If I Were Up North ... {10 things to do north of Duluth}

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. ... 
~William Wordsworth

In Wildness is the preservation of the world
~Henry David Thoreau

I had intentions of blogging this morning from the shores of Lake Superior up in Duluth, Minn. Evan is taking a one-day class (for his Master of Environmental Education) up in Duluth, and had I gotten up and hit the road with him at 6:30 this morning, I could be typing away with views like this in front of me:

Well, I wouldn't exactly have views of Palisade Head in front of me from the Caribou Coffee on Canal Street, but I would know I was that much closer to one of my favorite places on earth ... the North Shore. I know, it's crazy to think a Jersey Girl would have such a sudden love affair with a place so far removed from the ocean, but I can't help it. Four short years as a Minnesotan has already given me the North Shore bug ... and especially around this time of year, it's hard to pass up a trip up there, even if just for a day. But there's lot to be done on the home front today, and I figured what's the next best thing to visiting the North Shore? Why, writing about it and enjoying some old photos of yore!

So I've compiled a collection of some of my favorite Up North memories for you, in hopes that it encourages everyone to take advantage of the beauty around us. Whether it means just going for a bike ride around a city lake (I hope to do that this afternoon!), rolling down the windows in the car, or trekking out on a big weekend adventure. As some of my favorite writers mentioned above (William and Henry ... we're on a first-name basis), it's high time we reconnect with nature because that's where life truly lies. So what if it's a little chilly out or the leaves aren't quite as vibrant as last year. Maybe it's even rainy and dull. There's something to be learned just by soaking that up (both figuratively and literally). And while we're on the topic of appreciating nature, let me recommend the book Last Child in the Woods - Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. There you'll find awesome quotes, such as:

"Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement ... everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually" (292).

"Nature is beautiful, but not always pretty" (56).

"Perhaps the eighth intelligence is the intelligence within nature, the lessons waiting to be delivered if anyone shows up" (78).

"The quiet wisdom of nature does not try to mislead you like the landscape of the city does, with billboards and ads everywhere. It doesn't make you feel like you have to conform to any image. It's just there, and it accepts everyone" (84).

"I have come to the conclusion that one's idea of nature is also their idea of a paradise or a heaven on earth" (306). -- what does your heaven look like? Mine might just look a little bit like the North Shore.

Without further ado ... If I were Up North today, here are some of the things I would love to do!

Top Ten Things to Do Along the North Shore:

1. Take a nap at Crystal Cove

A hidden landmark off the road of Highway 61, just at the base of the turn off to Wolf Ridge, Crystal Cove is the perfect place to soak up some sun (even if you have to wear a jacket!), go kayaking, or look for agates. (I might need Karrin to confirm the location as I can't find it online! I guess it really is hidden!) - photos from our recent trip, June 2011. It was actually just the original six Pearsons, no significant others (although they were invited - we aren't that exclusive!)

2. Collect birch bark

Birch (and Aspen) trees are abundant! Although I've heard they are a young-forest tree, so in the next 50 years or so many of these trees will die off and be replaced by larger evergreens. Don't pull the bark off of living trees, but if you scour the ground, you are bound to find sheets of Birch "paper".

3. Take a hike

So many hikes, so little time. I've climbed Marshall Mountain at Wolf Ridge maybe four or five times (more info on Wolf Ridge below). It's one of my favorites as it's a short yet steep hike with a great view - in any season!

Other popular hikes in the area include hiking along the Temperance River, hiking in Tettegouche State Park, exploring the Superior Hiking Trail, trails around Gooseberry Falls, and many more!

4. Explore the rocky coastline

The bottom right picture is right on the shores of Lake Superior right where the Temperance River flows in. The other photos are from the shoreline at the place we were staying in Tofte, Minn. Sarah was by far the best stone-thrower of us all. And by the way, the book Sarah is reading there is The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, it's very good - I just started reading it. There's something about a rocky coastline that is more soothing to me than say I sandy tropical beach. I think it has to do with the sound of the water as it laps up on shore, collecting between the jagged rocks.

5. Get Cozy in a Dome Home

Have you ever stayed in a house where all the walls are rounded? It is quite the experience! My grandpa had a dome home in the Black Hills of South Dakota when I was little. I have memories of playing in the snow there with cousins and both sets of grandparents. This was a much larger dome home with three floors! We (my parents, sister and I) stayed there this past June for a few days before heading to my cousin's wedding. We found it on Cascade Vacation Rentals.

6. Embrace the cold (if it were winter)

The only way to survive winter in Minnesota is to bundle up, put a smile on your face, and have some fun. You know you've been in northern Minnesota during the winter if you've had to sleep all bundled up in a hoodie and long underwear!

Although Minnesota isn't exactly known for it's downhill skiing, Lutzen mountain isn't half bad, and you can see Lake Superior from the top! (When it isn't snowing, that is). Cross-country skiing is also quite popular.
7. Visit a lighthouse

This is the lighthouse in Duluth in the Canal Park area, but there are other lighthouses, like Split Rock, and even one in Two Harbors.

8. Explore Wolf Ridge ... and learn something new!

My sister Karrin was a Naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn. a couple of years ago, so when I visited her I always had my own tour guide. Although they most often host school groups during the year, I think families can sign up to visit during the summer and they hold various activities during the year. Here's my favorite nature guide teaching us all about trees, birds, and the Voyageurs (French explorers):

Challenge yourself to go both high and low ... literally! At Wolf Ridge you can go down (and up!) the "stairs of health and happiness" (aka the longest set of stairs known to man ... how long are they again Karrin?) and they have the Ropes Course, which boasts views of Lake Superior from the top!

Here's a post from Fall 2009 up north, you can watch a slideshow from our winter trip up north, and here's a slideshow from the Wolf Ridge commencement from 2010.

9. Have a bonfire on the beach

If you rent a home along the coast of Lake Superior, chances are you'll have access to the rocky beach! 

Or even better yet -- a wedding on the rocky beach!

10. Keep your eyes open ... to the little things and the grand views, the fast creatures and the slow.

If I felt like making this post longer, I'd share our stories of camping up north ... but you can read about that here. Needless to say, camping options abound when it comes to Northern Minnesota. I have yet to make it to the Boundary Waters. Also on my list of must-explore is Madeline Island and the rest of the Apostle Islands.

But enough chit-chat for today. I'm off to get my butt outside!

What are some of your favorite things to do along the North Shore? Or anywhere outside, for that matter. Do you have a favorite nature quote? I know my list is continually growing!


  1. “We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

    Aldo Leopold

  2. One of my favorite Mary Oliver quotes from her poem, When death
    Comes....."All my life I wish to be a bride married to amazement!" also from ee Cummings " the world is mud-luscious and puddle wonderful!" and her are 248 stAirs on the stairs of health and happiness


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