Thursday, October 25, 2007

North Shore Adventure!

And welcome to Dan and Catherine's North Shore Adventure.

(We went out of town last weekend. The first two days were a lot of average diner food, average pizza, and time spent doing band stuff, since Dan's band headlined the UFO convention in Duluth. However, after all the "hurry up and wait" was over, we spent two more days exploring the North Shore, armed with a full tank of gas and no plan, other than a list of recommended restaurants from my coworker Missy, who grew up in Duluth. Hence, Dan and Catherine's North Shore Adventure, beginning on Day 3.)

I posted in reverse order, so the posts will read chronologically as you scroll down.

Enjoy my little tour of Lake Superior and northern Minnesota!

Day 3 (Sunday) -- Gooseberry Falls

After a just-okay, diner-typical breakfast, we decided our first order of business, now that our "real" vacation time was beginning, was a nice, long hike. Gooseberry Falls, here we come!

This sign is so "Minnesota:"
Yeah, we don't put signs in our state parks that read, "NO SWIMMING." We are too "nice" for that -- we prefer to say, "Swimming Not Recommended." Sheesh. :)

Gooseberry Falls:

After hiking down along the falls, we decided to continue along the river, all the way to the lakeshore. Saw these cool tree roots as we hiked:

This was a hike peppered with signs of wildlife. Clearly, a beaver was here!

More wildlife -- this little squirrelly friend was interested in us, but smart enough to keep a safe distance. Thank goodness, since I am more than a little frightened of overly friendly squirrels!

Gooseberry River:

Lake Superior!
You can just barely make out the "line" in the water -- where the brownish, clay-rich river water butts up against the clearer blue lake water. This obvious distinction between the two was just fascinating to me!

There were a bunch of these driftwood-made tee-pees along the beach:
Dan was afraid he was too tall for the tee-pees, so I decided to climb in and check one out.

Dan, communing with the rocks and water:

Another wildlife interaction. On our hike back, Dan suddenly yelped and grabbed my arm back -- I jumped about a foot, until I noticed what I almost stepped on:
Thanks to Dan's attention, I didn't step on this little snake dude. Dan helped him off the path and back into the forest using a small stick.

After our hike, we looked forward to a sit-down in the car, while we continued to drive further north.

Day 3 (Sunday) -- Split Rock Lighthouse

Tired from our hike but still having a little bit of energy left, we decided to continue north and stop for a tour of Split Rock Lighthouse. This was, by far, the most tourist-ey thing we did during the entire trip, but we both enjoyed the tour (our guide was a cool, old guy who was very excited and informative,) and learned a little bit, too.

The lighthouse:

View of the keepers' homes, from the deck of the lighthouse:

Going up . . .

The lens (this was huge, and very beautifully constructed):
The lens is, as I understand it, clock-operated, so it needs to be wound periodically. It was neat to watch it rotate over our heads, catching the light. (Although it was not actually lit -- the lighthouse is only lit a few times a year nowadays.)

Old Skool stove in the head keeper's home:

Christmas card worthy:
(Too bad I don't send Christmas cards!)

After our tour, we decided to move on and up -- up north, that is!

Day 3-4 (Sunday-Monday) -- Grand Marais

After little debate, we decided to make the drive "all the way" up to Grand Marais. Ravenously hungry, the first order of business was finding an excellent place to enjoy some dinner. Dan had heard of The Angry Trout Cafe, (his brother had eaten there during a past trip to the North Shore,) and remembered where it was located, so after a brief glance through the menu, we settled in at a table overlooking the lake. Angry Trout serves sustainable, locally-grown, mostly organic, incredibly tasty seafood and vegetarian fare. (We're talking so sustainable, they use small cloth napkins to conserve wash water, and only have reuseable, hard-plastic to-go containers -- you leave your name and promise to return the container the next day!) Dan started with a cup of their fish chowder, featuring several of the day's catches, (and Yukon Gold potatoes, which might be one of his favorite foods,) and also enjoyed an order of fish and chips, and I had homemade spinach pasta tossed in an amazing hazelnut pesto, with a huge buttermilk-bleu cheese dressed salad on the side. We also ordered organic hot tea, which was served in gigantic, hand-thrown teapots, with hand-thrown mugs to match. An incredibly delicious, incredibly satisfying meal to end a very busy day. (I couldn't help but order a slice of their lemon-ginger cake to go, which our waitress kindly packed in a waxed paper bag for me, so I didn't have to worry about bringing back the to-go container the next day.)

After dinner, we found a hotel, checked in, went for a walk along the lake, and turned in for the night. (Having cable TV is a nice treat! We watched shows about bears and tigers on the Discovery Channel.) The next morning, after Dan slept in and I had some oatmeal at the free hotel breakfast, we took a walk along the shoreline.

We had noticed this lighthouse the night before:
We decided to wander our way over.

View from the beach:

Puddles along the rocky shore:

A stream trickling through the rock into the lake:

Beautiful, sunny morning:

I thought these rocks, covered with orange iron deposits, were pretty dang cool:

After much meandering, we finally made it to the lighthouse!
Nothing too terribly exciting, but we did meet a cool guy from Israel who asked us to take his picture. He was in Minnesota visiting a friend, and he said he liked Minnesota very much, although it was very, very cold for him!

After our walk, we worked up an appetite and decided to have lunch at Gunflint Tavern. Dan had eaten there during a previous trip, and remembered the amazing food, hip atmosphere, and again, commitment to organics. Unbeknownst to me, Grand Marais is this little, quaint, town full o' hippies in way northern Minnesota! Wahoo! (They even have a co-op!) Anyhow, back to lunch. Dan ordered tap rootbeer and the burger of the day -- covered with sauteed portobello mushrooms and gouda cheese, and I ordered their wild mushroom ravioli, which was served with a side of deliciously simple sauteed veggies dressed in what I think was some kind of balsamic glaze. (Oh yeah -- big salad to start, again.) Dan ordered an espresso after we finished eating, and I couldn't help ordering dessert again -- espresso pot de creme! Sigh. Lunch was amazing . . . and boy was I FULL!

After lunch, Dan let me do a little bit of shopping -- we poked into a couple of stores and an art gallery, where we scored some free herbal tea. (Yum!)

Dan skipped rocks while I browsed in a teeny, local bookstore:

After our shopping adventures and a quick debate as to whether we should head further north or start heading back south, we piled into the car, making the responsible choice to slowly start heading towards home. Southward bound, with two hikes planned for the afternoon.

Day 4 (Monday) -- Cascade River

As we began the drive back south, we made our first hiking stop of the day at Cascade River. It is my understanding that Cascade River begins in a lake in the Boundary Waters, and eventually empties into Lake Superior.

After a very short hike, you can start to hear the water rushing, and then . . .
. . . yeowza! The river was high, fast, noisy, and those falls were damn impressive. Dan and I agreed that Cascade River was much more impressive than Gooseberry Falls, and much less crowded.

We continued up and along the river for a while, and the river continued to impress us. There were several areas where you could climb out on the rocks overlooking the river and falls.

Dan pointed this out:
I believe he used the phrase "stabbing the sky" to describe this dying birch tree.

After turning off the main trail into a less-travelled trail along the creek and up "Lookout Mountain," which we never made it to the top of, we returned to the river and hiked along to the end. There goes the river, under the highway and into Lake Superior!

Here comes the river:

River water rushing out and mixing with lake water:

Beautiful afternoon sun:

I convinced Dan, even though it was only about 50 degrees out, (and the lake water had to have been MUCH colder,) to go wading. Dan's feet:
I think this is my favorite picture from this trip.

After Dan dried his feet and put his shoes back on, we returned to the car and continued south, planning one more stop before dinner.

Day 4 (Monday) -- Tettegouche State Park, The End.

As we continued south back along Hwy 61, we made one last hiking stop at Tettegouche State Park. We hiked out to Shovel Point, a large cliff along the rocky shore.

This is Shovel Point:
Yes, indeed, we hiked all the way out there. According to the map the trail was only about a mile round-trip, but because of the rocky terrain, uneven ground, and many many stairs, the hike took us almost an hour. Was it worth it, though!

Just as you begin the hike, you make a choice between hiking down to the beach (below,) or turning and heading uphill.
We went uphill, obviously.

As we hiked through the woods towards Shovel Point, I noticed these two trees growing over a large boulder:
When we looked back through our pictures, Dan noticed that the roots on the left look like a person, leaning back with its head behind the tree in the foreground. I love when nature has so much personality!

Almost there . . .

Amazing views . . .

Fully exhausted, we hopped back in the car, beginning to feel a little sad -- our vacation was almost over! On our way to Duluth, we finally visited one of the places on Missy's list -- Betty's Pies in Two Harbors. I picked up a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie to go, planning to save it for dessert later on.

Arriving in Duluth and craving Thai food, we settled on Vietnamese. Dan and I pigged out on cream cheese wontons, tofu and veggies, and curried mock duck at Taste of Saigon, located in Canal Park. After dinner, we took one last walk along the lake shore, waving good-bye to Lake Superior as we turned back to the car and drove home.

As much as we both wish we were still on vacation, we know all good things must come to an end. We convinced ourselves that if we had vacation every day, we'd just end up taking all of that free time, relaxation, and nature's beauty for granted, right?

Anyhow, we had so much fun, we've decided to make the North Shore Adventure an annual trip.

Man, I miss the lake already.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

When reading Bazu's blog a week or so ago, I learned about Blog Action Day -- a day when bloggers across the globe unite and agree to blog about a common issue. This year's issue is environmentalism.

Today's the day, so where to begin?

A couple of years ago, I was very fortunate to land a position teaching preschool at a nature center. Although this position had both pros and cons, I did have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the environment -- both the immediate environment in which I live, and the greater environment of our planet. I learned the power of my choices -- I could choose to continue living my life the way I was, or I could choose to make some changes. As cheesy as it sounds, I chose change.

Why? Because I could already see, in many small ways, what we are doing to our environment. I have noticed that our winters in Minnesota just aren't that cold any more, and we don't get all that much snow. Our summers seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, and we often experience drought conditions.

I also saw changes that I needed to make in my own life. I was overweight, tired a lot, sick a lot, wrestled with some skin problems, and just generally never really felt like I was at my best.

I stepped back and reexamined many of my personal choices. Boy, did I change.

I became a strict vegetarian, enjoying dairy products and eggs as occasional treats. I learned a whole new way of cooking based on fresh, hopefully locally-grown produce, mostly whole grains, tofu, beans, nuts, and other tasty foods that barely graced my kitchen in the past. I cut down on sugar, refined grains, and WAY down on processed foods. I started shopping almost exclusively at my local co-op, knowing that I would have to think less and read labels less if I let them do some of the initial product choosing for me. I lost almost 40 pounds, and have kept the weight off for over two years now.

I started walking. I'd always enjoyed walking for fun, but I started to see walking as both enjoyment and transportation. Places I would have driven before, I started walking to. Little by little, I drove my car less and less, prefering to walk, bike, or take the bus. Last fall my car broke down, I donated it to charity, and I haven't looked back. I am extremely fortunate that I live, work, shop, see my friends, worship, and entertain myself all within a couple miles from my home. I'm in my community more than I ever have been, and I love it.

I started thinking harder about how I choose to spend my money. I buy products that are manufactured in a sustainable way, that use minimal packaging, and that have a low impact on our environment. I use mostly Seventh Generation cleaning and laundry products, shop from the bulk bins at my co-op whenever possible, buy fair-trade coffee, and avoid plastic as much as I can. I purchase recycled toilet paper and recycled paper towels (the two rolls a year that I use!) I purchase recycled computer paper, and refill my printer ink cartridges. I try to frequent restaurants in my city that cook with locally-grown, organic ingredients, that offer recyclable and/or reuseable to-go containers, and that shy away from disposeable napkins, plates, cups, and serving utensils.

I started thinking about what I waste. I switched to cloth napkins at home, use rags for cleaning (instead of paper towels,) and purchased a washable microfiber duster instead of using disposeable cloths. I save paper that has only been used on one side for scratch paper. I use cloth bags to haul my groceries and to protect my produce and bulk grocery items. I try to avoid throwing things away -- I carefully consider new purchases, often spending a little more money on a higher quality item which will last much longer. I take care of the things I own, and donate items I no longer find a use for to charity. I use rechargable batteries and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. I refill my pens. I refuse a plastic lid and a cardboard jacket when I purchase coffee from a coffee shop. I don't take a plastic lid or a straw when I buy a cup of pop. I take one paper napkin (as opposed to eight million!) when I dine out.

I know, despite all of the changes I've made, I'm just not done. I want to do more, and sometimes feel stuck -- stuck in a system that is working against me, stuck talking to people that don't want to listen, stuck taking baby steps when I want to move farther, faster.

Hey, but this whole Blog Action Day thing is pretty darn exciting -- it's inspiring to see a gazillion more people out there who feel the way I do. Go check out other people's blogs, and see what else we're doing to take better care of our environment.

Do more.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

two weeks?!?!??

How is it that I've been gone from the blogosphere for two whole weeks?

Well, I haven't been home much, and I've been eating out quite a bit, too. I've popped over to Chipotle with friends a couple of times, grabbed sandwiches from the coffee shop for lunch on my break at work, and Dan and I have been to the Holy Land Deli, to the Vietnamese place on my block (AMAZING stir-fried tofu with veggies,) and this morning, to Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. (Mighty tasty -- I had the most delicate, fluffy, lemon-ricotta pancakes this morning . . . wowza. Pricey, though -- for two breakfasts, one coffee and one hot chocolate, and a big glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice for Dan, our bill was over thirty bucks. Whoops! Even though the food was amazing, this will have to remain an occasional treat.)

I have cooked a little, however!

Broccoli, White Bean, & Cheddar Soup (from Eating Well):
vegetable broth
broccoli crowns
cannellini beans
white pepper
extra-sharp cheddar cheese

(This one was a big hit with Dan -- he ate almost the entire batch himself over the course of two days!)
(P.S. The soup was SUPER easy to make.)

Banana Bread (I veganized the recipe in Joy of Cooking):
This turned out very, very nicely.

Dinner tonight:
(One cannot exist on soup alone, eh? Plus, I had a request for garlic mashed potatoes.) Jerk Tofu (from the Post Punk Kitchen,) garlic mashed potatoes with Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy (from Vegan with a Vengeance,) garlickey kale, and fresh local tomatoes.