Today we venture forth to explore the North Shore of Minnesota. I have loaded up the Escape Pod, fueled up the Jeep, and loaded all of our gear. This will be our second outing since having the baby and I am still not used to all of the extra gear it requires to go camping with a baby or how much more time it takes to load that gear and get on the road. So yes we are running a bit behind schedule. Don`t get me wrong I use the term schedule loosely as I don’t so much keep a schedule when I am traveling more so just a rough sketch of what it is we want to do in a given day while we travel.
Our starting point is just South of Duluth, MN and heading along the shore of Lake Superior to Grand Marais, MN. We plan on setting up camp in Grand Marais and from there exploring the Gunflint Trail and if time permits Grand Portage, MN.
I am writing this while sitting outside in the sun waiting for a table at the Scenic Cafe just North/North East of Duluth. We have heard very good things about the New Scenic Cafe both by word of mouth and also on other blogs I have found while researching this trip. Very excited to finally get to try it out.
Later that day…
Well we were not disappointed. The good things we heard about the New Scenic Cafe were not false. We had about a 30 minute or so wait which I hear is a fairly normal occurrence which is a good thing, it means people enjoy eating there. We were seated at a nice table that overlooked a very pretty garden area. The menu was smallish but filled with all kinds of wonderful selections. My wife and I both had sandwiches but before that I thought we would take our taste buds on an adventure and I ordered escargot. I am so glad we did because it turned out to be some of the best escargot I have ever had. Not that I have the chance to get it to often. Our sandwiches were well done as were our drinks. We have already made plans to return to the Scenic again for a date night as soon as the baby is old enough to stay with grandma.
Once lunch was done we were on the road again and soon found ourselves in Two Harbors, MN. We had to make a stop in Two Harbors at the local grocery store to pick up some charcoal for our dinner later that night. We were in and out and on our way in quick order as we were excited to be back on the road and getting ourselves to Grand Marais and the campground.
I have to say that taking a ride up the North Shore in early October is not a bad way to spend a few hours of your time. The trees were all starting to change colors, there was not too much traffic on the roads, everything was still open and not yet closed for winter so there was a lot of options for stopping to eat, drink, or pick up supplies. I feel like this early October trip up the shore may become a tradition for us.
We arrived in Grand Marais around 3pm and found the campground very quickly. The Grand Marais Campground and Marina was the name of the campground we decided on and we are very glad we did. It is a good-sized campground with several options of camping spots. We picked one of the more expensive spots at $33.00 a night simply because it was closest to the water. If a person was on a budget or did not care about seeing the water there are spots in the more wooded areas of the campground that run about $20 to $30 a night. I spent some time walking around the campground after we had set up and all of the sites were very nice, clean, not cramped, and easy to get into and out of.
I was excited because I was finally able to set up and use my new Coleman canopy we got for Christmas from my wife’s grandparents.
This was the first time I was able to use it short of a practice run in the backyard so I knew how to put it up and take it down. I have nothing but good things to say about this canopy. I can put it up all by myself in about 5 minutes or less, taking it down again takes marginally longer but I can still do it alone easily.
Another thing I really like about this canopy is my cook tables and our camping chairs fit into it and there is still room to move around. I was given the pack away kitchen by Coleman for a wedding gift from my parents several years ago and it has made camping so much better. No I don’t get paid to review Coleman products I swear, it just happens I have several Coleman pieces of gear that I use. The pack away kitchen I use is this one:
It actually takes me longer to set this little table up then it does the canopy but once it is set up it is one of the most useful pieces of gear I have for when we camp. I love to prepare all of our meals outside and this table makes it that much more of a joy.
Here is a photo of my camp kitchen in the middle of an epic breakfast making session. It really is much more organized than it appears in this photo.
The rest of that evening was spent grilling up chops for dinner and enjoying the campground.
The next morning we were up early and had a breakfast of fried potatoes, bacon, and eggs and then we were off to explore Grand Marais.
Grand Marais for being such a small town really has a lot going on. The first thing that catches your attention about the town is the fact that even though it is way up north Minnesota, literally a stones throw from the Canadian border it feels like a coastal village on the Maine shoreline. It is like one minute you are in Minnesota and the next you are on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, minus the pelicans.
The next thing that impressed me about Grand Marais was the abundance of quaint little shops to visit and get lost in. Everything from antique shops to art galleries, three art galleries for sure that we visited. There were shops selling fresh made fudge, shops set up to outfit you for a trek into the wilderness, and shops where you could learn how to paint or do pottery plus many more we did not get a chance to see.
Lunch time was spent at the Harbor House Grille. If you find yourself in or near Grand Marais I highly recommend a visit here if for no other reason then to try their maple bacon creme brulee it is beyond amazing. If you have time to sit and have a full meal I was very happy with that as well. I had the smoked trout sandwich and my wife had the smoked salmon burger, both of which were fantastic. The neat thing about the Harbor House is it is literally a house that has been converted into a restaurant and it is so cozy it makes you feel right at home. I heard that going for lunch is recommended if you don’t like to wait or are not a fan of crowds as things can get very busy there during dinner hours as it is a popular place to eat in Grand Marais.
Lunch was over and we decided to walk out to the “lighthouse”. Not really an official lighthouse but a navigational light with no house on the end of a concrete, steel, and rock pier that is called Artists Point. It was well worth the hike out to the light. The wind was blowing just enough that it was creating some decent waves that would crash against the wall and/or rocks creating some very beautiful water effects.
I was able to avoid getting wet except once a rogue wave caught me off guard and my shoe got wet. This walk is unfortunately not handicap accessible, we had our stroller along and that was a no go.
I would say you should be fairly confident climbing uneven terrain as well if you are planning on taking this walk, there are stairs and uneven rocks to walk over and climb on as you move out towards the light.
I brought my dog with me and she thought it was the best walk we had ever been on. Plenty of places and little shallow pools of water for her to play in. I spent easily an hour or more just hanging out on the point taking photos and videos it was such a beautiful and perfect day.
We decided to head back to the camper after our walk on the point. Grilled up some steaks we bought at the local market and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and reading.
The next morning we woke up to rain. We had half anticipated this due to weather reports but were kind of hoping those reports would be wrong. We had saved a drive up the Gunflint Trail for this day just in case it did rain we figured if it was raining we could still enjoy our day driving and enjoying the scenery from the dry cab of our Jeep.
It was an excellent decision since the rain did not let up until almost noon it gave us time to slowly drive up the Gunflint. It was raining out but not raining so badly that we could not see the beautiful scenery outside. By mid-morning we had made our way up a good portion of the Gunflint and had the chance to take some side trips to recon a few campgrounds so we could have an idea which ones we would want to stay at in future trips up the North Shore.
If anyone is planning a vacation that includes the Gunflint Trail I would not worry about which campground is better than another. I visited at least 5 of them on our trip up and every one of them was just as beautiful as any other. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. Some of the campgrounds do have some better campsites then others but in my opinion all the spots have something wonderful about them. Another thing I noticed was that all of the National Park campgrounds up on the Gunflint trail are all very well taken care of and in all the National Park campgrounds I have stayed in over the years I have never seen any with as many restrooms as the ones up there. It felt like for every two camping spots there was a restroom set up. Is that a strange thing to notice? Maybe but I couldn’t help but mention it.
I took The Broke Dog on a hike along Iron Lake starting at the Iron Lake Campground. Not a soul around but her and I, my wife opted to stay back with the baby as we went exploring. The dog loved the trail and the freedom to run without restraint. It was a fun hike and I have plans to return to this campground and camp so we can explore further. We were there on a Wednesday in the beginning of October and there was nobody else there. I would say you could find a camping spot pretty much anywhere on the Gunflint this time of the year without any problem at all.
On the way back to Grand Marais from the Gunflint Trail we stopped for lunch at My Sister’s Place. We chose this particular restaurant because it was featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel which is one of my favorite shows and I wanted to have what he had when they filmed Bizarre Foods there. The Goober Burger which is a hamburger with peanut butter and mayo on it. I know it sounds like a very odd combination but I was bound and determined to try it and try it I did. My review of it? It was AMAZING. I was so surprised by how good it was, if I could have eaten two of them I would have. If you have the chance to stop at My Sister’s Place I would highly recommend trying the Goober Burger.
The final night we spent enjoying the campground, relaxing, and spending time enjoying the beautiful evening. The wind was coming in strong from the west which was creating some pretty fantastic wave action on the west side beach next to the campground. i grilled up some Steaks The Broke Dad Way and we watched the sunset into the lake while enjoying dinner.
The next morning we were up early and on the road south towards Duluth, MN and home. We made a stop along the way at Gooseberry Falls State Park since it was another fall day we did not want to miss the opportunity to see the falls and the fall colors all at the same time. We were very glad we decided to stop, it was breathtaking. The falls were wonderful and the colors were even better. We hiked along and around the lower and upper falls, there is a nice circle tour hiking path you can take that takes you along one side of the falls, across the river at the bottom of the falls, up the other side and across a bridge near the top of the falls. Was a very fun hike and the views were stunning.
Overall I would say our trip up the North Shore of Lake Superior and around Northern Minnesota was the perfect getaway. It was a wonderful way to spend a long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of work and responsibilities. I am already looking forward to planning our next trip up that way to explore even further.
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