September 14th (continued from previous entry)
At Duluth I veered north onto Highway 61 –
Quick fact: For music lovers, Bob Dylan hails from Duluth and one of his songs Highway 61 Revisited is inspired by Highway 61 in his hometown. Highway 61 runs all the way from Minnesota to New Orleans and is known as ‘The Blues Highway’ given it’s route through the Mississippi Delta blues region. I can imagine Dylan dreaming of New Orleans and adventures down The Blues Highway. As a songwriter I can imagine the North Country of Minnesota certainly influenced his writing.
Designated as an All-America Scenic Road – Highway 61 (MN 61) is an approximately 140 mile stretch of highway that hugs Lake Superior from Duluth to the US-Canadian border at Grand Portage. The first twenty miles you have the option to take the ‘Scenic 61’ bypass that provides unparalleled lakeshore views until you reach Two Harbors.
I definitely recommend the ‘scenic’ route as you head north. In addition to phenomenal lake views, as well as waysides if you need a coffee or bite to eat.
Two Harbors is seat of Lake County and offers visitors dining and spirits. We’ll be exploring Two Harbors later in this journey.
I glanced at the clock: 3:30 p.m. CT…With several hours of daylight I decided to stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park and then check into the condo I rented just north of the park entrance.
Situated at the mouth of the Gooseberry River as it enters Lake Superior, this state park is a stunner with picturesque roaring waterfalls, volcanic rock, lakeside cliffs and beach access.
I started my Gooseberry adventure at the visitor center, which offers wonderful exhibits on the geologic and human history of the park as well as exhibits on flora and fauna.
The North Shore is home to an abundance of wildlife including the rare Canadian lynx, black bear, moose and feared and revered timber wolf. Minnesota has the largest concentration of wolves outside of Alaska.
A well-marked trail from the visitor center guides waterfall enthusiasts to the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Words cannot describe the beauty, but pictures dare to try.
The Upper Falls are fairly accessible, even with wheelchair access FYI, but the Middle and Lower Falls are harder to manage if you have any sort of trouble with navigating stairs/elevation.
I continued on the trail along the river, but stopped short of hiking on to Lake Superior.
If you enjoy camping – Gooseberry has a phenomenal campground (no electric per my understanding) – right on the shores of Lake Superior!
Gooseberry has an abundance of hiking trails including the two-mile Fifth Falls, which leads to another glorious cascade.
The Gitchi Gummi Trail 2.5 loop provides incredible views of the Gooseberry River Valley and Lake Superior
The River View Trail is hilly but a nice hike past the falls and downstream to the river mouth.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts…I’m a big fan of the CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps and the work they did during The Great Depression to build America and our parks infrastructure.
The CCC played a huge role in the creation of Gooseberry Falls State Park – the park pays homage to the legacy of these young men who gave everything to build a brighter future even in tumultuous times. Follow the legacy of the CCC through historic points through Gooseberry. Over eighty CCC buildings remain in the park – learn more about the CCC here.
Leaving Gooseberry, I drove the short distance to the trailside suites condo I rented for two nights. Located a mile from Gooseberry, this rental is the perfect lakeside retreat to recharge. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen and the living room picture windows frame Lake Superior.
I wanted to make sure the key worked and drop off a few items before I drove north a few more miles to The Split Rock Lighthouse.
I have been enchanted with visiting Split Rock since seeing a picture of it in a state park guide. Set high on a rocky bluff, Split Rock keeps watch over Lake Superior. It is the diamond of an area known as ‘Castle Danger.’
Unfortunately I arrived at Split Rock close to closing time and was unable to take the tour, however the tour guide did give me permission to walk the gravel path to take a photo as the sun began to set.
I’ll dedicate my next post to Split Rock and the history of the lighthouse.
Having gone nonstop with nothing but gluten free goodies and coffee I was in desperate need of a good meal. I ended up eating in Two Harbors at Black Woods Bar and Grill.
I highly recommend eating at Black Woods. The decor is basic, but the food is delicious Americana.
They have a fantastic gluten free menu, including a dessert. I stuck with the BBQ burger and it is one of the best I’ve had. Mouthwatering and delicious.
While in Two Harbors I drove to the waterfront and explored the exterior of Minnesota’s oldest lighthouse – The Two Harbors Light. The museum was closed, but according to their website it is worth a return trip – with lots of local history.
Like many of Superior’s harbor’s, Two Harbors is a working port, primarily for iron ore. It originally was two separate ‘harbors’ – Agate and Burlington, but by the late 1880s they merged into Two Harbors.
Fun fact: 3M started in Two Harbors and there is a museum dedicated to the history of the original founding. Unfortunately 3M now is headquartered elsewhere – but shows the biggest companies often start small.
If you drink beer, Two Harbors is home to the Castle Danger Brewing – one of the most popular homegrown breweries. You can toast your superior day with a beer in their taproom.
In my next post I’ll dig deeper into Split Rock and more detail on Two Harbors Light…we’ll then hike to the waterfalls of Tettegouche State Park and enjoy the north shore’s best pie at The Rustic Inn.
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