Saturday, October 1, 2022

Roadtrip: Summer 2022 (Northern Minnesota)


When I was a kid, my family road tripped EVERYWHERE. (And by everywhere, I mean the 48 contiguous states). Of course as a kid I didn't always appreciate what we did and where we went. I've been itching to get up north for awhile now, so when I ran the idea by my dad we decided to plan a road trip.

Our original idea was to venture up to northern Minnesota, then head over to Glacier National Park in Montana, down through Yellowstone, then back to Minnesota. Well. the massive flooding over by Yellowstone threw a huge wrench in those plans, so we decided to just to Northern MN. Unfortunately, there was a lot of flooding up there too, so we were still limited on what we could do. We made the most of it regardless!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

We left home around 8AM and while driving, realize that Sirius XM The Highway was playing the Thomas Rhett concert that was recorded when I was there a couple weeks ago in Nashville! I knew they were recording it to play, but I hadn't thought much of it at the time. That was a cool way to start the trip!

First stop was Kwik Trip in Wisconsin for some road trip snacks. Gotta have my sugar!! (And some Old Dutch potato chips!)

We headed north to Duluth, MN through Wisconsin, and unfortunately there wasn't a lot to do on the drive. As we pulled into Superior, the temperature dropped from 80 degrees to 55!!!! I did not pack for this!! Little did I know, this would be my experience for the next few days...

Once in Duluth, we parked and walked down to the bridge at Canal Park to check it out. My ears were SO COLD I was contemplating finding a shop to buy earmuffs!! We wandered into the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Museum before heading back to the car. The museum gave a nice little history of the shipping in the area, and it was FREE which is always a bonus. There was a little room with a ship steering wheel in it so you could pretend to be driving a ship - I remembered this from when we came many years ago!


By now it was after 1PM and we were getting hungry, so we went and got the car from our 2-hour parking space and moved it to Grandma’s Saloon and Grill, which is where we got lunch. I ended up ordering the wild rice stuffed mushrooms and a side salad. Holy moley. SO GOOD! There was too much cheese on the mushrooms for my tummy’s liking, but the flavor was DELICIOUS! My dad bet me that I wouldn't eat 1/3 of the mushrooms, but I ate them ALL (minus some of the cheese) and almost all of the salad. He was shocked - I can't usually eat that much at once.


Afterwards we walked back down the the canal where a ship was coming in. I thought it was funny that a boat going under a bridge brought such a big crowd! The guys on the ship were funny. Two of them were filming the crowd (as the crowd was filming them) and the other two were hyping everyone up! One yelled “Happy Father’s Day!” As the other raised his arms up and down trying to get everyone to yell and cheer louder. It made me wonder how often they pass through and if its just as fun for them as it is for the crown that gathers.


We headed back to the car and I hopped back into Grandma’s to get a book about ghost stories in Minnesota before going to our hotel to check in. Once at the hotel, we browsed some books and pamphlets to figure out what to spend the evening doing.

From there, we went to the Enger Tower in Enger Park and climbed the stairs to the top to look out over Duluth. This was cool, but there is so much industrialization that the view wasn't that impressive to me. Of course this is all needed, but it made me wonder what it looked like before humans came and took over. They had a Japanese garden at the bottom to walk through and I worked on starting my outdoor scavenger hunt selfies for a work project! 



From the tower, we took the Scenic Parkway ByWay, which honestly I wouldn’t recommend. There was a little bit that gave a bit of a look out over the harbor, but mostly it was just trees. Which I guess counts as scenic??

My aunt called me at this point to tell me she was in town visiting my cousin, so we went to her house next. Since we were still very full from our late lunch, dinner was a Kwik Trip stop (I love KT!) before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Both early risers, dad and I were up, showered, and had breakfast all by 7, so we had to sit around the hotel until 7:30 in order to not arrived at Gooseberry before they opened.

Gooseberry Falls is the first waterfall I ever remember seeing as a kid, and we thought they were the coolest things ever. I have to say, coming back this time it wasn’t as big as I remembered it being, but as my dad reminded me, I was much smaller then.




From there, we headed to Tettegouche State Park, and boy was that beautiful! The trail to go the top of the cliff was about 3/4 miles, and the view at the top was incredible! You could see down the coastline if MN and out across Lake Superior. The water was also so clear you could see the rocks deep down below.






We continued to head north, stopping in Grand Marais for a quick sandwich, until we got to Grand Portage. So far, the temperature had run around 50-55 degrees, but by the time we stopped at Grand Portage National Monument it had officially dropped into the 40s 🥶 

There was a small museum showing the trade in the area and the life of the Ojibwe. We walked through the area set up to show how the tribe lived. You can explore their teepees, and see their canoes and how they’re stored. One was 40 feet long! The man volunteering said it took 14 people to pull the canoe and could carry 2,000 lbs of trade, making it about 5,000 lbs in all when full.

We headed a little further up the interstate to just before the Canadian border to Grand Portage State Park. This state park holds the tallest waterfall in MN, and boy was that water coming fast!



Heading back down the North Shore, we stopped in Lutsen which was a whopping 84 DEGREES!! This was very confusing after spending the day (almost literally) freezing. I really wanted to do the alpine slide, so after determining it wasn’t as scary as the YouTube video I watched made it look, I went for it. It was fun! Though if I went again I’d definitely go faster.


We headed back to out hotel in Duluth, and while the temps dropped to the 40s-50s again during the drive, the heat index was 101 by the time we got back to the town. After resting a bit, we headed over to my cousins and my aunt made us dinner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

It stormed all night last night, so I didn’t sleep well. Despite that, I was still up early. After getting reading and packing up, we left the hotel and headed to Dunkin to grab a donut for breakfast before hitting the road.

Our first stop was Eveleth, Minnesota because I wanted to see the largest hockey stick again. It was too early to visit the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, but the largest hockey stick area had been redone since we last visited, so that was fun! They had a lot of information about how hockey developed in the area, and had a new mural painted on the opposing wall.



Next we headed down the road to Hibbing, MN. In Hibbing, we went up to the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine overlook. This mine use to be three separate mines, but overtime combined into one, mining iron ore. It was called the “Grand Canyon of the North” and was the largest open mine in the world.



After Hibbing, we headed north to International Falls, MN, right on the Canadian border. We drove out to Voyageurs National Park, but it was severely flooded. On the road out, the water had begun to cover the road, so they put up some road blocks to form a single lane and filled it in with gravel so people could still get in. We tried to do some hiking but kept getting stuck where the trails were covered in water and you couldn’t pass. There was a nighttime presentation about the stars I was hoping to go to (with a chance of seeing the Northern Lights!) but it began to rain in the evening and was way too cloudy.

We headed back into town and went to The Chocolate Moose for a late lunch. Dad and I split the poutine (when almost in Canada, amirite?) and a Buffalo chicken wrap.  Both were delicious! The cheese curds on the poutine were breaded which made them extra tasty!

We found this cute little motel to stay at down the main drag called Hill Top Motel. It was owned by a young couple and was very clean and cute as could be. The room and bathroom were decorated in Pacman and other video games. They even had a joystick hooked up to the TV so you could play Pacman!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We took our time getting up since we had no real plans. The adorable lodge had a breakfast that I would actually eat! And by that I mean individually wrapped things (string cheese, granola bars, PERFECTLY WRAPPED BANANAS) that I could take and eat when I got hungry.

First we continued along the Canadian border to Warroad. I got a text from Verizon welcoming me to Canada and letting me know that my data plan included texting and calls 🤣 

In Warroad we swing into the Marvin Windows visitor center. They had a little museum that we walked through and the NICEST BATHROOMS I HAVE EVER PEED IN. They had a whole set up with floss, tampons, spray deodorant, hairspray, etc. 

Then we went to Roseau (Hockeytown, USA) next. There wasn’t anything to do there, so we just drove past the rink before heading south to Bemidji.

By the time we got to Bemidji it was after 1 and I was starving. We walked around the downtown, then settled in a sub shop called Paul Bunyan’s Sub Shop. I ordered a half sub (even though the bread looked the size of a hot dog bun and I thought no way it would fill me up) and they stuffed it SO FULL. I had the Italian and it was delicious! We brought our subs across the street to the Paul Bunyan Park to eat.




From there, we continued south to Itasca State Park. The water was higher than it was when I was there in 2005, which was expected due to all the flooding. I still was able to walk across the mouth of the river coming from the lake and the water wasn’t near as cold as Lake Superior had been. 




We drove down to Brainerd for the night and got pizza from a local joint for dinner. Pizza wasn’t anything to write home about, but the hotel was nice!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

We left Brainerd and headed south, figuring we'd make it home today. My brother just moved to the outskirts of the cities, so we stopped and visited his apartment before heading to Rusty Taco for lunch. I saw a sign for it along the interstate and was VERY EXCITED. (Not because I'd ever heard of it, I just really wanted tacos). I got a fish taco which was mediocre, a spicy fried chicken taco which was delicious, and a side of street corn - also delicious!!


After dropping brother back off, we headed to my favorite destination - Minnesota's Largest Candy Store! I'd been eating Nerd Gummy Clusters the whole trip like my life depended on it, and I was excited to see what the giant store had to offer. They only take cash, and you can bet I spent every dollar of the $22 in my wallet! 


I was a little bummed the weather washed out what our trip could have been, but it was fun to re-visit these places now that I appreciate them more!

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