Thursday, December 1, 2022

Superior Lake Scenery

This fall I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite Great Lakes, Lake Superior. Even though I had been to this same area just a couple of months earlier, I still enjoyed my time there just as much if not more! Maybe the lake itself doesn’t change much during the transition from late summer to early fall, but the surrounding scenery sure does. The rocky shoreline of the Northern Shore in northeastern Minnesota is a great place to see not only lake scenery but other amazing beauty as well. Surrounded by rocky shorelines, beautiful trees and wildflowers, mountain creeks and waterfalls, and let’s not forget the tiny mountains that seem pretty big to flatlander Illinoisans, there’s something for everyone.

Sometimes you can even see all the above scenery in the same state park or other natural area. One of our favorite parks, Gooseberry Falls State Park, fits the bill. We start off by hiking to and around the set of three waterfalls. Add the interesting conifer and deciduous trees that surround the area, plus some interesting rock formations along the way, you stare in wonder and wonder what else is around the bend. Following the misleading “lazy river” (that had cascaded sharply over three sets of waterfalls
just upstream of this point) through the woods to the lake, where it flows to Lake Superior, there are hundreds of beautiful photo opportunities. Once you reach the lake, there are hundreds more. Walking along the flat, weather beaten rock sheets of the shoreline is one thing. Then you walk a few hundred feet away, where the rocks become jagged cliffs and see powerful and rugged beauty. We stopped for several photos along the way, but for the best view, we walked to an area where few people travel. They usually don’t venture beyond the picnic area, and I can’t say that I blame them, as I was getting pretty hungry by this time. 

Afterwards, we headed a few miles to the north to visit Split Rock Lighthouse. Not only is this an interesting engineering and architectural feat, especially without the historic and scenic Route 61 built at the time, but it is a beautiful area. Perched atop a tall cliff, the lighthouse saved dozens of ships from crashing into the majestic cliff and jagged shoreline, as many ships before the house was built did. Hiking down the hill for amazing views from the shoreline was almost as great as seeing the view of the water from the lighthouse itself. The lighthouse, grounds, and other buildings are kept in pristine condition, and this area is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.

We were feeling worn out after a full day of hiking along beautiful but rugged terrain, but that didn’t stop us from doing the exact same thing the next day. However, this time, we continued our journey further north—to the Canada border. Stopping at whatever scenic pull off that struck our fancy (and there are dozens of these roadside stops), we enjoyed views from the Cliff Creek Tunnel and appreciated the fact that Route 61 used to run along the cliff—in the very spot where we snapped dozens of pictures and soaked up the view. I wouldn’t have wanted to look down in those days while driving, but the scenery was spectacular.

Our final northern destination was Grand Portage State Park. Even though we’d seen beautiful waterfalls the day before (and this neck of the woods is packed with them!) we still enjoyed the ones located here. We visited both upper and lower falls—both amazing sights, then walked down to the river, which by this time was much tamer and more tranquil. Between the rocky stream, hills in the background, and fall foliage, this was another favorite stop.

One of these days, I hope to spend more than a few days at a time in this beautiful area, but for now, I enjoy the short trips we’ve taken here. My husband even suggested planning a trip to see the Northern Lights in this area this winter. I can’t wait to see not only the beautiful sights, but hopefully the lights, as well. Sometimes I feel like the more I travel, the more I want to travel. While there’s no place like home, there’s an entire world out there, waiting to be discovered.



50 Shades of Fall

Who doesn’t love Fall’s bright colors? Let’s face it. Fall tree foliage at its peak is one of the most beautiful of natural wonders, even if it’s nature’s way of shutting down food production for the season. Sometimes I get impatient as I wait for vivid fall colors to hit. As things start to dry up and go dormant for the season, it’s not always spectacularly beautiful. Sometimes leaves and grasses simply start to die off. Most people don’t find this type of change beautiful.

 But sometimes you have to look closely to see the beauty. As I not only waited for fall foliage to begin its lovely journey, but also for my daughter to be finished with her after school volunteer shift at the local animal shelter, I spent the time walking at a local favorite place of mine. Though called Warneke Woods, the natural area also contains a restored prairie. As things transition from summer to fall, there is much to be seen.

As I began my hike, I tried to decide whether to walk along the prairie path first or hit the woodland trails. Glancing out at the prairie, as the tall grasses swayed in the wind, with their colorful sturdy stems keeping them upright, I decide to head to the woods first. Not only were the tree leaves starting to change colors and fall, but there were some beautiful fall woodland wildflowers to view.

 Earlier in the season, I had already had my first time encounter with White Rattlesnake Root (not to be confused with White Snakeroot, also a late summer – early fall bloomer), jewelweed, various woodland edge goldenrod species and others, but now was the time for several woodland asters to bloom. Looking at the shades of pale blue, pink, and white, I try to distinguish one from another, but sometimes I just give up and enjoy their beauty without worrying about which species they are.

 As I walked through the woods, I not only watched, but also listened. I heard the breeze blowing tree branches, their leaves, and finally, the leaves falling. What a sound that makes. So soft, and so peaceful.

As I emerged from the woods, my eyes were drawn to the prairie grasses. A few New England Asters and other tail end wildflowers were blooming, but they could not compete with the subtle beauty of the grasses. Tall at this time of the year, with their fluffy seed heads and colorful stems, they have the same beautiful colors as their fall foliage tree leaf counterparts. The day I walked in this area was cloudy, so the colors really stood out against the colorless sky and without the harsh sun to diminish their colors.

So while I am usually attracted to the bright colors of other native plants and use that color in the photographs I take and share to help others appreciate natural beauty, I still enjoy the more subdued shades of fall, the fifty shades of Fall.