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THE LAKE SUPERIOR LOOP

October 1998

    On October 2nd, the vacationing foursome, Wayne, Janet, Gwen and Marshall, once again loaded up the Pathfinder and rolled down the highway. Wayne, Janet and Gwen actually did the loading and headed downtown Minneapolis to pick up Marshall, who had to work until eleven. He was standing on the street wearing his trusty new Chick-Fil-A wrist compass and was ready to travel. This compass could be no worse than last years fiasco! Actually he was not wearing it but was standing there frowning because the dang thing was too small to go around his wrist and thus would be relegated to a spot on the dashboard. It turned out that this toy compass was much more accurate than last years windshield mounted version. Marshall climbed into the drivers seat and slapped in a cd. The cd player started singing, "The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee". He proceeded to drive around in circles in downtown Minneapolis. This was started to show cousin Wayne the Mississippi River. It is not like he has never seen the Mississippi before, au contraire, he spends every other week floating on the Mississippi down by New Orleans. Supposedly he is Captain of a harbor tug but the only thing he ever talks about is being tied up off of the French Quarter. There are some serious doubts about all this Captain talk and a lot of wonder about what the real story is. Regardless of all of this, Marshall made a few wrong turns and drove in a few circles before getting his bearings with his trusty wrist compass and heading north.


    Cousin Wayne immediately began looking for a moose. No Wayne, a moose has four legs, not two even though that one was pretty big. We crossed the Mississippi once again and headed up IH 35 and then headed east to Chisago on highway 8. No that was not a typo, that is Chisago, Minnesota, just a few miles down the road from Wyoming; Minnesota that is. Nice colored foliage along the way here. Reds, yellows, and oranges. We stopped in Taylor's Falls, Minnesota to have lunch and then headed across the St. Croix river into St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. There seems to be some confusion here about the name of the falls.


    As we roll on to the east the colors get brighter and the land gets hillier. At a rest stop we are accosted by a rabid cheese head who screams at us, "Go Packers!". What the heck is a Packer and where is it this guy wants them to go and why does he think we care? There is a lot of wildlife out and about. Wayne spots a wolf, several dead porcupines and some deer but no moose. Not to worry though we still have lots of land to cover. After dark we come to a screeching halt as three deer saunter across the highway in front of us. The guy behind us isn't paying real close attention and comes way too close for comfort. Marshall thinks that if deer are going to use the highway that they should be required to get tags. He is sure that hunters would be more than happy to tag them. During a verbal sparing match, of which there are many on these trips, Janet offers to use her walking cane and make Wayne a human Popsicle. Interesting proposition. We stop in Escanaba, Michigan for the night; not a moose in sight.


    The next morning we have breakfast with a bunch of guys that have volunteered to issue tags to deer. This sounds like a good idea to Marshall. It seems as though everyone was in a bit of a hurry this morning and after breakfast it is barely light out. To kill a little time we drive down to the waterfront. This is the Little Bay de Noc off of Green Bay which is off of Lake Michigan. We check out an old lighthouse and a nice park and then head north and east, off and on along the coast. We were rather surprised to see sand dunes along the way but then again we are all pretty easily surprised. We do a little beachcombing with a Canadian goose but quickly rule out going for a swim. It is a bit nippy out. We roll on up to Tahquamenon Falls and go for a couple of hikes through the woods. This is really pretty country on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


    We check out both the upper and lower falls and go to Paradise, Michigan. I guess everyone has a little different idea of Paradise and cousin Wayne's version includes a moose. This cannot be Wayne's paradise because there are still no moose. We are approaching the first site of a long pilgrimage for Wayne and Marshall; Whitefish Point.


    The story of the ill fated ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, has always fascinated the two lost and wandering cousins. Gordon Lightfoot's factual story song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", pretty much covers the story and has all of the facts right. Pretty amazing to say the least. Two ships leave out of Superior, Wisconsin in November and head for the east side of the Lake Superior. They get caught in a storm that produces 100+ mile an hour winds and seas 25+ feet high. The Big Fitz starts taking on water but the Captain is sure that he can make Whitefish Bay which is only 17 miles away. The Captain in the trailing ship reports that he is hit by two huge waves back to back; 35 foot tall monsters; 3 1/2 stories tall. After they pass him he tries to hail the Big Fitz but to no avail. He cannot make radio contact nor can he find them on the radar again. The Big Fitz went down. Marshall and Wayne have both followed all of the stories of the Fitzgerald over the years. Especially the one where they found her and brought up the ships bell. It was replaced with another bell that was engraved with the names of the 29 men that went down with the ship. At the Whitefish Point Lighthouse there is the Shipwreck Museum that is dedicated to the 600+ ships that have gone down in Lake Superior and especially to the 29 men who perished on the Edmund Fitzgerald. As you step through the doors into the museum the first thing that you see is a brass bell engraved with the name 'Edmund Fitzgerald'. This is the bell that was removed from the ship. It was so strange to be standing there reading the story and then hear Gordon Lightfoot singing "The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee" in the background. We toured the museum, the lighthouse keepers quarters, watched the movie story of the Edmund Fitzgerald and walked out to view Whitefish Bay. The first pilgrimage site was completed. We went back and had lunch in Paradise, Michigan and headed on to Sault St. Marie, Ontario (pronounced Sue Saint Marie). Nowhere do we see a moose.


    We crossed the big bridge and left the U S of A and entered Canada. We got to talk to a very nice lady who seemed to be very interested in our background and concerned about our safety. She wanted to know where we were from. We told her that we were from Minnesota and Louisiana. She said that was very nice and she wanted to know where we were going. We told her that we were headed on around to Thunder Bay after a few days stay in this fair city. She was impressed with that and wanted to know how long we were going to be in Canada. Danged nosy she was. She then became concerned about our safety. She was very concerned about whether or not I was carrying any pepper spray or guns. She asked me about the guns several times. I don't think I was very convincing. She then wanted to know if the folks from Louisiana were carrying any guns. I think she was afraid that we were going to hurt ourselves with these things. Cousin Wayne convinced her that he was not carrying any guns or pepper spray and in her best school teacher type voice she told us we could proceed. If she was so concerned about our safety, Marshall wondered to himself why she had not asked about the possession of any canes. That human Popsicle thing had Marshall very concerned. 


    We went on through town and headed to the Glenview Vacation Cottages. A nice little two bedroom cabin. Not bad at all. Marshall and Wayne head for the woods while the ladies head for a few stores. We can definitely see the differences in priorities here. The little hike is up hill for a long distance. Nice colors and a few chipmunks along the way. The wandering boys come across an oak tree that has been around since 1790 and a pine tree that has been there since 1820. They know this to be true because the signs say so. The boys wander around looking for Moose at Moose Lake. Care to guess? Ain't no moose here neither.


    That night the foursome ate at Guzzo's in Sault St. Marie. If you are ever there be sure that you wave as you go by. Don't bother stopping. Waiting an hour and a half to be served cold meals just don't cut it. 


    Sunday we drive north along the east coast of Lake Superior. We stopped at Harmony Beach on Batchawana Bay and did a little beach combing. The water was crystal clear, cold and the shore was sandy and rocky in places. The foliage was very brilliant along the coast. Maple trees make up the majority of the forest and the hills here were covered in bright oranges, reds, yellows and greens. We hit a souvenir shop and bought a few sweat shirts and headed on north. The hills are getting very high and the colors more brilliant as we go. We drove up to Sand River Falls and hiked up the cascades to the falls. Nice area. We started back south and stopped for lunch. Our waitress left the cafe to go see and iguana. We left the cafe to go find another. Our eating in Canada has left a lot to be desired.


    We stop at a cafe that looks very questionable to say the least. We go in and there seems to be no one around. A waitress/cook/cashier appears and serves use up some of the best food we have had so far. The cafe at the Montreal River Harbor may not look like much but the food is great. We checked out a wood carving shop and found a lot of something. The only good stuff was in the thousands of dollars. There were a lot of moose in there or is that a cow with a rack? We are confused but not near as confused as the carvers. We go on down to Chippewa River Falls and climb up to the top. More of a hike than a climb but there is a nice pool back behind the falls. As we head back home we stop and do a little more beach combing on a rocky shore. Marshall finds an agate that is shaped like a birds egg. Gwen and Janet load up on rocks. Wayne does not see a moose.


    Monday morning we get up very early and go eat. Wayne gets into a discussion with a local who is going moose hunting. Wayne tells him that everyone is lying to him about moose because he hasn't seen any. The local assures him that he will see a moose as we go through the Lake Superior Provincial Park. We head north for the long haul around to Thunder Bay. We drive through the park stop at a few spots. Old Woman Bay was a pretty spot with a beautiful wide sand beach. Marshall and Wayne keep their comments about the name of the bay to themselves. It is still a long drive with two ladies sitting behind them. Besides that, Janet has her cane in hand. We pass through the park with not a moose in sight. We head on up to Wawa, Ontario. This is what Gwen used to call her grandmother. She could not say grandma; it came out Wawa. The rest of the family started calling her this. Therefore it is poetic justice that Gwen's grandson hung the name Bam-Bam on her. They were trying to get him to say Gram-Gram but it came out Bam-Bam. Now all the kids in the neighborhood call her this. Anyway we stop in Wawa to view another waterfall and roll on to the north and west. We are traveling through moose country. We see a snowshoe hare, it's a brown rabbit with white feet, a loon and some other wildlife but no moose. Wayne has reached the conclusion that all Canadians are liars. We arrive at Marathon at 2100' feet and cruise on the west. This is beautiful hilly country covered in various shades of yellow on various shades of green. We cross rivers in canyons and move in and out along the coast. We stop along the coast and beach comb along a rocky coast. Gwen finds some nice rocks. We walk out on a rock escarpment and watch the waves crash. We roll into Thunder Bay and brave another Canadian meal. We eat at the Keg. What a meal! The best steak that any of us have had in years. Marshall ate some mushrooms stuffed with escargot. No one else would join him. Wimps. (Note: We have returned many times to Thunder Bay and we always go to the Keg. The food is always superb!)


    Tuesday starts out with rain and no place to eat breakfast. We give up and have coffee and donuts and roll on back to the U.S. We head down the north shore in the fog and rain. It is off and on and we stop at the Split Rock Lighthouse for a movie and a tour. We go on to Duluth, the birthplace of Bob Dylan and point of last departure for the Edmund Fitzgerald and tour the Maritime Museum and shop along the waterfront. After dinner at Grandma's we go to the Omnimax theater and watch Everest. What a film! There were no moose in this film though.


    Wednesday we start the last leg of our journey and head toward the site of the final pilgrimage. We head from Duluth, to Grand Rapids and on to Bemidji. We head down to the lake to see Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Babe is the closest thing that Wayne will see to a moose. We head south out of Bemidji to Itasca State Park. This park is famous for one thing; the thing that Wayne and Marshall have been dieing to see; the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Here Lake Itasca empties into a stream that you can jump across. This is the beginning of the great Mississippi River that cousin Wayne floats around on every other week. Cousin Wayne almost baptizes himself in the river but regains his balance at the last moment. After wandering around here for a while we head for the house.


There are no moose and no human Popsicles but I think that we can live with both of these things. We managed to rack up 1932 miles on the loop around Lake Superior.


Oh yeah, the cheese head should have screamed louder; his team lost to Minnesota. 



                                                                                                            ~ The End ~

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