So, if you need to escape the torrid August heat, where should you go?
Don’t know about you, but we went to Duluth.
After our disappointing experience trying to get a site at an RV park in The Dells (see the previous post), we drove into the Northland Campground in Superior, Wisconsin, with a bit of trepidation.
Not to worry! Mike welcomed us in the easy, trusting, Midwestern “Hey, just pay us when you leave” tradition. We liked the place immediately.
The only hitch? Rain! It’s never fun to arrive someplace in the rain, but we were glad to be travelling with the Winnebago Class-C rather than the fifth wheel: we could relax inside until the rain cleared, then unhitch the truck and hook up the utilities. Ah!
Duluth, Minnesota, is just across the Blatnick Bridge from Superior, Wisconsin, but each is a harbor town in its own right, each with unique benefits that made our visit there memorable — and surprising.
Here’s a suprise: the beach. I probably could have slipped this photo of Bob walking toward the water into our Cape Hatteras post and you wouldn’t have seen any difference! Of course, if you look closely, you’ll see the beach grass is different, the waves here on Lake Superior are much smaller… but still. Gorgeous skies, sandy beach…. all the important elements are here. Well, okay, so the water was *cold* so nobody was swimming… but hey! It also wasn’t scorching hot with drip-while-you-walk humidity.
This narrow strip of land, called Minnesota Point, splices Lake Superior and Superior Bay, affords great views of both cities, and dead-ends into the Sky Harbor Seaplane Base and airport. We had great fun watching take-offs and landings from the dry sidelines.
We made a couple of trips into Duluth while in the area, one day starting at the Superior Maritime Visitors Center, which packs a lot of stuff into a small, informative space, and detoured out to the lighthouse…
…before sauntering along the Lakewalk, a beautiful seven-mile, paved trail along the lake. Along the way, we stopped to view the odd wrecks along the shore, including this mystery ruin:
It looked sort of like a prison cell block set adrift, but the interpretive sign nearby told the full tale of what’s been called “Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum.” Back in 1919, Harvey Whitney had an unloading dock built for his sand and gravel business. “Congestion in the canal and harbor slowed his barges, and he speculated that the city might revive efforts to rebuild the outer harbor breakwater….” reads the sign. It seemed like a good idea, but the breakwater was never built, and the fury of Lake Superior was too great for the dock to withstand. The sign describes the challenges this way: “Imagine trying to drop a clam load of gravel into a stationary hopper while your barge-mounted crane is bobbing around in a nor’easter.” It was a bad place for a good idea, and now all that’s left is this shell of the foundation.
Other remnants of things lost to the brutal waves and weather dot the beach, like this segment of the breakwater that fell apart in 1872 when a nor’easter destroyed several ships at dock and much of the dock itself. It was this particularly ravaging storm that convinced everyone to keep the harbor inside Minnesota Point (except for Harvey Whitney, and we just learned what he discovered).
Another man-made structure along the Lakewalk is the Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial, built like a bunker right on the water’s edge:
The benches inside the memorial provide a quiet place to sit, listen to the wash of waves against the beach, and give your personal, silent thanks to those who served and those who gave their lives for our country.
Yet another surprise along the beach was this pile of rocks where people have added stones and branches, making a beautiful semi-permanent “found art” piece, don’t you think?
We walked as far as Fitger’s, an old warehouse (or something) converted into shops and restaurants.
The restaurants there weren’t open (or looked pretty empty… usually a bad sign), so we decided to head back to Canal Park, a bustling shopping and dining area marked by this stately clocktower:
Lots of choices abounded, and in the end, the menu description of the Wild Rice Burger at Grandma’s won us over. All these months later, I still get cravings for that fabulous concoction of brown rice patty with sprouts, tomatoes, shredded carrots… MMMM! All on a whole wheat bun too:
Great food and a fascinating story about Grandma Rosa Brochi. An Italian immigrant, she decided to do those poor, lonely sailors in this port town a service, so she opened a boarding house in 1869. I couldn’t say it better than the restaurant’s own words: “‘Grandma,’ as she became affectionately known to the young women in her tutelage, took very special care of her patrons, making sure they were always satisfied and comfortable.” (Wink, wink!) When World War II broke out, Grandma Rosa returned to Italy to help with the war effort. She was never heard from again. Grandma’s tradition of great customer service — excellent food being a part of that — lives on at Grandma’s restaurant.
We were glad to find a Whole Foods Market in Duluth as well, where we stocked up on some of the organic products we can’t always find in other places.
Remember when I said this city has some surprises? Well, the great food — and easy availability of *healthy* food in the upper Midwest — wasn’t the only surprise.
Duluth has more than 160 miles of hiking, biking, snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails, all within the city! With nearly 12,000 acres of city-owned and maintained lands, the opportunities for exercising any time of the year in any of several ways, is there for you. From a year-round ice skating to golf to tennis to disc golf — Duluth serves up whatever your pleasure may be. (Okay, I should have checked for pickleball…)
If it weren’t for that one four-letter word (“snow” — as I post this, it’s 34chilly degrees there!), we might be considering Duluth as a great place to be year-round!