“The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” G.K. Chesterton
We had some idea of what we would see, but no particular expectations. A question we are frequently asked is “do you book everything in advance?” Well, yes and no. It’s unusual that we just roll into town and look for a place to stay. But we don’t have everything planned before we leave home. And such was our exploration of the North Shore of Lake Superior. We knew how much time we wanted to spend, and how far we were willing to drive each day, and let the map show us the way.
Bayfield, Wisconsin, was our first stop.
This beautiful brownstone is the visitors center for the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. The building was formerly the county courthouse, but through some twist of fate, the county seat was moved to Washburn.
From 1870 – 1924 Bayfield was an active logging community, with a saw mill located at the harbor. When I think of logging I always think of the Northwest, but the forests were pretty much cleared in the Great Lakes areas before the logging in the Northwest took over. “Canadian lumberman James Little remarked in 1876 that the rate at which the Great Lakes forests were being logged was “not only burning the candle at both ends, but cutting it in two, and setting the match to the four ends to enable them to double the process of exhaustion.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_lumber_industry_in_the_United_States
We took the ferry to Madeline Island, one of the 22 islands that comprise the Apostle Island archipelago in Lake Superior
Next up was Grand Marais, Minnesota. Here was our chance to explore Superior National Forest, the largest National Forest east of the Mississippi.This is Voyageurs country, the French-Canadian fur traders. The trappers worked this area until the beavers were nearly gone. Fortunately for the beavers silk replaced fur as the fashion of choice in Europe, and the Voyageur era came to an end.
The view of Lake Superior from Pinchushion Mountain, part of the ancient Sawtooth Mountains Range. This mountain range has a geologic history that goes back some 1.2 billion years!
The area was also heavily logged, and in the early logging days this did not include replanting, as it does today. In the 1930s the CCC was deployed on reforestation and conservation projects. Logging continues, but in a more sustainable manner. We met a member of a family lumber mill – he was 3rd generation, and the mill continues to operate. He and his family live on land his parents homesteaded in 1920. It was clear he had no love for the current rules. But still, he managed to make a go of it and had a business to turn over to his children. We met him when we took an opportunity to learn about Norwegian Fjord Horses.
We spent a morning ground driving and then going for a carriage ride. Norwegian Fjord horses were used to haul timber back in the day.
Our last stop along Lake Superior was at Eldorado Beach, in Suniah Township, Ontario, Canada, north of the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Border crossing is always a treat. The most interesting question this time involved fishing bait. “Agent: are you going fishing? Us: no. Agent: So you aren’t bring any bait into the country. Us: No.” Really? Bait? So we crossed and found ourselves back in eastern daylight savings time.
We spent a day exploring Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Ouimet Canyon. One Ojibway legend identifies the giant as Nanabijou , who was turned to stone when the secret location of a rich silver mine now known as Silver Islet was disclosed to white men.
Nanabijou’s image (starting with his head to the right in this photo) can be seen in the rock formation prominent on the peninsula that comprises the park. In the teachings of the Objiway, Nanabijou was a “trickster” and co-creator of the earth.
We spotted this black bear on our way to the canyon. The best part was the German family behind us – they had never seen a bear and were they ever excited, especially when we let them pull ahead of us when we decided it was time to continue the drive.
The Ouimet Canyon was a surprise – never expected to see a nearly 500 ft wide gorge with a depth of 300 ft. A prominent formation along the canyon wall is know as the Indian Head. Nanabijou features prominently here too. According to the Ojibway, “A long time ago there were giants. One called Omett was a good giant and helped Nanabijou when he wished to raise a mountain or make a new lake. Omett fell in love with Naiomi, Nanabijou’s daughter. Naiomi liked Omett and encouraged him to display his strength. One day Omett was moving a mountain when a peak broke off, struck Naiomi and killed her. Greatly frightened of the wrath of Nanabijou, Omett hid Naiomi’s body in a shallow lake and covered it with a rock shield. Searching for Naiomi, Nanabijou was striding over the great shield when he felt vibrations from under the rocks. Reaching into the sky, he grasped a thunderbolt and drove it into the rocks, splitting them open. In the wide canyon he discovered his daughter’s body. Nanabijou buried Naiomi in the bottom of the canyon. From her grave grew the rare and beautiful flowers found only there. To punish Omett, Nanabijou turned him to stone and placed him on the canyon wall to watch over the grave for all eternity.”
The Indian Head formation is on the left
From Eldorado Beach we turned west, completing 520 miles of the 1300 mile Lake Superior Circle Tour. I guess we will have to return.
June 2 – 7, 2017