Sunday, May 28, 2006

What Should We Name This Place? Well, let's see. C, eh, N, eh, D, eh. Part One.

****Disclaimer: If you need to use the bathroom, now is the time. This post discusses and had many a picture of water. You've been warned.****

Three years ago, months away from my birthday, DM sent me a card. It was a birthday card and the wonderful card makers at Hallmark spawned an idea. The card was fairly simple, a circle with a picture of bowling pins on the front and it stated, "Remember that time we went bowling in Canada?" I believe the inside said, "That was fun." There may have been more to it, but the part we enjoyed was the idea of going to Canada to go bowling.

DM has been to Canada before, probably around 23 years ago. I had never experienced the Great North (Superior by Nature - according to the sign in Ontario) and so it was decided that with a week away from the hustle and bustle of banking for each of us, we'd drive (I'd drive, she'd sit and try not to sleep (not overly successful at times)) and take this trip without much planning. Our objective: find a hotel/motel and go bowling.

The best part of the trip was the drive. We took a path up through north eastern Minnesota, being able to visit the majority of the North Shore of Lake Superior which is absolutely stunning. Straight through, the drive from the Twin Cities to Thunder Bay should be about 8 hours (according to While we didn't drive straight through, I doubt it would have been this lenghty of a drive. But we did make plenty of stops, had many laughs along the way, and took quite a few pictures. Actually, in two days we took over 3,000 pictures. We managed to snap at a higher rate than when we visited Johnny in Portugal. Yikes!

The drive took us up through Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is a nice town, but both of us have visited it frequently. It is only about 2 hours north of the Cities and the Sheepsheadians have even taken a day trip to this destination. The purpose of that road trip was to take pictures of the changing leaves. I have a scrapbook full of pictures from that day, but pictures are a bit harder to post (pre-digital camera days for any of us). While we no longer converse with two of the people who went with us, I still remember moments of that day quite fondly and the scenery was pretty. Duluth is a harbor town, complete with an arial bridge that rises to allow passage of ships in and out of the harbor. There's a nice train depot in the city as well as vast views of Lake Superior (the largest of the Great Lakes, not sure of the size in comparison with other lakes in the world. I believe it is one of the largest.) Iron ore is big business in the north and many barges and tankers run through the waters of the Great Lakes, so Duluth is prime ground to watch these ships move along and you can even tour one of these boats in the harbor (extremely boring tour - I actually remember this one from my childhood and the mocking that ensued from my parents of our tour guide - her name was Stacy! And she was happy! Perky! Like her eyes were glued open creating a frozen look of surprise that air exists!)

On the way up, we actually did not stop in Duluth. We drove through the town, snapping pictures out the car windows and catching a glimpse of the bridge. 05 Bridge in Duluth (1)(Not a great picture, but you get the point from it.)

Our first real stop of the trip was at a little rest stop just north of Duluth. We'd been in the car for over two hours at this point and now we could start to enjoy the beauty of Lake Gitche-Gumee*. We didn't stay at this stop very long, but we each snapped a few shots of the view while the rain started to drip on us. It was refreshing and I have to say the rain was welcomed. Since it was an easy drive (not many people on the road, restful and relaxing) the rain made us feel cleaner and I appreciated the fact each time the windshield truly filled with suicidal bugs the rain would rinse guts away. (Because, face it, windshield wipers do not do it well enough.)

Here are a couple of pictures from that rest stop:
04 Lake Superior (1)02 Lake Superior

We hopped back in the car, armed with a map, simple directions (head north for a looooooong time), and points of interest designated by one of my bankers from work. She is an avid fan of the North Shore and to help us out, she gave us directions complete with her own thoughts and suggestions for places to visit along the way. (This was so helpful and gave the entire trip a nice personal touch.) After about another half hour on the road, we were in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

As we approached the scenic part of Two Harbors, I spotted a sign for McDonald's. This sign boasted that this particular McDonald's was a "proud member of the Two Harbors Community since 1994." The fact this town and merchant was proud of 12 years of business just added to the feeling of getting away. It made me laugh quite a bit and realize that this was going to be a fun trip.

In Two Harbors, we made two stops. The first was just a bit away from the actual pier, but had a little gazeboo next to the shore with some information about the Edna G, a tug boat used to bring iron ore ships in and out of the Iron Docks. It started to rain again while we were at this stop and we each had taken a few pictures of the tug boat, the rain on the lake, and the iron docks. We saw the pier off to our left and decided to drive over to walk out on the water.

While I should have gone back to the main road to find the side street leading to the pier, I saw a patch of land that resembled a dirt road. Resembled being the key word here. This is when I truly realized that my 2005 Toyota Corrolla really is not an off road vehicle. We did not get stuck, but the mud patterns just didn't match the shiny silver of my sweet, special automobile.

Once at the pier, we got out to wander towards the lake, stopping to capture images of a lighthouse, the rocky shoreline, and a passing barge. There were other tourists at the spot. A family wandered back and forth along the pier. The mother and father each had a hand of their son and would pick him up at each crack in the cement pier and he would exclaim in glee. An older couple slowly walked, hand-in-hand breathing in the crisp, clean air. We saw gulls in the parking lot and flying overhead.

Here are some pictures of Two Harbors:
04 Stop in Two Harbors (1)The Gazeboo
12 Edna GThe Edna G
16 Rain Falling on Lake Superior (2)Rain on the Lake
Two Harbors PierTwo Harbors Pier
Two Harbors Lighthouse (1)The lighthouse
Rocks (2)Rocky Shore
Iron DocksIron Docks
Family on the PierThe family on the pier
Barge on the LakeThe barge
Mud on the Car (3)Mud Spatter

Our next stop on the drive was at Silver Bay. Never having stopped, I wondered if the bay would actually be silver. Sure enough, it was! This stop was a nice one and allowed us to explore quite a bit. We saw a few boats in the bay and one even sailing around. We both climbed the rocks to get better views of the lake and I stunned quite a few with the recanting of the tale when they realized that I was wearing the heels I am comfortable in (I swear, I cannot walk in flats. I've become so accustomed to heels that I just wear them all the time.) I was able to get a great picture of DM at this stop and was even able to try out my photography on a spider web (which makes me shudder).

DanaDana at the Bay
Silver Bay (41)Boat on the water
Spider Web (2)Spider Web

On the road again (oh, Willie Nelson, how you destroyed my childhood), we drove for a bit of time thinking our next destination would be Cascade Falls and restaurant. While on the road, we passed a sign for the Temperance River and as we drove by, the car came to a quick stop, quick parking job, and we were out again. We each picked different viewpoints for our starting points of discovering this raging river and became separated quickly. I was enjoying the path along the river and then headed to the other side of the road to see where the river emptied into Lake Superior. I saw DM crossing the road and figured she was aware of my destination, but no such luck. She actually started to wonder if a serial killer had picked me off and that she may have been stuck in Northern Minnesota with the spare keys to the my car (which she couldn't drive anyhow) locked in the trunk of said car. In fact, I was not dead (proof is the fact I'm writing this post), but was exploring a bridge and hiking up a hill for an optimal view. All along, even passing the sinister looking young man (okay, he wasn't sinister at all. Can't I exaggerate a little? Jeez), I kept thinking about what type of picture I could get from these different spots. The Temperance River was a stunning sight and a nice surprise along the way.

Temperance River (8)The Temperance River
Temperance River (38)Emptying
Temperance River (24)
Temperance River (22)

Back on the road and knowing our stomachs were grumbling, we looked forward to finding the Cascade Restaurant, designated as a favorite place to eat by Joy, the banker who was so sweet to write up spots to stop for us. The restaurant was darling, quaint and full of north woods artifacts. There is something to be said for sitting by a window admiring Lake Superior to your right and looking left into the restaurant and seeing a moose head on the wall. Starving, we did not hold back on what we wanted. Well, DM did hold back a tad and may have regretted it. The restaurant has a bleu cheese stuffed sirloin but since she is allergic to bleu cheese, she figured the trip to a hospital wouldn't fit in to our travel plans and opted against the steak. Instead, we started with appetizers of mozzarella sticks (bland) and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and teriyaki (excellent - even if you do not typically enjoy a good mushroom). We both ordered the char-broiled cajun porkchop with chipotle sauce on top.

First about the porkchop: juicy, thick, and brilliantly cooked.
Second about the porkchop: think fiery death.
I was good for about three bites. Then the cajun was sufficiently caked to the back of my throat and I wanted to die. The flavor was excellent, but neither of us made it far into the meat. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling along the North Shore, however if you have any qualms about heat, and even if you don't, be prepared for only a few bites of this delicious meal. Here are pictures of the food and view:

Cascade Restaurant
Inside Cascade Restaurant (7)
Garlic and Teriyaki Mushrooms
Cajun Porkchop aka fiery death

After eating (and no, we didn't drink all the water in Lake Superior to cool off our throats, tongues, and cheeks but don't think the idea didn't cross our minds), we headed back outside and wanted to stop at Cascade Falls (down the block) before pushing through to Canada. The rain had recently stopped again and we were given the view of a brilliant rainbow. The cameras, barely tucked away, were taken out again for more pictures. We also found where to park near the falls and acquired many more shots of the lake before hiking into the state park. The falls were amazing and we both kept the cameras clicking until the light was almost gone. I adventured out on the rocks to get a better view of the river, hoping that I wouldn't slip off the edge into the rapids. I was not so worried about myself but the fact I'm pretty sure my camera is not water/crushing death proof.

Here are pictures of the rainbow, the lake, and the falls. There are a couple of random pictures of the surroundings of the Cascade River here too.

Rainbow from Cascade (7)
View from Cascade (3)
ReflectionReflection in a pool of rain water on the rocks
Cascade Falls (74)
Cascade Falls (1)
Night Falls at Cascade (14)

Our plan at this point was to keep heading north until we reached the Canadian/Minnesotan border and then into Canada with the mission to find a hotel/motel and get some rest. The sky was getting dimmer and dimmer and while the road was sparse with motorists, I did not revel in the promise of driving along wooded areas full of happy deer ready to get caught in my headlights. We were pushing through and needed to find a nice place for DM to stop and use facilities. That's when we stumbled upon a wayside park called, "Cutface Creek." We never did discover the actual creek, but wondered aloud and at great length about the origin of the name, "Cutface." Since we had passed "Knife River," we did wonder if the two were connected.

It was getting dark and spooky** and the name didn't appease our growing unease. I wandered towards the lake, a bit ahead of DM to find a flat rock with what appeared to be an altar for a ritual sacrifice. There were rocks lining the edge of the altar and sticks were laid on either side of stones in the center. We quickly took a couple pictures, used the facility (think toilet without the tank and a large hole in the ground. There was nothing other than TP and the fancified hole inside the bathroom), and then skedaddled out of there. Our next stop was the border***.

Cutface Creek (19)
*The name for Lake Superior given by the Native Americans from the area.
**I cannot use or hear the phrase "dark and spooky" without thinking back to my pool hall days when a friend stated, "It is dark and spooky in here," to which another friend replied, "Broken poopy?" It still makes me smile.
***Part Two of the Adventure to come soon. This should be a trilogy when I am completed.