Watching the pot boil in Wisconsin’s Door County
Back on the road…10 a.m. Almost a month ago at a campground in St. Cloud, Minn., the Hughes’s exchanged travel information with a couple from Louisiana who had just returned from a trip to Wisconsin’s Door County. The RV traveler’s grapevine, always helpful and mostly useful, is readily available for the asking from neighboring campers who want to share their first-hand traveling experiences.
Rather than follow original plans to start heading south for a Labor Day family reunion in Oklahoma, the Hughes’s are leaving Two Rivers, Wis., and following the RV grapevine tip north to Door County, Wisconsin. Throw in a roadside stop for lunch and the trip is still less than three hours away.
Want to know more about the “Thumb?”…
Online research will turn up a wealth of Door County visitor’s information: the “Thumb” (look at Door County on the map to find out why) is surrounded by Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east and boasts 300 miles of shoreline, five state parks, 10 historic lighthouses and 30 beachfront parks, five wineries. It was voted among the top ten vacation destinations in North America by Money magazine.
1 p.m….Sturgeon Bay. Only about 30,000 people live in the entire county and a third of them reside in Sturgeon Bay. The town’s scenic charm is quickly evident from the State Highway 42 bridge entering the business district. The town somewhat resembles small shoreline communities of New England. Stopped for lunch at the Inn at Cedar Crossing (http://www.innatcedarcrossing.com) onMain Street which is also a nifty place for window shopping. We planned to return tomorrow for a tour of the Maritime Museum and a tug boat tour but the weather didn’t cooperate.
3:30 p.m.Checking in at Egg Harbor. Uggh. It’s raining. An afternoon of exploring more Door County communities takes a back seat for laundry and other house keeping duties in the RV Campground Retreat (http://www.doorcountycamp.com) located three miles south of Egg Harbor. It’s a large campground but sparsely populated in the area where we are parked.
Day two…10 a.m. A long night. High winds forced the closure of the RV’s bedroom slide during the night because of the racket from the flapping canvas covering the slide top, making sleep difficult. We drive the tow car north on Highway 42 on the Green Bay or west side of Door County to downtown Egg Harbor where we stopped for a latte coffee and bought some homemade chocolate fudge and walked along the waterfront then headed farther north through Fish Creek. It’s late August and a few trees are already starting to show their fall colors. We pass farms where pumpkins are growing and found roadside markets selling lots of fresh seasonal produce including tomatoes and sweet corn. We couldn’t resist stopping at a roadside stand to buy fresh-picked vine ripe tomatoes from a farmer’s nearby acre-sized garden plot where tomato vines were head high and laden with fruit. Orchard Country Winery and Market (http://www.orchardcountry.com) offered canned Door County cherries (pick fresh cherries in June) and a large assortment of wines made from grapes in their 100 acre vineyard and orchard. Just north of Fish Creek is Wisconsin’s most popular Peninsula State Park (one million annual visitors) where we climbed the 75’ tall Eagle Tower for a panoramic view of the park and the Lake Michigan shoreline. The wooden tower creaks and sways a bit in the wind but doesn’t deter visitors from climbing to the top. A state operated campground has several hundred RV and primitive camping sites.
1 p.m. Burger lunch in Ephraim…It was worth a half hour wait at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor on the bay (http://www.wilsonsicecream.com) for a burger and home-cut French fries. Down the street a few blocks is The Ice Cream Factory (http://www.doorcountyicecream.com) where two big scoops of homemade black walnut ice cream beckoned.
3 p.m. Too windy for Lake Michigan boat ride…Plans of taking the ferry at Gill’s Rock across to Washington Island, the largest of Door County’s 30 islands, were cancelled because of rough seas and high winds. We stopped briefly on the east coast of the peninsula at Rowley’s Bay then drove south to Bailey’s Harbor, also on the east side, for more sightseeing before driving west again to Fish Creek.
8 p.m. Stand back and watch the pot boil…At least a half dozen restaurants offer a Door County fish boil during the busy summer months. Our RV friends recommended Pelletier’s Restaurant (http://www.doorcountyfishboil.com/) in Fish Creek, where we lined up for the 8 p.m. “boil.” What started more than a century ago as a cheap dinner for large groups of fishermen and lumberjacks has evolved into a unique meal that’s also quite an event for first-time visitors. Dinner starts with a blazing bonfire under a huge stainless steel kettle of salted water. While anxious restaurant patrons look on, the “boil master” waits until the temperature is just right then adds fresh red potatoes and onions to the kettle, followed by steaks of whitefish locally caught from Lake Michigan. As the water continues to boil and oil from the fish rises to the top, the boil master tosses a coffee can full of kerosene on the fire, causing a fire flare-up reaching eight or ten feet high to engulf the pot. Water soon boils over the side of the pot and extinguishes most of the fire, signaling the meal is ready to serve. We topped off the fish boil with a slice of cherry pie, made from Door County cherries.
The burn master prepares a fire to boil fish at Pelletiers Restaurant at Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
- The fire burns for a few minutes before the burn master adds an accelerate to the fire causing the water to boil over and dousing the blaze, signaling to bystanders that dinner is ready to be served.
Two Rivers: Birthplace of submarines, wood type and ice cream sundaes
After four days in Spring Green, Wis., at Riverside Resort (http://www.bobsriverside.com) on the Wisconsin River, touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s home at Taliesin (http://www.taliesinpreservation.org) and the popular House on the Rock (www.houseontherock.com) attraction, the Hughes’s are driving today to the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan. The route to the small town of Two Rivers will take us through the state capitol in Madison then northeast to Fond du Lac with many views of big Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest fresh water lake. Road construction forced us to take a detour on several state and county highways through picturesque farming back country. We arrived at Village Inn and RV (www.villageinnwi.com) at 4 p.m.
Best place to walk along Lake Michigan…6 pm…Before dinner, we managed a five mile walk on the Mariner Trail, a six mile paved trail that starts near Manitowoc and continues along the Lake Michigan shoreline to downtown Two Rivers. We walked across the highway from our RV site to start the walk and finished with a cold drink on one of the park benches and watched the moon rise over Lake Michigan while marveling at a motorized hang glider pass overhead.
Real butter at Pine River Dairy..10 a.m… First timers to the area can’t miss a visit to one of the state’s oldest dairies. Pine River Dairy (http://www.pineriverdairy.com is only about a ten minute drive from downtown Manitowoc where we watched from a distance as workers made fresh cottage cheese. We bought fresh butter and cheese then drove back to town, passing a farm where about two dozen reindeer were lounging in a pasture.
Birthplace of the cream sundae…2 p.m…While in Two Rivers, known as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae in 1881, we toured the Washington House and splurged on a sundae (no Italian or Arabic ice cream here…just the real thing) carefully prepared by volunteers from the community who staff the historic home. A tour of the Washington House, an 1850’s saloon/apartment and rooming house (and probably some unmentionable activity as well), now houses a museum of artifacts from that period, including furniture from the original ice cream shop that invented the sundae and all the equipment from a turn-of-the-century dentist office.
Another birthplace: Wood Type…4 p.m...Across the street from the Washington House is the Hamilton collection of wood type, the largest in the world. Also operated by volunteers from the local historical society, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum houses 1.5 million pieces of wood type in more than 1,000 different fonts and sizes and several antique printing machines. On the day we visited a group of students from a graphics arts school in Chicago were busy printing one-of-a-kind greeting cards. There is no admission charge to see the collection.
Cold drinks with the best view…6 p.m… One of the best views of Lake Michigan in Two Rivers is the Gull’s Nest Cocktail Lounge waterfront bar at the Lighthouse Inn (http://www.lhinn.com). Afterwards, we returned to the campground and fixed wild Alaskan sockeye salmon on the grill.
Going under in a WWII submarine…10 a.m…After treating ourselves to Starbuck mocha lattes in downtown Manitowoc, we toured the USS Cobia, the main attraction at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum (http://www.wisconsinmaritime.org). Manitowoc’s maritime industry produced 28 submarines during World War II, similar to the Cobia which was built inConnecticut. The submarine is now fully restored to its 1945 configuration and tour guides take visitors through the entire submarine, including the torpedo rooms, engine room, crew quarters and galley.
NEXT: “Thumbs up for Wisconsin’s Door County.”
Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and House on the Rock in Minnesota
House on the Rock is much more of an attraction than museum although it has a huge mix of both. Trying to describes its many features is near impossible.
- A guided tour awaits visitors to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin near Spring Green, Wisconsin. The estate is closed during winter months.
The 250 mile drive mostly along Interstate 90 from St. Cloud to Rochester, MN., took the Hughes’s through more of the nation’s bread basket where it seems corn and soybeans are king of the crops.
We will leave the tow car hooked to the RV and overnight in a KOA outside Rochester then leave early the next morning for Spring Green, Wis. Friends have encouraged us to visit the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and The House on the Rock, Wisconsin’s number one tourist attraction.
Highway 35 is a scenic highway that runs alongside the Mississippi to Prairie du Chien where we headed east to Spring Green. Leaving the river, we found more corn and soybeans and other crops.
Riverside Resort is located a few miles near Spring Green on the Mississippi River. The campground is a starting point for a lot of weekenders who take canoe, tubing and float trips down the Mississippi. Many will camp for the weekend on islands in the middle of the river.
We toured Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, one of the most famous residences in the country. Considered the nation’s premier architect and a native son of Wisconsin, Wright built Taliesin as an on-going project–the longest of his career. He was constantly changing the house, furnishing and landscaping as his career developed.
Located about 10 minutes from Wright’s home, is House on the Rock.
The House on the Rock is the grand vision of Alex Jordan, who believed that sights and sounds were the most effective means of stimulating the senses. He wanted guests to question his creation, to come to their own conclusions and to turn his world of dreams into their own. The Attraction has room after room of some of the world’s most unique and eclectic collections which has amazed thousands of visitors each year.
In the 1940’s Alex Jordan discovered a 60-foot chimney of rock in the Wyoming Valley and decided to build a weekend retreat house on the sandstone formation. He never intended it to be a tourist attraction. However, people kept coming to see the architectural wonder which uses the rock wall as part of the home’s interior. The 14-room house is the original structure of what is now a complex of many buildings, exhibits and garden displays.
Alex was a collector all his life and purchased many museum quality pieces that are on display in the house.
However, he did not intend The House on the Rock to be a museum. “He intended it to be much more than that. Though parts of the collections could have easily found their way into museums, The House on the Rock is more of a trip through the wild and fantastic imagination of Alex Jordan than a visit to a dusty, lifeless museum,” says the Rock’s website.
Trying to describe “The House on the Rock” is impossible because of its unusual construction and eclectic collection. The Infinity Room takes visitors down a continuing narrow corridor, giving the feeling of walking off into space high atop the forest floor below. Jordan’s love of mechanical musical devices is obvious throughout the house.
It’s easy to understand why this is the state’s top visited tourist site.
RV trip hits five months in Minnesota lake region
This RV trip across the upperMidwest, Northwest and Canada is now in its fifth month. The Hughes’s have decided to stay in the north country of Minnesota to take advantage of the cool weather. They have met dozens of travelers in all types of trailers, RV and tents, who spend their summers in this part of the country and winter in Florida,Texas or Arizona. Like the Hughes’s, these travelers are all retired. As one retiree said, “the kids are married and gone, the dogs have all died; there’s nothing keeping us at home.”
The Hughes’s are traveling in a 2006 model 40 foot Monaco Knight that they bought used a couple years ago. It’s their first RV and this is their first extended trip. Before returning to their home base in St. Augustine,Florida, they will have driven 10,000 miles in just under six months.
They have laughingly and (sometimes frightfully) made all the mistakes of first-time RV owners but manage to keep on truckin.’
WALKER AND ST. CLOUD, MN.
Walker is a nice, small town in the lake country of north central Minnesota that turns into a busy tourist community in the summer. Located on the shores of Leech Lake, the state’s third largest, Walker attracts lots of fishermen and weekenders wanting to take advantage of the area’s outdoor recreation amenities.
We are relaxing here for a few days before heading to St. Cloud, Minnesota to attend a bluegrass festival. The Walker area is somewhat familiar because the Hughes’s stayed a week in nearby Bemidji last month before heading to Canada for a fishing trip in Fort Frances. The combination of lakes, heavily wooded forests and cool daytime temperatures is enough reason to extend the visit. It’s August when we set up camp in Walker where the average daytime temperature is a comfortable 75 and nights 55.
During the next three days, we’ll walk different segments of the popular Heartland Trail covering a total of about 15 miles through town and around Leech Lake; found a nice downtown coffee shop and a waterfront park bench and enjoyed mochas while taking in the scenery. It’s easy to see why Walker is so popular with residents of the nearby metro areas.
The drive to St. Cloud is only 100 miles through mostly farming country.
St. Cloud Campground and RV Park, our base for the next week, is located north of town in a quiet, rural setting.
During the next few days we will walk the picturesque Beaver Island Trail in downtown St. Cloud which follows the Mississippi River and runs through St. Cloud State University. One day we walked the Lake Wobegon Trail.
Like all tourist to this part of the state, we took a day trip to Minneapolis to see The Mall of the Americas. Described as a “city within a city,” the Mall attracts 40 million people annually. It is by far the region’s most popular tourist destination. The four story facility includes a huge indoor amusement park, over 400 stores, night clubs, restaurants, move theatres, casino and hotel—all of which is under one roof. We only covered about half the mall during an afternoon visit.
The Minnesota State Bluegrass Music Festival is held at a campground about 20 miles from St. Cloud and features four days and nights of music on five stages. We bought tickets for the whole hog pig roast dinner then proceeded to the main stage and listened to just one group before a severe thunderstorm moved into the area and scattered the crowd. Fearing rain the rest of the evening, we drove back to St. Cloud where we were welcomed with city-wide sirens blowing to signal a tornado was spotted in the area. We took refuge in Barnes & Noble and gathered with about 25 others near the entrance to the bathrooms—the only part of the store without windows. A tornado touched down near St. Cloud causing minor damage and hail was reported in several nearby counties. The following day we returned to the bluegrass festival in time to hear the nationally known Blue Highway and several other regional groups before rain chased us away for the night.
Back at the campground, a new neighbor from Louisiana moved in next door and told us about some great places to visit in neighboring Wisconsin, including the popular Door County area north of Green Bay, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and the state’s number one tourist attraction, House on the Rock, both near Spring Green.
We packed up and headed for Wisconsin the following morning and hopefully leaving the rain and tornadoes behind
Sleeping in on a cool, wet Minnesota morning
From Martha’s travel journal:
Four months and 7,000 miles on the road. Woke up at Buffalo Valley Campground near Duluth, Mn., to a hard rain made even louder by the barely insulated tin and fiberglass roof on the Green Knight. It’s midnight and a leak has developed around the door, probably caused by the miserable roads we’ve traveled on this trip. Stuffed a towel in the leak and stayed awake until 4:40 and finally dozed off. Rain has slowed. Slept until 7 a.m.when “Handy” Hughes woke up.
No rain, thankfully, while we disconnected the RV and moved to a campground in the small town of Colquet, about 12 miles south of our current location. We’re now about 25 miles from downtown Duluth. Have all hookups except sewer but the campground offers a free pump-out service on demand. Will be here four nights. Not sure of our next destination. May stay here longer. Will wait and see.
Major highways on both sides of the campground but Minnesota’s heavily wooded north woods countryside dampen the road noise.
Didn’t realize a train track was close by. Train whistles blow three or four times a night. Ouch!!
Made wild rice soup in a crockpot from a recipe found on a refrigerator magnet in a Minnesota visitor’s center. Delicious! I did five loads of washing in the campground laundry. With no laundry facilities at Buffalo, I had 12 days of dirty clothes. Weekend campers were building fires and the smoke drifted into the RV. We closed the windows and turned on the Green Knight’s three exhaust fans.
Greeted by clear skies and cool temps when we awoke from our first night at Colquet. After coffee, breakfast and reading the hometown newspaper The St. Augustine Record online, drove a few miles into the small town of Carlton and found a place to park and walk on the Minnesota’s popular Munger Trail. The trail is paved and wide and very populated with bikers, walkers and joggers.
Had another bowl of that delicious wild rice soup and drove into Colquet to see the movie “Charlie McCloud.” It was a different movie about brothers, one of whom was killed in a car accident and communicates with the surviving brothers. Good movie.
Returned late afternoon and Ron cooked chicken kabobs and veggies on the grill. Met a couple from Ontario,Canada who stopped by for a visit. They are taking their first cruise trip toAlaska in the fall, cruising the Inland Passage from Seattle to Haines. Since we were in Juneau last fall, we shared some local information with the couple.
Walked 5.5 miles on the Munger Trail today. I cleaned the RV while Ron cleaned the tow car. Did some late afternoon shopping in Colquet. We were both tired from the walk and cleaning. After some planning, decided our next destination would be Walker, Mn., a small tourist community located in the heart of the state’s lake country. It’s only 120 miles away.
Took a day off from walking and drove into Duluth. Ron got a haircut, picked up a couple magazines and new books along with mocha lattes at Barnes and Noble. Its nice to have days like today.
Drove back on a very scenic skyline drive that looked down on Lake Superior and downtown Duluth, stopping several places along the road to soak up the view.
We will walk on the Munger Trail again tomorrow morning and leave about noon for Walker.
Murder in the mansion on Lake Superior’s north shore
It has become a habit on this lengthy RV trip to stop on a whim at what appears to be interesting “stuff” along the highway. Some interesting looking places are passed with only a glance because many parking lots are too small to accommodate RV’s.
Today we’re in the tow vehicle heading north out of Duluth, Minn., and enjoying the scenic north shore of Lake Superior with no particular travel agenda and pass a huge waterfront mansion. Although we picked up a dozen tourist guides, somehow we missed information regarding the home of Chester and Clara Congdon.
The home contained lots of unique features for turn of the century construction that included track style lighting, a sink in the kitchen that prevented china breakage, heated pipes to keep dishes warm for food serving, intercom system, room-to-room individual thermostat controlled heating and an electrical heating system in the greenhouse that provided year-round fresh vegetables, even in Minnesota’s winter months.A wealthy lawyer, Congdon bought huge tracts of Minnesota land and became involved in the development of iron and copper mining resources of the Lake Superior region. He built the estate home called “Glensheen” in the early 1900’s on 14 acres just north of Duluth. The 38-room mansion was home to the Congdons and their seven children and built at a today’s cost would be $30 million.
Despite the unique architectural features, Gleensheen has a dark side. The youngest Congdon daughter, who inherited the home, and her nurse were murdered in the house. An adopted daughter and her husband were charged with the murders. Tour guides were once prohibited from speaking about the murders, but discussed them openly following a question from one of the tour visitors. Books about the murders are also available in the mansion’s gift shop.
The mansion was given to The University of Minnesota in 1968 and is open to tours.
The drive continued north along the Lake Superior shoreline to the small tourist community of Two Harbors where we stopped for lunch in a “mom and pop” restaurant and enjoyed our first bowl of wild rice soup. Wild rice, known as the Minnesota state grain, is not rice but an annual water-grass seed that is abundant in the cold rivers and lakes of Minnesota and Canada.
We visited a lighthouse and met another RV traveling couple from California who were wearing South Dakota “Crazy Horse” Monument tee-shirts. They had been on the road for months touring the southwest, the south including Florida, northeast and now the upper midwest. We participated in the walk to the top of Crazy Horse monument two months earlier and enjoyed comparing travel notes. We were impressed that they were camping in a small pop-up camper.
We tried to visit Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park but both were packed with visitors and decided not to fight the crowds. The lighthouse was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The landscape along Superior changed to a rocky coastline similar to the Maine coast.
Our last morning in Duluth was cool and foggy but weather was comfortable for a five mile walk on the Munger State Trail.
Standing in line to tour the “Bounty”
The arrival of seven tall ships in Duluth’s Lake Superior harbor is a magnificent site witnessed by nearly a quarter of a million people during its four day run.
The large historic replica sailing ships included “Bounty,” the popular 180-foot ship built in 1962 for the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” and also used in two of the “Pirate of the Caribbean” movies starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Although there were larger ships at port in Duluth, it was the Bounty that created dockside lines of two or three hours long for a brief glimpse inside the ship and a visit with its crew.
At 9:30 in the morning the Hughes’s visited for two hours with a couple of Duluth school teachers for some valuable “local knowledge” while waiting in line to board the Bounty. Pirates in full costume, musicians and magicians strolled the waterfront providing entertainment for those waiting to board the tall ships. Food and drink vendors were also available.
Once aboard “Bounty” members of the crew were stationed throughout the ship answering questions from visitors (it was built in Nova Scotia). The square-rigged ship is privately owned and considers Long Island N, Y., as its port. The ship has been around the world, visiting five of the seven continents. It carries a crew of 22, some of whom are volunteers.
The tall ships will return to Duluth in 2016 but the Bounty will not be among the ships. The 50-year-old replica ship sank off the coast of North Carolina in October, 2012. The captain and a deckhand died and their bodies were never found.
NEXT: The northern shore of Lake Superior
Visitors stood in line for more than two hours to tour the famous replica of the tall ship “Bounty” at a tall ship festival in Duluth, Minnesota.
- Workers prepare the rigging high up on one of the tall ships at Duluth, Minnesota.
Brendan Anderson of Maple Grove, Mn., who was impersonating the Bounty’s Capt. Jack Sparrow is a dead-ringer for popular character portrayed by Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
RV boarded, agent finds lime at Canadian border crossing
,The boarding of a U. S. Customs agent at the International Falls Port of Entry of the Hughes’s RV was a bit unnerving but not entirely unexpected. This is the second entry back into the states from Canada and the second time aU. S.agent made a cursory walk-through the RV.
The boardings were cordial enough in both instances and not the least bit threatening but still beckons the fear of “my goodness, did I forget to declare something?”
After providing passports and drivers licenses and answering the customary questions on the U. S. side of the border, we were instructed by the customs agent to pull out of line because the “agricultural specialist” would like to board your RV.
Nothing had been purchased during our three days of fishing at Fort Frances, Ontario. There were a few left-over Idaho potatoes, a couple of Vidalia onions, all still in original U. S. packaging and one tomato, all bought in the U. S. before entering Canada. There was a small package of frozen walleye fillets in the freezer, tonight’s dinner compliments of Lake Rainy and fishing guide Clint Barton. There was nothing else to declare.
I welcomed the agent aboard, offered to open the two expanding wall-slides to make more interior room for the anticipated inspection which the inspector said was not necessary. She was only interested in any produce that may be on board and I pointed to the potatoes, onions and tomato on the kitchen counter as our only agricultural products.
“Do you have any citrus on board, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit?” she inquired.
“No citrus,” I answered.
Then she asked politely for permission to inspect the refrigerator, and like a lightning bolt, it hit me:
“My goodness, I forgot, there’s half a lime in a zip-lock baggie in the refrigerator,” I hollered as she opened the refrigerator door.
Now I know how Arlo Guthrie felt in the song “Alice’s Restaurant” when he was arrested and forced to sit on the “Group W” bench with a bunch of “mean, nasty” criminals and confessed that he was jailed for littering.
The other half of the lime was sacrificed the previous evening accompanying ice and a splash of water in a glass of fine Maker’s Mark whiskey.
The customs agent lady was polite and smiling and just doing her job of making sure fresh citrus products even half a lime were not crossing the border into the United States. In an effort to remember all the other border crossing requirements, the lime was accidentally forgotten. Really!
She walked off the RV with the contraband zipped tightly in the baggie and sent us on our way.
Tonight’s bourbon and water will be missing that “twist of lime.
Walking the Munger Trail and waiting for the tall ships in Duluth
Missing the turnoff to Buffalo Valley Campground just outside Duluth, Mn., is impossible. There’s a huge statute of a buffalo mounted on a flat-bed trailer near the campground entrance with a sign that reads “turn-here.”
The Hughes’s left International Falls, Mn., this morning after two days of walleye and smallmouth bass fishing with two new best friends Doris and Clint Barton and drove 165 miles to Duluth, Mn., arriving mid-afternoon.
The campground’s full hook-up sites (water, electricity and sewer) were already booked because of the town’s popular Tall Ships Festival leaving only a handful of water-electrical sites. With conservation, the Green Knight’s holding tanks will accommodate two people for five days. However, we almost left the campground after the first night because a car show event at an adjacent vacant field was providing helicopter rides for its members. The helicopters took-off, circled the area and landed every 15 minutes until about 9 p.m.
The lighthouse at Canal Park Pier on Lake Superior at Duluth, Minnesota.
The event was not sponsored by the campground and lasted only one afternoon and evening and to be fair, Buffalo Valley RV Park and Campground was a nice facility with large, tree-shaded sites.
The campground backs up to the Munger State Trail, a 63-mile paved path, built on an abandoned railroad bed and considered one of the most scenic in the state. The trail includes several miles through the very scenic Jay Cooke State Park and across the St. Louis River which were both on our five mile walking segment.
Later in the day we drove the dozen or so miles into busy downtown Duluth to the waterfront area for lunch at Grandma’s Restaurant. Grandma’s is the original sponsor of the nationally popular “Grandma’s Marathon” held each summer in Duluth for more than 30 years.
We picked up our tickets for the Tall Ship Festival, purchased a few festival tee shirts and caps and walked the Lake Superior waterfront.
NEXT: Tall ships arrive in Duluth
Crossing the border back into Canada to catch walleyes
The Green Knight shakes and rattles constantly in an angry reaction to frost heaves and pot holes of U. S. Highway 71 as the Hughes’s drive northeast from Bemidji to International Falls, Mn.
Even slowing to 35-40 miles per hour, it’s a wonder anything inside the RV withstands the 111 mile pounding, particularly propane gas lines, refrigerator, heater and air conditioners. It survives the trip through the beautiful Minnesota north woods helped along by highway roadsides decorated with white, gold and purple wildflowers.
After wading across the Mississippi near Bemidji, the Hughes’s are headed to Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada for a couple days of walleye and smallmouth bass fishing on popular Rainy Lake. It will mark their second Canadian border crossing; the first near Glacier National Park, Montana, en route to Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Known nationally as the “Nation’s Icebox” and locally as” Frostbite Falls,” International Falls is a town of about 12,000 people and is located directly across the Rainy River from Fort Frances. Both communities boast huge downtown riverfront pulp and paper mills. The mills serve as the largest employers of both towns.It is not uncommon for winter temperatures in this area to reach 30-40 degrees below zero but average in the 70’s during summer.
Driving across the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge where Rainy Lake narrows and becomes the Rainy River was not a problem. However, traffic was backed-up waiting for a train entering the Abitibi-Bowater paper mill to clear the highway. Getting through Canadian customs was uneventful and business as usual for the custom agents.
Fishing guide Clint Barton and his wife Doris live a few miles from Fort Frances on Rainy Lake and offered a parking spot in their yard for the RV where we will dry camp for the next two nights. Clint, a longtime tournament fisherman, is a recently retired homicide detective with the Ontario Provincial Police and Doris is a high school teacher in Fort Frances. They are both avid curling fans which is extremely popular in Canada and starting to catch-on in the states mostly because of recent Olympic games which have been televising the sport.
Clint and his fishing partner Denis Barnard won the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship in 2000. We fished for a few hours late in the afternoon, catching a dozen walleyes, about half of which were keepers. The following morning Barton drove the boat about a half hour north of his house into a more remote section of the lake where we caught a couple dozen walleye, most of which were in the three pound range. Most were released, except a few of the larger ones which were kept for a shore lunch on one of the Rainy Lake islands. While we helped Doris gather firewood and build a fire, Clint cleaned the morning’s catch which Doris dipped in a mixture of flour and eggs then rolled in cracker crumbs and pan-fried over the open campfire.We all sipped on iced tea (Long Island variety) while Doris browned potatoes in another skillet and cooked a pot of baked beans—all over the open fire. Lunch was topped off with a fresh blueberry cobbler that Doris had prepared the previous evening. All of a sudden the fishing took second place to a great lunch. Shore lunches require a lot of pre-planning and work but really add to the Canadian fishing experience. Unfortunately, not many guides in the lower 48 offer shore lunches as part of their fishing trips.
By day’s end, we probably landed and released 40 walleye and a half dozen pike.The following morning Clint and I fished for smallmouth bass in the vicinity near his house because of high winds and rain. We landed eight smallmouth, including a couple in the four pound range, all on artificial plugs before the weather forced us off the lake.
The fishing trip along with getting to know the Bartons made our second trip into Canada one of the more enjoyable experiences of our RV trip.
NEXT: Touring the tall ships in Duluth