As much as I love summer, sometimes it feels futile to try and keep up with everything. The yard continually needs mowed and trimmed. The garden, it seems, is a daily rotation of herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide. All vegetables are starting to come on, a couple of this and a couple of that, but not enough yet to really get into canning. It is never ending. So, what is a person supposed to do? Go on vacation!
Even though the garden and yard are labors of love, sometimes just getting away for a few days provides a whole new outlook on things. That is exactly what we did. We put the tools away, took one final inspection around the yard, loaded a bag in the truck, and headed north, leaving everything totally in God’s hands for a few days.
Choosing the direction was easy. We are going east for a family reunion in a couple of weeks, when we go west we want to go further than you can go in just a couple days, and south would have been way too hot. That left only one choice.
Our destination was Split Rock Lighthouse at Two Harbors, Minnesota. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Even though that was our destination, we saw so many spectacular things on the way and our destination was not quite what we had planned.
We drove to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, always a favorite getaway spot because of the peace of the slower pace. Since we had already seen most of the attractions, we headed for the seclusion of the Porcupine Mountains, located 3 miles from Silver City on M-107. Known as the “Porkies,” they offer towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers. It is one of the few remaining large wilderness area in the Midwest. While there, we met a young couple who told us how stunning the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior off the north shore of Wisconsin are.
We headed to the charming little town of Bayfield where we took a tour of the islands. I had heard of them before, but never knew where or what they were. They are actually 22 islands off the Bayfield Peninsula and they have one of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America. On the islands? Yep. Turns out that Stockton Island has the most bears, even though bears can be found on all the islands as they swim between them. I never would have guessed!
We also got to see the magnificent sea caves located on Devil’s Island. Centuries of wave action and freezing and thawing have interacted with the sandstone to form the sculpted shoreline. Arches, delicate chambers, and honeycombed passageways are visible on the north shore of the island. In winter, visitors can see frozen waterfalls, chambers with windswept beaches, and sandstone cliffs. We were lucky enough to be there at sunset, which casts a different glow on the structures. Ancient native people thought the caves were haunted because of the echoes of the wind howling through the formations.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has more lighthouses than any other site in the National Park system with nine historic towers on six islands. Individual island tours are also available to visit these.
Leaving there, we headed toward Duluth, Minnesota, and our destination of Split Rock Lighthouse. We forgot that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, as the saying goes. We thought we would just grab a motel room along the way. They were few and far between, and the ones we did see had the “no vacancy” shingle hung out. Things always have a way of working out, though. Arriving in Duluth at 1 a.m., we saw the lights of a Hampton Inn. It turns out that it had opened just that afternoon and we were one of the first guests to stay — a brand spanking new room! Now, we will probably never be that lucky again.
The next morning, we visited the Duluth Trading Company before heading to Two Harbors. It was nice to see the “real deal” after getting all the catalogs all these years. Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses of all. All the excitement to finally reach our destination soon turned to disappointment as we found we could not even get down to the lighthouse to photograph it without paying a fee. It seems the historical society bought it and you have to pay to take the inside tour or get a day pass for Split Rock State Park to even look at the outside. Not that we are cheap, but we just don’t believe that you should have to pay to see a national landmark. It shouldn’t always be about the money.
Heading back south, we came to St. Paul where we took a short paddle wheeler ride on the Mississippi. We met some delightful people with whom we have stayed in contact.
The only ways home were to go back the way we came, drive around Chicago, or take the ferry across Lake Michigan. We chose to take the Lake Express from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Muskegon, Michigan. Driving toward Milwaukee, we took Wisconsin backroads and saw some of the most beautiful scenery. Rolling hills dotted with sprawling dairy farms and crops planted on hillsides made for some great photos. The farmers that we are, it is always nice to check out farms in other parts of the country.
We boarded the ferry at 7 p.m. and it took 2 ½ hours to cross the lake. It happened to be a perfect evening and we got to witness a true Lake Michigan sunset, uncluttered by any buildings or structures. Pure awesome!
I call this our “unvacation” in the best sense of the word. There was nothing spectacular along the way and yet we saw so many spectacular sights. I know, this just gives fuel to Ron’s theory that when you don’t always plan, things just work out. In this case, he was so right. Did I just say that!
We had a general destination, Split Rock Lighthouse. Although that turned into a disappointment, if we had not headed for it, we would have missed all the other special moments and places along the way.
It was also the unvacation because we just picked up and went for a few days, no months of planning in advance. And, you know what, when we got back the weeds didn’t disgust me quite so much, the garden still wasn’t ready to give up all its bounty, and home and all its work looked pretty good. It’s true what they say, “It’s so nice to get away, but always good to come home.”
I know that longer trips take some planning and it is nice to see things further away sometimes, but don’t discount the “four day stress away get away." Sometimes it is just what you need to put a whole new perspective on the familiar.