St. Louis County

On the way to Grand Marais

The first weekend in October we took a road trip to Grand Marais. It’s just over four hours by car, though that assumes no stops (which is never a safe assumption with me in the car). Here are some of the things we saw on the drive.

We were delayed briefly in road construction on 35 near Hinckley, so we enjoyed the colorful trees.

trees starting to change color - mostly green but some yellow and orange

Lunch in Duluth, with a quick glimpse at the lift bridge as we sped past.

lift bridge between the arena and the aquarium

On the north end of Duluth, we got our first clear look at Lake Superior.

the lake out to the horizon, with the highway guardrail in the foreground

We took the Highway 61 expressway to Two Harbors rather than the scenic drive along the shore. Of course we had to take one brief turn off the highway to see Pierre the Voyageur. He used to be at the Voyageur Motel in Two Harbors, but now he’s a greeter just before you reach the town. He looks like he has no pants, although his new owners have said he’s wearing tights. (I didn’t get close enough to verify.)

statue of a man holding a canoe paddle

A sign of autumn: pumpkins for sale in Two Harbors.

signs for sweet corn and pumpkins under a white tent

The tunnel that’s a familiar milestone to everyone heading north on Highway 61.

cars driving into and out of Silver Creek Cliff tunnel

My in-motion photo of the brief glimpse of Split Rock Lighthouse from 61 was so blurry that I deleted it. We then made a spontaneous stop at Gooseberry State Park for a short hike out to the falls. The rest area at Gooseberry is one of the few locations in Minnesota state parks where a parking permit is not necessary (though we have one anyway). It was late afternoon on Friday and the parking lot was packed; cars were even circling to grab a space when others were leaving. I bet it was even busier the next day.

the top of middle falls on the left side

Finally entering Cook County!

Highway 61 with a Cook County sign

We’d been advised that a tram ride at Lutsen Mountains is always fun but essentially required in autumn – and we were lucky enough to hit a peak weekend for fall color. We were there in late afternoon with the sun just starting to set behind the mountain…

tram near the top of Lutsen Mountains

…but looking the other direction, a gorgeous autumn view!

hundreds of trees, mostly orange and yellow with some green pines

The charming trams, whose days are numbered…

three cars that look like red apples

…because a new tram system is about to be launched.

new tram mechanism at the top of the mountain

A view of Lake Superior in the distance on the way back down the mountain.

a sliver of the lake in the distance, with lots of pines in the foreground

Our tram’s shadow in the orange trees.

The second day we were in Grand Marais, we ventured north to Naniboujou Lodge for a late lunch. I had a ridiculously delicious turkey club sandwich with cranberry and mustard, which seems like a strange combination but worked. I also had their famous french onion soup and burned my mouth because I couldn’t wait until it cooled.

side view of the building, with lots of windows in the cedar shake siding

Everyone takes pictures of the ceiling inside the lodge’s restaurant, and it’s easy to see why.

a hanging light fixture underneath a multicolor, patterned ceiling

Of course we also visited the state park (Magney) that’s across the street from the lodge. More about that will be in a future post. (So will Grand Marais itself.)

We stopped at a public beach in Colvill on the way back to Grand Marais. I was mesmerized by the Lake Superior’s giant waves all weekend.

On the way back to the Cities on Sunday afternoon, we made a quick detour in Silver Bay to see Rocky Taconite.

statue that looks like two large taconite balls with arms and legs

A short stop in Two Harbors to see the grand Lake County courthouse. We had stumbled across it on a cloudy day in August and wanted to see it again on a nicer day.

four columns on a Beaux Arts building with a dome

Even a rest stop is beautiful in autumn. We pulled over at this one just outside Knife River because a sign advertised a historical marker, which noted that the four-lane divided part of Highway 61 is called the Arthur V. Rohweder Memorial Highway.

red maples at the Knife River rest stop

It was at this point that Bill decided to take over the driving responsibility. I think he had had enough “detours” – though we had already planned to stop in Knife River anyway for the Great Lakes Candy Company. We picked up caramels, chocolate-covered toffee, and sponge candy.

Only in Minnesota: a sign advertising a fishcake supper.

sandwich board sign along the highway

We took the scenic half of highway 61 after Knife River. There are many pulloff areas for viewing Lake Superior. Just north of Duluth, we saw a barge.

Our last stop of the trip was at the Thomson Hill Information Center, a rest stop on the south end of Duluth, where we saw the barge heading toward the lift bridge.

lift bridge in the distance, colorful trees in the foreground

More from the North Shore

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Categories: Cook County, Lake County, St. Louis County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Festive Minnesota towns

I love driving through small-town Minnesota in December, seeing all the vintage Christmas lights. One Saturday in 2014 we drove up Old 61 to Duluth, stopping in every town along the way. Out-of-order, here’s what we saw.

Rudolph in Hinckley.

white outline of a reindeer with a red nose

Dala horse in Cloquet.

Dala horse covered in net Christmas lights

Festive dinosaur on the playground in Mahtowa.

green apatosaurus with a wreath around its neck, in front of a snow-covered slide

A stocking in Rutledge.

red stocking with a candy cane and toys coming out the top

A couple candles in Sandstone.

two red candles with different flames

A bell in Sturgeon Lake.

green bell with a red bow

Curb-to-curb garland in Pine City.

garland with a wreath in the middle and old-style lights on both sides, and tree and wreath decorations on the other light posts down the street

Starburst in Barnum.

three white stars with wavy streaks

Light poles wrapped in garland in Carlton.

lighted garland

Wreaths are a popular choice on Minnesota main streets. Finlayson, North Branch, and Pine City have the same style.

three wreaths, each with three candles and a big red bow

Harris, Rush City, and Moose Lake have other styles of wreaths.

tinsel, artificial greenery, and a green wire

We finished the adventure at Bentleyville in Duluth.

Bentleyville 2014 main entrance, with the giant lighted tree in the background

The Lift Bridge in lights:

S.S. Bentleyville ship sailing under the lift bridge

Paul and Babe:

Paul Bunyan chopping down a tree with Babe the Blue Ox's help

And, perhaps in a nod to Mahtowa, dinosaurs:

apatosauruses and pterodactyls near palm trees

A couple other favorites from the season, though not from this trip:

Folsom House in Taylors Falls, with each room decorated for Christmas by a local business.

front entrance to a big white house, with the pillars wrapped in red ribbon and a wreath with garland above the door

A wreath again in Scandia.

artificial greenery with four sets of three red ornaments, and a now-pink bow on top

Rice Park in downtown St. Paul.

the tall, skinny blue tree with white lights in the foreground

These photos were retroactively posted on Dec. 1, 2015. I don’t know why I didn’t create this post in 2014; perhaps it’s because I recorded it all on Instagram instead.

Other small-town Christmas trips

Categories: Carlton County, Chisago County, Pine County, Ramsey County, St. Louis County, Washington County | Leave a comment

Welcome To Minnesota

Welcome To Minnesota sign in Duluth

Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Date: May 2, 2007

Categories: St. Louis County | Leave a comment

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