I think I will double up with these states – reality was we were just motoring to cross them – unfortunately but we had a bigger goal in mind. Wednesday dawned grey but okay so after navigating some more of Fargo’s downtown we cross the river and were now in the city of Moorhead (population of nearly 45,000) but also had crossed over into the state of Minnesota. We will be back in central Minnesota in early November so our plan here was essentially to run across the state to Wisconsin. Coming out of Moorhead we made our way onto State Highway 10 (we are getting ourselves confused when it comes to Interstates, Highways, Freeways, bypasses, state roads etc – there are too many options and the ‘secondary’ roads we opt for are odd in that they take you right through the heart of towns along the way – we certainly are getting to see more of America this way). We didn’t follow the 10 for long before we cut up onto Highway 200 – the Lake Country Scenic Bypass. Minnesota supposedly has something like 10,000 lakes – we would be lucky to see some on our way east today, and for the moment, the weather was good. We stopped for a break at a nice spot on Lake Leech – the historic site marker made reference to it being the site of a bit of a bloody confrontation – soldiers were sent to arrest the local Indian Chief but they weren’t going to have a part of that – the soldiers came off second best and the Chief never was arrested.
Carol was excited as Minnesota provided her first opportunity to see some of the fall colours she had been hanging out for. The landscape across Minnesota was nice and rolling with lakes dotted all along and with that, loads of trees and signs warning of deer crossing – we saw deer and plenty of eagles as we moved across the state. The 200 then cuts south east on Interstate 2 across towards Duluth – the state’s third largest city (population around 90,000) and our exit point for the state. Just as we started coming into Duluth the heavens opened up – heavy rain and it got darker with it being very grey out. We’d hoped to stop and have a bit of a look around and get some tourist info here but missed the turn, so our Duluth experience was limited to ‘the view from the 2’. Duluth looks to have been a very industrial city and sits at the western base of Lake Superior – yep the biggest of the great lakes. As a result of that Duluth is a major shipping port – I understand loads of minerals come out of both Minnesota and Wisconsin – a lot of moved by ship through the lakes. From Duluth – the furthest west of the lakes, the ships would have a big run to get through to the St Lawrence waterway and out to the eastern side of Canada and the US but more detail to come on the lakes. We set ourselves a challenge to ‘touch’ each of the ‘big 5’ and that challenge would start the following day. The run across the state was around 250 miles. The St Louis River feeds out of the bottom of the lake here and the bridge that spans it marks the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Another notable fact as you cross to the east of Minnesota is the fact you cross over the source of the mighty Mississippi River – its source is a small lake in the state – Lake Itasca.
The bridge crossed we were now in another split city – this time in Superior Wisconsin – funny how a bridge can link 2 cities like that. The city of Superior adds almost another 30,000 to the local population at the foot of the lake here. With daylight running out on us we pushed east. If Minnesota had 10,000 lakes I had to think how many Wisconsin has, but time doesn’t permit us to explore what this state truly has to offer. We were running across the top stretch of the state where Lake Superior laps it’s shore. Getting out of Superior we found our way onto the Scenic Bypass 2 again and worked our way through to our rest spot in the coastal town of Ashland. That night it rained heavily, but Thursday dawned finer so we got our jackets and headed out for a good walk to see and touch the lake. There is a wonderful coastal pathway / walkway along the lakefront in this area and we headed around and found ourselves down at the local port – well not too much of a port these days, but through the 1900’s this place was a very busy port with tonnes of ore – iron and copper being pulled from the landscape nearby and then trucked down to the port to get loaded onto ore ships. The port had its heyday in the 20’s – 60’s and then it pretty much dried up around the area. The port had this long jetty like structure – we talked to an older chap also out for his walk and he described the huge ore gantry that used to be in place along the wharf / jetty – ships (multiple) would park up and the ore was just dumped into this huge structure and belts then fed it out and into the awaiting holds of the ships. Unfortunately at the port of Ashland they made the call to remove the structure in the early 2000’s, but we did get to see one at another port further around on the lake.
As noted, Superior is the big brother of the Great Lakes. It’s amazing to think that these lakes are all connected – feed / flow from one to another – as we would head east we would be amazed more at how this all works. Lake Superior touches 3 states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and also Ontario Canada. Superior is the world’s largest fresh water lake – it has an area of 31,700 square miles – stretches 350 miles at its longest point. I think I read a fact that Superior holds enough water that if it was drained it would cover the entire North and South America continent in over 1 foot of water – amazing. The lake was discovered by Europeans around the early 1620’s – fur traders started plying the lake area – loads of history here. Refreshed from the walk and the history of our surroundings we pushed on east – another 40 miles east had us cross through Hurley and then out of Wisconsin – yep, a very brief visit to this state – not sure if our journeys will bring us back here as our concern is that the weather will close in this far north before you know it. Next stop – the mighty Michigan, and more lakes.