Today, because the September weather is so nice and I’m feeling nostalgic, I wanted to revisit a blog from way back when. The day held snow, but really, it held a lot of promise. This was back before Covid, before most of us had forgotten how to spell the word pandemic. It was a day on the verge of a new Spring here in Ely, Minnesota and that always feels special, full of promises about to be kept. It feels the opposite of what beautiful, Autumn days feel like. These days, during weeks like this, are full of appreciation for the wonderful Summer we’ve experienced. These days feel like our gas tanks are full and we are ready to hit the road.
It’s good to travel away from home in Ely and the Boundary Waters, even if it is only the short distance to the shores of Lake Superior. It’s good because no matter what time of year you choose to get away or no matter how long your trip is, you naturally return home with a new appreciation for what that word “home” means. I hope this is true for you too, and if, by chance, it isn’t, perhaps you should consider making Ely, Minnesota your new home. We’d love to have ya, dontcha know!
Back on April 17, 2017, my son Simon and I escaped for the day and headed into the wind, for the North Shore of Lake Superior. Down Highway One out of Ely, into the teeth of an April “snowstorm”. The flakes were huge and the further we drove, the more evidence of snow could be seen on the branches of the pines and forest floor. It was April, though, so 95 percent of it wasn’t destined to last the hour, let alone, the day.We turned off of Highway One and onto Two on our way towards Two Harbors. Easy on the directions, easy on the eyes. We stopped at two points of interest on our way through the forest and the surrounding lowlands. One was a little public access to a roadside lake and one was a forest service picnic area.
This particular spot has a sign titled, “Sentinels of the Past” and shares the fact that these old White Pines were already 70 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Standing under them, with the last evidence of of winter desperately clinging to their branches I couldn’t help but notice a chill running up my spine. They are survivors and they are a constant reminder that the forest around us is a living, breathing organism. It isn’t simply a place to enjoy, it is, very much so, a part of our home that has a much longer history than we do.
How many have stood under these trees? How many have stood there with their sons who are now men and are making preparations for college. What kind of lessons could be learned with time enough to sit on a fallen pine that has been in this place for 300 years or more? It was a quiet morning under the clouds and a perfect beginning to our road trip.
Ely is a great spot to visit and to kick off your Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips. It has a lot to offer, including spending time around town and our area before and/or after your canoe trips. The North Shore is less than two hours of driving that could include multiple wildlife sightings like moose and more! If you are visiting us for canoe adventure in the Boundary Waters, the North Shore is an excellent stop on your way to Ely or on your way home.
Our bookstore manager, Jordyn, saw a moose the day before we drove down Highway One and so did Drew Brockett, our canoe trip outfitting manager. Here’s a shot of the one he saw on Sunday.
We continued our trip, down to Two Harbors and took a left to check out how the waters of Gitche Gumee were breaking against the shore and the Split Rock Lighthouse.
Driving through massive tunnels in the granite, pulling over at various rivers and rest stops, listening to music on the winding road. Everything combined for a fantastic soundtrack to the best movie I’ve seen in years, right through the windows of the car. Best of all, whenever we wanted, we could park and walk right into the environment all around us.
The black sandy beach filled with battered and softened rocks and driftwood, the bike paths, the cold spray in our faces and the snowflakes that were by this time fading in their strength, these things woke me up to the beauty of Spring and the ice-out season.
We turned around at some point and headed to Duluth for lunch. Afterwards, we returned by the Scenic North Shore route and stopped to experience anything that caught our eyes. The sun had come out and the blue of the sky was now reflected in the big waters of our inland sea.
It was hard to leave…