First stop: Duluth, Minnesota!

Trip Start Aug 04, 2007
Trip End Aug 12, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Saturday, August 4, 2007

We're headed up to Canada! We're spending a few days in a park there called Quetico National Park... but we're not there yet. Right now, we're in Duluth, Minnesota, and man... this town actually surprises me. It's strange how I'm not surprised by a gigantic park in the middle of New York City's skyscrapers, but how I am surprised when, while in the quaint port town of Duluth, my family and I stumble across the Leif Erikson park-a gorgeous spread of rose gardens, brick walkways, and fountains along the shores of Lake Superior. It should really be the opposite, no?

For some reason (and I know I should not really do this) I had a perceived notion of what Duluth would be like when I got there. Before leaving for this trip, amidst all the preparation, my dad told me that Duluth was really a cool town. I believed him of course, not just because he'd been there before but because really most towns have their own sort of brand of "coolness" (to an outsider at least, nay, to an outsider like me). I guess being a 22 year old, my version of what "cool" would be was slightly different than what my 52 year old father was talking about. But that's not to say that Duluth is a boring town. In fact, I think it was better than what I had imagined. The town's full of awesome yet contrasting architecture, a sort of old meets new. Newer, geometric buildings sit next to charming, older buildings. The streets are paved with brick through the downtown, but if you look up you see dozens of radio towers in the hills, all blinking red. Overall though, the town still maintains a sort of old, French-Canadian like atmosphere. Between the quaint styling of the town set upon the shores of Lake Superior and the smell of pine trees, when you're in Duluth you feel like you've found a wonderful North country retreat.

The primary industry here is taconite. Despite it's beautiful surroundings, there are a large number of taconite factories set right upon the water. It didn't make it ugly, per se, but it did create a industrial picture as you look out south of the downtown area towards Superior, Wisconsin. There were also a few barge type boats out on the water; I can only imagine they were transporting iron ore to another port on the Great Lakes. I found it... industrially scenic.

There were a number of unique points of interest around the area. After we ate our supper (we ate at a lovely waterfront Perkins haha... really it wasn't that bad; we couldn't go anywhere else since we were dressed like bums... damn having only camping attire... but back to the story...) we ended up taking in some of the local scene and all that it had to offer. The best part, I think, was our trek up to what we ended up calling "radar mountain." Perhaps it's something to do with being from Illinois, but I was surprised to find that Duluth is actually set on a hill that rises right up from Lake Superior. We decided to journey all the way to the top of the hill to get a prospect of the area. By that time, it was getting dark and all the lights on the bay and the hill were starting to illuminate the night. We started by finding some roads at the south end of town that went up (that was our only requirement: to go up). Very fast, we left the 'bustling' town and were left to our own. After a few turns, we ended up on a skyline drive, a road that circled the hill and gave great views of the towns below. As awesome as it was though, it was a tad eerie. It was just dusk, the roads were lonely and around each turn we slowly took, we'd see something like radio towers or huge white satellite discs above the twinkling lights of the bay. I remarked it felt like a cross between "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and the opening scene from "Mulholland Drive." I'd say that was pretty accurate. There's just something about windy roads in hills at dusk among radio towers in a small town that make you think about those sorts of things. That didn't stop us from continuing on though. Before we knew it, we were at the top of this hill at the foot of a very oddly lit tower. At the top of it were green neon lights, and the rest of it looked like a turret taken from a castle, or a prison. Eager of what the landscape would be like at the top of the six story stone turret, we ran up and were rewarded with an honestly incredible panorama. I love looking down on cities and see their twinkling little lights, lit up bridges, and headlights of tiny cars gliding along glowing streets... especially when it's on water. As awesome as the views were, none of us could get away from how weird the tower truly was... but who could blame us? It's not every day you go up a stone tower with green lights decorated the top. Oh, and did I mention it was dedicated by Prince Olav of Norway?! Ha!

The Leif Erikson park was really nice too. I love, LOVE, rose gardens. It was very pretty, particularly when looking beyond the roses to either the lake or the town in the background. Duluth seems to have an extensive waterfront pathway, which I can only imagine would be pretty. Tomorrow, we get up bright and early to continue our trip to what my mom calls "journey to alienation."
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