Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fireweed: The End is Near

Fireweed is blooming along the North Shore. I love the bright colors and proud stance of this native flower, but I know that its appearance means we're at the peak of summer. Fireweed says, "Get going, this summer ain't gonna last."

Here are a few fun facts about Fireweed:
  • Although it's best known for pioneering new territory after a fire, it is also very common along newly-built roads. The pictures in this blog post are from the new scenic pull-out off Highway 61 by Split Rock. In my experience, fireweed shows up in abundance on new roadsides in the second and third years after road construction.
  •  Fireweed is most common in maritime areas with short hot summers...sounds like the North Shore to me. 
  • In Great Britain, it is known as the Rosebay Willowherb. Olympics fans may like to learn that it is the County flower of London.


Monday, July 23, 2012

It’s berry time!

Big blueberries at a pick-your-own farm near Duluth
What a strange year it’s been for nature's timing. Everything was happening a month early this spring. Wildflowers are still blooming 3-4 weeks ahead of time. When it comes to summer berries, we’re still ahead of schedule, but only by a week or two.

Now it's blueberry season. Glowing reports are coming in from the Gunflint Trail and from Tettegouche State Park.

There are a few standbys that have been well-publicized for their berry picking. The top of Palisade Head can have amazing fields of berries. Anyplace named “Blueberry Hill” is  probably a good bet.
If you don’t feel like tracking down that patch of wild berries, there’s another option: pick-your-own berry farms. There are two commercial blueberry farms in the Duluth area.

Blackbirds and Blueberries is out near Cloquet and will have their first open picking this Saturday. Expect hundreds of people. For more information, track them down on Facebook or at

Shary’s Berries is a smaller operation in the woods off the North Shore between Duluth and Two Harbors. Shary’s Berries is open by reservation only. The berries are certified organic. Call in advance to reserve your spot at 218-834-5221.

Duluth's Lakewalk: Bike to Brighton Beach

From the heart of Duluth's Canal Park tourist area, a paved bicycle path leads seven miles along the North Shore and through Duluth's historic eastern neighborhoods to a lovely bit of North Shore coastline, Brighton Beach

Most folks know this path as the Lakewalk. But that's a misnomer. Let's call it the Beach Bike...and let's go for a ride! On hot summer days, Brighton Beach is often the coolest place in Duluth as light breezes slide over the lake.

Here's where the "Beach Bike" will take you, with just over six miles of scenic riding from Canal Park:

Brighton Beach is a longtime favorite day trip for Duluthians and a perfect stop on your way up the North Shore. A quiet, walker-friendly road winds past about half a mile of ledgerock and cobblestone beaches.

Riding the Lakewalk
The so-called Lakewalk starts in Canal Park and leads right along the rocky shoreline for almost three miles. If you want to come from out of town just for this ride, you can park at any of the Canal Park lots and pick up the Lakewalk. 

About two miles from Canal Park, there's a brief interruption where the path runs along Water Street past Beacon Pointe Resort. If you continue on the Lakewalk past 23rd Ave. E., you'll ride up a steep hill and pass below an elaborate bike path ramp. Then watch out for the unmarked junction in thick woods below London Road. If you go straight, you'll pop out on the sidewalk of busy London Road. If you take the sharp left turn, you're onto the second half of the Lakewalk and on your way to the beach. It's the Beach Bike now.

This eastern half of the Lakewalk is neither by the lake nor is it best for walking. So let's call this section the Beach Bike. The path basically follows the railroad tracks through the neighborhoods of Congdon, Lakeside and Lester Park. About five times the path crosses quiet avenues. The path leads all the way to 60th Avenue East where it abruptly stops. Still planned for construction this year is the last bit of connecting trail down to Brighton Beach, but for now you can head down 60th to London Road, cross that busy road at the crosswalk, then safely ride the sidewalk the remaining quarter-mile to the entrance to Brighton Beach.

At the Beach
Once you reach Brighton Beach, you can ride along the road and find your own perfect place: a shady picnic table, a comfortable bench, even a wave-splashed rock where you can watch the ships go by. There are outhouses, firegrates, and a toddler-friendly playground.

LakeWalk or Beach Bike, it's up to you to make it whatever you want.

For a map of the entire Lakewalk, click here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

North Shore Fourth of July

It's hard to believe that it's already the Fourth of July. Since Independence Day falls on a Wednesday this year, the North Shore won't be quite as frantic with travelers making a long weekend out of the holiday. That means a great opportunity for North Shore fans to enjoy some great Fourth of July traditions.

It's going to be a lovely day, with breezes off Lake Superior keeping temps in the 70s despite the statewide heat advisory. 

Tofte Wilderness Trek 

Start your day off right with a 10 kilometer run (or walk) through the woods and ridges near Tofte. Just show up in Tofte at 7:45 AM for same-day registration. Here's more info.

Too hot to run along the North Shore? Sit and watch a parade instead. Festival at the Tofte Town Hall from 11-5, and parade at 2:00. Watch to make sure no float goes by twice.

Band Concerts
Come to Two Harbors and the bandshell in Thomas Owens park at 7:30 PM for a patriotic concert of American favorites. 

What's a Fourth of July without the pyrotechnics? Here's a quick run-down of where to catch a small-town show on the Shore. All shows start at dusk, about 10:00 PM in these northern latitudes.

Grand Portage on the lakeshore by the Lodge and Casino, at dusk 

Grand Marais, in the harbor from Recreational Park to Artist Point

Tofte, in the Town Park

Two Harbors, by the Depot

See you on the shore tomorrow!