Engaging as those Wisconsin bike trails were, our newly hatched plan to travel the North Shore of Lake Superior demanded that we make some progress Northward. We stayed with the River Road as long as possible, winding below the bluffs on the Minnesota side. Rounding the Twin Cities, we took up with Interstate (Ugg!) I-35. It was the direct route and rewarding in its own way. The changes were dramatic. Gone were fields of corn, and picturesque farms, even barns and silos. Green boggy looking spaces bounded by conifers and Aspen with an occasional Paper Birch exclamation point captured us. Signs offering Wild Rice appeared near crossroads and we were on the lookout for harvesters in canoes, but admitted we had no idea what Wild Rice looked like "in the wild". In late afternoon we slipped through the pleasant hamlet of Carlton and on to Jay Cooke State Park for the most dramatic change of all.
|The St Louis River at minimum flow|
The quiet Trempealeau and the glossy backwaters of the Mississippi had been replaced by this chaos of fractured, twisted stone and the St Louis River thrashing its way through it. This was the Grand Portage of the St Louis, the way West for English fur traders, seven hellish miles to test any voyageur.
The Willard Munger State Bike Trail (150 paved miles, thank you Minnesota) passes nearby and links with the shorter St Louis River and Alex Laveau trails. We were in heaven with a Park spur that led us to the junction in Carlton.
No mountain tunnels here, but half mile rock cuts and...
...quiet tarns reflecting conifers and Aspen.