Notes from the North Shore…

One of my favorite places on Earth is northern Minnesota.  From the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, up the coast to the border of Canada.  This summer, we decided to take the kids up a little farther than we’ve traveled with them in the past, to Grand Marais, MN.  Our plan, was to kick around Grand Marais for the day, then head south a bit to Temperance River State Park and camp for two nights.  On the way home, a quick stop in Two Harbors for a hike around Split Rock Lighthouse, and another quick stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park before finally on to Duluth & an overnight at the Hampton in Canal Park (thank you employee discount-I sure will miss you…).

Growing up in southeastern Minnesota, I’ve done my fair share of camping over the years.  I love to camp.  But, I’ve come to realize that I don’t much care for the “rustic” part of it anymore, which you could totally get from how the back of my van looked the day we set off.  Uff-da.  Anyway, my kids hadn’t been “real” camping yet (only cabin & such at Girl Scout camp) and we’ve wanted to do this for the past several summers.  I don’t know who was more excited, them or me!

I began preparing for this trip, but reserving our campsite online.  I was able to secure a site, for two days, that “overlooked” the lake.  It was close to the shower/bathroom area as well, which I was a bit worried about….smell, noise etc.  Next planning step, what are we going to eat?!?!  Yes, of course I had to plan our menu!!  And NO, we were not going to eat hot dogs/hamburgers etc.  We were going to have fun camping food!  Okay, hot dogs & hamburgers are fun, don’t get me wrong, but I am always challenging myself with food, why wouldn’t that apply to camping?

So out came the recipes I have accumulated from my days of being a Girl Scout Leader, not too long ago.  A definite on my menu, Girl Scout Gumbo.  And Walkin’ Tacos.  And Snickers Salad…and Puppy Chow, and S’mores, and Raspberry Pancakes….oh gosh.  I can’t pack the refrigerator so I had better settle down.

When the date finally arrived, and we had the van & kids loaded (and I mean loaded…it was like we were going on a two-week vacation…thank goodness I have a “mommy-van”) a quick check of the forecast of the North Shore said we’d be in for perfectly hot camping weather!  Normally, the North Shore in July sees highs in the 70’s that time of year, but just our luck had them in the middle of a heat wave.  Yes, we camped in almost 90-degree weather…record breaking heat for that area!  No cooling off at night for us…

We arrived in Grand Marais, parked the van and headed out on the shoreline to stretch out our legs after the long ride.  First thing I noticed, the beach was all rocks.  No sand, just tiny, shiny, gorgeous little rocks!  Walking a little further, we happened upon this cool rock…totally meant to be.  And then we started seeing these rock sculptures.

The first few, lined up along the shore.  We continued walking, into an area called the Artists Point.  And they were everywhere!!  How cool is that!

   

The kids loved walking around them, looking at them for design ideas and I knew, for the next few days, they’d be looking for rocks to build their own.  I however, was ready to eat.  Did I tell you that a restaurant I’ve known about for years is in Grand Marais?  Yep, Angry Trout Cafe, here I come!!

We did make a quick pit-stop for the kids to have a slice of pizza at a place in Grand Marais called Sven & Ole’s pizza.  They had bottles of incredible Buddy’s soda from the New Ulm Beverage Company/August Schell Brewing Company.  The Orange soda…oh my gosh…so, SO good!!  It was almost like a melted orange popsicle…get your hands on a bottle SOON!

     

Okay, focus Shawn.  Let’s talk Fish & Chips at the Angry Trout Cafe!  First, a little background on the restaurant itself-taken from their website.  “Open “seasonally” (May-October) the Angry Trout Cafe is a small indoor/outdoor restaurant, cobbled together out of an old commercial fishing shanty that clings to the edge of Grand Marais Harbor. From this beautiful setting we offer a menu based on the bounty of Lake Superior and the surrounding region – locally-grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice, and of course, our specialty, fresh Lake Superior fish.”

     

It was busy that day, even for a weekday, but the wait was short and we wanted to brave the heat and sit on the deck overlooking the gorgeous Lake Superior views.  While eating, we even got to watch a boat-plane take off, right next to the restaurant.  Pretty cool for my nine-year old!  We only managed to eat the Fish & Chips, as everyone was eager to get to our “home” for the next two days/nights.  I had the fried Cod and the hubby had the fried Whitefish.  But the one thing I couldn’t get off my mind, was the Tarter Sauce…it was off the hook!  I tried to re-create it when I made my version of Fish & Chips, but I don’t know if it was the environment, or a missing ingredient, It was much better there.  I literally wanted to eat it with a spoon, it was that good!

Home-sweet-home…..for the next two days anyway.  Our campsite at Temperance River State Park proved to be pretty nice, on the corner of a walkway & the road thru the campground-but not too noisy.  We were downhill from the latrines and our view, well, you can see it above.  Not super awesome, but we spent so much time hiking and away from camp, it didn’t really matter.  However, my daughter and I went on an exploratory walk one afternoon and found LOTS better sites, sprinkled throughout the campground.  If you are interested in the lot number of those, send me a note as I would be happy to share that with you!  One thing that made those other sites so much more appealing…the fact they all had great tree coverage.  Our site had us exposed from all sides really, and that week, with the almost 90-degree weather, we would have loved to have more shade.  But alas, we made the most of it!

After setting up camp, we headed out to explore the park; if you ever get the chance to go there, do it!  It was so gorgeous!  They have lots of trails where you can hike and take in gorgeous waterfalls & views that are breathtaking.  It was truly a picture-perfect place!

After all that walking, we needed to eat!  We must have walked twenty miles, mostly up and over the rocky shoreline, over the course of those three days!  One cool thing that Minnesota State Parks do, that we didn’t know until we were getting firewood at the office, is that you can check out activity bags to use while you are camping.  We checked one out and my son read to us as the rest of us prepared our feast!

As I mentioned before, Girl Scout Gumbo was on the menu, as was Snickers Salad.  And of course, no camping trip is complete without S’mores!  Here is a quick list on how to make both items….

Girl Scout Gumbo–  the amounts depend somewhat on how many people you are feeding.  The recipe that follows should feed 12-18 people, so adjust as necessary.

You’ll need: {2 pounds ground beef} + {1 tablespoon of dehydrated onion/onion powder or 1/2 minced onion}  +  {4 cans vegetable soup, condensed if you can deal with it}  +  {1 cup of water}  +  {salt, pepper, garlic to taste}  +  {2 cups grated cheese}  +  {corn or tortilla chips}

Instructions-  brown ground beef, add onions and cook until tender.  Add soup & water and cook 10 minutes longer.  Pour over corn or tortilla chips to eat and sprinkle with cheese.  Enjoy!

Snicker Salad-  so there are a couple of different ways to make this.  We made it the pudding mix way, but I think when I had it before, it was with Cool Whip.  So, if you want to try the latter version, just substitute it instead of the pudding & milk.

You’ll need:  {1 box of french vanilla pudding} + {1 cup, or more of milk} + {2 granny smith apples} + {2-3 Snickers bars}

Instructions:  mix pudding & milk together in a bowl and set aside.  Carefully chop the apples and Snickers bars.  Once pudding has set, fold in apples & Snickers.  Enjoy!

I don’t need to tell you how to make S’mores…do I?  Just kidding 🙂  If you don’t have long-handled s’mores (or hot dog) sticks, I found some great, inexpensive ones at Walmart!

What a great vacation we had!  Ahh…so many great shots…so hard to pick the ones to share with you!

So for now, I hope you’ll curl up with someone special, in front of a glowing fireplace and dream of all the awesome photos you’ll take when you get out next summer and explore the gorgeous Minnesota State Parks!  I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful area!  Thanks for hanging in there with this extremely looonnnngggg post!  Ha!  Until next time, Shawn

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