Lake Superior Circle Tour — all around a great trip

In my last column, I’d started the circle trip around Lake Superior and left off at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. While I’d been as far North as Ouimet Canyon once before, I was now in unfamiliar territory.

I had a few advantages on my side in terms of trying to plan this trip on the fly. First, I had my Rogers Hot Spot that was giving me Internet in the vehicle as we were en route to where ever I’d pick next. Second, everyone else in the vehicle had never really been anywhere along the route, so even if I missed something good, we’d all be none the wiser. Third, I had an excellent free travel guide that I’d picked up when we were at Pukaskwa National Park: Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Guide.

I really feel that this travel guide deserves kudos for putting together an excellent list of highlights, in addition to great maps and mileage charts. This magazine became all the more important as we approached the border to the United States, where I would no longer have Internet.

Kakabeka Falls was spoken of highly in the guide, so we were off to “the Niagara of the North.” It was a great attraction with beautiful walkways, easily accessible off the highway. The water “plunges 40 metres (131 ft.) over sheer cliffs and some of the oldest fossils in the world.” Aside from decent descriptions,  I also liked that there were plenty of photos in the circle tour guide to help me filter attractions.

(Perhaps my main criticism of the guide was that hardly any location descriptions spoke of mountain biking possibilities and we’d brought our bikes. I have to wonder if anglers and hunters are the primary target market for the guide, but if not, there is an opportunity to beef up the biking mentions.)

After crossing the border, we kept “falling” and stopped at the information centre where there were walkways to the American side of Pigeon River’s High Falls. While the height of the falls was impressive (the highest falls in Minnesota), the volume of water was a mere drop in the bucket compared to Kakabeka.

The guide then solved another mystery for me and told me that you can take a boat (1.5 hours each way) for a day trip to Isle Royale from Grand Portage, as opposed to a six- or three-hour tour from Houghton or Copper Harbour.

Once famed for the moose and wolf sightings, we were clearly there at the wrong time of day, or year, or simply in the wrong places on the International Biosphere Reserve, as no one on our boat had seen anything other than a loon and a couple squirrels. Regardless, the hiking was good and the boat ride was beautiful (especially since my son quickly chummed up to the captain and spent the better part of the tour on the bridge).

Sydney’s Frozen Custard in Grand Marais captured my heart next. (Though somehow, frozen custard seems to have been left out of the guide. Being a foodie, I would love to see an article on the tasty treats not to be missed along the shores of Superior.)

After a night in Superior, again led by the Circle Tour Guide, we went to see the S.S. Meteor Maritime Museum inside the last whaleback ship in the world still above water.

Next we got a little crazy and picked a location not in the guide (but it should be): the Old Firehouse and Police Museum. It had great displays and it was free. Then we went stand-up paddleboarding in Cornucopia, but the waves were too much for us to make it to the “spectacular” sea caves.

We spent a few minutes touring Ashland, which is the “Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin” (don’t you love the marketing in the U.S.?) and were quite impressed with most of the 10 murals. It made for an entertaining game: Who can spot the next mural first?

With a little prodding, the kids finally became official bike riders in Baraga State Park, before we pushed on to Munising. There we dropped in our paddleboards at Miner’s Beach and the waves were kind enough, so we made it around this point to some sandstone caves that are part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (having done the truly gorgeous Pictured Rocks boat tour in the past.)

Before we knew it we were crossing back into Sault, Ont., and I “rejoiced” at the daunting pile of laundry that I’d be facing while the kids when off to school the next day.

All around (pun intended) the circle tour was a phenomenal trip, and we could easily have used another five-plus nights to get to some of the places we didn’t investigate, including in and around Duluth, the Keweenah Penninsula and Marquette.

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