Head North to the Lakes. You won’t regret it!
Almost thirty-seven years to the month, Tom and I honey-mooned in this part of the north. Our wedding took place in a field on a farm in Illinois. It was a covered-dish affair. Tom was working as a chemist in Chicago and I was teaching at the University of Dayton in Ohio. We were too busy to take our honeymoon right after our wedding, so we postponed it until August of 1982.
Our trek so far has taken us to a flood-ravaged RV stop in Story, Iowa. It is one thing to read about the flooding, it is another thing to see what it does to people’s property and business. Whispering Oaks was a mess. We wondered if our RV would sink into the land that was water-saturated.
Hinckley, Minnesota was waiting for our arrival at the Grand Casino Hinkley run by the Ojibwe tribe. These Native Americans have it all together. They have created a clean and well-run campground with lots of space to walk, bike, or play golf. It takes me one hour to walk around the perimeter of the site. They manage the landscape and buildings to perfection! We don’t gamble but we do enjoy the space they have created for other gamblers.
We know Hinckley well. Our favorite restaurant, Firestorm, had gone out of business. In the parking lot of the Fire Museum, we bought pastries, once again, from an Amish family. The town itself is sinking into the ground, like so many other small rural villages in Minnesota.
On a Sunday evening we visited the local St. Paul Lutheran Church to hear the Slewfoot Family perform. Their music seemed as if came from another time and place. All eight children, including the mom, played string instruments with a flute here and there. The children’s ages ranged from 25 to 8. And all were home-schooled. The girls wore long home-made dresses with knee socks. The boys looked more normal. I kept wondering if they were part of an intentional community or “Children of God.” I did not ask. In between singing high-pitched tunes that sounded like they were from Appalachia, they danced jigs with tap shoes.
The Slewfoot Family performed 220 times last year in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I wondered if the older children went to college. I wondered if any of them could separate themselves from the family, ever. Apparently, none of the children have full-time jobs. They are proud to announce that they don’t have internet at home or a Facebook page. The father works and supports all of them. I am still thinking about those children and that family that lives in a Minnesota town of 350 people!
Twin Harbors was only a hundred miles away from Hinckley. On our way we drove through Duluth. This is Bob Dylan territory. Duluth is situated on a huge hill across from Lake Superior. The town and port are stunning. It is a destination! Thirty-seven years ago, there was only a two-lane road that went from Superior, Michigan to Duluth, Minnesota. Now there are highways piled on top of each other. On our way to Minnesota 61, we traveled underground. If you ever have a chance to visit Duluth, do it!
Two Harbors has grown up. It used to be just a gas stop on the way to natural wonders, now it is a welcoming town. The city has its own RV campground and just enlarged it to accommodate modern RV’s. They knew what they were doing when they created Burlington Bay Campground that overlooks Lake Superior. What a place! We are sitting on a hill, with lots of space around us, looking at the water. You can’t find a better campground than this one! The facilities are stellar!
Tom and I had planned to stay in Bozeman, Montana next summer. We fell in love with the town last summer, but the campgrounds around it were less than desirable. They pack RV’s on top of each other. We found a spacious and open campground about forty miles from the city. Forty miles is a long way to travel if you run out of milk or bagels.
After only spending one night in Two Harbors, we knew that we would be coming back. Tom booked us here next year for two weeks. Why is Two Harbors so much better? The temperatures are cool, and the mosquitos are few. There is plenty of room to walk our beloved canines.
We are camping next to a beautiful lake. I can walk down to a historic lighthouse and mesmerizing port in about twenty minutes. We can bike to state parks. Tom can kayak on the lake. There is a golf course across the street and a Dairy Queen only a minute away. Restaurants and businesses abound about one-half mile from the campground. And, there is a grocery store only two minutes away.
During our visit to Two Harbors we tried to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park but could not find a place to park. Tom recalled that this had happened to us in the past.
We went on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. (Admission was $10 and $8, but it was worth it.) We have visited lighthouses from Maine to Oregon and more, but this lighthouse was different. The Minnesota Historical Society has created a video about its history and restored the grounds. Who would have thought that so many ships and people died in the waters of Lake Superior before the lighthouse was built? The renovated lighthouse has been made it into a spectacular place to learn about maritime activities.
There is a walkway of a thousand steps (hyperbole) down to the lake and plenty of other opportunities to hike. An old forgotten tramway habited this pathway. If you are not in shape when you start the descent, you will be when you go back up the hill. The wooden steps reminded me of Shinto shrines dedicated to Amaterasu in Japan where wooden steps circled around a hill that displayed a shrine at the top. The steps were a form of meditation.
So much work was involved in maintaining the lighthouse that three families were employed to take care of it. ( In an old photo, there were six houses on top of this hill.) Thus, three houses were built for them. Supplies had to be brought in by boat until highway 61 was built. What a treat to visit this place! Thank you, Minnesota!
Tomorrow we are heading toward Kenora, Ontario in Canada to catch up with some of Tom’s classmates. Then, we resume the trek around Lake Superior.
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge