Back in March when we were still in Seattle we had planned out and booked all of our campsites for the entire summer. As I mentioned in a previous post, when I booked the reservation for the July 4th week, at the Grand Portage Campground, they said to call back in May to confirm, but when I did call on the 1st of May, I was told they were completely booked! YIKES!! We had spent a day calling other campgrounds in Minnesota, but by that time, everything over the holiday had been booked. We ended up just extending a reservation in Wisconsin and thought we would just skip exploring Minnesota on this trip.
We did have two one-night stops as we cut across the state, the first at the Buffalo River State Park in Glyndon, MN. This is a great little campground right on the river. They had really nice trails so we could get a little exercise after a rainy-day drive. We even met some friends on the trail!
Our next stop was in Grand Rapids, MN at the Pokegama Dam Campground, a Corp of Engineers Park at the Headwaters of the Mississippi. This is another great little park, easy to get to and it was amazing thinking about how small the Mississippi was and how big it would get going south.
Normally, when we have a one-night stop, we do not plan to do much in the area except to get out, stretch our legs a little, and rest up for the next day’s drive. But when we saw that the Judy Garland Birthplace and Museum was in Grand Rapids, we decided to check it out. The museum was really cool as they have a large building housing so many of the star’s memorabilia as well as an indoor play area for kids to express their imaginations. The house itself is very well preserved with many of the Gumm family’s original belongings and scores of 1920’s artifacts.
We continued on the next day to Saxon, WI and the Frontier Bar & Campground. Though this campground feels like it is in the middle of nowhere and is surrounded by cornfields it is really perfectly situated to explore Northern Wisconsin. We were an hour and a half from Duluth, MN, a half hour from Ashland, WI and half hour from Ironwood, MI. They did not have a pickleball court but they did have a basketball court so we bought a recreational pickleball net on our trip into Duluth and used chalk to outline the court. It worked great and our skills at pickleball are improving. We actually had a couple extended volleys!!
We took a day trip driving up the Wisconsin Northwood Peninsula stopping to see the Amincon Falls and Houghton Falls. We stopped in Bayfield for a bit of a walk about and a delicious brunch at Greunke’s First Street Inn & Restaurant. We continued up around the top of the peninsula stopping at the Frog Bay Tribal National Park owned by the Red Cliff Band of the Chippewa, then on to the Siskiwit River & Falls. As we hiked all along the coast, we could see the Apostle Islands out in Lake Superior. It made for a very full day, but we really enjoyed exploring the northern part of Wisconsin.
One of our main goals coming this far north was being able to explore the Land of 10,000 Lakes and we really didn’t want to miss the opportunity. We decided that even though we couldn’t find a campground in that part of Minnesota, we could take a mini vacation from the coach and drive up to Grand Portage and stay in a hotel.
We left the coach at the Frontier Campground and drove the Jeep along the coastline of Lake Superior stopping at viewpoints and the Black Beach State Park. It was a leisurely 4 hour drive up to the far eastern point of the state where we got a room at the Grand Portage Casino. We spent two nights celebrating my birthday and our 39th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed the never-ending, pulsing, hot water in the shower, eating in the casino restaurant, and getting out to explore the area. The Grand Portage Monument is right on the Canadian border and has excellent displays about the French trappers that traded with the Ojibwa and Chippewa Indians. We took a day to explore the Grand Portage State Park & High Falls. Then on our way back to the coach we stopped in Grand Marais, MN to have lunch and walk the harbor.
Once we were back in Wisconsin, we spent a lot of time watching the corn grow and playing pickleball. Even our trips to the grocery over the state line in Ironwood, Michigan were a bit of an adventure as we traveled the back roads along the lake stopping at the Montreal River and Superior Falls.
We even got to have an old fashion 4th of July! Ashland, WI held a traditional holiday parade with floats, dance teams, tractors and lots of candy which was thrown to the kids. They even hosed everyone down with one of the fire trucks at the end of the parade. What a great way to cool off on a hot summer day! Prior to the parade we had a bit of a walk-about seeing all of the murals of which Ashland is famous.
Our last adventure was to the Copper River Falls and the Brownstone Falls. I must say if you really like waterfalls, and I do, then the US shore of Lake Superior is the place to go! It seemed everywhere we went we were able to find water rushing over rocks, dropping hundreds of feet, or babbling over cascades.
Even though we had to scramble to change our plans when we lost the campsite in Grand Portage the extended stay in Wisconsin turned out to be a perfect place to celebrate the summer holidays and we really fell in love with Lake Superior!
Next up on to the UP!