Wisconsin Festival and Minnesota Loons

Matt Wahl providing morning entertainment at the Festival

Moving west toward Minnesota, we stopped overnight in Cable, WI for their Fall Festival.  Once Alan saw the sign for the Pumpkin Pecan Pancake Breakfast, I knew we would be finding a nearby campground.  This tiny town (pop. 850) knows how to put on a party.  Starting on Friday night with a pig and corn roast and lots of music, the evening finished off with an opportunity to purchase desserts submitted by local bakers for the Dessert Contest.  Saturday morning brought vintage cars lining the town street, live music performances, a farmers market, chainsaw wood sculpting presentations, dozens of craft and food vendors, and a community fund raising pancake breakfast.  Quite an affair, it was a wonderful slice of mid-western Americana.

View of North Shore from Split Rock
We had not originally planned on going to Minnesota but a couple we met in Wisconsin told us how much they enjoyed visiting the North Shore along Lake Superior.  Doing a little research online, we found eight state parks along or near Highway 61 on the 150-mile route.  How could we pass that up?  Securing a campsite in Superior, WI, we decided to leave the RV behind for a few days as we explored the North Shore.  We decided to bypass the heavily industrialized Duluth waterfront area. The harbor transports products such as coal, iron ore and grains, obviously important to this entire region, but not on our agenda.

Split Rock Lighthouse
Lighthouses on this massive lake were essential.  Split Rock Lighthouse State Park houses a lighthouse completed in 1910. For almost 60 years, it provided a light flashing out for more than 20 miles onto the Lake’s waters.  Pictures of the lighthouse from the cliffs below can help you imagine the extreme hardship of trying to complete this project in a time when no roads existed in the area.

Cascade Rivers State Park provides a trail immediately off the highway, for exploring the lovely falls.  Alternate trails lead up into the mountain and provide an overview of Lake Superior from a different perspective.  The massive lake looks like an ocean and on the day we visited, it was producing surfable waves.

Temperance River State Park provided trails along the highway and easy access to the deeply etched gorges and waterfall at the edge of Lake Superior. 

Tettegouche State Park was filled beyond capacity.  This park is the site of the tallest fall in the state at 60 feet, but surprisingly, to us, on this late September day, the parking lot and the trails were jammed with visitors and we decided to forego the visit until another day.  Unfortunately that day did not occur because when passing the park on our way back to Superior, the weather was cold, rainy, and cloudy.   Not exactly the type of scenario we would prefer for hiking.  Even though I might have rallied for the walk, Alan, at this point, had seen more waterfalls than he cared to see in a lifetime and we drove on. 

Kayaking on Leo Lake
Grand Marias was the end of our drive on the North Shore.  We decided to travel inland on the Gunflint Trail.  Hoping to do some kayaking or fishing, we explored the numerous lakes and rivers running near the Trail.   Finally, we chose Leo Lake.  On this windy afternoon, this smaller lake was sheltered by stands of golden birch.  Once we ferreted out the landing area, which was hidden behind growth along the road, we shifted the kayaks from our rooftop of the Honda to the water and loaded up our fishing gear.   Paddling out onto the lake we were soon rewarded with the haunting call of the loon.  The pair that claimed ownership of this lake (typically only one pair of loon will be on a lake) would not let us get close enough for photos but provided the extra sensory experience that made this lake special.  Once again the fish failed to cooperate, but such an ideal day on the water was not spoiled by our failure to catch fish. 

Now it was time to head south and meander toward a totally different type of location, Chicago.
Autumn coming to Wisconsin
Cable, WI cafe

Two Harbor Lighthouse

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