The idea was a good one. In concept. We planned a short get-away to take advantage of the off-season mid-week rates at Cascade Lodge and do some hiking at the State Parks along the North shore. The advance forecast looked reasonable, so we went ahead and booked our room. We even splurged on the extra $5 for a lake view and corner room.
What we didn’t count on was the fact that the State Parks now allow hunting on a good share of their land. While everything between highway 61 and Lake Superior was off-limits to hunters, much of the remainder was posted with bright orange signs warning us away from the trails. Although Rich looked longingly at the enticing trails along with the empty parking lots, I became the trail police and insisted we stick to safe ground. As a result, our options were rather curtailed, and we ended up with shorter hikes than planned. But it wasn’t all bad.
The first day turned out to be cold, gray and blustery. By the time we finished hiking along the shore at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, the wind had picked up and snow was starting to fly. We consoled ourselves with bowls of hot soup at Coho Cafe in Tofte and watched the snow swirl and settle on the deck outside. Cascade Lodge suddenly seemed very appealing, and we quickly traded the chilly afternoon for reading by the fireplace in the lodge. We could further rationalize our decision with the promise of a better forecast for the next day.
Sure enough, morning brought bright clear skies. We were up before dawn and crept outside and across to the lakefront to catch the first morning rays of sunlight. It was crisp and cold, but an invigorating and rewarding photo session.
The Cascade River was open for hiking to the top the waterfalls. The trail was beautiful, following the icy flowing waters up one side of the river and back down the other. We followed that with a trip up the Temperance River. The gorges were as impressive as ever, with the added attraction of icicles clinging to the edges of the rocky canyons.
Returning to Split Rock Lighthouse, we hunted down good vantage points for photos. We had great fun clambering around the campsites and down on the rocky beach, testing out all the sites for good shots. What we lost in terms of hiking mileage, we made up for in photography research.
All the way from Cascade Lodge, we followed the Roger Blough ore boat down the lake. When it turned into Two Harbors to dock, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to watch it come into the harbor. We were amazed at the sharp turns required to slip past the breakwater and position the boat for the ore docks. Despite the close proximity of Two Harbors, we’d never seen a boat come into port there before.
Our get-away wasn’t the hiking trip we’d originally envisioned. But neither of us minded the short bursts of hiking interspersed with photography and some creature comforts. In fact, we quite enjoyed it.