Sunday, May 20
I was thoroughly disorganized and rather demoralized the days leading up to the trip, so I was not packed Sunday morning. Rather than getting on the road before 9 AM as I’d planned, it was after 11. It was around dinnertime when I got to Castle Rock and I stopped to take pictures. My plan had been to spend the night in Duluth but when I got to Rice Lake it was around 10 PM and I was tired. And I realized that it was a pretty drive that I was missing in the dark, so I spent the night there.
Monday, May 21
I stopped at a couple of waysides in Wisconsin to walk and take pictures. Once I got onto the Shore I stopped at French River and I stopped and had lunch at Flood Bay. When I got to Gooseberry Falls, the weather was dodgy; I took a few pictures of the lower falls, but the sky seemed too threatening for me to take the camera farther from the safety of the car. I spent a fair bit of time watching the bird feeder at the visitor center. There was a mixed flock of chipping sparrows and pine siskins chowing down, along with several of the little exotic somebody-or-other’s ground squirrels (who, despite being called ground squirrels, are quite happy climbing up to bird feeders). With the bird book I identified a female rose-breasted grosbeak. There was a nuthatch that didn’t look red-breasted when I was looking at it, but the pattern on its head matched the book perfectly. I hadn’t realized/remembered that the red-breasted was that little. There was a pair of blackbirds, a normal-looking female redwing and a male that made redwing noises but seemed to be unrelieved black. I finally managed to see a faint hint of a shoulder patch, but it was never normally visible.
Eventually I decided to move on. I drove up to the Whispering Pines lodge, at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 61, 5 miles north of Silver Bay. I’d spent two days there last year, and the owner recognized me, and I’d been happy with the place last year, so I’d decided I would spend at least two nights there. I went into Silver Bay and had the best the local diner (the Northwoods Cafe I think it was called) had to offer, which was not haute cuisine but was edible, and went up on Palisade Head. It was almost sunset and it had been cold and windy all day, and I had it all to myself, but I was too tired to really appreciate it and quickly went back to the motel and collapsed.
Tuesday, May 22
I spent this day at Tettegouche State Park (which features the falls of the Baptism River). The park actually extends around both sides of Ilgen City, the wide spot in the road that includes my motel, and it’s almost close enough to the park entrance for it to make sense to walk. But having only a limited amount of time for walking and being limited by not being in good shape, I drove. First I went upriver. There were warblers all over the place everywhere I was on the shore, but I actually managed to get good looks and some pictures starting on this walk. I hiked up to the high falls, and then down to the foot of the falls, and ate my lunch and took pictures. It’s one of those places that’s so lovely all around that it seems like you can choose any focal length and point the camera in any random direction, focus, and have a great picture. But the sky was starting to look threatening, and I decided that it would be prudent to head straight back to the car rather than going on up to the top of the falls or taking either of the side trips down the gorge for the lower falls. I think it was along here that just as I was thinking that I was seeing birds galore but I hadn’t seen any mammals (other than the aforementioned squirrels, a couple of whom were in the yard at the motel) all day, and I rounded a bend and walking toward me, probably 50 yards away, was a big, beautiful silver fox. He didn’t stick around long enough for me to even lift the camera, but it was still cool to see him.
By the time I’d made it back to the car, the rain threat seemed to have lessened, so I went down to the beach where there’s this lovely little headland with a keyhole arch, and tried to compose some better shots through the keyhole. I set up the tripod and tried to capture some interesting surf shots. By this time, it was getting toward dinnertime; the Silver Bay area rolls up the sidewalks really early, so if I wanted to eat I had to move. I got sprinkled on a bit as I returned to my car, but not seriously. I went back to the diner because on Monday I’d noticed that the Tuesday specials included a chimichanga that sounded good. The chimichanga turned out to be the side of a fify cent microwave burrito, but I’d also gotten a soft taco which was a lot more food despite being half the price, and with all the lettuce and tomato these came with, I had enough to eat. I had a brief panic during dinner when I realized that my cell phone was not on my belt, but fortunately, it had fallen off in the car rather than somewhere in Tettegouche State Park.
After dinner I replenished my groceries and went up on Palisade Head again, and this time I took some pictures that hopefully capture some of how pretty the area on the top of the cliff is, in addition to a few views from the highest cliff overlook on the Shore.
Wednesday, May 23
I started off the day by arranging to keep my room for a third night. It seemed easier than packing up, even though I expected to end my day at Grand Marais.
Because this was a short trip I couldn’t hit everything and I wasn’t going to try, but I couldn’t go to the North Shore and not visit Temperance River, so that was my main destination for the day. But I stopped at the Caribou River wayside on the way, enjoying lots of warblers on a stiff hike up to the falls. And I discovered that there is a brand new set of stairs from the top of the gorge all the way to the foot of the falls. A really impressive feat of stair building; it’s no harder to get down to the river and back out than it would be to take the stairs to the top of a twenty storey building. But no easier, either, since I figure it was about 200 vertical feet from the high point on the ridge. But it was definitely worth it; the falls themselves are beautiful and the area at the base is another perfect area like I described earlier. My only annoyance was that the sign at the parking lot had labeled it as being a rather shorter hike than it was, so I hadn’t brought my lunch along.
I got back to the car and drove on up to Temperance River, where I had lunch in the picnic area/campground along the beach, and then went up the cauldron trail and took a number of pictures of what everyone takes pictures -- but since I was mainly using the long lens, the 200mm minimum zoom forced me to be going for smaller detail shots. Hopefully I’ll have some nice ones.
By the time I moseyed through the cauldron trail and back to the car, it was getting close to dinner time. I drove on up to Grand Marais, and had a good meal at the Wild Onion. A cuban black bean soup that was the gustatory high point of the whole week -- it had a generous amount of fresh mint, and enough hot peppers for a nice bite, but I couldn’t place the other notes in the flavor symphony. This was followed by ribs with a peach barbecue sauce that was quite good. And I let myself be talked into carrot cake, which I struggled to finish. I waddled out to Artist’s Point (though the plaque calling it that seems to have been replaced with a “caution, rocks are slippery” sign), and enjoyed a nice quiet amble through the conifers and around the rocks. There was enough rain falling that I didn’t have the camera with me.
Thursday, May 24
After packing up the car, I got to Tettegouche at about 10. It was raining enough that I didn’t risk the camera, but I walked the whole Shovel Point trail. It was lovely. I spent perhaps as much as five minutes walking up close to a raven and standing there. I wasn’t much more than 10 feet from him; I admired him quietly and he watched me without apparent concern. Then I walked past without scaring him. At the far end of the point, along the north cliff, a peregrine falcon flew up and came close enough to me that I could clearly see his mask-like facial markings without any magnification. I wonder if he’s nesting on that cliff. It’s certainly a perfect sort of a cliff, but maybe a little too public. Just as I got back to the parking lot, the fine mist became enough rain that I actually put my umbrella up. Once I got in the car, it started raining pretty hard; I was looking for a covered place to eat lunch all the way to the northernmost I-35 rest area.
The drive to Minneapolis was uneventful, though I ended up getting to the Twin Cities a little later than I expected. Fortunately, for all my worries about hitting a big city at rush hour, I had no traffic problems getting to markiv1111’s house. He and Louie and I went to a restaurant they recommended called Saigon Uptown, where I had a shrimp salad and Lemon Grass Chicken, both of which were quite good. We then went on to Jerry Corwin’s (I hope I’m remembering that name right) place, where markiv1111 had arranged a small music party. chirosinger, musicmutt, and prettymuchpeggy all made it, as did one other singer named Richard and a few listeners. We went around the circle about three times, quite comfortably, and then markiv1111 had to leave (the trouble with it being a weeknight), and the circle pretty much broke up as Jerry ended up showing off his amazing collection of (mostly working) old film cameras to me and musicmutt.
I then had musicmutt as a passenger to guide me to his and chirosinger’s home, where they generously let me spend the night. We walked the dogs and then talked for an hour or so. (chirosinger has a hilarious “how to” book about playing the kazoo that had me in stiches.)
Friday, May 25
We went off to brunch at a place called Maria’s, which purports to be Colombian. We started with an appetizer of a corn pancake, which was really quite tasty, but probably not something to make a whole meal of, which is why we spit one order, and then I decided to try the plantain soup, which turned out to be a nice broth but the plantain could easily have been a potato, and a fajita (a bit odd, since it was one big tortilla instead of the more usual several smaller ones), and chips with a nice salsa. By the time we got back to their house and I got my stuff in the car, it was my planned departure time for Des Moines, so off I went.
I made it to Des Moines without incident, and got to ntrlstgrl’s place a bit later than I’d intended but not terribly so. We chatted briefly, and then hopped in my car and she guided me out to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. This place includes a 3000 acre fenced in enclosure with both bison and elk, which you can drive through. And we were very lucky; both the bison and the elk came quite close to us. And the elk were in velvet; I took a bunch of what should be great pictures. Then we hung around the area around the far gate to the big enclosure, which was a little creek with a cottonwood wood that was hopping with birds. When we got tired of that, we headed up to an area that has a small remnant oak savanna woods that we took a quick walk through, and then we got in the car and tried to get over the hill to catch the sunset for pictures. We didn’t fully succeed at that, but it was a lovely time. By the time we left the place, it was 9 PM and we were half an hour from Des Moines, so we were short on options for dinner. The miracle of cell phones allowed us to check in with ericcoleman, but he warned us that the venue were he had a show that night was very smoky so we missed him. We ended up at a place with some Native American-sounding name that was something like Okojib Grill, where they had too many TVs with too many kinds of sports, but the food was fine and they were still serving it at 9:30. Apparently it is a chain, but it’s only an Iowa chain.
Because ntrlstgrl insisted she had to leave at 5 AM for her trip to Michigan, I opted to look for a motel. Two places were full and the third one said they were but managed to find a room before I gave up. A slightly nicer room than I needed (I had no need for the fridge and microwave), and a little more expensive, but it was late and I was tired so I wasn’t going to be too picky.
Saturday, May 26
It started raining about the time I got in the car, so I gave up on a return visit to Neal Smith and just drove home, only stopping at rest areas. As I was driving home, I realized that Iowa, at least that general area of Iowa, was a lot more interesting looking than my mental image. It is mostly farms, but it’s not flat, and it’s not so intensely farmed that there’s nothing but corn in sight the way central Illinois is. I got a few groceries at Meijer around 5, then stopped in to visit Meg briefly. When I got to Jim and Robin’s, it started pouring. I hugged Meg briefly; she seemed OK emotionally, not terribly clingy, and when I took her into the yard, she quickly lost interest in dogging about the yard and wanted to back into her run where it was dry. Since Jim and Robin were expecting guests, I just got out of the way and headed home to unload the car, fix dinner, and write this.
By my standards, I wasn’t taking a lot of pictures, which is to say I only have about 1200 from the trip. I will be working through them, hopefully soon, and I will try to post some to my journal. I will probably dribble out several posts of just one or a few pictures, rather than trying to put together one massive post.