WITH SUMMER TRIPS BACK TO BACK TO BACK, I’m a month behind recording them here. Recent weekends in Clermont, Okiboji, Des Moines and Afton had their moments, but I save my blogging bandwidth for the epic. Like our last trip of July: an international voyage along Lake Superior with stops in Duluth, Grand Marais and Thunder Bay, Ontario, coming to rest on the edge of a provincial park ominously named The Sleeping Giant.
Sarah is not much visible here because she’s behind the fancy new camera. Click pics once or twice for HD enhancement.
We roped in the Siasoco Clan—Witt, Holly and Rey (above, with Johanna)—after last year’s Black Hills trip, where we powered through 500 miles of South Dakota like it was nothing. Being that Holly is now seven months pregnant, we divided up our long haul into bladder-sparing segments, starting with a stop in Duluth for “Tall Ships.”
I’d thought it was a long tradition, but the City of Duluth christened Tall Ships just a couple years ago, inviting a hulking armada from all over the world to be marauded by corn-dog-munching Minnesotans at the city port. We were told the wait was two hours to see the grandest boats, so we checked out the lame, though still large, ones (some converted to “old” sail boats from modern shipping vessels—what?). Jo enjoyed turning the big wooden wheels and saying “poop deck.”
The motel we stayed in past Duluth had little to recommend it other than an echo-y tunnel that goes underneath Highway 61.
Unbridled joy at Gooseberry Falls S.P., northward from Duluth.
A new favorite drive-time distraction.
Thunder Bay, Ontario, is a strange, sprawling burgh without an apparent center or much in the way of people. It’s as if buildings of all styles, ages and sizes had been tossed willy-nilly about the lake shore. A grocery stop, a wacky Italian meal (plastic grape vines, free Shasta for the kids) and we were outta there.
An hour later, we arrived at a swank solar-powered cabin a few feet from Lake Superior. You could see across this vast bay, yet no people were in evidence. Recommended Canada tourism slogan: Delightfully Underpopulated.
The Lake is generally too cold for the casual dip, but it was shallow enough here to hold some heat. The rocks were slick with muck, however, which led to slapstick: Dads slipping, falling and stubbing toes as we carried kids deep enough to swim.
Book-making. Puzzles. These kids know how to have fun.
Holly, it turns out, is a puzzle savant. She busted out this 1000-piecer in a matter of hours. We were just spectators.
As we paddled here, I was talking smack to Witt about the excess crap my family packed. But thanks to the miracle of sound waves on water, Sarah heard every word. Busted!
The grub was sensational. This meal could have fed the neighbors too, had there been any.
This is as close we got to the “Sleeping Giant” that gives the park its name. I kinda see it. Nearer to us here is another rock-that-resembles-something, the “Sea Lion,” which looks nothing like a lion since the head toppled off.
We managed one hike near our cabin (one was sufficient). As you can see, there is no hiking trail: it’s an old logging road used for skiing in winter but so overgrown in summer as to be nearly impassable. Shortly after this picture was taken, we got off-path and proceeded to totally freak out—with a crude, hand-drawn map, a compass we didn’t properly know how to use, no cell phone service and no people for miles. We walked through neck-high thickets for 20 minutes before rediscovering our trail, but it felt like forever, with Johanna saying “why are we lost?” on repeat mode as we seethed. Not our best moment.
While playing Scrabble by candlelight, Witt looked up and noticed the aurora.
The lights are awesome to behold, undulating green ribbons weaving in and out of space (seriously dude, like: whoa). It so happens we were in a perfect spot to observe a major meterological event, though I learned this only later via SpaceWeather.com:
CME IMPACT: As expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic
field on August 3rd. The impact, which occurred around 1730 UT, sparked a
polar geomagnetic storm. At the time that this alert is being written, sky
watchers in Europe as far south as Germany are reporting red and green
Northern Lights. If the storm sustains itself for a few more hours, people
in North America might see a similar display. Sky watchers in Alaska,
Canada, and northern-tier US states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and Maine
should be alert for auroras.
Witt erects a Goldsworthyesque seaside sculpture on our final night.
Last swims at sunset.
Portrait with a sullen Jo after she slipped and hurt her bum on the rocks.