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Day 215 – North Shore Drive

Despite the thermometer in VANilla reading 82 degrees at
midnight, today was remarkably better than yesterday.  We had a busy day traveling Minnesota’s North
Shore.  Upon exiting Duluth, I snapped a
quick photo through VANilla’s bug spattered windshield of the City’s aerial
lift bridge which rises vertically to allow ships to pass by.  I hope to get a better view of the bridge
upon my return.

Our first stop along the shore was Two Harbors.  Petey joined me for a walk around Agate Bay where
we admired an old tugboat, watched the ore shipping process, and searched for
geocaches around the lighthouse.

Agate Bay, was the site of the first shipment of iron ore
from Minnesota in 1884.  Today, three of
six docks remain and 10,000,000 tons of taconite or iron ore is shipped
annually through the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior.  The original wood docks were replaced by
steel in the 1920’s.  Dock #1 is over
1,300 feet long and is about seven stories tall.

The Edna G., built in 1896 by the Cleveland Ship Building
Company and named for the daughter of the President of the Duluth & Iron
Range Railroad, was the last steam driven tugboat on the Great Lakes when it
was retired in 1981.

The Two Harbor Light Station was completed in 1892 to aid
the growing number of ships (50 to 75 per week) visiting Agate Bay by the turn
of the century. The light is still active, stands 80 feet above lake levels,
and operates 24 hours a day.

We only found one of three caches due to muggles and laziness,
but it was enough to say I have marked Minnesota off the list!  Given my good cell coverage, I expected I’d
have additional opportunities along my way up the coast.  I was right, the falls at Gooseberry Falls
State Park was an earth cache.

Due to the budget disagreement in Minnesota, all
non-essential services were shutdown which included all state parks and rest
areas.  The entrances to the parks were
barricaded and water as well as restroom and campground services were
shutdown.  Day use of the parks was
discouraged, yet allowed, thus several parked along the highway and walked
through the park entrances.  Without park
maps, it made for a bit of a challenge, everyone seemed to ask each other which
way to the falls.  My GPS helped me
out.  The upper and lower falls tumbled
30 and 60 feet over a reddish-brown granite.

The north shore of Minnesota is peppered with state
parks.  We continued approximately seven
miles up the state’s busiest highway to the next park, Split Rock Lighthouse
State Park.  This park’s entry proved a
bit more challenging.  A posted sign
claimed the lighthouse was a quarter mile down the path.  Another family and I that didn’t seem to know
where we were going certainly walked farther than a quarter mile.  We wound along the paved pathway past
wildflowers, pines, and birch trees, crossed a bridge and eventually cut
through the forest to the lake to get a view of the lighthouse perched on the
cliff.  I overheard the other family
saying the Split Rock Lighthouse looked like the one in the movie Shutter
Island.  I never saw the movie, so
someone else will have to weigh in.  Due
to the state’s budgetary constraints, the path to the lighthouse and the
lighthouse itself were closed, so after marking down an earth cache here, we
moved on to Temperance River State Park.

I took the short walk from the highway parking area to the
bridge that crossed the Temperance River and watched a few kids jump off the
cliff where the mouth of the river and Lake Superior intersect.  If I knew I could find a shower (I had to
resort to a bathing suit shower in the forest from the sprayer on the back of
VANilla while fending off flies and skeeters), I would have joined in the
fun.  The thought of smelling like
river/lake water that had the appearance of rootbeer was not appealing.  It was entertaining, however, to watch the
teenage girl jump off the cliff, swim to shore, climb back up and jump off
again all while the young man stood there working up the courage.

After one more stop at an overlook in Silver Bay where I found a cache, I decided to drive to the
northern most point and catch a few more stops on the way back down the coast
tomorrow.  We reached Grand Portage where
the Chippewa Indians historic headquarters have been reconstructed here as a
national monument.  This area served as a
trading post where “North Men” traded their valuable pelts for goods and money.

We ended the day returning to Grand Marais where we found a
fish market that offered fish and chips: fried walleye and french fries…quite
tasty.  I washed it down with a local red
lager before finding a 24 hour laundromat where I spent the evening washing
clothes.  ETB

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