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Our last day on the North Shore

Greetings blogsphere! I’ve been documenting our trip to the North Shore last summer and we’ve reached our last full day. If you missed any of the first three days, you can find them here, here and here. Do check them out if you’re so inclined. We had such a nice time at one of the most beautiful spots in Minnesota. I still can’t believe it took me nearly 30 years to get there!

We awakened to clear skies!! And that made us hopeful that the Greenwood fire smoke blew away again for the day. Our plan was to visit the Grand Portage National Monument in the morning and then do our second hike up Oberg Mountain, the full loop this time, in the afternoon. Since Grand Portage was an hour from our hotel we decided to break it up by having breakfast in Grand Marais, the halfway point.

It was such a beautiful drive along the North Shore! I don’t think the photos do it justice but here’s one that I like so that you can get somewhat of an idea of the beauty along the highway. This was on the way to Grand Marais.

We breakfasted at the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Marais. It was pretty good and we enjoyed a beautiful mural of Lake Superior and the stained glass. And check out the funny sign by the restrooms. Grand Marais is a quaint little town that is well known for its artists.

Grand Portage National Monument: Wow!! A scenic place full of history near the end of the North Shore and close to the Canadian border.

It’s a step back in time to when the North West Company operated the most profitable fur trading business on the Great Lakes between 1784 and 1803. The original buildings were long gone before the site was designated a national monument in 1958. The land was donated by the Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa(Ojibwe), or Anishinaabe, the original people. There were originally 16 buildings which you can see in the photo of the miniature of the entire grounds. The Great Hall, kitchen, look-out tower and warehouse were reconstructed to give visitors a glimpse of the past. Today the warehouse displays historic items, including birch-bark canoes built by traditional methods.

We started at the Heritage Center which contains galleries about Ojibwean culture and the fur trade at Grand Portage. We saw tee pees made out of birch bark, an Ojibwe carrying a backpack and other interesting displays. We explored the buildings and I especially enjoyed the waffle being made by a volunteer in period dress in the kitchen. In the Great Hall we were treated to a bit of Irish bagpipe music by another volunteer who knew quite a bit about the history of the place.

After getting our fill of the history of Grand Portage, we headed back to Grand Marais for lunch. Then back to the hotel to relax a bit before heading out for our second hike up Oberg mountain so that we could do the entire Oberg loop.

Back to the gondola ride at Lutsen Mountain that I mentioned in my day 3 post. We were driving around a bit on our first day and ended up on Lutsen Mountain taking in the magnificent views. We saw people riding the gondola between Lutsen Mountain and Moose Mountain and decided that would be another great way to experience more scenic views. This was our last day to take that ride but by the time we returned from Grand Portage the smoke from the Greenwood fire had returned and it didn’t make sense to take that ride if the views were going to be obstructed by the smoke. So, we’ve saved that gondola ride for our next trip to the North Shore this summer. We’re hoping for smokeless views this year! I gave a sneak preview of the smoke on our hike, here are those photos again, plus a handful more.

We heard that the North Shore had lots of snow this past winter, and even into April, which means bigger, more voluminous waterfalls than we saw last summer. So, we decided to take another trip this summer to see those bigger waterfalls and visit a couple more state parks that we didn’t have time for last year. We booked different lodging this time, just to try out another place, and we’re going back the last week of June. I can’t wait!

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The North Shore day 3

Remember the smoke I mentioned in my previous two posts about our trip to the North Shore? Before I get to that, if you missed either of my first two posts, I’m doing a day by day synopsis of our trip. You can check out the first one here and the second one here. Brief recap: the Greenwood fire was started by a lightening strike a few days before we headed to the North Shore. Since it was about 40-50 miles from where we were staying, we almost cancelled and I’m so glad we didn’t! The smoke from this fire would come and go with the wind and we awoke to a smoky sunrise on day 3. I love the colors in this photo (taken by hubby) but it smelled really smoky.

We kept checking the air quality since our plan was to visit two state parks today. According to the weather app on our phones, air quality was moderate. After breakfast at Lockport Marketplace and Deli we headed out on the highway to Tettegouche State Park about 30 minutes south of our hotel.

Such an interesting start to the hike as the trail goes under the highway at the beginning. It was a long hike to a waterfall that is more voluminous when we’re not in drought. But at least there was water. And it was pretty. There were paths to other waterfalls and there was one sign that said 200 steps to the bottom of the waterfall which meant we had to climb back up these steps, so we passed on that one. It was a 1.5 mile hike to the High Falls of the Baptism River and it took roughly two hours to go and come back. We passed other hikers on our way back that kept asking if there were waterfalls. We wondered the same thing and we felt rewarded when we saw the waterfalls.

We stopped at Schroeder Baking Company and got some sandwiches to eat at our hotel while we rested and regrouped for our afternoon hike. We got to Temperance River State Park about 2:00 and of course we checked out the map! This hike was a bit more rewarding in that there were several waterfalls that we found. It took most of the afternoon for this hike. We got there about 2:00 and then back to our hotel just after 4:00. Lots of up and down and lots of treacherous spots. We couldn’t take our eyes off our feet too much to enjoy the views because we had to watch where we put our feet so as not to fall down and crack our heads open. Luckily that didn’t happen! And I did manage to get some good photos.

We had another picnic of smoked fish, crackers, cheese and salads in our room for supper. After all that hiking we didn’t feel like eating out. We had talked about taking the gondola ride on Lutsen Mountain for more great views, but there was no time today. The next day we had more time but it was not to be because day 4 was full of smoke which made for some one-of-a-kind photos! Not a great day to see the views of the lake from the mountain as you will see in the photos for that post that is coming soon.

We had an eagle flying by our balcony the entire time we were there. It was so cool!! And it was this evening on day 3 that I managed to capture him in flight, also very cool!! And so my featured photo is of our eagle buddy and I’ll close with the video that I hope you will enjoy. I’d advise to turn the volume down unless you want to hear my commentary. My next post will be about Grand Portage National Monument so do come back for that. Such an interesting place! We really enjoyed it.

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The North Shore day 2

Continuing my series of our trip last summer to the North Shore, and taking a break from the awful news of late…..time to focus on some beauty in the world, even if briefly. If you happened to have missed my first post about our trip to the North Shore, you can check it out at this link.

On day 2 we had a nice breakfast at Coho Café and Bakery and after a short rest in our hotel room we decided to check out Oberg Mountain. I mentioned our quest to find waterfalls in my initial post, but there aren’t any waterfalls on the Oberg Mountain trail. There are, however, fabulous views of Oberg Lake and Lake Superior. We had heard about our “namesake” (our last name is Oberg) mountain over the years living in Minnesota but until our trip to the North Shore, we had never visited. Finally we got the chance to check it out!

It was a great hike! So many people that we passed on the trail kept saying “great hike!” or “the views are so worth it!” It’s a somewhat treacherous path in that there are many tree roots poking through the ground so you really have to watch your step for those sections. Even so, it’s hard to keep staring at the ground and both of us occasionally would trip over some of these roots. It’s also a gradual climb up the mountain so it’s all uphill, at least on the ascent.

We’ve been asked if we’re related to the Obergs for which the mountain is named. I was pretty sure we weren’t but I did some googling to find out who it was named for. Nothing terribly exciting, unless you’re part of this Oberg family. It was probably named for a commercial fishing family living near Lutsen at the turn of the 20th century. My husband’s grandfather had changed his name from Johansen to Oberg when he came to the United States in the early 1900s. And my father-in-law’s brothers did not live in Minnesota so I was pretty sure there was no relation.

We were actually a bit dumb on the first hike of our North Shore adventure. We were so excited to head up the mountain that we forgot to look at the map of the trail. We didn’t realize that Oberg “loop” actually was a loop that went all the way around the mountain. We figured that out after returning to the parking lot and looking at the map. Of course we had to go back another day to do the entire loop. Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess depending on your point of view, our second trip doing the entire loop was full of forest fire smoke from the Greenwood fire. The fire started by a lightening strike several days before we headed north. We almost cancelled but decided to go anyway and we’re so glad we did!! The wind would blow the smoke in and out so thankfully it wasn’t smoky the entire time. This is why there are some photos with and without smoke. What beautiful places the North Shore and Superior National Forest are!! So serene, calming and relaxing.

Included in this gallery are a few photos from our smoke-filled hike a couple of days later to show the contrast with our first trip up Oberg Mountain. The smoke made for some eerie-looking photos!

In my next post I’m going to include photos of the waterfalls that we found, so I hope you’ll come back for that. In the meantime, please enjoy my gallery of our hikes up Oberg Mountain, a few others from Lutsen and the moon rise over Lake Superior our second night. So beautiful!!

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The North Shore of Lake Superior

I’m finally getting back to posting about our trip to the North Shore. I had started this post a month after our trip but it’s been sitting in drafts all this time.

I’ve lived in Minnesota nearly 30 years but until last summer, I had never visited the North Shore. “North Shore” is a bit of a misnomer in that it’s not the north shore of Lake Superior, rather it’s north of Duluth and forms the northeast side of Minnesota. But technically this section of Lake Superior is really the western shore.

When it looked like the pandemic might have been on its way out of our lives last May, we decided to travel within Minnesota because neither of us wanted to travel by air just yet. I began looking for places to stay and already places were booked up! But I did find a place right on the Lake where every room has a balcony and a view of the lake. Cliff Dweller was perfect! It was so nice to listen to the lake lap against the shore as we fell asleep. And the location was great for exploring the area.

We nearly cancelled because of a fire that started from a lightening strike the Sunday of the week we were traveling there, the Greenwood fire in the Superior National Forest. But we decided to go and take our chances. The fire itself was about 40 miles from where we were staying so we felt we were fairly safe from the fire. But it did become the focal point of our time on the north shore as the winds would change and bring smoke to the shore at times. It made for some eerie-looking photos!

I attempted to see if the fire ever went out but I didn’t search too long. I did find this post with an interesting video about the fire so if you’re inclined, do take a look. While it shows the damage done, it also reveals the beauty of the area. I would imagine that the snowfall this winter did put out the fire.

We went on several hikes in search of waterfalls. I had seen something on Facebook from the Department of Natural Resources that there were indeed waterfalls, that reports of no waterfalls were not true. Minnesota has been in drought all summer which I guess prompted conspiracy theorists to create nonsense. Typically the best views of the waterfalls are in spring after the snow melts, but there were still lovely views to be had, even at the end of summer and during a drought.

Mostly we went on hikes in state parks. The first one we visited was en route to our hotel the first day. Check-in wasn’t until 4:00 so we set out about 10:00 with a few stops on the way. First stop was lunch in Duluth at the Blackwoods Grill. We had been there years ago so we knew it was a good spot. And its location at the beginning of the scenic portion of highway 61 was perfect! It was a nice break from being in the car.

I had never been north of Duluth so I was pretty excited to finally see the North Shore! I read about Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse which was right along the way on our drive to the hotel. We decided to get some smoked fish and brought some salads and cheese and crackers to have a picnic in our room. We thought this would be a great way to unwind from a long day of driving. We were right! It was perfect. Oh except I forgot to grab some paper plates. I remembered forks and spoons and napkins but not plates. But we made do and the fish was great!!

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park was next on my list of places to see on the way to our hotel. And it didn’t disappoint. Here’s something from their website explaining why the lighthouse was built:

A November gale that wrecked nearly 30 ships in 1905 prompted this rugged landmark’s construction. When the U.S. Lighthouse Service completed Split Rock Light Station in 1910, it soon became one of Minnesota’s best known destinations.

Nestled in a Minnesota State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most photographed and visited spots in the state, with a drama-filled history and breathtaking Lake Superior views. If you haven’t visited lately, now is the time to pay homage to a true North Shore icon.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 but the lantern is still operational. Every November 10th there is a lighting ceremony to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. Music lover readers will remember that Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about this disaster.

I decided to do a chronological posting of our trip so this is the first one. I’ll close with a gallery of photos that I hope you will enjoy. Please come back for more posts about the North Shore coming soon! Click on any photo to see the gallery with larger images.

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Gibralfaro, Málaga

Gibralfaro, the “elusive” castle that we hadn’t managed to get to on any of the last 3 trips to Málaga for various reasons. But we made it this time! And I’m so glad we did. If you missed any of my previous posts about our most recent trip to Spain in September 2019 you can check them out at the following links.  My first post is here.  A post about the food we ate is here. And one other post about the Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción in Málaga is here. I have a couple more posts lined up for the future so I hope you’ll come back for those.

Gibralfaro castle is connected to the Alcazaba (the fortress) below. You can get a combined ticket for both or a ticket for just one or the other. We chose the combined ticket as we love the Alcazaba and thought we could walk down from the castle right into the Alcazaba. Well, maybe you can but apparently there is another path that takes you to the bottom of the hill and outside the Alcazaba. That was the path we took.  Since it was a hot day and we toured the castle grounds first, we decided to skip the Alcazaba in favor of refreshment at El Pimpi. El Pimpi is a very touristy restaurant but we really enjoy it as we sit on their patio with a view of the Teatro Romano (Roman theatre) while watching the world go by.

Below is a paragraph taken from this site as I wanted to include a little of the history here. I’d rather not rewrite what others have already written so well.

The castle was built in 929AD by Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba on a former Phoenician enclosure and lighthouse, from which its name was derived – gebel-faro (Arabic and Greek, meaning rock of the lighthouse). Yusef 1, Sultan of Granada, enlarged it at the beginning of the 14th century, also adding the double wall down to the Alcazaba.

Wikipedia has a little different take about where the name Gibralfaro comes from as well as information about the famous battle in 1487:

The name is said to be derived from Arabic, Jbel, rock or mount, and Greek the word for light, Jbel-Faro, meaning “Rock of Light”.[2] The castle is famous for its three-month siege in 1487 by the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, which ended when hunger forced the Malagueños to surrender.

Do click the links for more fascinating history of the place! The first link contains information on what you can see today if you visit. It mentions three ways to get there but we took a city bus #35 and that worked great.

I found one other link that looks like a blog post and that was fairly informative as well.

And of course we took photos! Once again I’m combining my husband’s photos along with mine.  I hope you will enjoy the tour through our lenses.

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Walker Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis – Autumn 2019

Back to a local treasure, the Walker Sculpture Garden. It’s been a long while since we’ve visited and I’ve been wanting to go since it reopened in June 2017 after a renovation. We went on a sunny, early October day a little over two years since its reopening. Hey, at least we finally got there!

I enjoyed our walk about but I’m not so sure I like the changes. It seems that it’s not laid out as well as it previously was and that’s hard to describe. Sculptures are mostly arranged in various squares with other sculptures surrounding the squares. So, you enter one side of the square to get a close up view of the sculpture in there.  When you exit you only get to see that side’s sculptures making it a long walk to see the other sculptures on the other two sides?  Yea, like I said, hard to describe.  There is one Alexander Calder mobile on the western edge that felt like it took a long time to walk to. There also used to be a green house and that is gone.  There are, however, nice gardens that probably looked better in spring and summer but I tried to capture some of those. There still was some beauty to behold gardenwise and several flowers still blooming.

The Walker Sculpture Garden opened in 1988 but the history actually goes back to 1906 when the land that would become the sculpture garden was donated to the Minneapolis park board by Thomas Lowry. Lowry was a real estate magnate and head of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co.  His home was where the Walker Art Center now stands, adjacent to the sculpture garden.  There is the Lowry tunnel as part of interstate 94 close by and now I know who that tunnel was named for. Interesting!  The gardens contain more than 40 works of art on 11 acres and is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.  I learned most of this from the Minneapolis Parks website.  Check out more interesting stuff at this link.  At the Walker Art Center’s website is a page containing photos of all of the sculptures as well as the layout. I grabbed the names of the pieces and the artists’ names from this site.

I was also curious how the Walker Art Center got is name.  Instead of summarizing here I will direct you to this link for some interesting history of Thomas Barlow (T. B.) Walker, a Minneapolis lumber baron who loved art.

I hope you’ll enjoy this photo tour of our day in the sculpture garden. I didn’t capture all of the sculptures but I’m happy with my samples. And it was a perfect, sunny day with gorgeous blue skies.

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Spain, revisited

We just returned from many adventures in Spain and I’d love to tell you all about them! We spent six nights in Málaga then three nights in Madrid.  It was magical and frustrating and beautiful and all of these things.  This was our fourth trip to Málaga and we got to explore the city further and visit new places like the automobile museum and the Jardín Botánico and we finally got to Gibralfaro, the castle at the top of the hill above the alcazaba.

It was sunny and in the mid to upper 80s every. single. day.  Hubby was in heaven, it was a tad too hot for me. But you put your hair up and just make sure you’re hydrated and take lots of refresco breaks. Because of the heat we did not go to the Alcazaba as planned and ended up paying for it but not using the ticket. We took the bus to Gibralfaro then walked down and we thought it was the trail that lets you into the alcazaba. Nope. By then we’d already climbed in the heat and we’d have had to climb up into the alcazaba. No. Time for a refresco at Pimpi. That’s the huge restaurant right next to the teatro romano. They have a nice patio and after climbing around up at the castle, the timing was good and we sat right down, ah……

We had a variety of meals and tried different breakfast items this time and made time for two of our favorite churros places.  Of course we had tapas many times and several boquerones en vinagre as that is hubby’s favorite. I tried several ensaladas mixtas (mixed salad) and my favorite, hands down, is Cafe Varela’s in Madrid. We saw a fantastic flamenco show in Málaga and it included a sampler of tapas and the food was great!! So was the flamenco. I’m so glad we did that.

We saw lots of art.  We love art. I read about and saw photos of urban art in the Lagunillas area of Málaga, to the east of Plaza de la Merced. Not the best neighborhood but they didn’t seem to mind us taking photos of the art. We naturally went to the Picasso museum in Málaga. We always go there. We love that museum! We also went to the Pompidou in Málaga, then the Reina Sofia and the Prado in Madrid. Lots of art!!

We were celebrating hubby’s retirement with this trip and we wanted to see if we could tell if we’d like living in Málaga. I do still love the city but I am no longer sure that I want to retire here.  We are rethinking our retirement plans and perhaps we spend 3 months in Málaga each year then do something else the rest of the year.  We’re able to stay for 90 days with our passports whereas if we retired there we’d have a lengthy retirement visa process. So, more to think about.

I’m going to create other posts of our trip but for now, I thought I’d share some highlights of our 10 day adventure in Spain. Be on the lookout for some more posts about España!

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