the woods glowing with yellow contrasting against the lakes, conifers and dark tones of the North Shore rock. After taking in the view from Palisade Head we left the shore and drove inland hoping to hike up to Mystical Mountain and the views above the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. We got a shortened hike in as a passing thunderstorm prevented us from accomplishing the tricky scramble required to get up to the top. Wolf Ridge had great color and it never gets old hiking through the woods with fall colors lighting the way carpeting the trail underfoot.

Friday morning we enjoyed a cup of coffee and strolled through the streets of Grand Marais. A raised sugar donut from "Worlds Best Donuts" proved they did well in naming their establishment. The galleries and shops of Grand Marais made quick work of a lazy morning enjoying a sunny fall day and some great art.

After lunch we headed up the Gunflint Trail into the BWCA (boundary waters canoe area). The BWCA is the largest roadless piece of land east of the rockies, and definitely one of my favorite places on earth. The hike up Eagle Mountain to the highest point of Minnesota is a rugged rocky trail that winds through woods of the Sawtooth mountains and enters the BWCA boundary while winding through the northwoods and along remote lakes before reaching the amazing views at the top that overlook BWCA. The overlook on top gave us a birds eye view of the quilt of colors and some of the lakes we had paddled on a trip a few years ago. The colors from up on the cliff were awesome and it never hurts to have near perfect weather as well.

We spent Friday night at an absolutely perfect campsite listening to the waves of Superior crashing onto the pebble covered shore with a bright moon making it easy to walk around without using a headlamp. A bottle of red wine and a fire in the moonlight made it hard to go to bed, knowing tomorrow I had to drive home. In the morning, we enjoyed an amazing sunrise over the lake with a cup of chai before heading back to the city. (we did repeat offend at the donut shop)