Day 215 – North Shore Drive

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Day 215 of Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Despite the thermometer in VANilla reading 82 degrees at midnight, today was remarkably better than yesterday.  We had a busy day traveling Minnesota’s North Shore.  I left from Duluth and drove 30 minutes north to Two Harbors. At Two Harbors, Petey joined me for a walk around Agate Bay where we admired an old tugboat, watched the ore shipping process, and searched for geocaches around the lighthouse.

Agate Bay on the North Shore

Agate Bay, was the site of the first shipment of iron ore from Minnesota in 1884.  Today, three of six docks remain and 10,000,000 tons of taconite or iron ore is shipped annually through the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior.  The original wood docks were replaced by steel in the 1920’s.  Dock #1 is over 1,300 feet long and is about seven stories tall.

Two Harbors Light Station and Edna G. Tugboat

Today, the lighthouse at Agate Bay is still active. The Two Harbors Light Station was completed in 1892 to aid the growing number of ships (50 to 75 per week) visiting Agate Bay by the turn of the century. It stands 80 feet above lake levels, operates 24 hours a day, and is home to a few geocaches though they are hard to log due to muggles.

In Agate Bay is the Edna G.tugboat. Built in 1896 by the Cleveland Ship Building Company and named for the daughter of the President of the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad, Edna G was the last steam driven tugboat on the Great Lakes when it was retired in 1981.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

After our time at Two Harbors, we continued up Minnesota’s North Shore while enjoying good cell service, to Gooseberry Falls State Park. Due to the budget disagreement in Minnesota, all non-essential services were shutdown which included all state parks and rest areas.  The entrances to the parks were barricaded and water as well as restroom and campground services were shutdown. 

Day use of the parks was discouraged, yet allowed, thus several nature lovers parked along the highway and walked through the Park’s entrance.  Without a park map, however, finding the falls proved challenging. Fellow hikers asked one another, “Which way to the falls?”

Fortunately, my GPS helped me out, and I made up for only finding one of three caches at the lighthouse by logging Gooseberry Falls as an earth cache.  The upper and lower falls tumbled 30 and 60 feet over a reddish-brown granite.

Gooseberry Falls

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

After admiring the lovely falls, we followed Minnesota’s North Shore along the state’s busiest highway seven miles to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  Finding landmarks in this park proved more challenging without a map.  A posted sign claimed the lighthouse was a quarter mile down the path.  A family and I, clearly lost, certainly walked farther than a quarter mile.  We wound along the paved pathway past wildflowers, pines, and birch trees, crossed a bridge and eventually cut through the forest to the lake to get a view of the lighthouse perched on the cliff. 

One of the family members expressed that the Split Rock Lighthouse looks like the one in the movie Shutter Island.  I never saw the movie, so I’ll leave it to those who have.  Anyway, the state’s budgetary constraints caused the lighthouse to be closed. Consequently, after marking down another earth cache, I returned to VANilla, and Petey and I moved on to Temperance River State Park.

Temperance River State Park

At Temperance River State Park, I took the short walk from the highway parking area to the bridge that crossed the Temperance River and watched a few kids jump off the cliff where the mouth of the river and Lake Superior intersect.  If I knew I could find a shower I would have joined in the fun.  But the thought smelling like river water that had an appearance of root beer combined with thought of my last shower from the back of VANilla in a forest of mosquitos, kept me dry.

It was entertaining, however, to watch the teenage girl jump off the cliff, swim to shore, climb back up and jump off again all while the young man stood there working up the courage. Good for him that he finally made it!

Grand Portage

From Temperance River State Park, we continued our North Shore Drive where we made a short geocaching stop at Silver Bay. Thereafter, we skipped a few places that we will visit upon our return tomorrow and headed to Grand Portage, the northern most point on the highway. Grand Portage is home to the Chippewa Indians historic headquarters which has been reconstructed as the Grand Portage National Monument.  This area served as a trading post where “North Men” traded their valuable pelts for goods and money.

grand portage national monument on the north shore

Grand Marais

We ended the day returning south to Grand Marais where we visited a fish market that offered fish and chips. The fried walleye and french fries were quite tasty, especially when washed down with a local red lager.

fish and chips in grand marais

My fun filled, busy day on the North Shore ended at a 24 hour laundromat where I spent the evening washing clothes. If only chores didn’t exist!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

4 thoughts on “Day 215 – North Shore Drive

  1. My favorite part of the state… I hope you managed to take the lake drive from Two Harbors to Duluth and not the freeway. It’s the same road they run Grandma’s Marathon on. Also, I think you can actually get the Leine’s red here, it’s their regular lager I long for. they always had the best radio commercials too.

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