Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

"Going Up the Shore..."

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
Tags: nature, real life news

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