Bill and Kit’s 2011 Excellent Adventure-Journal #25

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 How does it feel to be on your own, with no direction home, 

like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone? 

Robert Zimmerman

Friday, May 13, 2011: Well…..its Friday the 13th, sounds like a good day to travel with a high profile vehicle along a narrow two lane road perched on rugged cliffs above an ice cold lake in gusty winds.

So we got underway at 1115 and chose MN-61 the scenic highway that follows the north shore of Lake Superior.  This is the road that Duluth native, Bob Dylan referred to in the song Highway 61 Revisited.  It is a spectacular artery with many turn outs to enjoy the views.

Entering into the coastal town of Two Harbors we stopped at the small visitor’s center to take a break.  In talking to the host we discovered there was a municipal campground less than a mile away so off we went to locate it.

After checking into the Burlington Bay Campground we decided to drive truck and trailer to the center of town and take a walking tour of the area.

Two Harbors is a town of 4,000 hardy folks.  It is situated on a natural safe harbor which has been enhanced by a cement breakwater which was built in 1897.

This feature made it ideal for bulk freighters or, “Lakers” as they are called, to seek shelter in bad weather.  The town contains one the many lighthouses that dot the Lake Superior shoreline.

Two Harbors light, built in 1892, is the oldest operating light along Lake Superior’s shoreline.  The original Forth Order Fresnel Lens has been replaced by a more modern 24 inch, 1000 Watt beacon and is a functioning aid to navigation to this day.

An interesting historical fact of this relatively small town relates to the huge corporation 3M.  Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing was established here by five friends in a small unimposing building.


The company was founded in 1902 on a mistake.  Apparently the five partners believed they had located a reliable source of corundum.  They realized that this mineral could be used for making grinding wheels and sandpaper for the fledgling automobile industry.

After mining, processing and manufacturing their first order of sandpaper they were informed that the mineral they thought was corundum was actually a low grade of Anorthosite, a worthless mineral for making abrasives.

Undaunted the partners drifted into other ventures and today this global leader in many diverse products employs 80,000 people worldwide……including my father for many years.

In our tour of Two Harbors we wandered into many stores and public offices.  One place I hung out in for a while was the headquarters for the Superior Hiking Trail.  The SHT (honest—that’s what it’s called) is a meandering 275 mile footpath that follows the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth to the Canadian border.  This “long trail”, modeled after the Appalachian Trail, was built in the 1980’s.

There were also a number of rock shops in town.  The gemstone, Agate is found in abundance along the Lake Superior beaches and is collected, cut, and polished in order to make a number of beautiful decorative objects.  The highly sought after “Banded Agate’s” are the rarest and gave birth to the phrase “Hard Rock Band”.

OK, I made that last sentence up, however the “hunting” of Agates has become a tourist pursuit and there are many books on where to look and what to look for… addition there is a good market for high quality Agate stones.  So, inspired to become an Agate Magnate I was anxious to return to the campground and start collecting my wealth.  This is what an Agate looks like in its natural state.  Can you spot the valuable gems?

Good…..then my vast Agate collection, and fortune, is safe!

Once again, being early in the camping season we had our pick of many premium sites so we chose this one right on the beach.

A note of observation, not a complaint, just something we have discovered after many nights in many different campgrounds.  As you may be able to tell by the above photo, our water connection was some distance from the designated site.  Even with two lengths of 25 foot hose we just barely made it.  In addition, our sewer connection was about 10 feet away in the other direction.  I suppose separating the water and sewer connections is prudent…..but fifty plus feet seems a bit excessive.  This situation is not unique to this great campground.  It isn’t real common but it happens enough that I wonder if the folks that lay out these campgrounds are even campers.

Saturday, May 14, 2011:  Woke to cloudy skies and a temperature of 44 degrees.  Following a “Bill Breakfast” (recipes available) we are back on MN-61 continuing up the Lake Superior shoreline.

Highway 61 features some of Minnesota’s nicest state parks.  One beautiful place we came across was Gooseberry Falls.

Now, I don’t know what a “Goose Berry” is but if I see any lying about I’m gonna be sure not to taste one.

This CCC constructed park was very nice with hiking trails to the three featured waterfalls and others connecting to the SHT path (I get a kick out of that acronym).

At the Gooseberry Falls visitors center there was an informative video presentation on the history and sights of the area.  Unfortunately some clown sitting in front of the projector kept making shadow puppets on the screen.

Kit say’s, that at times, I’m an embarrassment.  What…..where did that come from?!?!

Midafternoon and tired of eating our own cooking we stopped at the highly recommended Rustic Inn, just north of Two Harbors.  The fried Walleye was incredible but the homemade pies are what bring folks from miles around.

This crumbly Apple Pie Alley Mode was simply the best I had ever experienced (sorry Moody’s).

Back on MN-61 and a few short miles down the road we pulled in for the night at Tettagouche State Park.  We set up in their remote campground at a site of our choice.

This park has many hiking trails as well and a number of them leave from the campground.  One such trail leads to the falls on the Baptism River.

This area is also transited by the SHT track (chuckle) and a hiker’s bridge has been constructed to allow safe crossing of the river.

It is a “swinging” bridge, similar to the one back home.  With each footstep the thing undulates up and down and sways side to side.  Felt like walking on one of those carnival bridges.  The sights and sounds of this remarkable place can’t adequately be described in words or pictures.  So I made an attempt to video the river…..check it out at:

Sunday, May 15, 2011:  Happy Birthday, Joe!

Beautiful morning…..sunny and warm.  By 1015 we were off, continuing our trek north on scenic highway 61.

This area of Minnesota looks a lot like the coast of Maine, without the salt air smell…..or Massachusetts tourists.  In fact, other than us, there were very few tourists at all.

I think I even spotted a number of Lobster Buoy’s as we skirted the shoreline.  And there are even Seagulls (Lakegull’s?) whirling about.

Entering the village of Grand Marais we were struck by this quaint town.  Even though we have only traveled a total of 110 miles in the past three days, we decided to stay in Grand Marais a few days and explore this intriguing area.

Stay tuned and hang in there…..we are almost done.

Kit’s Fifteen Cents Worth:  Driving up Hwy 61 is a lot like driving up the coast of Maine.  Some towns have gone all out to entice tourists, while others seem to prefer their privacy.  Also, driving along the coast of Lake Superior is much like either the Atlantic or Pacific, without the salt air smell.  While I didn’t dare go into the water, it sure is beautiful.  Plus, this time of year is great since tourists are just beginning to trickle in.  All the standard tourist places are just beginning to “wake up” for the season.

Love, Dad/Bill/Poppy and Mom/Kit/Guma