Staying at Home was much easier when everyone was staying at home. I kept my head down, worked hard and actually enjoyed the extra-concentrated time with my family. But as things gradually eased and places began opening back up, I began to struggle. Because my head popped back up and I saw things on instagram or heard stories from friends and a little 4-year-old Becca started whining. She just showed up in my head and started complaining “I want to go there! I want to be there! That’s not fair!” Thankfully I am actually 39 and I know these thoughts are the exact recipe for a discontent heart. And that it’s ugly.
I have a little bit more grace for myself though, and everyone, really, because this isn’t just typical summer travel envy. This is envy from the eyes of a woman who has barely stepped foot off the farm in three months. I mean, it is understandable. But ugly, just the same.
Rory is a great teammate, and saw that his right hand gal had given up on the house chores. “It’s futile. Pointless. I’m just sort of over it,” I said. I think he saw that I actually meant it and so he told me to take a few days off. He’d even milk the goat. Immediately when he made the offer I knew: I’m going to Lake Superior. I couldn’t do an overnight because I am still nursing Elias, but I could do a full day.
(Note: Reader. I am fully aware that now, you, are probably wanting three days off with a solitary road trip to Lake Superior. In fact, I was never going to post a thing about any of this, ever, fearing that I would cause someone else’s inner 4-year-old to tantrum. Except that the trip turned into a research trip for ‘Great Places to Stay on the North Shore’ and I want to share them here for you to plan your own getaway and for my own future reference too. So I actually hope you feel hopeful and inspired after reading all of this…)
I set out at 5:30am on Wednesday morning. The sun was up, the car was silent, my coffee had honey in it and I was positively giddy. I didn’t listen to a thing for about two hours. I just thought and thought and thought. And then I turned some of those thoughts into prayers. And I marveled at how much traffic there is so early in the morning, wondering where everyone was going.
I drove to Moose Lake State Park and then to the scenic overlook just before you get to Duluth. I looked and saw that hazy lake and was so glad to be there. I got back in the car, missed the exit to Canal Park and decided to just head up scenic 61 straight to Gooseberry Falls.
By 10am I was parked in the Gooseberry Falls parking lot. I ate a chocolate dipped macaroon (I brought all my own snack food for this trip and it was delicious), grabbed my notebook and camera and took off towards the falls. I took a few pictures and then stretched out on a warm slab of rock and listened to the waterfalls. I had arrived. (This picture below was my attempt to capture this happy moment. Ha!)
I wrote for a while, then walked down to the lower bridge, talked to someone about her Australian Shepherd dog and then drove to the picnic area to get down by the lake.
What is it about this lake? It just feels like a friend to me! My childhood is full of Lake Superior trips, we did the circle tour one year camping around the whole thing, Rory and I honeymooned here, and before kids we were back almost annually. But now it has been years and it felt so good to be back. I found a little hole to sit in so I was close to the water and out of the wind. And I read a book Ivar has been begging me to read (about Martin Luther! He finished it and had so many questions for me and begged me to read it too.) So I listened to the water, read about Luther at the council of Worms and kept telling myself, “you’re really, really here.” I read and slept and listened and rested there for about an hour.
Now, all the way up the shore from Duluth to Gooseberry, I wrote down the names of cabins and motels that were right on the water. This is where I think you will actually care about my solo-trip to Lake Superior. Whenever I look online for places to stay on the North Shore, the same big resorts come up, over and over. And every time I wonder, “what about those ma and pa places sprinkled all over? how do I find them?” This was my chance to get to the bottom of that question. (Though only from Duluth to Gooseberry Falls, which is just a tiny stretch of the shore.)
I spent the next two hours heading back towards Duluth, stopping in at all the cabin and cottage-type hotels, right on the water. The 3-month pent-up extrovert exploded out of me as I met the owners and got a feel for each place. I asked how long they had owned the place, what they did before they bought this, how business is with corona. I got price sheets, business cards, looked in cabins and encouraged them, “you’re doing something really fun with your life. This is really cool! Just to own something right on this lake and to be in the hospitality business seems so one-of-a-kind.”
Oh, and this is sort of funny. Apparently I am rarely without my kids. Because when I would ask how many people the cabins could hold, they’d ask how many I’d need to sleep. And when it came out that I had five kids I got some of the funniest reactions. Because at that point I think they thought they knew me. And then they’d ask me the questions, “so, where are you from? And where are your kids today?” But I was actually looking for cabins for just Rory and I to come back to, so this helped calm their concern.
So here are my findings! Again, this is just from Duluth to Gooseberry, and I didn’t stop everywhere, and I’m not going to mention every place. These are just the ones I’d want to come back to and I think should get your business. If you do book there, tell them “that one mom with five kids” sent you. Maybe they’ll give me a deal sometime too. 🙂
The owners here were great. They have restored these cottages for the past 7 years, and their hard work shows. I told them I live on a farm and everywhere I look I can see 1) something we got done and looks good, and 2) three things we need to add to the list. And she said, “oh you get us!” But I will say, looking around, I think their list must be all crossed off. This place was darling and charming, right on the water AND, if you go for three nights after MEA (late October, so obviously off-season) you get three nights for the price of two, which brings it down to about $100 a night! “The very best deal on the shore” the guy said. And I believe it. All I want to do is read a book by the water, so this may be what we end up doing.
One of our summer interns, Jenny, told me about this gem. The cabins are old and right on the water. Honestly, this place feels like you have been invited to someone’s family cabin in all the best ways. The grounds feel well loved and homey. It is right off Hwy 61 so it has a grassy area behind the cabins for outdoor play with the kids. I didn’t meet anyone when I was there, likely because they were all cleaning the cabins for the next arrivals. But I loved it here.
Another total gem. Right on the water. Darling cabins with big windows to the lake. I met the super nice owner here, too, and I just loved this place. They even had a cabin available for the night and asked if I wanted to book it and man, did I ever! But I told them I’ll be back. And I really will. One look a their website and you’ll see the charm too.
The other places I stopped at were actually a part of a larger property network. So they weren’t ma and pa, but instead acquired by a bigger resort and run by that mother ship. They were very nice, but I was looking for the family owned and operated places.
And along those lines, the people at Gooseberry Cottages told me that the ‘VRBO of the North Shore’ is Cascade Vacation Rental. This is where individual cabin owners list their vacation rentals that are along Lake Superior or nearby. This is great information! I suppose they are also listed on other, bigger sites, but if you are looking specifically for North Shore rentals with particular requirements (town, number of occupants, on or near the water, pet-friendly, price, available dates, last-minute availability) this is another great place to look.
So that’s what I’ve got to share! If you have a favorite place to stay on the North Shore, I’d love to hear about it! That lake is something special. The lupin were in full bloom, the water was sparkling, the place smelled like a good perfume and I cannot wait to go back. And now I know where to go!