After deciding we didn't feel the need to hike the 8-mile "grand portage" at the National Monument, we decided to head north, (very north,) to Grand Portage State Park.
Yes indeed, that is the US/Canada border. We started to think we had missed the entrance to the state park when we started approaching the border, but wait! There was one last, little turn-off into the state park. We parked, bought a state parks sticker for $25
(which allows the car it's attached to unlimited access to any Minnesota state park for one full calendar year -- what a deal!) and started our hike. Grand Portage State Park follows the Pigeon River, which defines the border between the US and Canada.
The Pigeon River is also home of the tallest waterfall in Minnesota, called creatively, the "High Falls."
Despite the less-than-exciting name, the falls were pretty awesome.
We chose to hike the 3.6-mile loop along the river to the Middle Falls. 3.6 miles doesn't sound like a lot . . . but it is, when the trail is steep and covered with roots. We were a little impulsive with this hike -- we left our packs in the car earlier, so we had no water or snacks with us during this 2-hour hike. Whoops! We still managed to have a good time, though.
We saw this nest along the trail, and forgot to stop in the ranger's station and ask about it. It was about halfway up a pine tree, and made mostly of pine branches. Squirrel? Eagle? Hawk? Something else? Any bird nerds out there care to weigh in on this issue?
There's fungus among us:
After much toiling and complaints from both of us about being thirsty, we finally made it to the Middle Falls:
While less impressive than the High Falls, they were still, definitely, worth the hike. Self-portrait:
And, the thing I found most interesting about the Middle Falls was the very top -- see how glassy and still the water is at the top of the river? Then, it suddenly hits the falls, turns all "melty" looking, and kapow! I could have stood there and watched the water like that for hours. (Plus, you could climb out on to the rocks right next to the falls, which was an added bonus.)
After we looped back to the High Falls, we were STARVING! Fortunately, we had packed a picnic lunch, which we decided to stop and eat right there, at the picnic area overlooking the Pigeon River.
There were about ten hawks circling around above our heads while we were eating -- they were quite mesmerizing to watch. I never managed a picture of the hawks, but these birch trees were quite striking.
After lunch, we decided to head back south, (especially since we had both forgotten our passports,) with at least two more stops planned before dinner.