Sunday, October 23, 2005


Cold. So cold. The night was frigid and without heat, it was hard to get out of bed the next morning. But I did it only because I knew I had heat in my car, and the sooner we got out of the room and into the car, the sooner I'd warm up. Showers are temporary and often a hot shower will leave you colder when you return to the freezing temperature of a room. Needed to get into car! Particularly because the sun was out! Yes, finally, a return of the sun!

We happily left Superior, Wisconsin en route to Duluth, Minnesota and
The Great Lakes Aquarium. I enjoy a museum/aquarium visit, but there are a lot of parts that bore me to tears. My boyfriend, on the other hand, can happily spend 6 full days in a small town museum of three rooms, and not get bored. At an aquarium, I turn into a 4-year-old and fight the urge to throw myself onto the ground whining my head off, begging to leave, then kicking and pounding my extremities on the floor. Fish are great: I'm a Pisces who is true to her sign. But I can't stare at a sturgeon for a half hour without wanting do have my aforementioned temper tantrum. I go to a museum to view, to touch, to oogle relics, but I don't plan to read every single sign, watch every single movie, touch every single display and watch every single creature for so long that people slip a mirror under my nose to make sure I'm still breathing. So, I have to attend these events with him on days when I am feeling at the peak of my patience performance.

This aquarium kept my attention for much longer than usual.

I got to pet a stingray! This is my boyfriend petting one as well!

They are much rougher than they look. I expected something smooth and slightly dolphin-like, but they feel bumpier and not at all smooth. Too cool!

While I was trying to keep myself entertained, I found myself drawn to the reptiles and amphibians, as usual. This turtle and I basked together. He held still and didn't blink for much, much longer than me. Clearly he had the personality necessary for a lengthy stay at the aquarium, which I did not.

I also had fun watching the eagle stand there staring at me, and the otter running frantically back and forth, looking desperately for something he couldn't find, then repeating the search every 10 seconds. My guess is it was his keys -- I do that when I can't find my own keys.

Yeah, leave it to me to find the highlights of an aquarium to have more to do with fish predators than fish.

Though, I must admit, I totally adored the jellyfish! In fact, I said, "Jellyfish! Jel-lyfish!" Suddenly I found myself with my nose plastered to the glass, thinking this annoying song:
Jellyfish, jelll-lllyfish, what are they feeding you?
Jellyfish, jelll-lllyfish, it's not your faa-aault.
(And you thought "Smelly Cat" was hard to get out of your head!)

It's worth a mention that when I was finally able to lure my companion out of the aquarium and into the real reason for the visit, the gift shop, he stood there and jabbered with the store clerk forever and I found myself smiling politely as I waited impatiently to pay for my choices. The nice thing was he mentioned we're rock hounds and immediately she whipped out a jar and offered up a piece of raw agate for us to have. To me, agate is like a diamond. Screw real diamonds: they're clear and boring. Agates have character, minerals, history, bands of color, translucence and opacity: they are the pinnacle of my rock love. So, I forgave him for his tendency to get the store clerks yapping our ears off. Free agate is worth it!

After we left the aquarium, we found our way to the only other interesting thing I had on my Duluth itinerary:
Hawk Ridge!

I've been unable to ascertain the height of Hawk Ridge, but for someone with a crippling fear of heights, it was f*cking high up! I could see across the bay and up the south shore of Wisconsin, not to mention the islands way out in the lake. Freighters looked like tiny little rowboats. Down the ridge was a large section of Duluth itself, and people were invisible, only the houses making dot-like specks in sight. We watched a cloud, just slightly above our eye level, sweep in from the hills (or mountains -- I called them mountains) and start raining down on Superior, while we stood in the sunlight watching the storm cloud do it's business!

While we watched for raptors, ships came and went from the harbor in their majestic glory, with the beautiful shades of pastels that Lake Superior offers up in the bay.

Oh, and we did see raptors: a couple immature eagles (without the white head and tail yet), many red-tailed hawks and we spoke with one of the bird experts about an interesting bird we'd seen earlier, which we discovered was a northern harrier. I've made many trips to Lake Superior, and almost every trip provides me with a great eagle sight. This trip was no different. It seemed eagles were everywhere, and the recent storms in conjunction with the season and wind direction brought many out that afternoon for us to watch. Truly spectacular! I'm sorry I couldn't get pictures. With only a 10x zoom, my camera wouldn't have caught one that was more than a speck. A still is unfair to represent the eagle anyway -- watching one soar is the real way to appreciate them.

The drive down from Hawk Ridge on Seven Bridges Road was gorgeous. (Yes, that's right, Seven Bridges Road, the Eagles song... That connection didn't get lost on me.) The bridges were even pretty, and a river meandered its way down to the lake, zig-zagging under the road seven times, complete with waterfalls.

The last stop for the day was one of my favorite spots on the trip: Stoney Point, on Minnesota's North Shore. No gift shops, no tourists to complete with for access. Just soft blue light at sunset, watching the waves splash on the worn rocks. These are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Check out the shape of the rocks.

I have a fascination with water and rocks -- two elements coming together, enhancing and shaping one another.

We stayed in Two Harbors that night, at a motel room the proprietor promised had functioning heat. When we were certain that our room would be warm when we got back, we headed to the very famous restaurant, Betty's Pies. Since my boyfriend is a vegetarian, he ordered a mysterious dish: a wild rice burger. There's something going on with that region and wild rice, because it was sold in large quantities at every turn. We were curious and when he ordered the wild rice burger, I expected something strange to happen, something special, but it turned out to be just a regular burger made of wild rice -- the same wild rice that's available at the grocery store at home. If someone can explain the wild rice prevalence in this area, please share! Back on topic, he said the wild rice burger was the best he'd ever had. He wasn't sure how they got wild rice to taste like hamburger, and he was afraid to ask, but he ate every last crumb. Then we had some key lime pie for dessert. Mmmmmm!

When we got back to our room, it was nice and toasty. Hurray! However, something foiled our warm night. We were so hopeful that we would catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights that after 11 PM, he kept going outside to look up for signs. Somehow, on the last trip out, he didn't close the door completely. We didn't realize it, though I did think it was getting colder and colder throughout the night. By the time I woke up in the morning, light was shining through the six-inch opening. Our door was open six inches, all night. We're lucky some creature didn't come crawling in while we were asleep. Maybe one did and we didn't know!


Anonymous said...

You had a question regarding the abundance of wild rice for sale. I have the answer. Wild rice found for sale in MN and WI grows naturally in some of the lakes. It is harvested by Native Americans the old fashioned way (in a canoe, the stalks bent over the canoe and hit so that the grains fall off into the boat). What they are selling at the grocery store (i.e. Uncle Ben's) is a far cry from what gets harvested out of the lakes. It's delicious, with a wonderful nutty flavor. I hope you bought some on your trip!

Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Thank you so much! Someone told me that wild rice in MN is like cheese in WI; the food product they're famous for. If I wasn't so lazy, I would've done some research, but now I don't have to! Thanks again for explaining it. Unfortunately, I didn't buy any, but my boyfriend did sample some of the rice cuisine and he was a big fan!