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Tour Great Lakes to New England

  • After traveling with family from Oregon to Wisconsin and seeing National Parks and Presidential Libraries, we parted after the 4 July weekend in International Falls, MN. Bob's family headed west to home, and we are staying along the Great Lakes for the cool weather. So many heat waves throughout the country this year and we have had enough heat going through the Midwest that it is a blessing to stay in cooler weather.


    Boondocking along Lake Superior shoreline and waking up to 55-degree weather is so refreshing. I was confused, for I thought the sunrise would be towards the lake. No, the coast is angled, and the sunrise was across town and poor to see this morning.


    Motoring along the coastline in Silver Bay, MN we see a Scenic View sign and we pull off and it’s a hill above the town with views of the shoreline and the city. Very nice view, strong winds and amazingly fast internet! Decided to spend a few hours here catching up on online items. A short walking path with views of the lakeshore and a sign describing what you are seeing – the Apostle Islands from the north shore!


    This town has a manufacturing plant for taconite, which is a low-grade iron ore. When the high-grade natural iron ore was plentiful, taconite was considered a waste rock and not used. But as the supply of high-grade natural ore decreased, industry began to view taconite as a resource. Dr. E.W. Davis of the University of Minnesota, along with other scientists and engineers, conducted years of laboratory tests and experiments to find a way to take the iron ore out of the taconite rock. After many years of hard work, a process was developed to create taconite pellets. Taconite saved Minnesota's iron ore mining industry.


    The ships pull into a large pier where trains pull onto the pier and offload directly into the ship. Large long pier built of steel. Most of this mining and shipping is done near Duluth, MN.


    Two Harbors and Grand Marias have become tourist towns, for the drive along North Shore of Lake Superior is awesome with high cliffs, crashing waves, deep water. Grand Portage has a reenactment of Voyagers Rendezvous in August. We are thinking about returning someday to see this and dawdle around for the fall leaves, do some kayaking in the Boundary Waters, Voyagers National Park, and Apostle Islands. This area has a lot of Aspen trees, and I am sure fall colors are awesome!


    As we drive slowly around the Great Lakes, I think about the travel map we create and look for other roads that we have not been on before.




    The first map shows all the trip we have made. The second map has the 2021 family trip with 2 RVs (blue) 3,800 miles; Tanya's 3,000-mile solo trip (red); and Tanya and Tom trips together (pink). The total is 15,500 miles this year!


    As you can see, it is an easy way to identify what areas we have not been and find new areas to explore! Obviously, winters in Florida are popular and we sometime want to spend time in southern Texas and Arizona for winters. Someday we will buy a winter home, just have not decided where, so using this map certainly helps to know that we have checked out the area.


    I have downloaded into the GPS interesting things to see and as we travel can search and find places to go, this is a spur of the moment slow traveling style and I love it! Other ways I find places to go is to use Bing maps, enter the origin and destination, then select attractions along the route. You can create a trip then download it into the GPS and you have your route planned out for you. Using both a planned route and spur of the moment stops, and you can spend many months traveling and always have interesting things to see along the way.


    Right now, we are in Iron Mountain, MI and stopped at a Home Depot for replacing the window screens. At a casino campground nearby, we have a picnic table to work on - a short task made enjoyable in a nice setting. Hmm, 22-year-old screens did not allow the same view, who would have guessed.


    Previously, we had followed the northern Lake Superior coastline in the Upper Peninsula, so this time we followed the southern Lake Michigan coastline. Crossing over to the southern coastline was hilly, not mountainous just hilly. National Forests along the way and we tried to find places to camp there but there were no open spots! This is rather unusual; we commonly have no problems finding places in National Forests. We do have other boondocking spots but in rural areas they are not as common. Fortunately, a casino had availability here. Later, near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in Michigan, we had a similar problem finding campsites. In the news they say that many more people are out visiting National Parks post-covid, this is the first time we have encountered large enough numbers of people to make it reasonable that we should be making reservations in advance.


    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park was very beautiful. The scenic drive had beautiful forests over rolling hills and the dunes themselves were so impressively steep it boggles the mind. Some people did walk down the steep hillside to the beach, but we did not wait around for them to climb back up, it was going to take quite a while!


    Although all campsites were all taken in the National Park, we just stumbled upon a scenic overlook that was not posted for no camping, so we stayed there. I stayed awake until sunset tonight, for I thought this scenic view would be spectacular, unfortunately clouds did not align properly to make it so. I’m sure there are times when this would be one of the best sunsets a person could see.


    As you travel away from major cities, you find less national chain stores. The feeling of supporting local businesses is very nice. We were lucky to find places to stay and enjoyed visiting small towns.


    Continuing into Ohio Cuyahoga National Park is very different from other National Parks. A highly polluted river has been reclaimed. Once labeled as the most polluted river in the US that had actually caught on fire is now clean and restored. A train through the park is available if you like. We chose to hike to a very beautiful waterfall, Brandywine Falls.


    As we reach Watertown, NY the humidity coming from Lake Ontario is heavy! After being in the west we are not used to this heavy humidity! After a driving tour of Thousand Islands, I feel the need to have my kayaks with me to spend a little time paddling through these awesome islands! I have not had any of my toys along, like kayaks and the motorcycle, on this trip, so we are doing driving tours and little hikes along with looking for interesting places to see.


    NY, VT, NH, and ME are much cooler than anywhere in the US right now. As we are keeping along the Canadian border in as much cool weather as there is, I begin to slow down the travel rate. We spent 2 weeks near Acadia National Park, for it is very cool here, rain on a few days call for downtime and we begin to relax after the hectic traveling with my brother’s family. Tanya continues to work each day but on weekends we are immersed in going through small towns along the way.


    Tanya’s office today



    We visit the nearby Garfield Presidential Home, library, and museum. Nice tour, original furnishings, part of the National Park Service. Garfield only had 200 days in office before being assassinated. We read more about it on the NPS site. Interestingly, corruption in politics is nothing new. Also see Rutherford Hayes on the website for more from that era.


    After last month (June) experiencing high heat in the Midwest we are definitely enjoying being in cooler weather. Some days we only travel 100 miles, poking around small towns, looking at the types of homes and office buildings - sometimes I cannot tell how they developed. There are no major industries to support employment, so how does one town appear to be more developed than another? There has to be something back in the past to explain why. It’s been raining for several days now, so we have not walked any of these towns, just doing a drive through.


    Oswego, NY has a restored Army Fort from the Revolutionary War, Fort Ontario. It was closed when we arrived there, so I walked around it to read the displays. A signal tower to ships on Lake Erie was there and the display stated that women primarily hoisted signal flags to alert ships about the weather. National Weather Service would telegraph the town and the information was forwarded to the woman keeper. Only a few of these towers are left and are automated with lights.


    There is also a memorial for Jewish refugees who sailed from Italy to New York harbor, then trained to Fort Ontario under an agreement to return to Europe following the war. 928 refugees lived out the war enclosed in this encampment. After the war’s end, the US President allowed those who chose to stay in the US to do so.


    You know your in Maine when they have carved totems of a moose!

    Early morning sunrise in Acadia National Park is pure pleasure! It really does seem that sunrises on the east coast have much more color than on the west coast? Maybe I am biased but it really does seem that way. Touring Acadia NP is fabulous, rocky shorelines, many, many lobster and crab floats across the water and really extreme tide changes, 9’ is common. I really wished I had the kayaks here with me so that will have to be a trip for another time. Quite a few hiking trails in Acadia NP, many are too steep for my level of fitness but there are a lot of easier trails too. Tanya has been able to join me on a few of these excursions too!

    An early morning sunrise in Acadia National Park is pure pleasure! It really does seem that sunrises on the east coast have much more color than on the west coast? Maybe I am biased but it really does seem that way. Touring Acadia NP is fabulous, rocky shorelines, many, many lobster and crab floats across the water and really extreme tide changes, 9’ is common. I really wished I had the kayaks here with me so that will have to be a trip for another time. Quite a few hiking trails in Acadia NP, many are too steep for my level of fitness but there are a lot of easier trails too. Tanya has been able to join me on a few of these excursions too!


    The weekend is here so Tanya can participate more and we decide to see what central Maine has to offer and we are so glad we did. Going inland and following Route 11 all the way to the Canadian border is a very beautiful road. Rough at times and very high center berm (I suppose to help with run off snow and water). Mount Katahdin is a real surprise, jutting steeply up amongst rolling hills it really stands out.

    The people here are down to earth and very friendly, one place that we stayed and the locals spent a lot of time telling us of places to see. Quite welcoming for us. I had always thought that Maine was flat, swampy or bogy but interestingly it is very hilly throughout. Every 10-20 miles along on these 2-lane roads is a small town where speed limit drops to 30. Sometimes you are not sure if it is really a town or not for there are no stores at all.


    The farms mostly have potatoes fields, with either white or purple flowers. Much too soon to harvest, although a few roadside stands (unmanned – honor system) offer bagged potatoes. These rural roads had may roadside rest stops with covered picnic tables, we stopped at one for a very leisurely and pleasant lunch. A sign stated the US Route 1 we were on was called the Million Dollar Scenic Highway with awesome views of Mount Katahdin far in the distance.


    Once again, I am so impressed with kayak opportunities, rivers and lakes everywhere, rolling hills with mostly deciduous trees, I am sure this is the perfect foliage tour! This time of year (end of July) and there a very few flies or mosquitoes. We will be back someday to see this for sure.


    At the Canadian border in Fort Kent is the beginning of US Route 1. We will someday follow this scenic route all the way to Key West, FL. This time though we followed it and the Canadian border back down to Acadia.




    The Acadia Village was not open while we were there, walking around the buildings and reading the signs in front of them, we learn how early settlers would farm in the summer and go to logging camps in the winter. The women would manage the home and expenses while the men worked the fields and lumber. There was a sign stating that a man was considered to be overbearing if he managed the finances instead of the woman! Having 10 kids was the normal family and children were expected to begin helping with farm work at age of 10 and would be self sufficient in their own home by age 30.

    The farms were laid out different here, long and narrow rather than square. This allowed each farm to have good soil in the bottomland and thinner soil in the higher portions away from the river.


    We noticed that many homes had roofs shaped similar to barns, I reason this has to do with long winters - heat rises, which allows more livable area in the second story of homes.


    Another interesting idea was we noticed was about 10 home sites along the route – those had once had homes then the old house was removed an RV pad was set up. You can tell for there is the old power lines, septic, water still serving the pad where the house once stood. I assume this is a summer home for full time RVers. Most often there would be a large storage shed or sometimes a garage there as well. This is exactly what we have been thinking about, only for us it would be for winter home use.


    Marquette, ME is the most northern place in US, it has a paper mill on both sides of border that works together to produce paper. The Canadian side grinds the wood and makes it into pulp then a long pipe attached to the bridge it passes the mulch to the plant on the US side to process into paper.


    We were surprised to see blueberry fields as small ground covers not bushes like in Oregon.