I took a look at my drafts and found this written in October 2017. Not sure how I didn’t publish it, but it’s worth a read!
This week included the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) days, October 19th and 20th. So, I loaded up my car, and Kenobi and I hit the road in the early morning on Thursday to drive up to Grand Marais, Superior National Forest, and our favorite campground.
The drive up 61 is gorgeous and a pleasure to drive–unless you’re in a hurry and want to drive faster than most. The majority of this road is a winding two-lane highway north of Duluth right along Lake Superior. There are state parks and trails–all dog-friendly–along the North Shore. Many have parking along 61, so you can park and make use of a trail without driving into the parks themselves. Please know that you do have to go into the parks and stop at the station if you want a trail map. And if you decide to park in the park, there is a minimal entry fee that supports the parks and all the excellent work the people do to keep the trails and parks going. Scroll down this page to see a list of all of the parks and trails.
I enjoy the drive along the lake, but stop once for a badly needed exercise break on the way to our campground, and then make a couple stops to do more hiking on the way back. Guess I’m excited to get there and just don’t want to leave . . .
With our walking break and one stop for gas and bathroom use, it takes about five hours to drive from Minneapolis to Grand Marais. If the timing is right, we’ll stop at Dockside Fish Market for lunch. If you like fish and chips, stop here. They have a selection of fish and side options for a reasonable price. It is one of my all-time favorite places to eat. Honestly, I put it right up there next to Willy’s Wine Bar in Paris, France. It’s a completely different dining experience, but the quality and deliciousness are equal in every way. The shop also sells yummy smoked and chilled fish options as well as interesting pantry selections and shirts. Bonus: Dogs, although not allowed inside or on the deck, are welcome to join you at the tables in front.
As it happens to work out, the side street right across from Dockside Fish Market goes directly to the Gunflint Trail, aka County Road 12. How about that! Turn left onto the Gunflint Trail and you’ll see signs for the Pincushion Trail and a Grand Marais lookout point on the right. It looks over the entire town and you get a full view of the Harbor, Artists Point, and the National Guard. This lookout point is where three trails meet and a great place to stretch your legs if only for a short time before continuing on to your campground. (This is also our favorite place to stop to enjoy our Dockside lunch.)
The Gunflint Trail is the path to several campsites, but my personal favorite is the Two Islands Lake Campground. It offers amazing views of sunsets and early mornings on the lake. Several of the campsites are right on the lake, and you can walk out on the logs or stones that have been placed out into the lake from he sites. Open season offers vault toilets, potable water, and garbage service. I like that. During off season, the camping is free, but there are none of these services–vault toilets are locked. A good tip: there are outhouses with toilet paper open at the lake access point.
Several places rent water craft, if you didn’t bring your own. Bear Track is the one I see most often, and their prices seem excellent (based on my Minneapolis Lake Calhoun experience of $20/hour). Dogs are allowed in their canoes, too. They outfit you with a life jacket, but you’ll have to provide your dog’s.
It took a little longer than usual to set-up camp due to the new tent I was trying out for the first time–Marmot Tungsten 3P Tent – Blaze/Steel – O/S Turned out, after reading the directions, it is super easy to put together–faster than the old tent. The poles that cross on top of the tent are connected, and you just need to twist the connector. Everything else is color-coded. I’m not so sure about it being big enough for three humans. But then, a queen-size bed isn’t big enough for Kenobi and me. This was also the first time that we tried out a double sleeping bag: Kelty Tru.Comfort 20 Degree Double Wide Sleeping Bag, Fern. It was the perfect size for the two of us, but the inside of this bag is satin and oh so cold! Any time I moved, I was jolted awake from the cold. The design is excellent as it has flaps on both sides so if you’re sharing with another human, you have full control over what covers you. But I sent this one back for the cold issue.
Now we have a Teton Sports Mammoth 0F Double-Wide Sleeping Bag; Warm and Comfortable; Double Sleeping Bag Great for Family Camping; Compression Sack Included; Green, and it is lined with a super soft flannel and amazingly comfortable! It’s huge and heavy, so it’s not a backpacking item, but for comfort while car camping, it’s perfect. I place it on top of Lightspeed Outdoors 2 Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress for Camping and Travel and the combination is unbelievably comfortable–a great option for an extra bed while friends or family are visiting your home, too! The pump that’s included takes four D batteries, but it inflates quickly and withstands Kenobi’s nails as he’s getting comfortable the way dogs do.