Thursday, June 20, 2013

Weather Nerds

On our first day in Duluth, we had quite a variety of weather conditions. Mom and I started our trip with a stop in our favorite park, Amnicon Falls in Superior, WI. With several sets of cascading falls, easy trails, and very few people, Amnicon Falls is a tradition every time we visit the area. The weather was sunny, few clouds, and in the 80's. We walked the trails, took in the falls, and hit the road again to keep making our way north to our final destination near Grand Marais, MN.

As we got closer to Duluth, it became harder and harder to see the road ahead. It took a minute to finally figure out what it was. Fog. Lots and lots of fog. As we headed over the bridge, all we could see was white. It enveloped the car. I glanced at the temperature reading on my dash and realized the temperature had dropped nearly twenty degrees in a matter of a few minutes! As we drove up the shore, the fog made for some stunning views of lighthouses perched on the rocks.
Like Split Rock Lighthouse, seen above. Not the photo I wanted, but I have yet to acquire a telephoto lens for Mark. That will be the next investment to drain my bank account! Once we made it to the hotel for the evening, we sat out on the deck overlooking the lake. Over the course of an hour, the clouds became more and more ominous. It was like nothing either of us had ever seen. At one point, the clouds melded together to form what looked like a giant wave, rumbling toward the shoreline.

More photos of the trip to the North shore to come, videos too if the blogger website decides to play nice and upload them! Also, an update on my pursuit of a masters degree and the first week of my new job.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The North First Love

I have been blessed to see many of the fascinating corners of this country. Between my leisure travel and my travel nursing career, I've been coast to coast. California was beautiful with its golden coastline and sweeping vistas. New York had its towering skyline and attitude in spades. Las Vegas had its own special appeal, nestling lots of entertainment and amazing architecture on the famous "strip." Pretty sure I don't need to profess my love of the New England states, as I've gushed about the area in this blog many, many times. But, one place has always had a special place in my heart, my favorite of all.

Duluth, Minnesota and the Lake Superior North Shore.

What?! Minnesota????

Yes, you read correctly. My favorite place is tucked away in the Midwest; a beautiful gem on the tip of the sparkling expanse of the worlds largest freshwater lake. Visiting Duluth was an annual tradition, up until last year when I was working in New Hampshire. This year, I got back on track and made the five hour drive directly North from La Crosse. Before I get into the details of the trip, I should give those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing this beautiful area for yourself a few reasons why I love it as well as a few fun facts!

1. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by area covering 31,700 miles (about the size of South Carolina) and the third largest by volume. The average depth is 483 feet with a maximum depth of 1,333 feet. The lake contains about 2,900 cubic miles of water. To put that in more visual terms: enough water to cover North and South America in about a foot of water. Yikes! The shoreline is comprised of 2,726 miles of rugged rocks, vista views, waterfalls, and sleepy fishing villages. The water in the glimmers in the sun, taking on a cobalt blue hue that is breathtaking. Although it is a popular lake for fishing, boating, and sailing, the water seldom rises about 40 degrees, so it makes for a cold swim year round.
2. There are over 200 rivers that feed the lake. With the high cliffs surrounding the lake, this makes for amazing hiking along the entire shoreline. This geography also produces some stunning waterfalls, many times hiding just a few yards off the highway.
3. The entire North shore is steeped in rich history which continues to permeate the modern culture today. The shipping industry is still a primary staple and many trading post sites where fur traders came to make a deal are still standing today.
4. The Superior Hiking trail, which spans 39 miles, boasts elevation changes, babbling stream beds, thundering waterfalls, and vista views. A hiker's dream.
5. The city of Duluth, while largely centered around the shipping and tourist industries, has a laid-back, college-like feel. An eco-conscious city, Duluth has many restaurants and local businesses that invest in preserving the natural beauty of the area. While you can get overwhelmed in the tourist areas with people visiting, getting off the beaten path has proved rewarding on each trip I've taken. I've stumbled upon an antique book store housed in a historic church, restaurants that grow their produce in the parking lot to help prevent run-off from entering the watershed, and farmers markets filled with local wares.

These are just a few of the reasons I love the North Shore and the city of Duluth. It is one thing to describe the beauty of this area, it is another to see it for yourself. Here are just a few photos from my latest trip, with more to come.

Vista overlooking the boundary waters leading into Canada.

See that little blue figure in the upper left corner? Yeah, that's a person. Gives you some perspective on how big these falls were!

I will post more photos and video from my trip in another post!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spring in New England

The first leg of my trip consisted of a lazy birthday driving up and down the coastline, stopping along the way for lunch in Portsmouth and a few photographs. I turned the big 2-6 this year, signifying the decline into my late twenties. Sigh. I chose to spend my birthday exactly the way I wanted to: relaxing. I was blessed to spend it with one of my favorite people in this world who helped make the day what I wanted.
Long Sands Beach

Jenress Beach

Exeter, NH

As I had posted in my last entry, I spent the weekend with the Gray family in Boston. Val and I made our way down on Friday to meet up with them at the Boston Garden for family pictures. We spent the night at their house and had an early morning wake-up call courtesy of the Gray children. Ah, but their cuteness made up for the early waking! On Saturday we made our way, via public transportation, back into the city. My first adventure on a public train was...interesting. Quite the experience, especially since part of the track was under construction. This forced us to get off the first train, get on a city bus, take that to the next train station, only to board that train into the city. All the while, toting a stroller and three children along for the ride! I give props to all the parents out there who do this on a regular basis because at the end of the day, I was exhausted!

Boston Garden.
Boston Garden.
Annie, her daughter Caroline, and I on the first train of the day!

Val and I stopping for a rest during the walk. Yes that is a Boston Red Sox hat. I borrowed it from Annie. Get over it, Brewers fans.
Along the route for the walk.

While Val worked, I made a quick day trip down to Amesbury, MA. Having been once before with my friend Ruth, I knew that the town was quaint with plenty of things to see. The day was beautiful. I spent most of the day meandering around town, stopping here and there to look in store windows and snap a few photos of the scenery. 

 I always have big plans for my trips to New England, picturing hikes in the mountains and sunny days at the beach. But, the time flies by far to fast to fit everything in. I have found that now, my trips are for seeing friends, grabbing late afternoon lunches, and catching up on life events since the last trip. As well as making plans for the next one......

Although it was hard to leave, as it always is, this time was easier since I had kidnapped Val back to Wisconsin with me! She spent a week eating cheese curds, frozen custard, driving up and down the Mississippi River, and seeing where I grew up. Her favorite thing about Wisconsin? Culvers. What can I say, the girl is easy to please!