Spirit of Adventure!
July continued our exploration of the Cuyuna lakes. We find it difficult at times to decide between revisiting some of our favorite places or branching out to explore new ones. This month involved a little bit of both. When you live as close to these sunsets and lakes as we do, it's fairly easy to get out on the water regardless of the direction you're headed.
One of our new adventures involved a paddle on Lake George in Outing, MN. We had driven by the public water access not long before and had seen a large group of pelicans off in the distance so we decided to bring the canoe back another day for a closer look. Within a few minutes of arriving we were greeted with visitors, the very unfriendly kind.
Mosquitos!! This summer has been worse than normal for mosquitos and gnats, but encountering them at this particular access point was pure misery. We rushed our canoe and gear to the water’s edge to push off as quickly as we could, but those buggers were just as fast and hungry. Some adventures seem like a good idea, but it took a great amount of persistent spirit to want to continue this one.
Once we were out on the open water and away from shore, we admitted that the bugs were not as terrible and since we'd already got our fair share of bites, we might as well make the most of the ride. The group of pelicans we had spotted days earlier were no longer there, but there were two lingering chaps floating on the surface that we were able to paddle by. Without the group, however, they were skittish and shy. We guessed they had noticed us from shore slapping and carrying on and didn't feel we were a good fit for pleasant evening company.
After we moved on from the pelicans, we spotted an eagle in its nest on a small island. Eagles are certainly a favorite for us to encounter, and their nest is quite a home to behold. They grow more than 13 feet deep, longer than 8 feet across, and weigh over a ton! Year after year they add to it, so it was fun to see it towering over us as we paddled around. We commented what a great place that eagle chose for its residence: safe, surrounded by water and fish, and a great view of sunsets.
As we circled the island, we were treated with a visit from a beaver and one of the most breathtaking sunsets we’ve seen on the water. The beauty of the water and sky made it very difficult to start working our way back towards the water access, especially knowing there would be swarms of mosquitoes waiting for us. We would paddle a little, look back, and just have to stop to enjoy the sunset a little more.
After inching along, the water access eventually came into view, but just as we were approaching our landing we noticed a loon gently floating nearby. We've seen a lot of loons this summer and all have been a special memory, but when we drifted passed this loon, it's silhouette against a fiery red sky on the water around it blew us away. It was as if we stepped into a dream.
The loon followed us as if trying to bid us farewell...a sweet Minnesota goodbye. We stopped briefly to just enjoy the moment with him before heading back into the swarm of mosquitos. When our canoe pulled up on shore, it was a fight to the death. Hundreds of mosquitos swarmed our head, the noise so loud you couldn't hear yourself think. I don't think we've ever loaded up our canoe and gear so fast, and wouldn't be completely surprised if we left a few things behind haha.
Throughout the rest of July, we encountered many more loons...as many as 9 swimming together like gangbusters. We also enjoyed watching green and blue herons fishing on the edges of the water, an osprey with a fresh catch, and the groups of fish that like to follow our canoe around as it glides through the water.
But there are many days when our adventure spirit kicks in to go up Minnesota's North Shore, and we spent some wonderful days staying in Lutsen and exploring the shore, backroads that wind through enchanting forests of northern Minnesota, and some amazing trails. Every time we visit, it seems like our love for the north shore grows. We've often complained about the number of tourists this place has been acquiring over the years, and have made it our mission to go where no one else will go.
We started off our adventure with a hike in Silver Bay. The rain dampened our spirits a little (and cut the hike short), but it was a great way to stretch our legs and explore new territory. Determined to come back again and complete a longer distance, we decided to check out the expansive view from Palisade Head. This area has grown popular over the years. In the past, we could have easily driven up to the top of this overlook and been the only ones to picnic, explore, and just take in the view. Now, however, the small amount of parking available is packed like sardines, there are climbers, onlookers, people everywhere with their phones snapping photos in all directions. It's still a pretty view, but the experience for us has become a bit lost as we try to reconcile with solitude and sharing the space with so many people.
Bright and early the next day we set our sights on Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. We're suckers for going the full distance of the Gunflint if only to spot a moose or a lynx for a brief second. It's a wildlife haven to us and one that rarely disappoints, so the hour and a half it takes to reach the end is worth it. We did see a bear making his way across the trail, but per the usual, our camera gear was tucked away in the backseat and we weren't quick enough. Arriving back in Grand Marais we decided to hit up our favorite pizza and ice cream shop at Sydney's, enjoying our meal atop the patio overlooking Superior. It was too beautiful a day to not take in Artist's Point and the like.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
BWCA, if you've never been, it's high time you go. Over 1 million acres of pure wilderness! If you have a love for water, silence, nature, and serenity, then this is the place to be. While time only allowed us a half a day on the water, we soaked up every last minute of paddling the lakes and short portages. It's a tranquil place to be to collect your thoughts and something new around every corner.
Following our mini-boundary waters excursion, we went back to Grand Marais for what could be considered our most unique experience of the city and surrounding area. We took advantage of Sawtooth Aviation’s Flightseeing Tours.
Our flight took us up to an incredible view of Grand Marais and the surrounding area. We’ve been to Grand Marais many times, but never before had we seen it from the perspective offered us from the plane. Our pilot was AMAZING, and very knowledgeable about the area. Absolute pleasure to have him guiding us over the landscape and we couldn't have asked for more out of our tour: viewing the surrounding lakes, rivers, Naniboujou Lodge, Artist's Point, Grand Marais Harbor and more. We could only imagine how beautiful it could be to take a flight in autumn or after a fresh white snowfall.
Our last stop of the day was to visit the Heart of the Earth Falls. About a mile hike and a steep little climb down some rocks to arrive at one of our favorite waterfalls along the North Shore. We like to spend some time in this hidden area because the cascading water is picture perfect and we are able to take the time needed to set up tripods and other equipment without the interruptions of others.
With each new adventure that we plan (or the ones that fall into our lap unexpectedly), we always leave longing for more. We try hard to live in the moment and just be content with what we are able to experience, but it seems that it stirs our spirit to get out and explore more, do more, see more. In any other part of life, I'd probably suggest this a bad thing, but for loving nature (and others), we truly believe this is what life is about. For us, adventures don't have an end date or goal - they continue on and there is always something to be added. Maybe it's next week, next month, or next year, but it holds the promise that there is in fact room to expand. So here's to happy adventures and a spirit to finding them :)