Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Jersey Shore


Vacation time for Eric and Noelle and so we packed up our bags and flew out east for a little R&R at the Jersey Shore. Yesterday we flew from Minneapolis to Philadelphia. My parents picked us up at the airport and we drove straight down to beautiful Ocean City, New Jersey. Growing up the only place we ever went for a family vacation was the shore. I thought that everyone went to the shore on their vacation. It never even occurred to me that there might be other vacation options. Now, however, I am a more seasoned traveler and know that there's more to a good vacation than mini-golf, sunbathing, and playing in the waves. Still, I thought it would be fun to relive my childhood and spend some time with my family. I also thought that if anyone could make a trip to the Jersey Shore adventurous, it was Noelle and me.

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast and immediately headed to the beach to see what we could find.

We started out on the 54th street bridge and headed south. Almost immediately we found some interesting things washed up on the beach like dead crabs, kelp, and seashells.


We passed an interesting old pier and soon entered into Corson's Inlet State Park.


The beach inside the state park was even more interesting than the city managed beach, probably because it is not raked every morning like the city beach is. There were a lot of shells washed up at the surf line. We also started to see lots of little holes in the sand with little tracks leading into them. Then we saw what was making the holes: ghost crabs.

They were everywhere and really interesting to watch! 

We ended up walking all the way to the boat ramp at the state park and decided to return to our rental house by walking the road. In the afternoon we went to the beach and enjoyed a more traditional day at the shore. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Namekagon River: West River Landing to Springbrook Landing

This morning Noelle and I headed into Wisconsin to drive to the Hayward area and canoe a section of the beautiful Namekagon River. We arrived at Camp Namekagon by 9:30 and were on the river by about 10.

The trip started out with a slow flowing section of river that was a nice warmup for the small Class I rapids that were still to come. In the calm sections we found some water lillies.

Despite a forecast of clear skies, it turned out to be overcast for the entire trip. We saw plenty of birds though; lots of mergansers and cedar waxwings.

We passed under several bridges as we floated along including several railroad bridges.

Unfortunately, other than the many birds we saw, we didn't see much wildlife. We arrived at Springbrook Landing by about 1 pm. There was some jewelweed growing along the river banks there and I enjoyed looking at it while we waited for a group to get off the landing and start their trip.

After getting back to the car we drove into Hayward where we had planned on eating a late lunch and sampling some beers at the Angry Minnow. Unfortunately it is closed on Sundays. We walked around town a bit and ended up eating lunch at Norske Nook. The apple pie was delicious! We ended our day with a short hike along the Namekagon-Courte Orielles Portage. It was a short 0.8 mile loop trail. At the mid point is a nice view of the Namekagon River.

On the return section of the loop were a few trees that had blown down in the recent storms.

Noelle had a fun time crawling through one of the blowdowns.

While I had wanted to see and go inside the world's largest muskie, it is part of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and costs $6.50 per person to enter. Noelle and I settled for this view from outside the gates.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Agate Hunting, Gooseberry Falls, and Castle Danger Brewery

It was a cool and windy day. Quite a change of pace from the extreme heat we just experienced in Duluth the previous several days. Noelle and I decided that we would check out the new Castle Danger Brewery and look for some agates while we were in the area. The drive up Highway 61 was uneventful, but once we got out of the car at Flood Harbor State Wayside it was quickly evident just how windy it was. Huge waves crashed the pebbly beach there. In fact the lake was so rough, not much of the beach was actually exposed.

We looked for agates but only found a few small ones.

From Flood bay we headed to Gooseberry Falls. I wanted to go back to the place where I had spent the summer of 2010 one more time before we leave for New Mexico. We walked the loop trails around the waterfalls, visited the old CCC camp and then headed down to the lakeshore where we watched the huge waves crash against the rocks.


Finally, we headed over to the Castle Danger Brewery where we sampled their three different beers and bought a growler to take home.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to Duluth along Highway 61

This morning we packed up our stuff and headed out to do some hiking. Our first stop was the short mile long round-trip up Blueberry Hill to an overlook of Northern Lights Lake. Even at 8 a.m. the heat and humidity were oppressive. The bugs, particularly the deer flies were a bit bothersome as well. After we had returned to the trail-head parking area we decided against heading further up the Gunflint Trail. Instead we deiced to head back towards Lake Superior where temperatures would be cooler. We returned to Grand Marias where we got some coffee and donuts at World's Best Donuts.
Noelle & World's Best Donut

We then walked out to Artists Point and wandered around a bit on the sea wall and rocks.
Grand Marais

Lake Superior Cairns


Parker once again enjoyed watching the waves.
Parker the Wave Watcher

After some time walking around Grand Marais we started to make our way south. We stopped at Temperance River State Park (closed for government shut-down) and walked a small loop past the deep gorge and waterfalls.
Noelle and Hidden Falls

Bridge over the Temperance

Temperance River Falls

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One Last Trip up the North Shore

Resting on way to Mt. Josephine

With our upcoming move down to the desert, Noelle and I wanted to make one more trip up the North Shore of Lake Superior. With hot temperatures forecast for the weekend we thought the cool temperatures near the shores of the big lake would help keep us cool. And so, this morning we pointed the Civic north and headed up Highway 61. Our first stop was the pebbly beach at Beaver Bay. On a previous trip to this beach I had found lots of decent sized agates. I thought Noelle would appreciate the chance to find some and so we parked along the highway and walked down the steep, muddy path to the beach.
Beaver Bay

While we didn't find many impressive agates, there were a lot of small agate fragments scattered about and Parker seemed to enjoy watching the small waves.

From Beaver Bay, we headed further north for a stop at the closed (due to the Minnesota government shutdown) Tettegouche State Park. I had wanted to see what remained of the sea arch on Lake Superior that had collapsed last August.
Sea Stack at Tettegouche

It's hard to believe that neither of us had been there since the collapse. (See the arch pre-collapse here.) We spent a few minutes relaxing on the Superior shore there before returning to the car and heading further north still.

The next stop was the small rest area/parking lot at what used to be called the Ray Berglund State Wayside. I'm not sure if it still is a wayside, but there are no signs there and the trail that once traveled alongside the Onion River seemed to be unmaintained, at least in some places. We climbed up a steep hillside on slippery rock scree to a flat powerline clearing and then headed into the woods where we closely followed the Onion River. Soon we could see what appeared to be three small waterfalls. There did not seem to be a good way to get down to them though. Eventually we found a faint path that led gradually down to an overlook of the largest of the falls.
Onion River Falls

They were quite impressive.

After returning to the car, we drove on to Grand Marais for lunch. We got a Sven and Oles Wild Rice Pizza and ate it on the beach.
Sven and Ole's

Refreshed, we moved on to Grand Portage and set out to hike up Mt. Josephine. The trail was difficult to find. After driving up and down County Highway 17 we ended up going to the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center to ask for directions. We parked it the edge of a grassy field filled with wildflowers and then walked an old road into the woods. Soon a trail was visible and we followed it steeply uphill. It was a bit overgrown at times. Once at the top of the "mountain" we walked around on the various user trails and found some nice overlooks
Mt. Josephine

and an the ruins of an old fire lookout's cabin.
Lookout Cabin Ruins

A cool breeze as we descended really helped us out it bit. It was oppressively hot, especially for northern Minnesota.

Finally back at the car we drove back south and headed into the Superior National Forest to find a campsite for the night. I was worried we might have a difficult time finding one. However, despite the fact that it was Saturday night and state parks are closed, we had the Kimball Lake Campground all to ourselves. We grabbed a site right on the lake and after setting up camp I headed right to the lake for a swim.
Eric Swims Kimball Lake

After dinner we walked to nearby Mink Lake
Eric at Mink Lake

and watched the sunset over Kimball.
Kimball Lake Sunset

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Perfect Duluth Day on Park Point

It looks like our days in Duluth are numbered, so today made a great day to get out and enjoy the city Noelle and I have called home for a little less than two years. The weather today was perfect for a summer day at the beach. Although we had originally planned to canoe a section of the Namekagon River near Hayward, Wisconsin, I'm kind of glad those plans did not work out. Today's weather contrasted sharply with yesterday's fog, rain and cool temperatures and it was nice to share our time with Mom T and Noelle's Aunt Lisa.

We drove through a crowded Canal Park to the end of the road on Park Point near the Seaplane Airport.
Girls on trail
From there we hit the trail that follows the airport boundary and eventually found ourselves in some cool, piney woods. At some points along our hike St. Louis Bay was visible.
Noelle on bay
We passed a small bird of prey, possibly a Merlin, and saw a few wildflowers like this pink pyrola.
pink pyrola

After I climbed this big, old White Pine,
Eric in White Pine
we soon found ourselves at the ruins of the old lighthouse.
lighthouse ruins
We ventured past the lighthouse ruins to an old concrete building of some type
old building
 with some graffiti covering its inside walls.

Then we moved on to the very tip of Minnesota Point.
on seawall
We admired the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse from there
walking & looking
and then headed back in the direction from which we had come, only this time we walked along the beach. We found a small snapping turtle on the beach among the abundant driftwood.
snapping turtle

Soon we waded through some water near the breakwater, climbed the breakwater's rocks and clambered back onto the sand. By this point we were getting hot and so we stopped at a pebbly section of beach where I took off my shirt for a swim.
Eric in Lake Superior
As I swam in the remarkably warm Superior waters, Noelle, Mom,
Mom agate hunting
Mom hunting agates
and Aunt Lisa hunted for agates.

While Park Point is not known as prime agate hunting territory, we found some great ones here.
 We spent a good 45 minutes to an hour swimming and agate hunting before we started to make our way back to the car along the beach. As we approached the parking area the crowds of people started to thicken. We hiked across the dunes to the parking lot and headed back home.
hiking dunes (2)
 What a great way to spend a perfect Duluth day!