Lake Superior Waves

deep blue power

Lake Superior in a gale is awesome. There are cold colors of blue and purple and whitecaps. Today the temperature in Duluth was in the high thirties, while in Minneapolis, not more than a hundred some miles away it was near a hundred.

The power of the cold is felt on your face and it chills your bones. The granite shelves of the north shore are slightly warmed by the sun. How different from the salty bathwater beauty of Oahu with its sand beaches and tropical warmth. Lake Superior is brutal and stark, and the north shore has cliffs and waterfalls and boulders that are harsh and can be deadly.

And yet, the inland sea grows on you and you miss it. The Wisconsin side has its own personality with Bayfield apple orchards and Apostle Islands ferries and sailboats. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a forest with mountains and lakes and the beaches there also have the desolate beauty of driftwood and distance.

I love the North Shore for its small towns, Two Harbors and Grand Marais, for the resorts and lodges and shops. The birch trees and Sawtooth mountains are part of the drive around Lutsen. In Ontario you have Thunder Bay and WaWa and Marathon and a wealth of wilderness that is worth the drive.

North of Duluth

Duluth has its own feeling, and the summer months are filled with tourists and Twin Cities folk escaping the heat or going to the cabin up north. Superior Wisconsin has its own part of a sand beach called Wisconsin point and the Minnesota side is called Park Point. It feels kind of like Cape Cod.

I like the smoked fish that come from Lake Superior. Inland salmon, smoked herring, lake trout, ciscos and the mild wonderful taste of whitefish. My favorite place to stay is called Naniboujou Lodge, north of Grand Marais. It is usually booked, but also has a great restaurant and wonderful ambiance with its Cree Indian great dining room painting.

The parks along the north shore are worth noting. The waterfalls of Gooseberry, Split Rock Light House, Cascade River, and Judge Magney State Park are a few you drive by. Grand Portage has history and High Falls on the Pigeon River on the International border is pretty cool.

There are artists and craft people along the North shore and a mix of locals and passers by that is evident each summer season. When autumn comes and moose season comes, the highway is less crowded and once fall foliage dies down the quiet of winter takes over, at least until ski season or sled dog races.

There was ice on the lake this winter, and the masses of ice broke up and floated away, but the cold remains. The air has a freshness and allergy sufferers find relief in its purity. The North Shore smells of wood smoke and lilacs might bloom in late June or July. Its climate weans out the non sweater people. It is wise to have a cap and jacket on hand if the wind shifts.

Northern lights

Northern lights
Northern lights

A great lake

Sometimes the great lake is quiet, lulled to rest as its great depths settle. Its size will capture your soul, even in a different way than the ocean, for this is an inland sea of fresh water, fresh cold water and yet there are ocean vessels that visit and large ships carrying coal or iron ore or grain.

The sea gulls are hardy here, yet they do beg in Duluth by the fast food places or the parking lots of Target and KMart. You might see a loon floating and ducks and hawks flying by the hundreds in the Autumn.

If you have never seen Lake Superior up close, it is worth the trip, just as flying near Mount Everest is worth it. I have never seen Lake Baikal in Russia, and there is debate over which has more water, as that lake is very very deep and Lake Superior is just big and deep.

In any event, it is a special place, but it is cold.

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1 comment

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Wonderfully written, evocative piece. I grew up on Lake Michigan and I have been on every Great Lake except Superior. I need to make that trip someday. I really enjoyed this. Thanks.

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