northward bound

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I have no idea who those people are, and even though they photo-bombed my picture, I still love this park.

That friend of mine met another friend while she was teaching English in China and this other friend just so happened to be visiting America and wanted to tour the Midwest’s finest attractions. We volunteered to go camping up north so that this friend could “experience” Minnesota.

If you’re in Minnesota, you need to go to the North Shore. No, you must go there. It’s full of amazingly beautiful views and cute small towns. Steve and I find ourselves going up there at least once a year to camp and visit our favorite spots: Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche, and lots of other places along the way. And maybe I’m a little nostalgic for the North Shore, too, since that’s where Steve popped the question a few years ago during a snow-filled trip in February.

We weren’t too sure how the weekend would go, since the friend is somewhat afraid of dogs and we have…well…The Beast, but everything went really well, mostly without a hitch.

Except for the rain one night.

And the really slow air pump for the mattresses.

And the hole in our air mattress.

And the hyper-turned-whiny-and tired dog.

But other than that, no hitches.

Luckily, we had just bought a new SUV to replace Steve’s car, which was recently totaled, and we were able to take it camping. Having enough room to not have to cram is so nice!

We drove north, running into the typical Minnesota summer attraction: construction. We had left early enough that we weren’t backed up too much, so it wasn’t too long until we had arrived in one of my favorite cities.

Duluth!

We didn’t want to spend too much time exploring because the sight of nearby dark clouds made us nervous about having to set up the tents in rain.

We walked out to the end of the pier near this little lighthouse, the usual photo op, to get a view of frigid Lake Superior.

Steve’s thrilled.

Feta’s loving all of the attention from the nearby kids gawking at her.

After a few photos, we kept going north until we passed through Two Harbors, Castle Danger, and finally arrived at Gooseberry State Park.

Normally it is nearly impossible to get a reservation this state park because it is one of the most beautiful and mostly commonly visited ones in Minnesota. However, because the state decided to shut down for 20 days (don’t even get me started on this…), I wasable to get the very last site available one hour after reservations started back up again.

As we were driving , the clouds threatened, but didn’t open up on us. But then Steve opened his mouth:

Steve: “Man, we are so lucky it hasn’t rained yet.”

Cruel, little raindrop falls on the windshield as we pull through the gate to the park.

More of the raindrop’s friends fall down on us as we set up the tents.

Maybe Steve had spoken too soon.

We managed to make dinner through the rain and turned in early to be well-rested for hiking through parks tomorrow.

I have to give Hilary tons of props for not only hiking in flip-flops, but also in a jean skirt. And she didn’t complain one bit! Unlike myself…

On Saturday, we started off at Gooseberry, walking down to the shore and then making the no-so long trek to the falls, the main attraction. It really is the best part of the park, getting to walk through the water and gaze at these (usually) impressive falls.

Going to the parks also gives The Beast to live out her lifelong dream of being an action-star-dog, even though she barely survives a walk without scampering toward home to bask in the central air. But in her head she’s Lassie, Balto, and Rin Tin Tin, all in one amazing and hairy pup.

Feta loved the waterfalls.

LOVED

So did a lot of the other visitors. It’s virtually impossible to get a picture without some other stranger hanging out in the background.

Here’s my best attempt of a stranger-free photo, with only one rogue arm making an appearance. We hiked around the lower and middle falls a little more before heading up to the upper falls.

Feta was up for anything.

Even a family photo with her embarrassing parents.

Can I just bring to your attention how incredibly pale Steve makes me look? Geeze. And I thought I was looking tanner than normal.

Here’s a better view of these falls:

Jenni couldn’t pass up an opportunity to capture northern Minnesota, even though she had come along with us once before.

Note her super-awesome bag that she made herself. I can only aspire to be so crafty.

Or sew-tastic.

I attempt to craft, but I’m lacking artsy skills.

That’s why she’s the artsy friend and I’m the nerdy friend.

We make a great pair.

Here’s my attempt to be artsy. It included clicking one button.

After resting for a quick bit, we decided that we’d head north along Highway 61 all the way to Judge Magney State Park to see the Devil’s Kettle. It would be a bit of a drive, but it was a really interesting waterfall where half falls down into the river and half falls down into a hole, where no one knows where it goes.

We swung through the Palasaide Head to view some gnarly cliffs where some crazy people go rock climbing along the sheer edge, dangling above the churning, cold waters.

Next state park stop was Tettegouche, for a short hike down to the water.

The beach was rocky where the river met the lake and some fun friends for Feta had come ashore to say hello.

Or pinch us.

Or just make Steve hungry.

Gross.

At least he didn’t actually eat any of them.

This park isn’t as popular to tourists as Gooseberry Falls, but offers just as spectacular views and if you don’t go, you’re definitely missing out.

And Steve said something about another waterfall at this park and it being the tallest/biggest/something-or-other in Minnesota. I’ve never seen it, but it probably is pretty neat.

By this time, we had done a fair amount of hiking, but nothing too crazy. This coming from the girl whose idea of exercise is walking up the stairs to her car in the parking ramp.

Feta, although happy, had done enough for the day.

Note the gross bug bite on my pasty leg.

What nastiness.

And eventually The Beast realized my leg isn’t all that comfortable.

We finally arrive at the final state park stop, just north of Grand Marais.

After hiking and hiking and hiking and hiking, we reached some falls that you could walk right out to and swim in if you’re daring enough. There was a family with two teenage girls that had way more guts than me, jumping right into the falls.

We knew after seeing these falls that we had to be getting close to the Devil’s Kettle.

Right?

Oh thank goodness! We’re almost there!

But this sign gave us a false hope of a short distance.

700 feet in elevation?

Possibly.

700 feet all uphill?

Definitely.

At least.

But we made it. Here’s the courageous Jenni (barely) going past the railing to get a picture of the mighty Kettle.

I took no pictures of it.

Sorry.

Maybe she’ll post some of hers someday.

When we were hiking and hiking and hiking to the falls, we noticed this extreme set of stairs that we were going down, trying to forget that we’ll have to climb them someday.

Eh, we’d worry about them later.

And then there they were.

In all their disgusting glory.

Mocking us, knowing that we’d never be able to make it all the way to the top without multiple stops.

And so we climbed.

And complained.

Then rested.

And then were passed by a guy who I figured to be about the age of my dad.

Felt bad about my lack of aerobic capabilities.

Craved pizza.

Then we started to climb again.

And complain again.

But then we started whining.

And aching.

And moaning.

I think Steve had had enough of us by that point because he kept getting farther and farther ahead.

Or maybe Feta just wanted to use the outdoor facilities in private.

It was probably that.

But we made it to the parking lot (eventually).

The complaining really did help.

And note my face: the face of exhaustion and desire for pizza.

Overall, our camping trip was tiresome and successful, and captured the  essence of Minnesota:

Outdoor-sey-ness.

Not that I’m outdoor-sey in the least bit.

And after all that hiking, we decided that we need to be treated to another landmark of the North Shore that required a little less physical activity and a little more chewing.

Sven and Ole’s.

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