Wednesday - August 22nd: Bye-bye, Beatrice Lake, Hello...?

Our last morning on Beatrice lake was a leisurely one and we finally got around to the chore of packing up the van.

Kayak on Beatrice Lake

Photo by Betsy

First came the kayaks which had to be hauled up to the parking area and then hoisted up on top of the van.
That done we stowed the cookware, stove, tent and all the other miscellaneous stuff that goes along with "Kitchen sink camping".
Then it was down the road we went. Next stop - the Arrowhead Region. Or so we thought...

Beatrice to Washburn

We picked up CR 22 and in short order we were on SR 1 which would take us all the way over to the shores of Lake Superior. Minnesota State Highway 1 runs the width of Minnesota starting at the North Dakota state line and ending at Lake Superior - a total distance of 346 miles.

We passed by Lake Vermillion which covers 61 square miles (39272.25 acres). The size of some of the lakes up here is staggering.
We went by Soudan Underground Mine State Park which borders on Lake Vermillion. The park was established to showcase Minnesota's oldest iron ore mine.

In the late 19th century, prospectors searching for gold in northern Minnesota discovered extremely rich veins of hematite at this site, often containing more than 65% iron. An open pit mine began operation in 1882, and moved to underground mining by 1900 for safety reasons.

From 1901 until the end of active mining in 1962, the Soudan Mine was owned by the United States Steel Corporation's Oliver Iron Mining division. By 1912 the mine was at a depth of 1,250 feet (381 m). When the mine closed, level 27 was being developed at 2,341 feet (713.5 m) below the surface and the entire underground workings consisted of more than fifty miles of drifts, adits, and raises. In 1965, US Steel donated the Soudan Mine to the State of Minnesota to use for educational purposes.

Source: WikiPedia

20 miles east of Soudan we reached the town of Ely. This is the jumping off point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). I don't think we saw one vehicle that did not have canoe or kayak paraphernalia in or on it.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA), is a 1,090,000-acre (4,400 km2) wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota (USA) under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. The BWCAW is renowned as a destination for both canoeing and fishing on its many lakes and is the most visited wilderness in the United States.

The BWCAW is located on the U.S.-Canadian border in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota. Along with Voyageurs National Park to the west and the Canadian Quetico and La Verendrye Provincial Parks to the north, they make up a large area of contiguous wilderness lakes and forests called the "Quetico-Superior country", or simply the Boundary Waters. Lake Superior lies to the east of the Boundary Waters.

Source: WikiPedia

Ely looked like an interesting town and I hope we get back some day to have a closer look.
Last summer I was in another town named Ely. That Ely is in Nevada. A very different place than this town of Ely in far northern Minnesota.

I am not exactly sure where, but not far from Ely we got put on another detour. This was at least the 3rd substantial detour since we had been in Minnesota.
This detour took us from a small, scenic two lane black top to a narrow, dusty US Forest Service road which we shared with RVs and lots of big log trucks. It might have been OK if the scenery was nice. But the detour took us through mile after mile of logged over and beat up looking woods. Pretty sad looking.

At some point we got back on the main highway (SR 1) and it was smooth sailing from there on. By the time we reached Finland the traffic had thickened a bit. We passed the Maple Grove Motel & Bait Shop, then a USFS campground which we looked at. Not to our liking. Small cramped sites inhabited mostly by large RVs. We drove on.

Soon we intersected Minnesota State Highway 61 and got our first view of Lake Superior. We were now in the heart of the Arrowhead Region.

Arrowhead Region of Minnesota

The Arrowhead Region of Minnesota

We turned south on SR 61 and headed towards Duluth. We thought we would see a number of mom and pop motels. And we did see a few. And we saw a few campgrounds as well. They all had something in common: "Full-up" signs. Bummer.
Now I am sure we could have found a room in one of the $150/nite places, but to tell you the truth after spending all that quiet time at Beatrice Lake this place seemed like a noisy, busy mess.

We eventually pulled in to a rest stop along the shore to have some lunch and look over the maps. As we sat there watching all the traffic go by on busy SR 61, we decided peak season was not the time for us to be here. We have gotten to used to travelling the Great Lakes Region in May and June when most people stay home waiting for the weather and water to warm up. Yes, we are spoiled - we admit it.
The upshot is, we decided to just beat feet and head south and then east over to Wisconsin and hope for a quiet, out of the way place to stay for a couple of days.

So with that decision, our "3 Weeks in Minnesota" came to an unceremonious end and soon we were driving through a quiet, rural and wooded section of Wisconsin. We both breathed a sigh of relief!

As we travelled northeast on Wisconsin SR 13 we passed by Brule River State Forest which I am told has some fabulous hiking as well as 44 miles of the Bois Brule River and 8 miles of frontage on Lake Superior. Brule is definitely going to be on the top of the list the next time we get up this way.
As we drove along we caught occasional glimpses of the south shore of Lake Superior which is, by volume, the world's third largest freshwater lake, the first being Lake Baikal in southern Siberia and the second being Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.

We drove through the tiny town of Port Wing, another place worth a closer look on the next trip. We continued on north past Bark Bay, the town of Cornucopia and then Siskiwit, and Mawike Bays. At that point RT 13 went due east and we crossed the peninsula to Buffalo Bay then headed south to our destination of Bayfield.
Earlier that day I had called the HQ for The Apostle Island National Lake Shore and asked about lodging in the area. They assured me there were lots of mom and pops in the town of Bayfield which was on the east side of the Bayfield Peninsula.And now we were only a few miles from Bayfield and soon would be on The Great Hotel Hunt.

As soon as we rolled into Bayfield I let out an involuntary groan of disgust. What we saw were busy sidewalks peopled by well dressed folks who were busily going in and out of the "cute little shops". As we continued on through Bayfield I knew we had ended up in one of the places I most dread - a Tourist Trap.

In spite of what we had been told by the folks at the Apostle Island National Lake Shore office, we saw nothing resembling "mom and pop hotels". At least not the kind we were used to. And anything which looked remotely affordable had "No Vacancy" signs up. After several drive throughs, we headed to the local Tourism office to try to get more lodging info. Betsy went in and instead of personal help from someone on staff, she was directed to an electronic "Lodging Board" with all the places listed and whether they had vacancies or not.

As I sat in the car watching all the people and traffic roll by, I was now sure I did not want to stay here in Bayfield. I walked into the Tourism office and found Betsy on the phone. When she was off I told her as much. She told me not to worry as there was nothing in Bayfield available, at least not in our price range. But, she did find a place in the next town down the road in Washburn which sounded promising. And after a brief discussion she called them and booked two nights.
We got a suite with two beds and a kitchenette ($88.00) for two nights. Our room had a view of the lake, windows that opened and a place to sit outside which faced toward Lake Superior. This same place would have been at least double the amount in Bayfield.

As soon as we rolled into Washburn, we knew it would be more to our liking - a no frills working class town, a bit rough around the edges to be sure, but it didn't put on airs. It doesn't need to - it's fine the way it is. Betsy said something to the effect "Bayfield would have been fine with me, but this will be better." By "better" she meant quieter and less trendy/touristy.

We found our hotel - the North Coast Inn and Suites and while Betsy checked in I went down the street to the IGA for some munchies and beer. When I got back from the store, I pulled around back and we started unloading our stuff. Our place had a lake view as promised, and everything else we needed to set up housekeeping for a coupla days - range, fridge, micro, etc. Like the little town of Washburn, the North Coast Inn had obviously seen better days. It was a little shabby "out back" and needed some work, but the room was fine and we had no complaints.

We opened up the windows and doors to get some fresh air in the room and then we took our munchies - smoked trout and whitefish - to the grassy area out back and sat there enjoying the warm sunshine and the view of the lake. What was intended to be a snack ended up being our dinner, and a tasty one at that.
We then retired for the evening. What started out to be a short day's drive to the Arrowhead had turned into a long one and one which got a bit tedious towards the end. But all was well now.


Let's take a little tour of where we are staying.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

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Here we see the street view of the North Coast Inn and Suites. The suites are behind these units.
Everyone up here seems to plant loads of petunias and the North Coast Inn is no exception. Obviously they do very well in these here parts.

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I thought the water catchers were a nice touch.

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This is behind the street facing units. Nice touch of color, don't you think!?

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Can't believe the way the petunias grow up here. Amazing.

  Your Innkeepers: Yvonne Liu and Domenico Magarelli

Photo from the North Coast Inn website.

These are the innkeepers Yvonne Liu and Domenico Magarelli. Domenico is from Italy. Yvonne is from Taiwan.

When Domenico was a dining room captain on the cruise ship that inspired the TV series, "The Love Boat", he met Yvonne, who was on board for a seven-day cruise. It was the start of a relationship that led to being married.

After serving on the ship for 20 years, Domenico felt it was time to settle down and he teamed up to run the motel in Santa Barbara, California, that Yvonne had owned for nearly two decades. After they sold the motel, they moved to Newport Beach.

Even though we were in southern California, we had tired of air pollution and crowds and were looking for a more unspoiled area, rich with natural beauty. Since Domenico’s home port in Italy had been an apartment on the ocean and since our motel in California was close to the ocean, we wanted to be near water.

After a two year search we settled on Washburn and decide to purchase the North Coast Inn and Chalets which was up for sale at the time. We bring to the inn years of experience in both inn keeping and hospitality, and as on-site owners, look forward to welcoming you, and are available to provide you with the personal attention you expect at a country inn.


What a great story. I never heard anything like that from the owners of a Motel 6.

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It was hard to say whether these two antique outboards were part of the nautical decor or whether they were left there and just forgotten. Sorta like some of the stuff back home at our place.

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This is the back side access to our room. I thought the overhead braces were an interesting way to deal with what must be substantial snow load on the roof.




Thursday, August 23

The next morning while Betsy caught up on her beauty sleep I went out for a day break stroll.

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Just minutes out the back door is the marina at Vandeventer Bay. I am not the nautical type so I had lots to look at which was new to me.

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I wonder if there are as many boats as cars up here? Not much activity at this time of the morning. And I am sure the forbidding looking clouds might keep a lot of people off the water.

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These log boxes were lined up on the cargo dock. I can only guess as to their purpose.

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If you know what these things might be for, let me know.

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I found this secluded little beach near the marina. A nice spot to put in a canoe, cast a line or doze in the sun.

When I arrived back at the room, Sleeping Beauty was up and lounging in bed with her coffee and Nook. We talked about the plans for the day. Considering the weather I was not too keen on taking out the kayaks and I could not get enthused about doing much of anything.
But Betsy was a bit more motivated and ambitious and decided to get out while I stayed in and did some web work.
Here is an excerpt from Betsy's journal.

It was sprinkling and slightly ominous looking when we woke up. Probably not a good day to try to paddle our kayaks out to one of the Apostle Islands. Mike didn't seem too keen on the idea of doing much of anything. I decided that while I was here I was going to see the Apostle Islands, so I signed up for a three hour water tour on the Island Princess.

I drove up from Washburn to Bayfield, got a coffee, picked up my ticket and got in line to get on the boat. There were two boats and I got on the smaller one which had just been built earlier in 2012. As we set off, it was sprinkling, but that ended as we got farther out into the water. It was, however, quite windy and I chose to sit on the outside deck.

As we passed each of the islands, we were told the history and interesting stories about that island. For instance, Devil’s Island is known for its sea caves which undercut its shoreline. They also told us that after the Chicago fire, people were looking for a building material which was fire resistant, and the sandstone (or brownstone) of the islands became very desirable and was being quarried. But it was eventually determined that brownstone buildings could only be constructed so high and so brownstone fell out of favor when steel came into use. In fact, we saw on the shore of one of the islands a load of quarried brownstone which no one had ever bothered to remove from the island.
It was an interesting tour and although it was a little long, I was glad I had taken it.

The next 4 photos Betsy took while on her Island Princess tour of the Apostle Islands.

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Photo by Betsy

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Photo by Betsy

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Photo by Betsy

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Photo by Betsy



Betsy returned by mid-afternoon and the wind, rain and clouds were all but gone, so we decided to go for a walk about town. On my sunrise stroll I has noticed a shoreline walking trail so we set out to find it. We walked a combination of streets and the ORV trail and ended up at Thomson's West End Park where we found the trailhead.

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We followed the trail which wandered along the shoreline. The vegetation varied - trees, shrubs and fields. The sun was warm and it was pretty toasty now.
The above photo shows a Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) with the red stag horn which bears the fruit and seeds.
Another plant which belongs to the genus Rhus is Poison Ivy (Rhus toxicodendron (synonym. Toxicodendron radicans) which is a plant which many people have become familiar with, for better or for worse. There is also a Poison Sumac (Rhus vernix)which can be thought of as Swamp Poison Ivy since Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swamps and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada.
But wait - there's still more! Although some of the species of Rhus may be toxic to humans, Rhus typhina, the one shown above is actually used for a beverage. The "stag horns" are steeped in hot water to make a spicy, tangy "Rhus Juice".

We followed the shoreline trail to the western end and then followed a series of streets up to downtown Washburn, passing Washburn Iron Works along the way.

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We walked by this gorgeous old building on East Bayfield Street. Built in 1890 by A.C.Probert to house a bank, it is now Washburn Cultural Center, built to last from the local Apostle Island brownstone Betsy mentions above.

Just across the street we found the Chequamegon Book store which had an excellent inventory of used books, something I did not expect in a town the size of Washburn.
A yelp review summed it up nicely:

This is a dying breed: a big used bookstore. They have all kinds of hard cover and softcover books. These include some great children's books too, another increasingly hard to find item. They also have some music CD's, some DVD's, and an adjacent postage stamp size coffee shop. It's good enough to be a destination in and of itself.

The more I read about Washburn and this area, the more it makes me want to spend more time here.
This is a good history site called Washburn Through The Years and it is worth a look.

After our shopping spree at Chequamegon Books, we head back to the North Coast Inn where we had pan fried steak, salad and corn for supper followed by relaxing, reading and TV.

Tomorrow we will continue east although we still have no destination set. But it is hard to go wrong up in this neck of the woods.


See you then...