Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
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The North Shore’s Split Rock Lighthouse is a gem. Dating to 1910, this Minnesota Historical Society property (which is surrounded by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park) is one of the best kept lighthouses in America. Plus, it offers killer views of Lake Superior. Aug. 7 is National Lighthouse Day, which makes a fitting time to learn about the importance of Split Rock and other lighthouses around the country. Need another reason to go? The readers of Lake Superior magazine recently named Split Rock one of the best public places to view the lake. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, fog-signal building and the keeper’s dwelling, restored to its 1920s appearance. The site is 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on Hwy. 61. Entrance fee tops out at $9 for adults; more info at 218-226-6372.
California may lead the nation in reducing car emissions, but let's hope it doesn't set a wide precedent in this regard: turning over the day-to-day running of state parks to private companies. The Golden State plans to do just that at six of its state parks, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, in an unprecedented move designed to keep the beleaguered parks open. The recent windfall from the California-based Facebook's IPO offering notwithstanding, the state's budget is spiraling downward, and its funding for state parks has dropped 20 percent since 2009. By contract, Minnesota's state parks are in growth mode, since the state brought 39,000 acres into the system when it purchased land for Vermilion State Park in 2008. Sure, budget concerns has slowed development there, where only two portions are open to the public. But there are plans, grand plans. I will soon visit the area, and a story about the new park and plans for its development will appear in the Star Tribune Travel section sometime in July. Stay tuned.
First came heat; temps in the 80s do not mix well with fall color tours in my book. I didn't see myself hiking in the woods in search of pretty reds and crimsons coupled with taking a dip in a forest stream to wash away the sweat.
Then came the winds, so much that many leaves across the state blew off before they hit peak color.
So when I headed out to look for fall color recently -- wearing a seasonally appropriate sweater -- I first logged on to the Department of Natural Resources fall color map. Good thing. I'd wanted to go to Nerestrand-Big Woods State Park, near Northfield. Though in a typical year, it'd be awash in brilliant hues, now it was a dull scene. The map pointed me in the right direction: Amid a state depicted in nearly all brown (the color code for "past peak"), a swath of a bluff country along the Mississippi was showing promise, so I hit the road. Driving south, it seemed as though the brightest color I'd find was the yellow stripe in the middle of the road. Then I turned a bend and saw a valley blanketed in autumn's rich display. While the wind and rain that had buffeted the area had done a number of the highest trees, those in the more sheltered valleys hung onto their leaves.
I just peaked at the trusty DNR map again: Seems like even the beloved bluffs along the Mississippi are past their prime. But if you want one last glorious encounter with the beauty of autumn, all is not lost. Go to the Lanesboro area, south of Rochester. The hilltops may be brown, but keep to the valleys and you may find your reward.
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