We are not hikers and campers and yet, given the choice of a place to go for a few days to get away from the Twin Cities, our party of three would vote time and time again for a trip to the North Shore.
Following the family pattern, we made two trips last summer, one quickie and one for a chunk of Monday-through-Friday relaxation.
The neat thing from all of our North Shore trips is that we've been able to combine some standard recreational fare with some activities that aren't readily apparent to a Lake Superior novice.
In some ways, it's like knowing about a good fishing hole. If I tell you ... and you go ... the lines might be a bit longer next time. But in the name of sharing our good times and showing off what we've learned, here are a few of the issues and some some sample days along Hwy. 61 and the less-traveled roads nearby.
Issue 1: Where?
We've come to favor staying on the southern end of the North Shore. First, it cuts the driving time by an hour or more.
If lunch is a drive-through and you're committed to getting there, you can make the trip in 3 or 3½ hours. Also, the Lutsen area is only about an hour from the resorts and motels north of Two Harbors and the last part of the drive always seems to be the longest.
Well, it is the longest now that you can drive 70 miles per hour from the Twin Cities to Duluth and 65 on the expressway from Duluth to Two Harbors before the highway narrows to two lanes.
Issue 2: Sleep
We're not a camping/trailer-hauling/rustic-cabin family.
Part of the pleasure of the North Shore is being woken up early by the sun rising over Lake Superior and hearing the lake -- all the more on a bad-weather day under a dry roof in a warm room.
Our most recent choice was Grand Superior Lodge, along Hwy. 61 in Castle Danger, about 12 miles north of Two Harbors. We stayed in a log home on the lake ($179 a night) that had one bedroom, a sofa sleeper in the living room, a lakeside deck, full kitchen and a rocky beach suitable for fishing or wading.
That's a weekday/busy season rate and pretty standard for higher-end places along the shore.
There are suitable places that cost a lot less, including those across the highway from the lake and numerous hotels and motels in the towns along Hwy. 61.
Issue 3: What to do
It's never been a problem to fill our Lake Superior days; it's more about choices. During our recent trip, for example, our son, 11, wanted time every day for fishing -- and we did, spending two days fishing from the rocks at the resort and two days along the highway.
Our three days during the last trip were divided into a Two Harbors/Beaver Bay day, a Lutsen day and a day hanging close to where we paid darn good money to headquarter ourselves. Each day could have used a few more hours.
We've learned that the pleasures don't have to be elaborate and that most people who live along the North Shore are wonderful about pointing you in the right direction and going the extra mile to make you feel welcome. We asked about a place to fish at the Silver Bay tourist information stop and learned about an out-of-the-way lake that has a small but fishing-worthy public access.