Posted by: Nathan | May 28, 2006

A Little Excursion Up North

This Memorial Day weekend, J and I decided to high-tail it out of the Cities for two days and see a little bit of the North Shore. We came back today (Sunday) to 98 degree heat and wondered why we left the chilly breeze and 70s temps of the Superior Shore. Well, hindsight…

Our first stop was Gooseberry Falls State Park. I discovered this place in the pages of Backpacker magazine, which I might have to rave about in a future post. J loves waterfalls and I do too, so I thought this would be the perfect chance to hike there. We took the four-hour drive early Saturday and made it in time to eat lunch while watching the waves come in on Lake Superior. It was freezing cold with the north wind, but we had an excellent lunch of chicken salad sandwiches, chips, carrots, fruit, and Jones soda.

Then we hit the trail. Gooseberry Falls S.P. is right on Highway 61, and they’ve arranged a pulloff point that’s less than half a mile from the falls. Naturally, the wife and I paid $7 to hike much farther, starting at the shoreline, looping up around the main three falls, and hiking back: about 2 miles in all. Due to the ease of the hike, the proximity to the highway, and the holiday weekend, the falls were swarming with people. It’s much more difficult to admire God’s handiwork when annoying plebians with their dogs are constantly in the way. Despite the excess-folk, we made the best of it. The falls were truly beautiful, and once we got out of the wind, it was a perfect day to hike. The trails weren’t difficult, but they were strenuous enough to make one feel it. The area surrounding the falls was mostly pine with birch mixed in and plenty of bluffs all around. It was a great hike.

After that, we checked into the Lake Breeze Motel. I had booked this place online, but oh my, was it ever disappointing in person. We were only staying one night, thankfully, and that was enough. It was clean and not uncomfortable, but it was tiny and entirely unromantic. We had room 16. I don’t recommend.

We had reservations at a fancy place in Duluth, but we blew them off because we realized we hadn’t brought appropriate dress. Instead, we drove to Betty’s Pies and had a greasy but yummy dinner. We had walleye fingers for appetizer, then I had a buffalo burger with pepper-jack cheese and onion rings, while J opted for the buffalo chicken sandwich and fries. Of course we had to try the pie; I had peach/blackberry and J bit into her strawberry/rhubarb. Oh man. Betty’s Pies I do recommend: just north of Two Harbors on 61. Don’t miss it.

We stayed at our motel watching Red Green and Monty Python–good stuff.

The next morning we woke to a foggy world and headed to the Vanilla Bean Café in Two Harbors for breakfast, which turned out to be a tasty decision. I had their specialty: oven-baked omelette with ham, onion, and mushroom served with sour cream and salsa. It was plate-sized and delicious. J ordered the raspberry crépes (w/ fresh raspberries) and we split our two dishes to have quite a filling and yummy first meal of the day. The only disappointment was the coffee: it was too bland and watery without any real flavor. I like the vanilla blend a little better.

Then we wandered around Two Harbors kiling time and looking for unique gift shops. We found the town lighthouse and wandered out on the nearby breakwater. It was freezing again, though we saw a barge docked nearby, and that was cool. The fog made the lake disappear a hundred feet from where we stood. Next, we located a neat greenhouse and admired their plants though we didn’t purchase any.

Then it was four hours back to sweltering heat, a broken air conditioner, and the gnawing question: Why didn’t we stay longer?

Pics: One: Superior shore at Gooseberry Falls S.P.
Two: Gooseberry Falls (I think these are the middle ones)
Three: The disappearing lake
Four: the lighthouse; Mom, this one’s for you.


  1. I’m extremely jealous. The North Shore is one my favorite places I’ve encountered in my extremely limited journeys. I’m glad you had a good time.

  2. Sounds like a blast. You guys are going to be in the mountains every weekend while out in Denver.

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