Exploring the North Shore

We rented a cabin for 5 days and 4 nights at Cascade Lodge for Alex’s birthday. Nestled in Cascade River State Park and overlooking Lake Superior, it’s not a 5-star hotel by any means, but the staff are very friendly, the rooms and cabins are clean, dogs are allowed in the cabins, and there are ample things to do, including equipment rentals and an activity room with a billiards table. The resort also has a restaurant onsite and a number of hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails that connect to the trails in Cascade River State Park.

We stayed in Cabin 11, and it was the perfect size for Alex, the dogs, and me. To get to our weekend home, we crossed a bridge over Cascade Creek — the noise of the tiny rapids startling Hannah initially. The creek was audible in the cabin, and we fell asleep to the running water each night.

 

The cabin had one main room, with the sleeping and living areas separated by a wall. It also included a stone fireplace. After unloading the car, we ate walking tacos (aka tacos in a bag, aka the best food creation since sliced bread) for dinner. There was no kitchen, but we brought a camp stove to set up on the porch for cooking.

After dinner, I spent some time down by Lake Superior, where the waters were unusually tranquil.

 

The dogs needed to potty at 5:30 AM on the first morning, so I took them for a short walk. It was extremely peaceful, with all of the world still asleep and the sun’s light starting to creep across the sky.

We hit the road at about 9:45 AM. Minnesota State Parks offer a geocaching program called Call of the Wildflowers, and I am on a mission to find them all before the program ends this October (I have 18 left to go!).

Our first stop of the day was on the Canadian border at Grand Portage State Park. Grand Portage State Park is a 291-acres day-use facility and offers trails (hiking, snowshoeing), views of waterfalls, interpretive programs, and picnicking. A 1-mile round-trip, paved trail brings people of all abilities to High Falls, the tallest waterfall in Minnesota. The park also includes a more strenuous, 3.5-mile turf trail to Middle Falls further north. High Falls and rapids along this portion of the Pigeon River made river travel to and from Lake Superior extremely difficult, and American Indians created the ancient Grand Portage, a 9-mile trail between the river and Lake Superior. The Grand Portage itself can still be hiked today and crosses Highway 61 near the national monument about 7 miles south of the state park.

I attempted this geocache in the winter, but the final stage had disappeared under the snow. We parked the car and started the search, stopping along the way to admire the river.

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Pigeon River

It was an easy 2-stage multi-cache, but as we got within about 100 feet of the final, a huge, unexpected shelf of ice and snow impeded our path.

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Obstacle of the day

Unsure of how to proceed, we decided the best way was up and over. Alex and Hannah went first. Alex busted a hole in the shelf up to his right thigh. Mya and I carefully followed, and the final cache was quickly found. We took a break on a bench a few feet away, and if that bench was there in the winter, I had not seen it.

 

We ventured back the way we came, over that damn ice shelf. We were a bit smarter this time, though, letting Alex go first by himself, then the dogs one-by-one, and then me. Alas, I also punched a hole into the shelf with my right leg. We left otherwise unscathed. We continued to the High Falls, which were roaring and spraying us hundreds of feet away. They were an impressive force after the spring thaw.

 

Then, it was on to the next park. We made a quick stop a few miles south at the Mt. Josephine Rest Area, an overlook of the Susie Islands. Isle Royale can be seen 18 miles away on a clear day (we think we saw it on the horizon).

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Overlooking the Susie Islands

The next stop was Judge C.R. Magney State Park. This park is 4,695 acres and offers camping (drive-in), trails (hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing), fishing, picnicking, views of waterfalls, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, and more. The most popular attraction is the Devil’s Kettle, a waterfall along the Brule River where half plunges into a pothole and no one knows where it goes (although, a recent study may have solved the mystery).

Alex found the second stage of the multi-cache and said the third stage was only 200 feet away. He offered to find it while I parked the car and unloaded the dogs. He met us near the trail entrance and said the final was 3/4 of a mile away. About 1/3 of a mile into the hike, we realized we were on the wrong trail. Fortunately, getting back to start was all downhill. The final was placed next to a small, bubbling stream.

 

We contemplated continuing on the trail and crossed the stream to view a wayfinding map. The trail looped around, but since it didn’t go near the river, we decided to turn back. My shoes are waterproof, but I forded the stream and the water went over my ankles, soaking my feet. We stopped at a bench to squeeze out my socks, and Mya took full advantage of the break.

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Working on her tan

We returned to the car and then went back to the cabin for dinner and a good night’s rest.

We hit the road again at about 10 AM the next day. The first stop was Tettegouche State Park. Tettegouche State Park is 9,489 acres and offers trails (hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, ATV, snowmobiling), camping (drive-in, walk-in, cart-in, hike-in, kayak-in), cabins, paddling, picnicking, historic sites, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, interpretive programs, rock climbing, views of waterfalls, and more.

I attempted this geocache in the winter, also. There is a steep, 1/2 mile ascent to the second stage, and when I got to the final stage, the cache was covered in snow. We quickly found it this time, though, and continued a short way to Mount Baldy.

 

The next stop was George H. Crosby Manitou State Park. At 6,159 acres, this park offers trails (hiking, snowshoeing), camping (hike-in), picnicking, views of waterfalls, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, and more. It’s not as popular as the other parks in the arrowhead, likely because the entrance is not off of Highway 61, the only campsites are hike-in, and you have to travel along a gravel road for about 6 miles in either direction.

We had never been to this park before and really enjoyed the seclusion. There were a number of people preparing to hike-in to their campsite when we arrived, but other than that, we did not see another soul. The geocache was quickly found, although we had to navigate around some fallen trees at the final. We decided to continue hiking a trail that looped to the south and back around.

We arrived at a trail intersection and, after consulting a wayfinding map, decided the trail to the right was the one we aimed to hike along. We ascended in elevation and eventually arrived at a bench. We thought the trail continued downhill from there, closer to the river, so off we went. Except, it was REALLY steep. Like, dangerously, is-this-even-a-trail steep. Even the dogs were having a difficult time. One of my water bottles fell out of my backpack, started rolling down the hill, and was fortunately stopped by some roots a few feet away. I had a flashback to the time I slid about 20 feet down the side of a mountain in Colorado, and we decided this trek was not worth it and turned back. Fortunately we did, because when we returned to the trail intersection and consulted the map again, we realized we misread the map initially, and the bench we passed was an overlook and beyond that was not an actual trail. In our defense, the wayfinding map did not match the online maps and the only indication it was an overlook was a tiny line ending with a tiny asterisk. We continued on an actual trail to another roaring waterfall, though.

 

On the way back to the car, we saw some wolf fur shed. A shorter hike than we initially planned, but eventful none-the-less.

Next stop was the 5,007-acre Temperance River State Park. This park offers camping (drive-in, cart-in), picnicking, trails (hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling), boating and paddling, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, rock climbing, views of waterfalls, fishing, and more.

We quickly found the geocache, followed the trail around the river gorge, stood on top of an ancient waterfall that dried up years ago, and walked to where the Temperance River meets Lake Superior.

 

The final cache of the weekend was in Cascade River State Park. Cascade River State Park is 5,392 acres and offers camping (drive-in, hike-in), trails (hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling), picnicking, fishing, access to the Superior Hiking Trail, views of waterfalls, interpretive programs, and more.

We found the first couple of stages quickly and took a wrong turn for the final (that seems to be the theme for this trip), but the views of the river were worth it. We saw some more wolf shed just before arriving at the final stage.

 

By this point, the dogs were exhausted.

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We wandered down to Lake Superior at sunset again.

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We spent the final full day exploring more of Cascade River State Park.

 

The designated picnic area was located in a heavily wooded area on the shore of Lake Superior, with some unique trees.

 

And Lake Superior’s waters continued to be unusually tranquil.

 

Hannah, our dear sweet Hannah, thought the gentle waves were trying to play with her.

 

We packed up and departed for home the next day, to return to our daily lives. Lake Superior’s energy is incredibly humbling during a stormy fit, with impressive white caps crashing against rocks that have stood their ground for thousands of years. During a calm bout, her shores are therapy for the soul, sharing her wisdom with those willing to listen. We were fortunate for a content Superior during our visit and it was difficult to leave, but her tranquil waters were exactly what we needed to reset and center our minds.