True North

Water, water everywhere

The most common sentence this summer has been “it’s been a weird season” and from the moment we arrived in Minnesota, it really had been a weird season.

Mid-April. So much ice!

From the late ice out, to the high water, to boats not going in the water until late June, to the gas price increase, to the crazy wind, nothing has been normal here. And it’s mostly due to the weather.

Buckley and Brad at Split Rock Lighthouse

Even up North like we were, it still gets hot. August is normally a very hot and humid month but this summer it was mild. Our apartment air is broken and the part to fix it has been on backorder since April. We ended up getting a portable AC unit but before that arrived we had a day off that was going to be in the mid-90’s. We decided to take a road trip to the North Shore with our furry kitty since the temperature was a cool 68 degrees two hours Southeast. We went to a park on Lake Superior, had lunch and watched the waves crash onto shore. Buckley was nervous about the waves and the crashing noise made him not venture outside his backpack. Poor guy!

Lake Superior and Buckley

We continued on the North Shore scenic highway and stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse. Buckley enjoyed seeing the birds and like us, the cooler temperature but still stayed in his backpack. At least we know he feels safe in his bubble. The hot day was a perfect excuse to take Buckley to one of the Great Lakes and hopefully soon, he will see another Great Lake.

Vermilion Falls

It seemed like quite a few of our days off were rainy. Sometimes we used that as an excuse to do nothing and sometimes we just took a chance and hoped not to get too wet hiking. As we lived in Washington State for three years, we’ve had our fill of rain hikes and runs. 🤪 We didn’t luck out with lack of rain when we hiked to the Vermilion waterfall or Vermilion gorge but the trees provided protection and the hikes themselves weren’t too long anyways. Both are located in different areas on Crane Lake and are separated by a quick drive. The waterfall hike was short and the trail took us to an observation desk. From there, the rushing water flowed through a 10 foot fissure in the granite. The waterfall was freely flowing and was very cool to see.

The gorge

Our next stop was the gorge. The closer we got to the natural gorge, the prettier the scenery was. The very green forest was lined with granite cliffs while the white rapids rushed though the gorge. It was so powerful and definitely a surprise to see in Minnesota!

Soudan hike

Another rainy hike was at the Soudan mines. This area was a big iron mining community and when the mine closed in 1962, it was made into a museum offering tours and hiking trails.

The underground tour starts off with an elevator ride down 2,640 feet where you board an ore car for a ride around the former mine. The mine shaft is undergoing construction and is closed but we hiked along one of the trails and did a self guided surface tour of the buildings.


Tettegoughe State Park is farther up on the North Shore and we took a chance going there on a cloudy day. It started to downpour as soon as we got done exploring the park so our timing was pretty good. We hiked along the rugged Lake Superior shore to an overlook to see a great view of the sea caves near the mouth of the Baptism River along with seeing Palisades Head. We went a little further past the traditional trail to sit on a rock overlook where we were able to sit, have lunch and enjoy the view.

High Falls

We then hiked to High Falls waterfall, Minnesota’s tallest waterfall standing at 120 feet. There is an upper viewing point requiring a walk across a swinging bridge but that was closed due to storm damage. The lower viewing area consisted of hiking down 83 stairs and was worth the descent. All in all, we climbed over 400 steps while at this park so we definitely got in a good workout!

Eagle Mountain

50% chance of rain? That means a 50% chance of sunshine. And sunshine it was! It ended up being a perfect fall day to hike to Minnesota’s highest peak, Eagle Mountain. This trail is mostly in the Boundary Waters and we waited all season to complete this trail. Why did we wait? Mosquitoes and black flies are common in Minnesota and this area is well known for being taken over by these pesky bugs, so we waited until bug season was over and we were happy that we did.

The trail

The trail is a well maintained wilderness trail, meaning it’s narrow with rocks and large tree roots covering the forest floor and the vegetation is slightly overgrown. The trail had gentle ups and downs, went past a pretty lake, through multiple wooden planks and the final summit to the top wasn’t very steep. The actual summit is enclosed in the forest with a plaque declaring the top. The overlook right before the plaque has a large, open view of the surrounding forest and lakes.

Sea cave

Mother Nature was up to her tricks again when we visited the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. We went on a morning tour group to sea kayak on the beautiful Lake Superior to explore the sea caves.

The day prior, we hiked along the rugged cliffs to see the lake from above and the water was calm, the temperature perfect, and the hike was bug free. It was a nice morning to venture out on the lake and the group we went with was great company. The wind picked up the closer we got to the sea, making the waves crash high into the caves so we only got to tour two out of nine caves. On the way back, we worked hard kayaking against the wind and waves and now understood why we needed sea kayaks. Even though we didn’t see all the sea caes, it was a worthwhile experience and we were super glad to have been in a group setting.

Sea caves from hiking trail

On the second trip to the Apostle Islands we took a boat tour to one of the 22 islands to hike around. Lake Superior was so calm that day, it would have been a perfect day to sea kayak. LOL.

Boat tour

The boat ride to Stockton Island took an hour from Bayfield, WI and we had two hours to explore and hike around before the boat picked us up. We hiked the less popular trail and had it to ourselves. We hiked through a thick forest that reminded us of Washington State, walked along the beach seeing sail boats all around, crossed through a marsh, and completed the trail in a forest along the shoreline.

Hiking trail

This was a great way to explore one of the islands while seeing the beauty of multiple Apostle Islands from the water.

Mist over Bean and Bear Lake

Bean and Bear lake was the top hike we wanted to experience this fall and little did we know, it’s THE HIKE to do. Knowing the trail was going to be busy on top of the 2 hour drive, we got up early to hit the trail by 7:45 AM. We were bundled up due to the brisk 30 degrees morning on top of the chilly fog. The whole way up the sun was trying hard to fight through the fog and we were granted small glimpses of the colorful hillside.

Morning fog

There were only four other hikers on the trail and when we reached the hilltop, it was just the two of us. We had the view to ourselves, knowing that it was worth getting up early for this moment. A rainbow appeared mixed in with the fog and it felt like Minnestora was giving us a farewell wave. The sun won the battle as we watched the fog slowly roll over the hills and lakes until the view was clear. The landscape exploded with red, yellow, orange colored trees and the two lakes were as smooth as glass. We now understood what all the hype was about regarding this hike.

Fall in the Midwest is a great time of year and we are just past peak fall colors. We are grateful for all the experiences we’ve had this summer in Northern Minnesota but we bid farewell as the next adventure awaits. Till next time North Star State!

3 thoughts on “True North

  1. Love reading about your adventures!
    So interesting and makes me feel like I’m there!
    Be safe always
    Love you mom❤️


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