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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

"Going Up the Shore..."

Posted on 2005.08.17 at 19:40
Tags: ,

This is just a little vacation note. Almost nothing about Tolkien or LotR or Frodo (imagine that!?!?!?!)

Although my daughter and I have flown this summer to visit family (in the Washington D.C. area and northern Califronia), my poor husband still has not been anywhere. This weekend, I booked the three of us into a suite at a condo sort of a resort that friends have recommended. The place was only 80 miles away, "up the Shore."

"Up the Shore," here in Minnesota, means the north shore of Lake Superior....

Lake Superior is bordered by Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin in the U.S., and by Ontario in Canada. My own city, to which I moved in 1999, is Duluth. It is at the southwest corner of the lake and marks the beginning of the "North Shore" in Minnesota.

Here's a map of North America (see black arrow), for folks not familiar with the Great Lakes:

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The lake's maximum length is 563 km (350 miles); it's widest place is 257 km (160 miles). Below is a map:

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In all these years, I have never been up to the famed scenic shoreline. I figured, in my jaundiced way, that it would look the same as here. Was I wrong!

Duluth is in a scenic location, because it rims the shore of the lake. If you have never seen Lake Superior, don't imagine a lake; imagine a sea. It is that big. Seagulls wheel over the Duluth harbour and ocean-going vessels sail into it, although Duluth is far inland (it is 3,780 km's from the ocean to this city via the system of lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway). Lake Superior is the western-most of the Great Lakes, as well as the highest, biggest, deepest and coldest. It's surface area is 82,000 sq. km. Compare that to Denmark, at just under 43,000 sq. km. It is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The Caspian Sea is bigger, but it has salt water. Lake Baikal, a huge fresh water lake, is not as large in sq. km's, but it does have a greater volume of water because it is still deeper.

Anyway, however lovely the lake, I have never cared for the land around my city, Duluth. Over the ridge from the lake is land that I call, "boring." Nearly flat, it is covered with second and third growth scrubby northern forest (mostly aspen, dying birch and various evergreens). The original forests of towering white pine that covered Minnesota were cut for lumber more than 100 years ago.

BUT, UP THE SHORE!!!!! Well, it is quite different! Was I wrong to assume it would look just the same. The land up there is what used to be mountains, now worn down into rugged hills covered with a variety of forest, with lots of exposed volcanic rock formations. Everywhere little rivers rush down through widened fissures in old lava beds and across beds of glacier morain where the land is flatter. This is a very geologically stable area -- these layers of volcanic rock are some of the oldest in North America. So, the North Shore of the lake itself is edged in many places by these old lava flows, which appear now as exposed shelves and ledges of lake-smoothed rock, scored by receding glaciers, all tipping and sliding in graduated tiers into this inland sea of a lake. In other places along the shore, the currents have cut the rock away to make vertical cliffs, some of which are so high, they remind me of fjords in Norway.

Just because I have bad-mouthed and denigrated this area's claim to natural beauty so often, I have written this entry and am posting the snaps below, none of which do justice to what we visited.

This was taken at Grand Marais, at a place called "Artists Point". There was a breakwater next to these long shelves of lake-smoothed volcanic rock, all scored by glacial action.

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On them, anonymous artists had created abstract sculptures, all over the place, out the rock fragments, all broken naturally into rectangular and trapezoidal solids.

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They were extremely neat looking. Much better than abstract sculpture I have seen anywhere else. And, they all will be knocked down when the fall storms come, so it is truly a "temporary exhibit."

Here is the one I liked best. It was about 5 feet high.

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Here's the shore line near the lava flow where all the impromptu sculptures were:

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The condo we rented for two nights (in the one on the extreme right) was in a little village south of there. The lake shore was twenty feet from the door. How lovely it sounded at night.

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Here's a photo from a hiking trail near where we stayed. It gives an idea of the sort of low, mountainous land that slopes down to the rugged shoreline on this side of the lake.

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Here is a view of a cove further south, at "Split Rock" where there is a lighthouse, now a museum. The island has a bird sancuary during the summer, which one can walk to over some rocks beginning August 16 when the fledglings have flown away.

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Here is a photo from a place on the shore that is only about forty miles north of Duluth, Palisade Head. This is the one that reminded me of the fjords of Norway (although they are much higher there). Looking down, the water of the lake was a very clear aquamarine. (Lake Superior's water is drinkable.) I think it was supposed to have been about 150 feet (about 50 meters) above the waterline.

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In the background, there is a really neat formation made by an eroded lava flow, but very huge.

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That's it for the "keeper" photos.

It just makes me laugh and blush to think I have lived here so many years, and never have bothered to go and see it. D'oh!

Little side note: On the last morning, it started out as overcast. We climbed up a mountain with a bald head of eroded volcanic rock called, "Carlton Peak". It was about two miles from the lake. Gazing from there at the lake, there were just a few glints of sun to add a bit of golden light to the mix. Otherwise, the lake looked the colour of molten metal, almost silver, with foggy wisps drifting over it. One could not tell where the water ended and the sky began. The wind was low and there was a sense of soft stillness on its surface.

My daughter, who is always teasing me about my love for LotR and Frodo said with a smirk, "I'll bet you are thinking of the end of the movie, aren't you, mom?" To be extra-snarky, she hummed a few bars of "Into the West."

In fact, I had been thinking of precisely that. Well, not quite that, since it was so grey (in the films it is limpidly gold and blue and lilac, all soft spring colours). I thought, instead, of Sam in the book, looking into out at the murmuring grey Sea, staring into the horizon where Frodo's boat has disappeared.

I thought with pleasure, Ha! -- my daughter had to be thinking of that moment in LotR, too, or she would not have thought of it to be able to tease me about it.

You see? She is a fan in spite of herself. Woo hoo!

~ Mechtild


ylla999 at 2005-08-18 05:43 (UTC) (Link)
I Love your snarky daughter..she sounds like she knows you very well!
Gorgeous pics Mech..sounds and looks like a relaxing vacation. Thanks for sharing it with us.
***Big Hugs to my Faculty sister***
mechtild at 2005-08-18 06:11 (UTC) (Link)
Ylla! Yes, my daughter is quite knowing, and rakes me over the coals on account of it. I should send you the scan I showed around of the birthday card she made me last year, featuring EW in his "happy shorts" shot from Flipper. It was too funny.

As for the trip, yes, it was exceptionally nice -- all the more so because I hadn't expected much. Nothing like underestimating my own state!

Can you believe it's practically September? I can't wait to see EII. I would love to see GSO, too, but I fear it won't be playing near us. (But I have my fingers crossed!)

P.S. Love the reference to "Flaunt" in your icon. Was that an intentional reference? I am thinking of that great article about EW by Shari Roman.
ellinestel at 2005-08-18 08:10 (UTC) (Link)
((((Mechtild)))) Thank you for a lovely report! The pictures are beautiful. I wish I could go there right now! :)
mechtild at 2005-08-18 12:25 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Ellin. Does the country resemble your neck of the world at all -- maybe Siberia? (Just in the winter.) Seriously, it is a place people visit in the winter, as well as in the summer. I don't know how to ski or I'd probably go there. There is a downhill skiing place, and, of course, there are crosscountry skiing trails ("Nordic skiing"?) all over the North shore. Snowshoe hikers like it, too. It is AWFULLY cold, though. I think I read that Duluth is the coldest city in the U.S., including cities in Alaska. There are other cities that get worse record lows, but the summers by the lake are so much cooler, the average temperature for the year is lowest. Heck, the low was in the thirties and forties for most of June here (Farenheit). Some days only reached into the fifties. It became warm in July, though. We even had a couple of days in the nineties.
maewyn_2 at 2005-08-18 10:20 (UTC) (Link)
Mechtild, what a beautiful part of the country you visited! I loved all of your pictures - the one of the lake lined with the huge cliffs is very striking. The house you stayed in looks the perfect place for a weekend break, peaceful, with a beautiful view. Unfortunately, these little breaks are over far too quickly, aren't they?
mechtild at 2005-08-18 12:30 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Maewyn. It's just the opposite to where you live, wouldn't you say? I wish I had done some close-ups of wild flowers for you, since you appreciate seeing the native plants of places so well.

The house we stayed in was part of a resort made up of condominiums (like "town houses), with various-sized units in them. We had to pay for a much more expensive one than we would have liked (two bedroom suite), but the smaller, cheaper studios were all sold out. But, we liked it so well, my husband and I plan to go at the end of October when the rates drop and rent one of the little studios. Unlike the suite we rented, they have little kitchens (which saves a lot of money!) and even fireplaces -- yet they still have the lake view. Whoopee! Bring out the bottles of wine!
golden_berry at 2005-08-18 14:23 (UTC) (Link)
How gorgeous! I wonder what it's like in the fall. It looks like the trees aren't all evergreens, so there might be good fall color. My husband has told me that northern Lake Superior is beautiful, but I had no idea of THIS.

Thanks for the photos and the tour, Mechtild! Some day, we'll have to come up to Duluth and head Up the Shore, or as Michiganders say, "Up North".
mechtild at 2005-08-18 15:09 (UTC) (Link)
Well, Goldenberry, you are right to be hopeful. Although the trees are nothing special down here around Duluth, up the shore there is a lot of maple, as well as the more typical stuff. It is one big traffic jam every weekend as it snakes up the only lakeshore highway. The fall is short, though, and relatively early. Usually the leaves peak during early October. In a few weeks, the red maples will already be showing their flame here and there.

Where in Michigan are you from? I have not visited Michigan except once when, during a summer, I drove across Wisconsin and stayed a couple of days in the Upper Michigan Peninsula to see an opera in Houghton. It was very beautiful there. I thought the land looked similar to what rises from the North Shore, except that the coast itself had lovely sandy beaches, and not just pebble and rock.
mariole at 2005-08-18 17:23 (UTC) (Link)
What lovely pictures! Thank you for posting those. I love that part of the country, but I haven't been near there since I was a little girl.
mechtild at 2005-08-19 04:04 (UTC) (Link)
Well, Mariole, if you liked it as a little girl, you'd probably like it even better now. But, don't forget, most of the year it's coooooooooooold!
maeglian at 2005-08-18 20:11 (UTC) (Link)
Mechtild, lovely pictures and interesting commentary! I really appreciated this. Thank you. I very much enjoy learning more about other places and reading impressions and description to go with them. And I agree - there is a similarity to Norwegian fiords and landscapes. :-)
mechtild at 2005-08-19 04:05 (UTC) (Link)
Maeglian, I am glad you enjoyed this. So many of us live in different parts of the world, I always am interested in seeing photos from people's trips. I loved the shot of the Odessa opera house on Ellin Estel's LJ. Did you see it?
lembas_junkie at 2005-08-22 11:31 (UTC) (Link)
Oh WOW! :D

I'm so glad I popped onto the computer this morning before I head out for a swim - your pictures are wonderful, Mech! :) I loved the formations of the lake-smoothed lava rock, and the feel of the place you rented by the shores seems just right. :)

I haven't seen the pictures of the deer and bear before. That was not a small bear (for a black bear!) in that yard, and those deer looked pretty cute:

Male: Hey bay-BEE!
Female: Tee hee!

Now, if you would be so kind as to point my in the direction that I may post comments/raves I must share after reading your newest chapter of "Threshold"?... ;)

mechtild at 2005-08-22 13:05 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Lembas! You speak!

Yes, the North Shore turned out to be a far more beautiful than I had expected. You would love it there -- endless, good hiking trails along with all that Sea-like water, complete with seagulls.

Yes, that was a biggish bear, although we saw one that big in our backyard the first summer we lived here. Was I scared! We were out doing yard work, and there he was in the neighbour's yard, strolling our way without a care in the world. I ran inside, but my husband lingered (showing off, in my opinion).

I will post a picture of that buck alone, just for you. My husband said it was the finest one he'd ever seen -- alive. Yes, she seemed quite coy with him as she stayed about twenty yards away; lying down, getting up, strolling, walking away.... ("Hi, there, big boy...nice rack you got there.")

As for posting comments about Threshold, would you want to, after that GREAT email review? Well, I am only too happy to have you say more, you write so well and have such good insights.

Some readers have posted on my previous journal entry, which announced Ch. 12:


Others have said something about the story (or chapter) in the Fanfiction thread at K-D.


Thanks so much, Lembas!
bagendbabe at 2005-08-26 01:54 (UTC) (Link)
What a lovely report, Mechtild! And what a beautiful part of the world you live in. Well, so do I, but very different!

Wow, the bear by the house is quite scary!!
mechtild at 2005-08-26 05:08 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, the bear by the house is quite scary!!

Well, it wasn't at our house, thank goodness! Can you imagine seeing it when you opened the door to get the paper? We have seen bears a few other times, though, and once in our back yard (while we were out there gardening - yikes!).

Where do you live, if I may ask? What part of the country - or world?

~ Mechtild
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