The Minnesota Office of Tourism is an excellent resource. Travel counselors are available to help find lodging at 651-296-5029 in the Twin Cities and 1-800-657-3700 elsewhere. On the Web: http://www.exploreminnesota.com.
Where to eat
Food comes in two varieties: what you bring and what you order. We stop at the Super One in Two Harbors (just off the main highway on the south end of town) to pick up the stuff that doesn't travel well from the Twin Cities.
It's the last supermarket until Silver Bay and has the feel of the bigger stores in the metro area. When we run low on stuff, we do our best to patronize the small grocery stores along the highway.
Our favorite restaurant is the Northern Lights Roadhouse in Beaver Bay (1-218-226-3012), which has a full supper menu, big burgers and stuff for kids and overlooks the lake. The menu features fresh fish, a nightly buffet and dishes unique to the restaurant.
Other places we like include Kamloops Restaurant at Superior Shores (1-218-834-5671) and Blackwood's Restaurant in Two Harbors (1-218-834-3846). For Easter 1999, we stayed at Superior Shores but couldn't get into its buffet until midafternoon. We went to Blackwood's for breakfast, marking the only two-buffet day in our family's history. Both were good ... and we didn't need to eat again until Wednesday or Thursday. Supper reservations are a good idea at Kamloops.
Tracks at Caribou Highlands Lodge at Lutsen (1-218-663-7316), a quiet break from the mountain's recreation area, has good sandwiches. Coho Cafe (1-218-663-8032), at the north end of the Bluefin Bay boardwalk, has good pizza. Rustic Cafe in Castle Danger (1-218-834-2488) has shepherd's pie and skillet breakfasts that are worth ordering. It also had the best sugar-rush deal on the North Shore last summer -- buy a pound of fudge for $7.99 and get a half-pound free.
Betty's Pies (1-218-834-3367) has moved into its new, larger restaurant above where the small shack used to be, about 4 miles north of Two Harbors. Same pies ($15 for a fruit pie and about $22 for a cream pie), bigger menu and now it's even comfortable to eat there.
Stuff to do
At Silver Bay, we were directed back to Lax Lake Road (County Rd. 4), which hits Hwy. 61 at Beaver Bay, and told to follow it west. After about 10 miles, we came to Lax Lake and a public boat landing that included a good-sized dock.
Several families were swimming, coexisting with the handful of boats that pulled up over the afternoon, and we were able to set up on the dock for an afternoon that yielded a number of small fish that fell for the crawlers we'd purchased in Beaver Bay.
The next day we went to the Temperance River and, parking at the rest area along the highway, took a short hike down to a rocky ledge secluded from many of the overhead trails that people take to gawk at the falls.
The 11-year-old caught about a half-dozen trout, including a 13-incher and an 11-incher, and his mother caught a few with a 99-cent drop line. (You need a trout stamp in addition to a fishing license. The stamp is $8 and available at the Holiday store in Tofte.)
A $23 pass gets full access for a day and $20 gets all you can ride on the slide, which involves taking a chairlift to the top of a mountain and careening down a half-mile concrete slide of steep dips and curves. There are two lanes, one for slower traffic, and tall people get a warning that the sleds can get a bit tippy if you're not careful going into a curve.
Want proof? My dreams of making the U.S. luge team were probably ended for good when my plastic sled tipped over heading into a curve, sending me into a highlight-reel sprawl that I'm glad wasn't caught on video.
We took an afternoon cruise on the Grampa Woo (1-218-226-5686; http://www.grampawoo.com ), which runs daily two-hour excursions during the summer along the lake. There are three routes, depending on the day of the week, as well as special cruises during the summer.