Highway 61

Lake Superior is so alluring that we find ourselves unable to resist her call.  Instead of heading northwest toward International Falls (for no other reason than to say we’ve been there), we decide to creep up into the Arrowhead, the northeast portion of Minnesota.  We’re congratulating ourselves on what appears to be a brilliant decision.

Although very cold and windy at night, the last couple of days have warmed up to be perfect for outdoor activities.  So, off we go from our base at Gooseberry State Park, where we snagged an incredible campsite (easy to do, because the campground is only about 10% populated).20141007_162854The Gitchi-Gami State Trail runs about 15 miles alongside Highway 61 from Gooseberry Falls SP to Beaver Bay, past Split Rock State Park, where the lighthouse of the same name is located.  We decide to cycle north to the end of the Trail before doubling back to check out the lighthouse.  Although we’re freezing at the onset of the ride, we quickly get in the groove.  The Trail is perfect.  We’re either climbing or barreling downhill – there are few flat sections.  Rarely are we more than 200 yards from the Lake, and scenic stops abound.20141008_12194820141008_12574520141008_120607 The combination of a great bike route, perfect riding conditions, and the most unbelievable scenery have us cruising leisurely along in a most happy way.20141008_121335At the tiny town of  Beaver Bay, the Trail seems to peter out.  We stop for coffee, and peek into a rock shop.  In my next life, I’ll be a geologist.  We double back toward Split Rock, anxious to see the lighthouse which has been recommended to us as a great stop.  The smallish lighthouse was built in response to a string of years marked by significant numbers of shipwrecks on the rocky shores.  Twenty ships were damaged or destroyed in a single disasterous storm in November 1905, resulting in nearly three dozen deaths that day alone.  Shipping company owners petitioned Congress for funds to construct the lighthouse, and $75,000 was appropriated.  (Once the lighthouse became operational in 1910, there were no more shipwrecks along that stretch of Lake Superior coast.

The Lighthouse is neither tall nor elaborate. The location is magnificent.20141008_145729 20141008_145639But, its construction story is remarkable.  Because of the general inaccessibility of the site by land, all materials had to be brought in by ship, then hoisted to the cliff.  The French-built Fresnel lens and its supporting assembly weigh nearly 6.5 tons alone.20141008_145939 Interested in the lens?  I’d suggest that you read this blog post from an Oregon lighthouse volunteer , which gives an excellent description and history of the Fresnel lens.  The lens rotated every 20 seconds, powered by a weight-driven mechanism, similar to a grandfather clock.  The 200 pound weight had to be wound every two hours, by a team of three keepers.  The grounds are immaculately kept.

This shot is odd, because I had to shoot it through the screen in the Lighthouse window.20141008_15003020141008_150211

We rolled back to camp into the teeth of a howling wind.  As soon as the sun gets low, the temperature drops rapidly.  We could hardly get showered and positioned in front of our smoky campfire quickly enough.  Our campground is very quiet – there is just us, and one other campsite occupied – a blessing when you’re using the campground showers.  Dry, hot, and no waiting.  Doesn’t get any better than this!

The main attraction at Gooseberry Falls are, of course, the waterfalls.  We explored these a bit when we first arrived, but decided to take a long, slow tour of all the falls, and the unusual shoreline.  Again, we were treated to perfect conditions for our hike – bright blue skies and clear, bright air.  The photos haven’t been color corrected at all – we actually were treated to this wonderful fall display.  Most of the trees here are birch, so the predominant foliage is bright yellow, combined with the varying green fir trees.  There’s an occasional bright splash of red or orange, but it’s not the same barrage of color that we’re so used to seeing in Michigan.

I’ll shut up and just show the photos….20141009_11480720141009_10501620141009_10572020141009_10463920141009_10410920141009_10362020141009_10290620141009_10534620141009_10371820141009_10290620141009_10055320141009_100743The beach and picnic areas at Gooseberry Falls SP are spectacular.  Bare lava rock rolls right into the water, adorned with patched of hardy grass.  Stone picnic tables, built by the CCC back in the 1930s lend their sturdy presence to the shoreline.  The Lake was calm, and the bright sunshine made for a spectacular morning.20141008_16270620141009_11245620141009_11324520141009_112153In case you’re wondering, yes, we DID find a brewery to visit.  Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors.wpid-20141009_160200.jpg Wonderful ales.  Curiously offered in 11oz or 18oz servings.  Why not try two different beers each?  While hanging around the town, (doing laundry), we noticed a freighter pulling in at the ore dock. wpid-20141009_154511.jpg Now we’ve seen everything!  It took him far less time to land that gigantic freighter than it took me to back the Fireball into a campsite!

Tomorrow (Friday), we’re going to reluctantly point the Firetruck south on Highway 61, and begin our slow descent southward to home.  I’m reluctant to leave, feeling that we are leaving too much unexplored.  Will we ever get back?  We’ve visited Highway 61, and like Dylan, hope to revisit.  (okay, okay….I just couldn’t resist.)

22 thoughts on “Highway 61

  1. Loved this post…except for your ride descriptions! The bike talk makes me feel guilty for not riding!!!

    The photos are lovely…who would not want to see these amazing views? Great shots and very good story. Not sure I could handle the cold, though. Too much of a southerner!

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    • Ah, Lynne….I see that we have you fooled. Can’t you see that we pretend to ride hard so that we can eat and drink with abandon? It’s a crazy little game we play with ourselves. Figure that we have to give it what we got while we still got a little to give. (Figure that one out!)

      When the sun comes out up here, you forget that it might be a little chilly. But, it is worth just about any minor discomfort. Hope you give it a try sometime.

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  2. Darn you have too much fun…you find the beauty in all if it and even here in the beach, I want to be there too!!! What a trail, a perfect quiet park and another brewry….wow!!! Thx for sharing….

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    • Who could resist the Dylan reference? Not me, for sure….

      Its wonderful up here. Hope we get the chance to come back. This time of the year is very special. Unless you really can’t stand the cold, it’s probably the best time. Hope you get time to come back.

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  3. Great shots, Judy! I’m happy that you and John choose Hwy 61. The pictures are enticing Rose and I to take another trip up there (no breweries other than Fitzger’s the last time we were there). Plus we need to do some exploring of some Helmer ancestral towns such as Bemidji and Brainerd “up over the hill” from Duluth.

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  4. You need to tell John to relax, he looks too nervous in the first photo. ;)

    It may be chilly, but it doesn’t sound as if you’re fighting crowds or traffic to see the spectacular scenery in your photos. Which by the way, bring back some great memories for me. It’s been so long since I was there that my slides have begun to fade. I guess I should take that as a sign that I need to go back. ;)

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    • No crowds, although this campground is going to be full for the weekend starting tonight. We’ll be gone….

      Fading slides! Wow, that’s a media I haven’t thought about for a long time. You could probably make a few extra bucks doing slide shows at elementary schools. Sure you could baffle lots of kids with your ‘new’ technology.

      Thanks, Jerry.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Layer up. It’s getting cold down here. Frost tonight maybe. We had a great pub cruiser ride to Art Prize tonight. Wished you had been there for the frivolity. Ask Susanne about her video of Brad dancing. What a hoot! Gorgeous pictures. Keep sending them.

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    • As we move away from the Lake, I’m sure we’ll see frost. Perilously close, so far.

      I’m sure I’ll get to see the video….had a blast on the first Pub Cruiser. I will never forget us thinking that we could actually get that barge to race along!

      Thanks, Alison.

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