June 25-30, 2013
Our last stop in Michigan was Porcupine Wilderness State Park not far from Wisconsin. We thought we might stay a few days. However, in the morning we found hordes of mosquitoes covering the outside of our windows, buzzing malevolently with blood lust. We could not enter or exit the door without a cloud of them charging in. Not being able to withstand another day at the mercy of small insects, we packed up and left, heading west, eventually toward more arid lands that hopefully had fewer bugs.
Driving across northernmost Wisconsin I said my good-byes to Lake Superior as we saw repeated glimpses of it from the road. I wasn’t finished yet, I wanted to experience more, but it was time to move on. To soften my sadness, I made plans for a return trip, this time traveling the upper coast of Minnesota (someone described this as the “Norwegian Riviera”) and heading into the boundary waters and maybe Canada. Maybe go on a long canoe camping trip. But this fantasied trip will be in September when the number of people and insects will have died down. I don’t know if I will actually return some year, but I hope so.
Midway to North Dakota we stopped at Jay Cooke State Park south of Duluth, MN. A pleasant park, we stayed several days. There were fewer bugs there, plus I was able to wander the trails in search of flowers and other surprises. Chris mountain biked and went on exploratory trips to Duluth. The air in the park was thick with the aroma of pine and fir. I felt I could not breathe enough of it, as though it were satisfying a thirst I hadn’t known I had.
The first night we went to a presentation about the tremendous flood of the previous year. In June 2012 heavy rains cause the St. Louis River, which bisects the park, to swell to five times its normal size. A side channel that fed a power plant also burst its walls. This caused extensive damage throughout the park including destroying the historic swinging footbridge first built in the 1920’s. It connected the trails in the southern part of the park with the campground and visitor’s center on the north. The park had only reopened recently. Even at normal fullness the St. Louis is an impressive river, with wild rapids and rocky cliffs. (You can hear its roar on a recording on my Sound Tracks page.)
In the Visitor’s Center were posters of yellow ladyslippers and I asked if they were currently blooming. Indeed they were and I nearly swooned with delight. I had never previously seen a yellow ladyslipper and I proceeded to a few hundred photos of them over the next several days. (I narrowed those down to about 12 for the photo gallery.)
(NOTE: The number of days left on The Big Trip are diminishing rapidly; we’ll be home around Oct. 1. I am still far behind on reporting our experiences. Getting fully caught up on the travelogue before I return to Santa Cruz seems unlikely. I have many hand-written notes but finding the time to transcribe and revise them continues to be elusive.
For now, I have decided to offer a few comments and a photo gallery from many of the different spots we have explored. Even this is a big chore but it seems possibly achievable. The hope that I will some day complete a written account is still alive within me, but the actualization of it may be delayed.)