Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Superior Circle Tour -- Day 12

After a restful night at the Mariner, we grabbed a quick breakfast at a local restaurant and I debated fiercely whether or not to tell Boyfriend Extraordinaire about a nearby attraction. Palisade Head is a 200-foot-high cliff that you drive up and can walk around on. The view is reputed to be spectacular, but I could not see myself enjoying that height one bit. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to drive the precarious road leading up to the lookout. It was a difficult decision and I finally told him I was taking him somewhere and I wasn't getting out of the car, but I was doing it for him. He had no idea what he was going to see.

He's not usually afraid of heights, but this one made him queasy. It's a palisade, hence the name, so the straight drop 200 feet to the lake below is scary. The view is nice, though, if you forget your inches from a skyscraper plummet.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

Not very friendly looking rocks to land on if you fall.

Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire

B.E. was out there forever, talking with other tourists, watching the idiots climbing carelessly on the rocks. I lost sight of him for a while and it made me physically ill, sitting in the car, not knowing if he was okay. The only comfort I had was that there were many people around and if he had fallen, someone would be screaming. I watched and hoped for no screaming. Thankfully, there was none. He eventually came back to the car aghast and in awe, saying that even he was scared up there. I get chills when I think about it.

Heading north toward Grand Marais, we crossed over the Cross River, turned around and decided to pay it a visit. The falls were really nice, even though you could tell the river was quite low.

It's hard to comprehend with just these photos, but the falls themselves are fairly high, and the road goes over them at about their half-way point, so they make quite a dramatic drop in a short distance. I bet it's stunning when the river is at a healthy height.

From there I spotted the turnoff for Father Baraga's Cross on the Cross River, which is something I've wanted to visit for a long time as well. Legend has it that Father Baraga left from Madeline Island, near Bayfield, Wisconsin, and in a small boat tried to cross the lake to help the Indians in Grand Portage, who were rumored to be suffering from an epidemic of some kind. A violent storm rolled in and somehow Father Baraga's little boat was spared, as they were blown onto a sandbar and then managed to reach the mouth of the Cross River for safety. He erected a wooden cross as the mouth of the river in rememberance and as thanks, which has been replaced with a more resilient cross of stone. Despite not being a religious person, I do recognize the sacrifices great people make to help others, risking life and limb, and the incredible survival story this represents. It's a moving story and I've wanted to see the cross since before my first Circle Tour.

The path was a bit wild and we met a friendly woodpecker on the way.

The cross itself seemed to lack much character, but it was a symbol, I guess.

I was more taken with the gifts left behind at the marker. Here we were, 150 years later, and people were still leaving mementos and symbols of their own humble awe at the memory of the event. I found it moving.

It was a warm and breezy day at the cross, and a couple showed up with the tiniest kite I've ever seen.

We walked down to the mouth of the river, which was fairly dry and crossable on the rocks protruding from the trickling water. Still, the rocks and the water were nice.

The one in the upper right of this shot looked like a heart to me, and it took all my control not to snatch the rock and bring it home with me. Somehow it seemed to belong here more than in a bucket of rocks at my house, so I just took a picture.

Believe it or not, of all the boats B.E. has made, he's never really asked for my help, so when he made me shape the sail and carve holes in the hull of this boat he was building, it took me a bit by surprise. Part of the reason I've never helped him is what I was a witness to as he saw what I did to the sail. He made comments about that being a new idea in sail design, that it was not something he would've done, and that he'd give it a shot anyway. It must've taken all his strength to not yell at me for splitting the sail and making it in the shape of a V. Kudos to him for resisting the urge to criticize me. Clearly he struggled with it. Finally the boat was done with the "new design" that included my input and we shot a picture of it before launching.

It was a photogenic little boat and it seemed to be doing well despite the wind blowing toward us.

Then something terrible happened! The wind grew stronger and the little boat spun around, getting sucked into the spin a rock just under the water's surface was causing. Our boat was going to be moored!

As if the spirit of Father Baraga was present, that helpless little boat was somehow righted and the wind carried it out to open water, safely away from the rocks at the river's mouth, and it floated away to Lake Superior oblivion. All the while, B.E. proclaimed that he should be more open-minded about boat design, and perhaps some fresh ideas were needed. Tee, hee, hee!

We drove north, stopping at the wayside for thomsonite (a rare and gorgeous rock I am hungry for). I sat on the beach and picked some of my most gorgeous stones, including a small agate that's egg-shaped, with the banded stripes resembling eyeballs. It's a perfect specimen! I also found small pieces of thomsonite and other rocks, but the agate was my big find of the day. B.E. likes to tease me about finding agates that are tiny. He calles them "molecular agates" and says I have the largest collection of the smallest agates around. Pshaw! I have more than he does.

At the wayside, we met two grandparents and their two granddaughters visiting from Wisconsin. One of the girls spotted B.E. making more of his boats and she was absolutely fascinated with what he'd done. She followed him and watched him and seemed broken-hearted when he wasted the artwork of his building by launching it into the water. He was nice and built a boat just for her, which she kept and refused to launch. The grandfather then lent the girls his pocket knife and they were huddled on the edge of the trees making their own boats for quite some time. One of the girls tried to launch a few of her own, but they capsized. The other girl just kept building more and more to keep. It was hilarious. They worshipped B.E. and kept thanking him. He had fans! The grandparents thanked us too, because it gave the girls something to do if they got bored, which didn't seem likely now that they were budding boat-builders with a lake's worth of debris to work with.

While the kids and B.E. built boats, the grandmother chatted with me and recommended some places to stop in Grand Marais, like the World's Best Donuts and the Naniboujou Lounge. We took them up on their advice.

First we checked into our room at the Outpost Motel, which was really cute, and then we headed north to the Naniboujou Lounge. It was a lot fancier than I anticipated from the description they gave. Yes, the interior was decorated in ancient Cree designs and it did have an enormous stone fireplace, but the food was expensive and not at all what I'd hoped for.

We both got salads, which were mixed greens, nuts, blueberries and dried cherries, drizzled with a berry vinagrette dressing that was far too sweet to my taste. I do not like sweet things in my salad, and between the nuts, fruit and dressing, there wasn't much redeemable in it. I was sad.

My potatoes were almost green themselves because they were covered in so much rosemary. Rosemary is not good in such quantities. I scraped as much off as I could, but I still felt like my potatoes had been simmered in a potpouri before I was served. My steak was marinated in the same dressing as the salad, much to my horror, and though I ate it, it took effort. B.E. got a veggie burger, which he devoured with gusto, much like his own salad. I gave him my salad hoping the waitress wouldn't notice how much I hated it and make a fuss, but something awful happened. B.E. found a SCREW in my salad! Seriously, there was a screw in it! All salad-eating came to a halt. The waitress was appalled and gave him a free dessert (which he didn't eat and we threw away). When I paid the bill and it was $60, plus a tip, and I didn't even like any of the food. I was not pleased, but it seems to me that the restaurant is probably quite popular and enjoyed greatly by those with more evolved taste than mine. Really, I just wanted a salad, steak and baked potato. I got so much more and couldn't appreciate any of it.

When we left, it was raining. It was a good, hearty rain and heavy fog accompanied it. Half-way back to our room the rain stopped, but the fog persisted. We settled in for the night and watched the lightning erupting over the lake as the storm grew in strength and pounded the lake. Too bad. The area could've used a good rain.

B.E. ran out and took a picture of the view from the front of our motel. Only the highway separated us from the rocky beach, and it was quite a spectacular view.

We slept well, if not a little warm in our room without air conditioning, but the weather was dropping and we looked forward to a cooler climate in the coming days as we ventured further north.

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