Friday, January 12, 2024

North Shore Getaway


Our focus for summer 2023 was enjoying every last second with daycare before it was the last second and daycare was closed forever. Therefore, no big vacations thrilled our summer, but the minis, Zeus (dog), and myself broke away for a long weekend to North Shore, MN. After looking at hotel and cabin rates, we decided to go Saturday - Tuesday, with a night's stop in Banning Campgrounds to hike one of our favorite state parks, Banning State Park. We made a stop in St. Paul for Ichiddo Ramen, hit our favorite rest areas (because yes, we have our favorite rest areas along I-35), before arriving at Banning State Park.

I managed to snag one of two little cabins that were ultra simple: bunk beds, table, minifridge, microwave, and electricity. We had an afternoon and evening of hiking, then an evening playing cards and eating snacks until bedtime. Without even trying, it was a highlight of our trip and was only booked because it was a super cheap place for us to stay for a night!

My goal for this trip to the North Shore was to visit all those waterfalls we haven't seen yet. We've been up to North Shore a handful of times now since we fell in love on our impromptu derecho trip in 2020 and have visited all of the spots. This time, we were intentional to hit places to haven't been. We woke up early in Banning, loaded up the car, drive right through Duluth, and made way for a late breakfast at Betty's Pies before moving onto Illigen Falls. There were still some showers in the sky, so when we pulled up the trailhead, we had to wait in the car for 5 minutes for a quick downpour, before we hiked.

A surprise crayfish scared me!

A stop in Grand Marais for our favorite fish and chips at Fisherman's Daughter

This is where things got interesting. The middle one asked to get close to the waterfall. The trail we were on only went up to the top of the falls. After scouting the best way to get down, I determined we could get down safely by way of a muddy cliffside. This wasn't an issue for the kid who can climb. It was an issue for uncoordinated me, who slid down the cliff. I wound up with mud in places you do not want mud, but it was so worth it. 

Thankfully, we could check into our hotel room by then, so I was able to wash myself off. Our favorite place to stay along the North is the AmericInn in Silver Bay. A variety of rooms, pet friendly, breakfast, a microwave and minifridge in rooms, and a small water slide in the pool area makes it the best in my children's opinions. Plus, it's right by Black Sand Beach and is an easy walk from the hotel. We spent the evening swimming, walking the dog around the property for great views of the sunset, and watching movies in the hotel room. 

Early morning walks around the hotel before heading to Black Sand Beach.

It doesn't matter that it was July, that Lake Superior water is COLD. It was actually chilly the days we were in the area, so we stayed out of the lake for the most part.

A quick stop at our favorite coffee shop, White Pine, to fuel the day. Then we were onto Gooseberry Falls State Park. This one is always packed, but we had a blast with it and got their yearly picture in front of the falls.

We took a walk on the very top of the falls before moving on.

And this was a beautiful stop and also where we temporarily lost the middle one (head shake, face in hands). Down at the beach, the youngest and dog kept getting bit by giant flies. We took so pictures, enjoyed the rocks, waded into the water, and then made our way back to the car while the boys climbed a cliff. Not a big deal since it was just a short, wooded path from the beach back tot he parking lot. We got the car ready, and soon enough the oldest comes strolling down the path. The following conversation ensued:
"Where's your brother?"
"I thought he was with you..."
"No! He was climbing with you. Did you leave him on the freaking cliff??"
Spoiler: He did leave him on the freaking cliff.
We sprinted off, only to find the middle one wandering down the path back to the car. The boys argued about what happened, but from everyone's account, the oldest got done climbing, scanned for his brother, didn't see him at first glance, and assumed he left for the car. He did not, but everyone was safely together after two minutes of panic.

After our lost child incident, we opted for calm. Or so I thought. We walked a small part of the Superior Hiking Trail (a goal of mine) and then played where the river and lake met as it was slightly warmer. After an hour of playing in this serene spot, we decided we were ready for a late lunch/early dinner and to get back on the road for home. As they got out of the water, we discovered leeches! Leeches on feet and in between toes. That was an adventure, but we laughed once all leeches were off and the absurdity of the afternoon sunk in.

A quick stop at Culver's for dinner.

A quick stop for the bathroom and a hike at Moose Lake State Park before heading home. 

It was an excellent, quick trip to one of our favorite close by home vacations. I always strive to make our vacations affordable. North Shore can definitely be pricey, but knowing where to go and looking for deals definitely saved us money. We were gifted a Minnesota State Park pass in the spring, so all state parks were free (they usually cost $8+ per visit, while the park pass is only $30). Traveling at the beginning of the week vs. end or weekend saved us a ton on our hotel and glamping spots. Taking food/snacks vs. eating out for every meal also saves us and allows us to save money for future traveling and hiking trips.