I miss the ocean. I think anyone who has lived on the coast knows what I'm talking about. Childhood summers spent with sand-caked toes, hair softened by the salty breeze, and a boogie board constantly strapped to your wrist. Memories that stay by your side, beckoning you back home when you hear a distant seagull or put your ear up to a shell.
No matter how hard I try and convince Minnesota to move closer to the ocean, the fact remains that it's smack dab in the middle of the country. But then there's Lake Superior.
photo by my sister Sarah, taken June 2011
The mini-ocean of the midwest. My saving grace. The largest of the Great Lakes, when you look across towards the horizon you can almost pretend it is the sea. Although it has been two full years since I've dipped my toes in the salt water from home, I am happy of all my excursions to the North Shore these past five years.
Five years! Although that may look more like ten years, E and I just passed the five year mark in our life together as Mr. and Mrs. P. And in celebration, we took a short trip up North, just like we did on our honeymoon. With E's airport work schedule we only managed one night away, but it was worth it.
Our adventures started with our annual stop by our favorite local bakery: Wuollet Bakery. (red velvet cupcake is our favorite, but they also have tons of pastries and other baked goods)
Since check-in at our lodge wasn't until 4pm we decided to head out on a hike in the afternoon. Well, that "little hike" turned into a 6 mile loop on the Superior Hiking Trail. Here's a map: Split Rock River Loop
About halfway through the hike we came across what is known as the Split Rock. Rumor has it this is the origin of the name for the river we were hiking along, the Split Rock River, and the famous Split Rock Lighthouse.
We found this precarious little bridge kinda fun. There was a sign that said only one person on the bridge at a time. E happened to glance down at his watch and noticed it was just about the time we were walking down the aisle 5 years ago. What a romantic. And the bridge was built in 2007! Feel free to roll your eyes ; )
The end of the hike took us up on the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior. This reminded me of my many hikes at Wolf Ridge, which was just up the road.
Finally, around 6:30 or 7 we wrapped up our hike and headed to Cove Point Lodge.
We had scored a great deal on Crowd Cut or one of those discount sites that came with credit in the restaurant. Beautiful lodge done in the Up North style but without being overdone or tacky. I was a fan. Felt like a large B&B and everyone was really friendly. We kept running into this one family actually, with an endearingly nerdy dad and some teenage kids. I took their family photo down on those rocks you see above, and then they returned the favor.
Loved this window-frame mirror in the bedroom, by the way. I've been looking for an old barn window to do something crafty with for years. One of these days ...
These flowers were beautiful but incredible stinky. Like feet. Something tells me they are probably weeds.
Since we didn't arrive at the lodge until 7 or so and still had to shower and explore (have to explore!), we had a pretty late dinner. Didn't help that the service for us was just awful, but we're pretty sure it's a family-run place and the youngest teenage girl was assigned to our table. We had this view while we waited, so it was hard to complain (although I did go and ask the bartender for drinks and bread!)
Evan got a little impatient.
But it was well worth the wait. He got a steak with the most perfect mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, and I enjoyed gnocchi with some citrus cream sauce and veggies. Delicious. Made me pretty excited for fall.
There was a firepit out back with all the fixings for s'mores, so guests could mingle and tell stories. We didn't make it there since our dinner was so late, but we did sit out in the adirondack chairs for a while and watched the moon come up (it was just past full).
Hello morning! I love that the sun rises over Superior. Makes me excited to get outside. These are the chairs we sat in the night before, and I had high hopes of plopping myself down there during the day for some relaxation and reading, but somehow that never happened.
Instead we wandered around the property, and went out to that peninsula we spotted the night before.
Can you guess our plans for the rest of the day? (hint: see my shorts)
C loves rocky beaches.
Yes, we set out on a biking trip that day! Beaver Bay to Gooseberry along the Gitch-Gami State Trail, a paved trail that runs along Lake Superior, dipping up and down, meandering through birch trees. It was quite the hilly course, but that makes it more interesting (and challenging), especially around Split Rock Lighthouse. I wish I had a camera strapped to my bike because there were so many gorgeous views. But I took mental pictures instead, not to fear. Imagine the rushing wind past your ear, the tall lines of birch shuttering past, with crisp blue peaking through as you coast down a steep incline towards the shore. I grew up biking with my dad out in New Jersey (believe it or not, there are plenty of open curvy roads, hugged by trees and boughs tunneling the path). So getting back on my bike always makes for a special day, especially when I get to be near the water. Heaven.
We didn't really stop at Split Rock since we didn't want to leave our bikes (no lock) and didn't want to pay anyway. But we've been there before and it's a fun place to bring a picnic if you have time. Here is a photo we captured from E's phone. See it off in the distance?
A few miles down the road we happened upon Iona's Beach:
The beach is made up of lots of small flat rocks, that are surprisingly painful with bare feet. But well worth it to dip in the cold water.
You do have to get off the paved trail and head down a path before stepping out onto the beach, but there is a sign and it's just north of a parking lot (check the link above for coordinates/directions).
Needless to say, when we finally made it back to the lodge after 25 miles of biking (felt a lot longer than that from the hills) we were ready to kick back and relax in these over-sized chairs.
After a quick change in the parking lot we were on our way back to the cities. But not before a little stop at a cute restaurant, Nokomis Restaurant & Bar, just between Duluth and Two Harbors, on that scenic drive where they start Grandma's Marathon.
We split a couple of appetizers and an Arnold Palmer. Kind of expensive for the amount of food you end up with, but it was very tasty and the perfect way to wrap up our anniversary weekend.
In summary, here's a rundown of where we stayed/ate/played, in case you're interested in planning a similar trip. Fall is a beautiful time to head up north!
Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay
Wuollet Bakery in Minneapolis
Cove Point Lodge Restaurant - I forgot to mention that the morning buffet is an authentic Swedish breakfast, complete with hard cooked eggs, salami, pickled cukes, and herring! (there are other standard American options as well)
Split Rock River Loop on the Superior Hiking Trail
Gitch-Gami State Trail between Beaver Bay and Gooseberry Falls (free), passing by Split Rock Lighthouse ($6-9) and Iona's Beach (free). Here is a map of the trail.
There is camping at both Split Rock and Gooseberry, and I checked out the Split Rock sites on our ride - definitely have to do that someday. Nestled between trees right next to the water. And there are tons of other camping options if you're interested, and lodges/rentals/hotels for that matter. We actually hiked past three backpacking camp sites right on the Split Rock River, which looked like a really fun way to spend a weekend with a group of friends. You feel like you're much further away than 3 miles from Hwy 61.
Read more about my favorite things to do up North.