Friday, June 20, 2014

Trip to MN: Just the two of us

During my three week visit to MN I shared many good times with family and friends, experience two great fishing trips, spend time outside taking pictures, played a round of golf with uncles, and went birding often. Birding and warblers will be the topic of a future blog post. Of all the activities, the highlight of my trip was taking a trip to the North Shore with Christine. Since the girls were born Christine and I have spent time limited time alone. This  jaunt to Lake Superior was memorable and therapeutic.

We left Friday morning for the North Shore with no destination, itinerary, or schedule. We hoped to sleep when we needed to sleep, stop for food when we were hungry, hike/walk whenever we could, and watch a movie if everything else fell through. Sunny weather on the drive taunted us to slow down and spend more time outside, as the forecast for Saturday was rain. Along the way we found a locked gate on what appeared to be through road in the MN Gazetteer. The backtrack took longer than desired and we chose to skip Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge all together. We mixed a few short birding stops throughout the four hour trip and stopped for supper at the Duluth Buffalo Wild Wings. Many mosquitoes greeted us as we set tent at Eckbeck Campground at dusk.

Alas the weatherman was correct and rain came in the middle of the night. With no kids, no agenda, and crappy weather outside we rolled over and went back to sleep a couple of times. Sometime late morning we finally got rolling in the drizzle and faced our first and perhaps most important decision of the day. Turn south on 61 towards Duluth and go watch a matinee or turn north on 61 with no goal or specific location in mind. I'm not sure if Christine shared her decision by the time I turned north, but the risk worked out.

The gondola ride at Lutsen Mountain sounded like fun but with precipitation the views were limited so we chose to continue north. When we reached Grand Marais we walked the break wall and trails at Artist Point. Ducks, mergansers, loons, warblers, a yellow-bellied flycatcher, and many cedar waxwings joined us as we explored the trails but we did not bring cameras with in the rain.

The cool wet air gave us the chills along the break wall.

To warm up we explored town by foot, finding a Bike Shop along the path to Subway. During an hour lunch the rain subsided and we decided to grab the cameras. We returned to Artist Point in search of Cedar Waxwing photos, below are some photos from the hour long excursion.

This view north across the bay from Artist Point is now our new blog background.
Christine frames a Cedar Waxwing in the camera while 13 of them looking on in the background.
This portrait of a Cedar Waxwing is my favorite from Christine's many sharp photos.
Even though Waxwings repeated the above task often, getting a good picture proved challenging.
This eastern chipmunk had no problem being within a few feet of me.

We made bookend stops at the self proclaimed World's Best Donut Store, which we can attest is worth the stop on any visit to Grand Marais, while walking through the classic car show and a few shops in town. With the sun attempting to poke through the clouds we left with high hopes from the above photo shoot and drove south along 61. The few stops searching for waterfowl did not yield much but the lake fog was cool to see. We then hiked Oberg Mountain. With the morning rain gone, we spent the better part of three hours listening, observing, and taking photos of nature.

Black-throated Blue Warblers are not one we often see.
An American Red Squirrel came close to check out Christine.
Honeysuckle, aka Red Columbine, were one of many wildflowers.
We liked the view away from Lake Superior  the best, with Oberg lake just peeking out here.

Blessings can come in many different forms and may even be unique across individuals. The time spent on top of Oberg Mountain was a true blessing for me. Taking photos in nice weather is often fun. Having warblers calling all around usually makes me happy. But the proverbial straw that tipped the scale was seeing Christine experience pure joy and peace that only happens once in a blue moon when everything clicks. I'm not sure if it was the sun, the animals, the Cedar Waxwing photo excursion, the wildflowers, having good donuts in our belly, the birds, or my Black-throated Blue Warbler happy dance but Christine was carefree and happy.  With no time to think, put a smile on her face or turn around, or remember our burdens or worries I sneaked this first photo by calling her name. It is possible that I'm the only one that sees a difference in Christine's smile between the first and second photos below, but when you see pure joy in someone you love it warms the heart. This one experience by itself was a true blessing, trumping all else that had  preceded it during the three week visit.

Seconds after seeing a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Lake Superior is under the fog bank on the right.
The picturesque view of Oberg Lake.

I woke up frozen Sunday morning and gave Christine my sleeping bag before going outside early to listen to the various dawn chorus bird songs of the campground. We stopped for a quick hike at Tettegouche State Park and with warmer temperatures we took a longer hike at Split Rock State Park. Taking photos of birds was our goal, but I'll save those photos for  later.

The weekend away was great, allowed us to connect, and left us with many photos. One the drive back we heard how Michaela, Danielle, and Grandpa and Grandma Gold liked Shrek the Musical. That call reminded me of how blessed I am by my daughters and supportive parents, and at least for this weekend jaunt I was able to experience just the two of us.

Split Rock Lighthouse.


cindy said...

wonderful post, great pictures. This is a great memory to recall when the apartment in Kansas City get's too small.

Steph said...

Lovely trip, wonderful memories and so deserved. You will always treasure these times. So glad that you could get away and know that the girls are happily spending time with grandma and grandpa! Love to you all! Steph