Monday, August 22, 2011

The State Fair is on; special secret season for the North Shore

The Great Minnesota Get-Together is starting up this week. If you want S'Mores without the hassle of 1) camping, 2) campfires and 3) stick whittling, you could go to the Fair and patronize the "Real S'Mores" shack. They might even put it on a stick for you. 

But if you want another authentic Minnesota experience, head for the North Shore instead. As soon as the Fair starts, the summer crowds on the North Shore drop right off.'s the special secret season!

As of today, there are open campsites you can still reserve at every North Shore state park from Gooseberry to Judge Magney. Come mid-week you can have your choice of any park. Things will pick up over Labor Day weekend; get up here and enjoy the special secret late summer season.

If you come to the North Shore in the next week or so and you still need a taste of the Big Fair, you can check out the Midway, livestock judging and even greasy food at the Lake County Fair, August 25-28.  

If you really want the Giant Slide, head for Spirit Mountain's Timber Twister or Lutsen's Alpine Slide.

Come up for some gorgeous late summer weather and to experience the trails and towns of the North Shore without the summer crowds. It's special!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Down the river, to the beach

Heavy rains pummeled the western Lake Superior area earlier this month. Up to six inches of rain fell in a band just south of Superior, Wisconsin...the headwaters of the Nemadji River. The rising river tore at the clay banks and carried everything it grabbed down to Lake Superior. It created not only a plume of red clay into the lake but a veritable parade of tree trunks, some more alive than others.

While the new horizontal forest is thickest down toward the end of Minnesota Point, there was still a lot of big wood on our own beach. My crafty neighbor quickly built an entire teepee frame out of the 8-10 foot logs. The 20-foot to 30-foot trees were just too big for him, and the fresh ones with their branches sanded clean by the current just too awkward.

A few days later, these skeleton trees began washing up on the Park Point beach. They must have followed the Nemadji current out through the Superior Entry and to the open lake.  These massive logs speak to the power of water and wind and waves.

I'm always nervous when things start washing up on the Lake Superior shore. Two years ago I was half-expecting to find a kayaker's remains along our beach. This last rain storm, its downpour channeled into our streams, carried another victim to Lake Superior, Jefferson Bowen, a Duluth 13-year-old, who drowned on Amity Creek and whose body was found up the shore from the mouth of the Lester River a few days later.

But almost all the time, the Lake brings cool, good things. Like massive driftwood. Agate chips. Foreign beer cans. And, so his family can rest, the body of a adventurous kid.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the road with Sam Cook

Chris Evavold being photographed by Sam Cook at Divide Lake
Every two or three years, the phone rings and a familiar voice with just a hint of Kansas in it says, "Hi, Andrew, Sam Cook." Just like the sound of a bell got Pavlov's dogs to salivate, that voice makes me start to stuff my day pack. We're going on an adventure.

Sam wanted to do an article about North Shore hiking and our new book, Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota's spectacular Lake Superior region. "Where would you like to go, Andrew?," Sam asked. What a great question to get!

Sam was looking for something different. The day would be hot, so it would be good to be near a lake. He'd done a lot on the Superior Hiking Trail. He wanted to bring his lab, Lucy. Fortunately, I had the perfect hikes for him. And the perfect hiking companion.

Eighteen Lake and Divide Lake are both in the Superior National Forest, just east of Isabella off Highway One. They both have hiking trails around the shore, 2.7 miles at Eighteen Lake and 2.1 at Divide Lake. In the National Forest, dogs can run free off leash. And Divide Lake is a trout lake, which was perfect for my old friend Chris Evavold. 
Pipsissewa in bloom along Divide Lake trail
Chris, Sam and I met in Duluth and headed up Highway 61 to Illgen City. I drove Sam's minivan so he could ask me questions and jot down notes in his classic narrow reporter's notebook. I was ready: "What's so great about hiking here?" "Why did you want to write this book?"

At Illgen City I checked my watch. The "Lake Superior region" in the subtitle of my book roughly means anywhere you can reach within one half hour of driving from Highway 61. It was 32 minutes up Highway One to Divide Lake. Phew!

Hiking (or skiing, or snowshoeing, which I've done with him for other articles) with Sam is a moving chat fest in the woods. Much of the conversation is off the record and only distantly related to the story at hand. But every few moments, Sam would either dash ahead to get photos of Chris and me, or lag behind to write in his notebook.

The hikes were scenic and a lot of fun. Divide Lake is more for anglers and naturalists, with interesting botany and (supposedly) trout in the lake. Eighteen Lake is great for hiking, with lovely pine forests and dramatic views up and down the wild lake.
After the hike around Eighteen Lake, Sam got "head shots" of Chris and me. We were into the heat of the day, so before we headed back to Duluth we went for a refreshing swim in the cool lake waters. Just what the reporter ordered.

Here's the article. There's some good related content, too. See you out there!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Duluth beyond Lake Superior

Park Point message says it all: "I LOVE DULUTH."
Newspaper readers in Minneapolis, Kansas City and even Miami recently got a great tour of our fair city, Duluth.

Star-Tribune reporter Curt Brown did a great job catching the charming back corners of the Zenith City. Maybe you'll find some pointers too!

Duluth beyond Lake Superior: Turn your back on the big water for a while - Travel Wires -