I completed the Ontario side of the Lake Superior Circle Tour as I crossed back into the US at Grand Portage during the month of July. In order to actually complete the entire 1300 miles I still had to make my way to Duluth once again. After the cherished time spent with my cousin Anne and her family there last year, I was glad to route myself back for more time with them! I did make a few worthwhile detours along the way though. My first stop was at Grand Portage State Park, which is a short drive from the Canadian border.
The highlight of this park is High Falls, which drops 120 feet into the Pigeon River. The observation areas for the falls are easily accessed by way of a half-mile-long paved trail. The girls and I enjoyed the pleasant walk to-and-from the falls along with several other visitors to the park.
Our next stop was only a few miles down the road… Grand Portage National Monument. This is one of the most impressive monuments I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during my travels. The monument consists of the reconstructed buildings of the North West Company’s fur trading headquarters. It was a pleasure strolling through these buildings and visiting with the knowledgable employees who were clad in period clothing. They played the roll of those who might have lived and worked there centuries ago. I found the experience interesting and the entire production VERY well done! I could write an entire blog post on this monument alone, but I’m way too far behind on my posting as it is. There’s plenty of great information at the link above.
While communicating with my cousin Anne about my route back to Duluth, she suggested that I consider visiting the Witch Tree. She had heard about it but never visited personally. I had never heard of it at all so I did a little research. This gnarled little cedar tree grows out of bare rock on the Lake Superior shoreline. It is said to be more than 300 years old and is sacred to the Ojibwa Indian tribe. For years they have left offerings of tobacco and other items at the base of the tree to ensure a safe journey on the lake.
While researching, I discovered that in order to view the tree a member of the Ojibwa tribe must accompany you. This of course made it all the more enticing to me. Since I had no cell service while in Canada, lining up an Ojibwa escort was next to impossible. It took some time and effort but I finally met up with a nice young man who took me out to see it. He shared a bit of the history and legend while we walked. It’s a miraculous thing that this little tree… rooted in stone… has survived for so long under the extreme weather conditions surrounding Lake Superior. It is no wonder it’s sacred!
While continuing my journey south on Hwy 61, I made another stop in Grand Marais. This cool little town sits right on the lakeshore and is obviously popular with the tourists. I was lucky to find a place to park “Zippy and The Beast” (motorhome with car attached for you newcomers) near the harbor. After having a bite to eat I took the dogs for a walk out to Artists Point. It was nice to visit with several other travelers while there. One family in particular made me want to stop and watch as father and his young sons built several cairns along the rocky shore. The precious moment made me smile.
Moving on… With Duluth on my radar, I continued south enjoying a leisurely pace and constant vistas of the lake. As always, there were several places I wanted to stop but couldn’t. Since it’s rare that I find enough space to pull off at beautiful vistas I always feel fortunate when I can. Such was the case as I was traveling through Silver Bay and noticed a layer of fog hovering over the water and around the rocky outcrops and islands. With an audible “Oooh oooh” I took the next exit… determined to get THE shot!
After a pleasant day of travel along Lake Superior, I rolled into Duluth. I squeezed my motorhome into my cousin’s driveway and spent a few enjoyable days chilling with her family. Thank you Anne, Mike, Lucy and Alex! It was wonderful to see you for a second time along my journey!!!
After a few days of R&R, I rolled west for the eleven hundred mile drive to Grand Teton National Park. With old friends and the grandness of the Tetons tugging at me I was anxious to get there. I estimated that I had a three-day journey ahead of me but chose to make it a spontaneous trip with regards to campsites. (A daring move after my fiasco in Thunder Bay!) The first leg of my trek took me all the way across Minnesota and beyond to Jamestown, North Dakota (the 46th state of my journey!). I found myself camped within walking distance of the National Buffalo Museum.
I knew nothing of this place before settling in. While walking the dogs I strolled onto the grounds of Frontier Village (home of the museum). I was tickled to read this was the home of “White Cloud“, a very rare albino buffalo I’d read about years before. While exploring, I eagerly kept my eye on the landscape hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I was photographing Jazzy and Sadie with the “worlds largest buffalo” (below) when I spotted a white speck on the green hillside some distance away. With the famous “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” line from Jaws running through my head I thought to myself… “I’m gonna need a longer lens!”
I stood watching through my telephoto lens waiting to see any sign of movement and there was none. I watched for so long that I convinced myself that what I was looking at was fake… A tourist draw of some sort? Something they could see from the highway that would bring them in? I took a few shots and eventually walked away feeling more than a little bewildered. (The shot below is cropped into substantially and far clearer than what I could see with naked eye or through my long lens.)
I returned the following morning in hopes of a closer look at White Cloud. I half expected to find that same white figure standing in the exact same place on the hill but she wasn’t there. As I walked the perimeter of Frontier Village, I finally spotted her standing alone in a field much closer to the path. I was surprised to spot a large white bull not too far from her as well. “Curiouser and curiouser” I thought to myself as I ventured down the rabbit hole. I would definitely have to look into this! I later discovered that the unusual white bull was Dakota Miracle, who was born to White Cloud in 2007. Much more can be learned about these rare buffalo here.
After my morning walk through the Village, I continued my trek west on I-94 with Theodore Roosevelt National Park stretching across my path. This would be an easy 3 1/2 hour drive… or so I thought. A smoldering truck fire at the side of the interstate stopped traffic for miles, and added more than an hour to my drive. Once through the traffic jam, I was able to escape the commotion of the highway and pay a short visit to the park.
Because of the delay I had little time to explore this 70,000+ acre park but I did enjoy walking the dogs for a bit around the Visitors Center near Medora. The badlands here are reminiscent of those I visited in South Dakota and in the Borrego Desert of southern California.
Did I mention North Dakota was the forty sixth state I traveled through since setting out on my journey???
We continued west into Montana and found a place to camp in Miles City. The following morning I took advantage of the great (and rare) campground wi-fi and worked for a few hours before moving on. By evening, thunderstorms were rumbling all around me and filling the sky with dramatic light. As I drove into the town of Cody, Wyoming my stomach was rumbling louder than the thunderstorms so I watched for a place to get a bite to eat while pondering my camping options. I was through town before I found Geyser Brewing Company, a restaurant with plenty of space for Zippy and The Beast.
My good luck must have followed me all the way down from Thunder Bay. After a yummy meal of Ahi Tuna, I chatted with the manager Steve. He is a former RVer, who was more than happy to let me stay parked on the property for the night. With no more driving ahead of me, I ordered a glass of wine and ended up visiting with a delightful couple from Calgary. Ric and Betti renewed my excitement about visiting their beautiful city and encouraged me to stop in for a visit when I do. Since that part of Alberta has long been on the list of places I’d love to explore, I’ll be sure to make that happen!
From the parking lot of The Geyser Brewing Company I watched the sun rise over Cody’s famous rodeo arena and took the dogs for a walk before hitting the road.
I was now on the home stretch to the Tetons! As I headed west on Hwy 20 toward Yellowstone the beautiful morning light on the surrounding hills compelled me to stop a few times. Just as compelling as the landscape was this curious piece of architecture. I had no idea what it was, but figured Google might provide me an answer, and sure enough… Smith Mansion
That afternoon, giddy as a teenager, I finished my long journey back to one of my favorite spots in the country… Grand Teton National Park!
I have much to share about my marvelous time there! In the mean time, I’m still in my hometown of Longview, Washington enjoying time with family and friends while whittling away at the ever increasing “to do list” that follows me at every turn of my journey. More adventure coming soon!!