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ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK (MN)



THURSDAY - WOW! What a night we had last night weatherwise.

Between 6:00PM and 7:00PM last night our little state park was mentioned specifically about being in the path of a tornadic thurderstorm. I must say it was pretty tense inside of THE POD for that entire hour.

Our TORNADO WARNING was issued at 6:09PM by the National Weather Service!


It turned out to be all for nothing, the closest tornado to Temperance State Park last night was more than 100-miles southwest of here and didn't even cause that much damage.

We did get about 15-minutes of heavy rain, but very little wind, and no hail whatsoever.


By 10:00AM we were pulling out of our campsite and heading north on Highway 61. We only have about 65-miles to travel today, if we go any further north we'll cross into Canada. Along our route we have planned a stop in another state park to take a little 2-mile round trip hike to see YET ANOTHER WATERFALL.

But first we have some travel day photos to share!

Now that's more like it! Blue skies and even bluer water! No more grey.

Descending down into the only good sized town on our route today, Grand Marais (pop. 1341).

On the north side of town Tricia spotted this field of poppies just in time to snap a photo.


By 11:00AM we were pulling into the Judge C.R. Magney State Park to begin our 1-mile hike up the Brule River to go check out the Devil's Kettle Waterfall.


DEVIL'S KETTLE WATERFALL


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Just a few yards down the trail you'll find yourself crossing over the Brule River.
The Highway 61 Bridge is within sight and the Lake Superior shoreline is just beyond that.
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Upriver the water is very shallow and fast moving creating many rapids.
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To deter people from going "off trail" a tall fence has been installed.
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This is the point where I turned around, but Tricia continued on.
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As the trail continued to climb it became more difficult to see the river.
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More stairs to climb.
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And still more stairs to climb.
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At this point there was a small overlook to see the river.
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More stairs to climb.
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Finally some stairs going down...
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...followed by a relatively level stretch of boardwalk.
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Before you reach Devil's Kettle you pass by the Upper Falls location.
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Before you get to see devil's Kettle you have more stairs to climb.
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Finally the big payoff, Devil's Kettle waterfalls are within sight.
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Time to head back!
Tricia counted 191 stairs on her return trip, I suspect the actual count is higher.
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I recognize that bridge, she's almost done and no more stairs to climb!


Upper Falls on the Brule River

Devil's Kettle Falls on the Brule River.



FRIDAY - This morning we have an 8:30AM reservation onboard the Sea Hunter III tour boat that will transport us 10-miles out into Lake Superior to the southwest tip of the Isle Royale National Park at the Windigo Dock.

The ride will take 90-minutes, then we'll have 4-hours to explore the park, before the 90-minute ride back to the mainland. Luckily we can see the boat harbor right from our campsite, it's still a 15-minute drive to get there thanks to the 30MPH speed limit and the 20MPH school zone we pass through.

Here's a little secret that will come in handy if you plan to visit! The boat is boarded in the order your reservations were made. In others words, first one to reserve is the first one to board the boat and has their choice of where they want to sit. There is only room for about half the passengers "inside" the boat's cabin, the rest have to sit either in the open air back or sides of the boat.

With the air temperature right around 55°F, the water temperature around 40°F and the forward speed of the boat, it made for a very chilly 90-minute ride. We fortunately made our reservations way early and were the fourth party to be invited to board the boat. We immediately went for the inside seats!

On the return trip to the mainland the boarding order is reversed, so we were almost the last people to board and our only choice was to sit outside. At least we grabbed seats behind the cabin and out of the wind. The temperatures had warmed up quite a bit since this morning, so it ended up being a pretty comfortable ride.


We had made no real plan for how we were going to spend our time in the park. One thing I did want to do first is get my Passport Book stamped before I forgot. I'm not spending another $102 to come back out tommorow, even if there was a seat available, just to get that done.

Next we went over to the Windigo Store to see what they offered. We purchased a couple of cold beverages to go with our PB&J sandwiches we brought and ate an early 10:30AM lunch on the sunny veranda seating they offered.

Next we walked the 1½-mile Windigo Nature Trail hike that goes up and around the Visitor Center. Not too far along the trail we caught up with the Ranger guided hikers and followed along with them for a little while. Then we were able to get around them on the narrow trail so that we could proceed at our own rate.

We made it back to the Visitor Center in time to join in on two Ranger Talk Sessions, the first was about the large moose population found on the island and the second was about how and why Isle Royale became a National Park. Both talks were very well prepared and presented by our two young Rookie Rangers.

Then it was time to reboard the boat and head home.


ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK


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The Sea Hunter III is our 65' 60-passenger ferry to the Isle Royale National Park.
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An hour and a half later we were in Michigan at the Windigo Dock.
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This is the beginning of the mile and a half long Windigo Nature Trail
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Parts of the trail were nothing more than a dirt path through the woods.
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In the marshy areas you had to balance on an elevated 18" wide boardwalk.
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If you fall off the boardwalk you may not break any bones, but you will get wet and muddy.
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Here is where we caught up with the Ranger led walk.
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Pink Lady's Slipper are an orchid variety that's usually only found in the wild.
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We managed to "scoot around" the Ranger led group and now have the trail to ourselves.
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Some of the more delicate foilage is starting to show itself.
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Like everthing else here, these Bluebead Lilys were still under snow two months ago.
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Here we had delicate white flowers on both sides of the trail.
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I can't imagine how colorful this trail will be in another few weeks.
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We should be nearing the end of the trail soon.
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Yes, I'm starting to see the bright blue water of Washington Harbor through the trees.
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I always appreciate the double wide planks over the extra marshy area.
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These Canadian Bunchberry blossoms could be found all along the trail.
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We are still well above the water, so most of the remainder of the trail should be downhill.
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That's the seaplane dock I see down below us.
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We made it back to the beginning of the trail and our boat is still here.
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They also have several docks for people to bring their own boat out here.
Above the docks is the sunny veranda where we earlier ate our lunch.
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Our trusted transportation that will soon be returning us back to home.
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We got a special treat and got to watch the seaplane landing on the smooth waters.
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It brings in day trip visitors and overnighters just like the ferry does,
but at a much higher price. We took the ferry and it was still $102 per person.
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Sadly it was time to leave Isle Royale National Park behind.
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The Captain took us up close to the Rock of Ages Lighthouse for a quick look.
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Could you imagine living out here for months at a time as a lightkeeper?


We filmed the seaplane's takeoff, but wished they were headed towards us instead of away.



SATURDAY - Today we're going to drive north on Highway 61 to just 100-yards short of the Canadian border. That's where you'll find the entrance to Grand Portage State Park and the hike we have planned for today.

Minnesota's highest water at 120' is located here at the end of a ½-mile paved wheelchair accessible trail.


HIGH FALLS OVERLOOK


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Tricia especially liked the turtle mosaic in the floor tile of the Welcome Center
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Just outside the door of the Welcome Center is an overlook of the Pigeon River.
The river acts as the border between the U.S. and Canada here in eastern Minnesota.
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There is a short side trail where you can get down close to the rapids found on the river.
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Where the pavement ends the boardwalk begins, keeping the trail wheelchair accessible.
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At the end of the trail there are stairs that take you up to an observation deck.
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This is the view from the upper observation deck.
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There is so much visual stimulation going on at this waterfall.
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This is the far left waterfall.
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This is the main 120' waterfall of High Falls.
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This is the view from the wheelchair accessible observation deck.
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There is a third observation deck up some stairs just beyond the accessible deck.


High Falls Overlook

This section of the falls held my attention the longest.

Tricia tried something new with her phone camera, slow motion. Tell us what you think!


Tricia and I both agree that High Falls was our favorite Minnesota waterfall viewing so far. It didn't hurt that it was also by far the easiest waterfall to hike and see.

We've packed a lot of sightseeing into the last few days, but we've got one more location to visit.

The Grand Portage National Monument is less than a mile from our campsite and we've saved it for last for some reason unknown to us, it's just the way it worked out.


Grand Portage has been a major center for the fur trade since the early 17th century. It was located at the point where a major canoe fur trade route of the voyageurs left the great lakes. It was so named because the route began with a huge 9 mile portage. A portage is a place where the canoes and equipment are carried over land.

Today, the population of Grand Portage is 616, about the same as it was in it's heyday back in the 1700s. Grand Portage National Monument was created in 1958 and today lies entirely within the boundaries of the Grand Portage Ojibwe Indian Reservation.


GRAND PORTAGE NATIONAL MONUMENT


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A street level view of the two story Heritage Center.
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The first level has a fireplace that's used to heat the facility during the winter.
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Upstairs they have an extensive moose exhibit on display.
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The view of Lake Superior is pretty spectacular through the second story windows.
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Outside and across the street is where you'll find a recreated Ojibwe indian camp.
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The rest of the property you'll see how the French (1730-1760)
and later the British (1760-1800) residents lived.
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This is the outside of the fur traders offices.
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This represents what the inside might have looked like in the mid to late 1700s.
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That's a pretty scary looking scarecrow.
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Inside of a separate stockade is where you'd find the living quarters.
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Furs were the main export that the French and British were here for.
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A lookout tower to watch the water for invaders.



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