Monday, June 1, 2015

61 Gems on Highway 61

A few summers ago my husband and I set out on an adventure to view the "61 Gems on Highway 61" described in a book that guides you to all of the tourist attractions along the North Shore. The book starts you out in Duluth, MN and takes you all the way up the shores of Lake Superior to Grand Portage, MN which borders with Canada. We made this trip in 3 days/2 nights and viewed almost everything in the book.

We decided to go on this adventure in the middle of July with about two days notice and we were very lucky to have found two campsites available at two different state parks. The first night we stayed in a Cart-In Site at Tettegouche State Park. I wasn't truly aware what this meant... so I'll give you a little hint... you load up your necessities into a cart with bicycle tires and you pull/push it about a mile from the parking lot to your campsite. It wasn't tough, but definitely something different I had never done before. The second night we stayed in a drive-in site at Temperance River State Park

Our adventure started out on Saturday afternoon with Gem #1 the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth. I have driven by this historic mansion hundreds of times and I'm so glad I was finally able to take a tour. Absolutely beautiful! If you are interested you can Google Search the murder mystery that took place at the mansion. 

Glensheen Mansion, Duluth, MN

Gem #25 Brought us to Iona's "pink beach" just south of Beaver Bay.The rocks are all a very unique shade of pink. It's amazing how all the beaches of Lake Superior are unique and no two are alike.  

Gem #26 is what started our romance with the North Shore! Split Rock Falls is an absolutely majestic little waterfall that I completely fell in love with... at first site. Hiking down the trail you can hear the river and once you find the magical little waterfall you feel like you found a hidden treasure. I've lived in MN my entire life and never knew that there were so many waterfalls, so beautiful, so close to home. I felt like I was in another country! 

West Branch Falls of the Split Rock River

Gem #29 brought us back to another favorite attraction of ours, Split Rock Lighthouse & State Park
Split Rock Light House, Lake Superior
And who wouldn't want to sneak in a picture with Gem #32, Rocky Taconite himself? Interesting tourist attraction.... marking the history of the mining industry in the taconite capital of the world.

Rocky Taconite

We ended our day by taking a visit to Gem #31, the Silver Bay Marina/Harbor where there was a boat lighting festival. 

Silver Bay Marina

We woke up on day#2 in Tettegouche State Park which is located next to the Baptism River. After discovering how much we LOVED the Split Rock River we decided to grab a state park map and hike the Baptism River which is part of Gem #36, Tettegouche State Park. This is also where we started to bounce around the book a bit and our Gem's weren't exactly in the order they are portrayed in the book. 

High Falls, Baptism River 
Two-Step Falls, Baptism River
We decided to spend the rest of the day heading north hoping to make it to Grand Portage and the next stop on our journey was the ever popular Devil's Kettle which is just North of Grand Marais and Gem #51. The story of Devil's Kettle  "mystery falls" is quite unique in that the water goes into a cauldron and no one knows where it leads. Scientists have sent down trackers and they have literally been lost into the earth. Interesting. Side note: I heard from a friend.... don't go in May when the water is high. She hiked all the way to Devil's Kettle and it wasn't even visible because of the high water levels. Speaking of the hike... be prepared to climb about 500 stairs! WORTH IT! 
Upper Falls of the Brule River
Devil's Kettle, Brule River
As we continued to drive north everything was so much more aged, rugged, and you could tell how very long ago this area was inhabited. There was something eary about it including this lone Hovland Dock at Chicago Bay, Gem #54. My hubby decided it was still photo worthy and I couldn't agree more. Needless to say I was ready to hop back into the car and continue heading north because this totally looks like a scene from a horror movie.

When we finally reached Grand Portage we took a short half mile walk on a nice wide paved trail to only discover the tallest waterfall in MN. The High Falls on the Pigeon River are 120 feet tall, loud, and absolutely GORGEOUS! I now have the below photo in a 24x26 canvas in our living room and guests often ask what country that was taken in... when in fact, it was taken right here in Minnesota! The High Falls in Grand Portage State Park is Gem #61 and absolutely positively worth the scenic drive up the shore! One more thing worth mentioning about the Pigeon River is that it is the border of the U.S. and Canada. The cliffs to the right in the below photos are Canada, it's almost like standing in two places at once. When you're up in that direction take a stop at Ryden's Border Store, Gem #60, to get souvenirs of your trip! 

High Falls Pigeon River
High Falls Pigeon River
High Falls Pigeon River

After an adventurous day hiking along 3 rivers we were excited to head south and pull into our drive-in campsite at Temperance River State Park. We spent the evening finding our way around the campground, knowing that tomorrow we would take on the fierce lively temperance river as our next adventure.
Mouth of the Temperance River looking out at Lake Superior
The Beach at Temperance River State Park
After a good night's rest we woke up, packed up camp, and headed to hike the Temperance River, Gem #43 in the book. The hike is very easy, but the trail is a bunch of slippery, rough, wet rocks that could be dangerous if you aren't careful. If you ever get a chance to stop here you will understand why the river received its name, because it is a fiercely tempered twisty river!

Temperance River

Upper Falls on the Temperance River

I have to thank my hubby for taking such awesome photos of our adventures!
This adventure was so much more than we had hoped it would be. We both enjoyed every minute of our hikes to find waterfalls at the end of the trail as well as all the touristy pit stops along the way. We also discovered our love for waterfall adventures and have since purchased another book as our guide to the North Shore called Waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore, We are thankful we took the advice of a lovely couple we met on the Baptism River and purchased this second book.

The hardest part of any vacation is going home. We decided it would be just fine to continue our adventure down the shore enjoying the scenic views as we drove back towards Duluth to eventually head towards home. This trip was romantic, adventurous, and even somewhat magical! 

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