Monday, June 24, 2013
After scoring some super Ethiopian coffee at a local coffee house, we set a course for Voyageurs National Park. You know these guys already. Short. Built like a you-know-what. Strong. Paddle an entire Great Lake before breakfast.
Back in the day, after clearing Grand Portage, many would come cruising through what is now Voyageurs National Park. Sadly, for us landlubbers, our options were limited. There were no canoe rentals as far as we would tell. Both interpretive centers were closed on Mondays. Couldn’t they have staggered the schedules so that at least one was open every day of the week? Hiking it would be. Fine, right?
Unfortunately, the park is so water-oriented, hiking options were limited. A mile here or there and that was about it. We’re not complaining. But let’s face it. There was not much on the main land portion and there was no way for us to get elsewhere!
Despite having already set up camp in the Wooden Frog Campground (before we ventured into the park), Natalie hatched a plan. Leave. We hiked. We ate lunch. We “were there”. So move along, right? We did just that.
After shuffling the Ruffed Grouse babies out of the road much to mom’s dismay (I did you a favor, babe!), we broke camp and moved out. A quick stop at a party store (so I could spend my Where’s George dollar) and we were rocketing…um, driving, east again to the Superior lakeshore.
Natalie, in training to be school teacher, was just eating up that “Roadside Geology” book. With some stops between International Falls and Gooseberry Falls highlighting local geology, our bird trip was taking on a serious “boulder” twist.
Take Soudan, for example. Where else can see you rock formations like this?
This rock out crop is probably one of the most photographed features in Minnesota (if you’re a geologist, future science teacher or nature nerd). Geologists still can’t agree on what actually happened here, but they agree on some things. The red is jasper , the white is chert or quartz (depending on which whites you are looking at) and the gray is hematite. Cool, eh?
Taking a sample is forbidden. Also, I would need a flatbed. You know the kind - the 18-wheelers. The big ones. Perhaps this photo tells you why. This is only a portion of it, by the way. Just the exposed surface would be enough room to park three cars, at least....
Suddenly geeked for all things rock, we pressed on to Ely. Pronounced “EE-Lee”, not “EE-Lie”, we were looking for pillows. Not soft, bed pillows. Rock pillows. No, not rock-hard pillows. Those are at Super 8s. Pillows.
About 2.7 billion years ago, northern Minnesota was underwater. With all the volcanic activity in the region, it was only a matter of time before lava (molten rock) oozed into the ocean from cracks in the bottom. Cooling immediately, the ooze would re-direct, only to cool again. Ooze. Cool. Ooze. Cool. The result is a lump of smooth rocks glued together. In the photo above, note the large oval rock that is top center. That’s a pillow. If you are not sure, that’s awesome.
Speaking of Ely, it should be noted that, at times, we all act like kids. Simple things excite us. Maybe you have seen it with the young children in the mall. When they see Santa, they shout it – “Santa! Santa! Mom, it’s Santa!” You know what I’m talking about.
On the ride into Ely, before we found the pillows, I had one of those moments. Not expecting it, I saw something awesome – “Brewpub! Brewpub! Natalie, there’s a brewpub!” Unlike children in the mall who scream and wet themselves, I did neither. In any case, I was excited. I failed to check "Find Beer" on my phone and did not know it was here. I
The Boathouse Restaurant and Brewpub might be one of my favorites from the whole trip. In a certain manner, it reminded me of our dear Fort Street Brewery. The good food. Goofy beer names. Good beer.
Zohmerfest Ale, Nogginfogger English Ale, Dan K Double IPA, and Black Bear Honey Wheat Porter (#1462-1465) were the four I chose. He had more, but driving responsibly is important. The ale was light and refreshing (nothing really crazy) while the others were a step up. The Honey Wheat did not seem to have a solid honey presence but I'm not gonna complain. 3’s across the board.
The ride from Ely to the Lake Superior Shoreline is great. Winding. Wooded. What fun. Seeing the woman rescue to the turtle from death on Route 1 was awesome and made us realize we are not the only people who do that. Sadly, during the drive, I noticed the spectacular, pastel colors of the setting sun behind us. With no real photo ops anywhere along the road, the single best evening for photography was lost. What a complete drag.
Camping was in, of all places, Finland. We were already there. Remember the tiny non-town with Sarah Palin as the waitress? When we left, we joked about how we would probably never see that town again. Not only did we see it, we camped there. Who woulda thunk it.