Thursday, July 16, 2015

To the North Shore

It has been a long time since my family took a family vacation that didn’t involve visiting me in the new exotic location in which I was living or had previously lived.  In fact, I believe the last time we took a trip together was in the summer of 2009.

So, when earlier this year I announced to my mom that I was postponing serious summer travel plans in favor of spending a full 6 weeks at home and she brought up the idea of a short family road trip, I agreed enthusiastically, but on one condition: I didn’t want to be in charge of planning anything. 

So Mom went to work requesting for time off of work, and we decided we’d spend four days driving up to the North Shore of Minnesota (along the “north shore” of Lake Superior, for those not familiar with the term). 
The only hitch in the plan was that the days Mom was able to get vacation were the exact same days that my sister would be attending a conference and unable to go.  So much for having a full family trip.  But since Mom had the time off, it was easily decided that the three of us (her, my dad, and myself) would still embark on the trip. 

I held fast to my desire to not plan anything, but in a way, so did my parents.   The day came to leave, and we hit the road with no hotel reservations, no clear set notions of what we would do on the trip or even how far we would get each night.  

I am someone who claims to love spontaneity (and I do love it), but who also feels the need to plan each aspect of my travel and leave nothing to chance.  It was therefore invigorating (and, okay, yes, just a little bit nerve wracking) to depart on the trip with no plans.  One thing that put me at ease was the fact that all three of us have been to the North Shore multiple times.  We knew where we were going and had an idea of the available attractions we would find there. 

The trip ended up being great.  It was relaxing, refreshing, and beautiful.  The North Shore is full of breathtaking vistas of the lake and the rivers (and waterfalls) that flow into the lake, as well as cute tourist stops and history.  We did several short hikes to see waterfalls throughout our four days. 

Amnicon Falls, WI

Gooseberry Falls 

Leaving the trail to explore some rocks along the river.

International Falls, on the border with Canada

We also stopped at the Grand Portage National Monument, once a buzzing fur trading post, for a tour of the reconstructed site (all of the original buildings were destroyed around 1802 when the British trading company had to move north into Canada since the US had become an independent country and no longer really a fan of Brits).

The parents indulged me by making a stop in Lutsen to ride the Alpine Slide.  Dad had done it before many years ago and said he had no desire to go again, so I convinced Mom to come with me so that I wouldn’t have to go alone.  It was a fun excursion; we rode the chairlift to the top of the ski hill, then took our sled for the half mile slope down, controlling the speed as we went.  (I would love to ride again and see how much faster I could push it; I edged on the side of caution my first time). 

Top of the slide.  Ready set go! 

Mom coming down the slide

Passing back through Duluth on our way home, we toured the Glensheen Mansion.  The home and grounds were beautiful, but my favorite part was hearing the history of the home.  The tour was much more than just, “this lamp is from Italy, and this marble cost millions.”  In each room, we were told a little about whose room it was or how the family would have spent time in the space.  I love stories, so the tour was just right. 

Parents perusing the vegetable gardens

The library--one of my favorite rooms of the house

The back side of the mansion

Our family trip involved lots of quiet time, relaxation, and great views.  But we also had a few good laughs and made lasting memories.  Even missing one family member, it was a worthwhile and enjoyable trip.  And Liz was able to join in on other mini-trips throughout the summer, to be shared in subsequent posts…  

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