Category Archives: Canada Camp Trip

North Shore Nostalgia

It is difficult to say what draws a person to a particular place.  I spent only four years of my life living in the north woods city of Duluth, Minnesota.  My house sat 8 blocks uphill from Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh water lake by area.Four years is a small portion of a 63 year lifetime but I sometimes describe my time here in such warm detail that my listeners assume that I grew up in Minnesota.

It is a cold part of the world,partly because of the northern latitude but also a result of the frigid water mass nearby.  Yet I’m here with my easily chilled husband (Bill says this is an exageration) sleeping in a tent pitched in the Grand Marais Municipal Campground, a few steps from that giant body of water.

My love for this area can’t be explained by a yearning for a simpler time in my life,though perhaps for a more intense time.  My son was six months old the October that my first husband and I arrived in Duluth.  We bought a first home,excited and nervous.  I began that first year cold and lonely.  Within two years my marriage had failed and with it my image of what I thought my life would be.

But it was also a vivid four years.  Black bears sometimes ambled among the neighborhood swing sets.  Caring people welcomed us,and then me, unpartnered.  The air smelt of pine and flocks of birds migrated through town, funneled by the great lake they wouldn’t cross.  I learned to crosscountry ski by moonlight and heard wolves howling in the distance.

My son learned to talk and added the word “gall” to his toddler vocabulary as I patted the giant growth on our front yard tree.

So my generous husband, Bill and I started our gentle adventure by revisiting some of my old stomping grounds. First a night in St. Paul with my son. St. Paul is also the city where my grandfather changed trains on his homesteading adventure to Saskatchewan in 1906.  There will be more about Saskatchewan and grandpa later.

Next we spent two nights with old friends who baked bread and served wood fired pizza to a gathering of folks I hadn’t seen in years.  These friends have aged and changed a bit – but somehow seem not so different from all those years ago, kind and involved in their community.

And then we were on our own,driving up the North Shore of Lake Superior, visiting State Parks, which much like old friends, have matured and changed but remain essentially the same.  Gooseberry Falls has a fancy visitor center.  But the falls were essentially the same, perhaps more torrential than I remembered due to a recent two inch rain.

Tettegouche State Park has spruced up its trails but they still lead to cliff top views of Lake Superior.

Bill and I had been to Grand Marais to cross country ski and I had hoped to show him a warmer Minnesota.  It wasn’t as warm as I hoped.  The grays of the overcast skies met the steely gray water with highs that only reached the 50s.  Warm weather was yet to arrive.




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Why are we going on a two month camping trip to Canada?

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A lot of camping gear!

The stuff is piled in the dining room.  We’ve done a test pack to make sure it will all fit in the car – along with David, who we will pick up in Calgary to join us for a week.  Lawn mowing, house checking, and other preparations have been arranged.  And soon we are off.

Perhaps just a little meditation on why we’re doing this is called for before we head out.

The first answer is probably because we can – or maybe that should be because we still can.  At our age, we have lost friends who can no longer do these things.  Others have illnesses that limit their activities.  We have slowed ourselves, but a leisurely car camping trip is something that we can handle and enjoy.  We hope the memories will carry us into the future.

We love the outdoors. Listening to tree frogs as we settle down to sleep on our comfy camp cots sounds like a great way to spend the summer months.  Hikes and bike rides let us slow down and see things.  We love the grand beauty of the mountains, but also the vastness of prairies and tundra.

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How many bins will fit in a compact car?

We thought we’d tie several of those someday trips into one.  A trip to see where my grandfather homesteaded on the Saskatchewan prairie, a visit to the highly touted Canadian Rocky parks of Banff and Jasper, a tour up the north shore of Lake Superior, a visit with some old friends…  Putting these things off might have meant we wouldn’t do them.

We want to be able to explore.  When we were working, trips were often crammed into short periods of time.  We have the time now and relish the idea of seeing not just the big name sights but also the smaller things – interesting little towns that most people blow through, out of the way parks, and little museums.  Small city baseball teams. Birds that fly through our part of the country on their way to summer breeding grounds.  People and places that we haven’t heard of and that will surprise us.

So friends and family, come along and we’ll do our best to share our adventure with you.


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