Snow Across Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula
Dateline January 10, 2016. Resort, pub owners, restaurants, convenience stores – all sorts of businesses across Minnesota’s North Shore, Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are happy folks because they’ve finally had some snow and normally cold weather.
Joining in the merriment are winter recreation enthusiasts – snowmobilers, snowshoe hikers, cross-country skiers, and the like who have been looking forward to going “up north” to enjoy their favorite winter hobby. With the recent spell of very cold weather, ice fisherman should be happy too.
Snow storms have swept across the entire Lake Superior region. Recent snow is good news for the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Race being held the last week in January. Ashland and Bayfield are getting more snow, setting things up nicely for the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race being held the first weekend in February. Jo and I attended this popular Bayfield Area Sled Dog Race a few years ago and enjoyed watching the competition. In the Upper Peninsula from the Porcupine Mountains to Houghton and the Keweenaw have received several inches of snow. Ditto for Marquette, Michigan, which will be hosting the UP 200 Sled Dog Race in mid-February. Also happy are the folks in nearby Trenary, Michigan who are hosting the 23rd annual Outhouse Race the last Saturday in February.
Snow conditions for winter sports east of Marquette all the way to Sault Ste. Marie are good. These good winter recreation conditions continue to exist all the way around Lake Superior into Ontario from the Soo to Wawa to Red Rock/Nipigon. See the January NOAA Snow Report Map for Lake Superior Region shown here. From Thunder Bay, Ontario down across the US border to Grand Marais, Minnesota there are good conditions for x-c skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and most winter sports. The region is expected to receive snow showers several days of the coming week and temperatures are cold enough to hold the snow.
In mid June, Jo and I took a trip around the north shore of Lake Superior. One benefit of the rain the upper Midwest experienced in May and early June was the rivers were at high water levels making for terrific waterfalls.
Our trip started in Duluth, Minnesota where we found a nice waterfall along Chester Creek in Chester Park. The Dan Proctor Hiking Trail runs adjacent to the creek on the east side as it tumbles down the hillside towards Lake Superior. On the west side of the creek is the Superior Hiking Trail that connects to the Duluth Lakewalk at the Rose Garden in Leif Erickson Park. Going the other direction the SHT goes to Hawk Ridge and then leaves Duluth heading toward Two Harbors, Minnesota. The Superior Hiking Trail runs the entire length of the Minnesota North shore.
The next day we headed towards Grand Marais finding several impressive waterfalls along the route: Gooseberry Falls, Cross River Falls, the High Falls on the Baptism River. Gooseberry State Park is a must-see stop along the Minnesota North Shore for its extensive network of stairs and walking trails completely encircling Gooseberry Falls. You can see these waterfalls and others along the Minnesota North Shore in the following slide show (click on any image to see a larger view)
The High Falls on the Pigeon River is the second highest waterfall around Lake Superior at 130 feet.
On our recent trip we made time to stop in the Naniboujou Lodge on the shores of Lake Superior near the entrance to Judge Magney State Park. We’ve probably passed their sign dozens of times on the way to Grand Portage or Canada. It is worth a stop for the architecture, the ambiance, and the food. It is a step back in time to the elegance of a 1929 northwoods gentlemen’s club. Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ring Lardner were among the notables who were charter members. The original estate was over 3000 acres and was to include a wide range of sporting facilities (tennis, golf, bathhouse, etc.) and up to 150 guest rooms. The 1929 stock market crash and resulting depression curtailed plans to expand the estate and its membership and eventually required the club to sell its properties. The original lodge, great hall, and 24 guest rooms have been preserved and operate today as a restaurant and inn. The most impressive feature of the lodge is the great hall which serves as the main dining room. The walls and twenty foot high ceiling are a mural of Cree Indian designs created by a French artist. The huge fireplace at one end of the lodge is the largest native stone fireplace in Minnesota. All the furnishings are suitably aged and fit the image of a 1930s era clubhouse and northwoods inn. The menu offers a reasonable variety of choices, all with a creative twist in the recipe. The food was top quality and the price reasonable enough for a family on a budget. There is also a kids menu and pricing. The wait service was courteous and efficient – well-trained. The inn and restaurant is open from mid-May to mid-October and an abbreviated winter schedule – weekends from late December to mid-March.
We crossed the border into Canada at the Pigeon River. If you are traveling this route be sure to stop at the Grand Portage State Park visitor center to take a short hike to High Falls, one of two waterfalls competing for the title of highest waterfall around Lake Superior. The trail to the falls is an easy half mile walk and is handicap accessible. Once into Ontario, you’ll have a chance to see the other waterfall claiming to be the Lake Superior’s highest: Kakabeka Falls, which is in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, 18 miles west of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Along the Ontario North Shore of Lake Superior are two more outstanding waterfalls: Rainbow Falls, and Auguasaban Falls. All three waterfalls are shown in the following slide show (click on any image to see a larger view).
One more waterfall on the Aguasabon River Just before it empties into Lake Superior
As we continued east around Ontario’s section of Lake Superior there are more waterfalls along the eastern shoreline. However this section hadn’t received the amount of rainfall that the northern shoreline had, in fact it was pretty dry. So we took a pass on trekking in to see these falls. However four of them (Magpie High Falls, Silver Falls, Sand River Falls, and Chippewa Falls) are shown on our Eastern Shore SuperiorTrails web page.
The entire Ontario section of the Lake Superior Circle Route is about 500 miles. While it could be done in one day, we recommend taking at least two or three days to allow time to see some of the villages along the route (Rossport is our favorite), scenic lookouts along the route and visit some of the several of the Ontario Provincial Parks along the route.
During our recent Minnesota North Shore Color Tour, we decided to extend our travels to run up as far north as Thunder Bay, Ontario. The color was not as striking as what we found along Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Highway 61. Part of this reason is this far north we are getting into primarily Boreal forest with fewer hardwood trees in general and what is there are Aspen and some birch. Except in certain areas you don’t see the broad display of colors produced by the Maples, Oaks, Hickory, Sumac, Ash and other trees and shrubs characteristic of a Northern Hardwood forest. Yet the air was crisp, the sky was blue, and some nice scenery and fall color pictures none-the-less. The landscape leading to and around Thunder Bay is dotted with steep-sided ridges and flat-topped Mesas that jump up from the otherwise flat landscape. These distinctive formations of shale and greywacke are protected by an overlay of diabase rock which prevented them from being eroded and washed away by glacial meltwater and eons of wind and rain.
We came to Thunder Bay to primarily to visit Fort William and play the golf course at Whitewater Golf Club. Jo and I have been through and stayed in the Thunder Bay area several times but never have worked a visit to Fort William Historical Park into our itinerary so we targeted Fort William as a must-see on this visit.
Unfortunately, while the park was open they didn’t have their usual cast of re-enactors populating the village. In fact many of the buildings within the fort complex were closed, including the lookout tower that gives you an overhead view of the entire fort. In place of an active fort replicating life two hundred years ago, we got a guided hour and half long tour of a few of the buildings and operations. Our tour host provided what we found was an overly long dissertation into minutae that most of us had little interest in. Also unfortunate was the fact that the admission price ($13.50) was not reduced in line with the reduction in presentation. My recommendation would be either close the facility when the re-enactors retire for the season or offer a fall self-guided tour for about $5.00. Our visit did, however, give a hint at why this is a very popular historical attraction during its normal season. There are about 40 buildings within the trading post and in its day in addition to being the key post of the North West Trading Company it was essentially a self-sufficient city with all the usual artisans and crafts people a city requires, including its own farm. I would enjoy a return visit during the season to see this operation running at full capacity, instead of deserted . . . as it was during our visit.
The next day Dan and I golfed at Thunder Bay’s Whitewater Golf Club while Jo and Donna did some shopping and did the river walk in Centennial Park. The golf course was in great shape and offered a number of challenging and enjoyable holes including a few scenic ones with dramatic elevation changes. The course also offered a fall rate and a super discount for afternoon golf in October. Given the sunny and warm weather we had during this trip, and the good shape of the course, this was an especially good deal. Good enough to attract golfers staying in Grand Marais, Minnesota to take take an hour and half drive north to golf Thunder Bay’s Whitewater Course. You can go to our Golf Course Review of Whitewater Golf Course for more detailed information.
The girls enjoyed the Centennial Park trail – scenic and even though a city park trail on a beautiful Saturday, it was not crowded. The trail is paved during its entire length to accommodate both walkers and bikers. It tracks a portion of the Current River as well as goes around Boulevard Lake. They also wanted to visit Port Arthur’s Marina Park but it was closed undergoing some extensive remodeling and improvements. Next time we are in town we will stop there as we always enjoy strolling around this particular park.
During our visit to Thunder Bay we discovered a few exceptional places to eat. One was Chicago Joe’s Restaurant on Arthur Street about a half mile east of the airport. Jo and I stumbled upon this place about 10 years ago when we stayed nearby. We couldn’t remember the name, however, only approximately where it was located. So this trip we retraced our footsteps from our previous hotel and our memory came back when we got to the Victorian Inn and saw the name Chicago Joe’s on the marquee. Nice how some things stay the same. The wait service was outstanding: attentive, cheerful, and prompt. Among the four of us we had a variety of fare. All were finished to perfection and the quantities quite ample. The brews were served cold each in a signature glass for the brewery. Jo’s wine, although a smaller five ounce serving, was served in a large wine glass, allowing lots of breathing room. Small but classy touches.
The next day we had a restaurant recommendation to try Prospectors Steak House near the Port Arthur waterfront. Again, great service, great food, good quantities. And although known for steak, they do a decent job on fish, fowl, and pizza too. Also have a quite extensive salad bar. Funky atmosphere and even though crowded with patrons, we didn’t have to wait long for our food. The wait staff really hustle here.
All in all a good time in Thunder Bay. Discovered some great places to eat and a very nice golf course. Jo is looking forward to returning and checking out the new and improved Marina Park and I’d like to sample some of the city’s municipal golf courses plus do a retake at Whitewater. We’d also like to spend some time at nearby Sleeping Giant Provincial Park as it is loaded with interesting hiking trails and scenic vistas. Here’s a link to Thunder Bay’s Visitor Pages
PS. A note for RV’ers and campers. The municipal campgrounds close after Labor Day weekend and the new campground at Fort William closed mid-September. So if you are traveling to Thunder Bay in the fall your main choice for camping or an RV Park is the KOA Campground north of town near the Terry Fox Visitor Information Center. The fees are a little higher than we usually pay but the park is an excellent, super clean facility with lots of activities for families with kids.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario
Thursday afternoon after touring the Corps of Engineer’s Soo Locks facility we crossed the International Bridge to the Canadian side. We camped at a nice KOA facility just North of town; Donna and Dan had a nice spacious suite at a hotel in town. It rained all afternoon and throughout the night and was still drizzling a little by morning. The colors of the leaves were more vibrant here than we had seen in the past few days on the American side as you can see from this picture Jo took of our RV parked at the KOA campground. More maple trees and just a little farther north I expect.
Our game plan was to spend two nights in Canada, golf at Crimson Ridge golf club, and take a day trip drive along Lake Superior to Lake Superior Provincial Park. The heavy rain over the last several days and continuing to drizzle on and off today cancelled the golfing outing at Crimson Ridge. Then in the morning we found out water had altered Dan and Donna’s plans in another way. Three floors above them either the pipes broke or a bathtub was left unattended and overflowed. Whatever the case, water streamed down their walls and flooded their bathroom and beyond. So whether they went outside or stayed inside they were soaked. This incident and the forecast for continued rainy weather caused a change in plans and we decided to head back to the US. Before we left Jo and I headed over to Crimson Ridge to take a look at the course. Here’s a few shots of it. Very scenic and it looks like it would a very fun course to play. So maybe next year.
In the afternoon we crossed the bridge back to the US and headed towards Paradise, Michigan. Donna and Dan were at the Best Western on the Lake and we were at the Rivermouth Campground of Tahquamenon Falls State Park
September 25, 2010 Paradise, Michigan
After we crossed the bridge Thursday afternoon the 24th we headed to Paradise, Mi and visited Whitefish Point to tour the Lighthouse and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Later we stopped in the Little Falls Inn in Paradise for a terrific friday night fish fry. On Saturday the 25th Jo and Donna toured Tahquamenon Falls State Park to do some hiking and seeing the waterfalls. With all the recent rain the falls were in spectacular glory. The leaves on trees in the park were at about 80% color change. Here we found perhaps the best color for this time of the month in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Tahquamenon Falls is one of the larger state parks in the UP. It has over 40 miles of hiking trails, very scenic waterfalls, canoeing and fishing, two modern campground units, and a brewpub, restaurant, and gift shop within its boundaries.
While the girls were enjoying the park, Dan and I returned to Wild Bluff Golf Course to get in another round. The fairways were even wetter than a few days ago. So much so that we lost a few good drives in the middle of the fairway – the balls upon landing completely buried themselves in the turf. And we still couldn’t drive on the fairways due to the wet conditions. But we enjoyed the outing even with the lost balls and additional challenges. After golfing we returned to Paradise to rendezvous with Donna and Jo to have dinner at the Tahquamenon Falls Brew Pub. The girls had made reservations so we didn’t have to wait too long to get seated. But the pub and restaurant were quite busy. Unfortunately this meant an extremely long wait for our dinner to arrive – we were starting to eat the napkins – and when it finally did arrive the food was lukewarm and chewy – suspect it sat neglected on a warming tray too long. Needless to say we were disappointed. Nice atmosphere and decent brews on tap but we can’t give passing grades to the wait service and food quality we experienced that evening.