after last year’s star photos up the north shore, i wanted to have another go at them, so i consulted my weather calendar early this year and found a weekend that would work for moonrise/moonset and made a reservation. labor day weekend was that weekend!
jane and i met at jay cooke state park on friday night for an overnight before heading up the shore.
there’s a reason this park is my #3 park! it may have been promoted to #2! (don’t worry blue mounds – i’ll visit you again before making that decision.)
i have to say my new tent is pretty awesome. it’s not as spacious as my old tent, but dang it stays dark! you almost need a flashlight to see what’s going on in there during the daytime.
anyway, we checked out the bridge and the falls at jay cooke before the sun went down at too-early o’clock in the evening. then we bundled up for bed because it was cold that night! i wore a wool shirt, a sweatshirt, and my down vest to bed, along with a winter hat and a blanket inside my sleeping bag. i was toasty.
the next morning we packed up and were on the road before 9 a.m. to head up the north shore. we stopped at the rustic inn just north of two harbors for breakfast pie, then headed up to check out grand marais.
i’ll tell you one thing: i forget how big this lake is. and the part you see from MN is not the big part of the lake. holy shamoly. grand marais was cute with its touristy shops and the marina. i wouldn’t mind spending a couple overnights in grand marais sometime.
then it was time for #moosewatch2019 as we headed up the gunflint trail into the BWCA. there was actually a moose outlook/observation deck along the way, so we hiked the half a mile or so to see if we could see some moose. my minimal moose investigation tells me that they like to hang out in swamps in the early morning, so the chances of seeing a moose at 1 p.m. were slim, but i wanted to at least try. once again, #moosewatch was a fail.
(then today i’m browsing twitter and i see a post about how a stray moose was just lollygagging across the football field at UND. seriously? good grief.)
but we drove up to gunflint lake, which is a border lake and along a nice little drive. then we headed back down to get to our campsite before dark.
the next two nights we spend at judge magney state park, where lori and i stayed last year. there is a nice little beach not even a mile down the road that’s great for star viewing, and the park itself is really small and non-electric, so there are no big campers and 5th wheelers. it’s nice to be in a quieter park, even if your neighbor doesn’t know how to use her inside voice after quiet hours have begun and the other neighbors brought two dogs who bark at anything that moves. -_-
we managed a decent fire and were hoping for clear skies, but ALAS it clouded over, so no star and no northern lights, which i guess were pretty awesome this past weekend. come on, weather. that part was disappointing.
let me digress here a moment and talk about camping coffee. there’s something about cooking coffee over a campstove and then sitting outside in the cold morning to drink it. it was invigorating! i have a percolator pot that kind of sucks, so i bought a stainless steel french press to make the coffee in. i use the pot to boil the water. it works out great.
ok, back to what was going on. after the star disappointment, the next morning we made some tasty scrambled eggs, then headed up to see devil’s kettle falls, which is what the park is known for. the hike up is only a mile, but man it’s a heck of a mile. hills, rocks, roots, 150+ stairs. but it was worth it!
so weird! one half of the water just dumps into a big hole in the ground.
i think the more picturesque scene was the river just before the falls.
it was a nice morning – still a little crisp, the sun wasn’t overbearing, and the crowds weren’t bad yet. we walked maybe another quarter mile up the lake superior trail, then headed back (and walked up the 150+ stairs. ooofda).
then we decided to make it international!
but first we stopped at grand portage national monument and learned about the fur trade, which i want to read more about. i guess the canadian version of lewis and clark is a lot more rugged and daring and made his way through more miles. that part of the state is still the best part of the state, i think. it’s mountainish, trees abundant, giant lake. <3
and i saw the closest thing to moosewatch i was going to get this trip.
then it was time to go to canada!
the drive up to thunder bay was amazeballs. it reminded me of a more woodsy colorado. it was great! pines and aspen all over the place, then these butte-esque mountainish hills. there’d be a field of wildflowers or grains that were yellow against the grey/blue sky then a butte would pop up as a backdrop covered in trees. ahhh, it was great! i’d definitely go back.
the bay at thunder bay was super interesting, with those butte-esque hills popping up as islands out of the lake.
then we headed back to the US, where the customs guy was not as fun as the canadian customs guy. he didn’t care if we brought live bait or ammunition back into the country. i wonder if he would’ve cared if we’d stopped at marijuana palace. (yes, that was a place we saw in thunder bay.)
on the way back to the park, we stopped at the casino in hopes of a big win, but it wasn’t to be. instead, i lost my firewood money and we had to stop at the gas station to pick some up, which was also a big loss. it was wet! i even bought two bundles, but it didn’t catch.
what a bust! and the clouds were even worse that night, so once again no stars. i’ll have to go back for some more astrophotography (oh no how sad).
and that was that. the next morning, we packed up and were on the road before 9 a.m. we stopped at betty’s pies on the way back and decided to visit the rustic inn from now on because the line at betty’s was stupid long and also the pie i had there was better.
i could go for some pie right now.
dropped jane off at her car at black bear casino (we did NOT go in), then headed down a busy I-35 and not-as-busy-as-i’d-expected hwy23*. and now it’s back to the grind!
i might make this a yearly thing!
*so i ended up driving to jay cooke on hwy23 the whole way, and now i have driven on every foot of hwy 23. i don’t know if that’s an accomplishment or not, but i thought it was interesting.