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Published: July 11th 2018
Gooseberry Falls State Park, Two Harbors, Minnesota
We declared a downday of sorts yesterday. I managed to lose the screw on the earpiece to my prescription sunglasses several weeks ago. We tried one of those repair kits with the itty bitty screw drivers. I worked at the damn thing for more than half an hour, but with no luck. Either the tiny screws they gave me with the kit weren’t the right size, or I was simply unable to hold my hands steady enough to keep the parts aligned, get the screw in there, and turn it the right direction. Crap, I can barely see the little things, much less manipulate them.
So I’ve been driving without sunglasses the last couple of weeks. Having to squint a lot to keep the sun glare down, I have also been getting an occasional headache. We’ve been looking for an optical store of some kind, but the towns we’ve been in have all been relatively small, except for Duluth or Superior, and I had the trailer behind me then, so stopping wasn’t easy.
Anyway, it turned out that Two Harbors had an optician shop right on the main drag so I
decided I’d take them in there to see if they could fix them. We got up late yesterday and declared a downday, took the girls and drove into Two Harbors. They were more than happy to fix my glasses and didn’t even charge a dime. I chatted with the woman about our trip and she thought it was terrific and wished us happy travels.
Another thing I have been trying to do on this trip is sample the cocktails of each state. You can actually google Cocktails by State, and find a couple of different sites that purport to identify a mixed drink for each state. None of them are official, of course. (It is hard to imagine a state government officially endorsing an alcoholic beverage!). Normally, Joan and I are wine drinkers, but aside from the west coast states, or maybe New York, local wine doesn’t quite suit us - just too sweet. And while craft beers can be found coast-to-coast, I’m not real fond of beer. So I decided to try cocktails.
And we’ve had some interesting surprises. Ohio likes a gin martini, and the brandy old-fashions in Wisconsin are a tasty treat. The modified White
Russian called a Hummer in Michigan was a tasty combination of rum and Kahlua. So the drink identified as Minnesotan is called a Bootleg. Apparently it got its start at a country club in Wayzata and is a mixture of equal parts club soda, gin, rum, or vodka, and something called bootleg mix. Finding a Swedish vodka and club soda was easy, but the bootleg mix is turning out to be difficult. The guy at the liquor store said he had never heard of it and said, besides, Minnesotans don’t need to put anything in their whiskey - they like it straight up.
So we go back to the internet and see if we can make the stuff. Turns out there are a couple of different recipes involving different combinations of lime and lemon juices, sugar, water, and pulverized mint. Not wanting to spend hours cleaning up the mess from juicing a dozen limes and lemons, I decided to buy limeade and lemonade frozen concentrate and a big old bunch of mint leaves. Maybe today we can attempt to make up a batch of our own Bootleg Mix. We’ll see.
After finishing our errands in Two Harbors, we
returned to the campground to put everything away and then headed out with the girls to actually see the Gooseberry Falls. Yes, we are in the state park with that name but had not yet actually seen them. We had assumed they were nearby, and they are, and we also figured they must be pretty good because of the parking overflow from the day use area. It seems like even on a weekday, everyone comes here, maybe from Duluth, to spend the day picnicking and swimming.
We finally found out why - the falls are really pretty spectacular. The Gooseberry River cascades over 150 feet in two separate streams and three levels. Although swimming isn’t encouraged, people do it anyway. The water seems cold to me, but I suppose if you can endure Minnesota winters, than you can swim with the polar bears.
This park is just one of several strung along the Minnesota North Shore. It forms the northwestern shoreline for Lake Superior, following a nearly straight line northeast up from Duluth to the Canadian border, about 120 miles. In addition to several small rivers that empty into the lake, there are also multiple points where the
rocks jut out into the lake. Some of those points seem to extend in shoals a ways out into the water. There are a series of lighthouses along the shore that, in earlier years, steered massive ships in and out of the Duluth/Superior harbor.
We’ve driven pretty much the entire route now, more than once. There are signs of massive industrial and mining plants which appear closed up and decaying. We did see one mine that appears to be doing some kind of specialized operation, whatever ‘taconite’ might be. And there was a power plant operating along the lakeside. Mostly, though, there are just small towns with summer lakeshore homes and resorts all along the shoreline. This is a place for recreation now. Our attempts to make reservations here, way back in January, attest to the notion that Minnesotans enjoy their summers! The lake, still massive in a way that defies comprehension, laps at the rocky shores.
Rested up a bit, Joan has an event planned for the day. I hope the weather cooperates. We already had a brief rain shower and it is chilly and cloudy this morning. The Lake is the Boss!
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