Exploring North Shore

We’re supposed to attend a wedding in Canada this summer. Besides seeing relatives and friends we’ve planned to explore some places there as well. But COVID-19 changed our plans. US residents are not allowed to cross the border. Well, the wedding still happened, albeit without us in attendance.

Though I did not cancel my vacation altogether, for I needed to get away. The stress of this pandemic to us, healthcare workers, is wearing me down. I needed a break.

So my family and I drove up North.

View from our lodge

Since Canada is still close to visitors, we stayed within the US border for our vacation. Yet we ventured really close to the northern border. We explored Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive, which is Lake Superior’s rugged westside coastline through Highway 61.

Highway 61 stretches from Duluth, Minnesota up to the Canadian border. Photo below is the aerial lift bridge at the Canal Park in Duluth.

We passed some lighthouses along the scenic drive and went down to check them out. Lighthouses nowadays don’t serve the same importance as it used to, as ships and boats usually navigate now with the GPS instead of just relying on visual cues. Yet lighthouses are still of iconic beauty.

Since we don’t have a tight schedule we had time to stop at a beach on a whim and just enjoy the scenery. Or also skip some rocks.

Skipping rocks requires both skill and knowledge of basic physics. Having the right spin, speed, shape and angle is needed in order for the stone to “skip” on top of the water. It may seem impossible at first to have a stone jump on water, but it can be done. Maybe life is like skipping rocks. We need to have the right elements in order for us to have our heads stay above water.

Here’s my son skipping rocks: (How many skips did you count? It was about 10.)

Although we were near the water, we spent much of our time in the mountains. The mountain resort where we stayed is a known ski destination but it has a different appeal during the summer months.

We rode the gondola up to the mountain peak. The view on the top was something to die for.

Then we rode down the mountain via the Alpine slide. This was half a mile of exhilarating ride.

This was a first-time experience for us. You can control your speed with a brake as you slide down the track. You can go slow (if you’re cautious) and enjoy the view, or go really fast and everything is a blur. My wife was so slow that it spoiled the fun of the kid behind her on the slide. I overheard the dad asking the boy if he had fun after the ride and he vehemently said no. Poor kid.

We like it so much that we did a second run. I thought of offering that poor kid a free ride but I couldn’t find them anymore. My wife did much faster on her second run. Maybe we should try bobsledding for our next adventure.

We also did some not-so-serious 2-mile hike up the mountain. Most of our activities were staying away from crowds as we practiced social distancing. We chased water falls while we also chased our breaths.

We followed up the river where it has less turbulent rapids and rested there. We ate our pack lunch while watching the river flow.

The morning we did the hike I received a phone call from our office informing me that one of my partners died. It was sudden and unexpected. Our life is in such a precarious balance that it could topple any moment. We should always be thankful for every precious time we have. (I’ll write a tribute for him later.)

We drove further up towards the Canadian border which was a little more than an hour drive from where we were staying. Again stopping along the way to enjoy the road-side view.

There was a last rest stop just before the border. Since it was in a state park, there were hiking trails in that area. So we hiked again.

We followed the trail that leads to the Canadian border, where at the end of that specific trail, we found this marker stating, “International Boundary Commission.”

We can’t get any further so we headed back. While we were hiking to this international boundary marker, we were interrogated not by Customs agents but by insects. And all we took back as souvenirs from the border were bug bites from friendly Canadian insects. At least they were duty-free.

From the North Shore,

Pinoytransplant (with my signature jump shot).

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

A Visit to Glacier National Park

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the chance to visit Glacier National Park. It is located in the state of Montana on the side of the US, and it borders Alberta and British Columbia provinces, on the side of Canada.

This national park is a wilderness with pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes.

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During our visit, we stayed in a beautiful historic lodge, the Glacier Park Lodge, which was built more than a century ago. Stepping inside this establishment is like stepping back in time.

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Rustic and yet classy, this retreat is located in such a beautiful place. Here it is in the early morning light (picture below).

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One of the high points of the trip is driving through the Going-to-the-Sun road. This a scenic mountain road, that is quite narrow and winding, with hairpin turns, and precipitous drop. Driving through this road can be both exhilarating as well as frightening.

Here we are going around the mountain….

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Through the mountain (via tunnel)……

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Driving besides the river…..

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And even driving under falls.

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Besides driving around, we also took boat rides (both motorized and a row-boat) in its lakes. Here’s the boat we rode in this clear lake.

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This park is named Glacier National Park due to its glaciers. A glacier is an extended mass of ice formed from snow falling and accumulating over the years and moving very slowly, either descending from high mountains, as in valley glaciers, or moving outward from centers of accumulation, as in continental glaciers.

Glacier National Park has 150 named glaciers in 1850, but was diminished to 26 in 2006 due to continued climate warming. Today, it only has 7 or 8 remaining, according to the experts. They may have to change the name of the park, when all the glaciers are gone.

Below is a view from the boat ride, with one of the remaining glaciers seen from a far.

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Here I am standing at the bough of the boat, and channelling my Leonardio DiCaprio moment like in the film Titanic. “I’m the king of the world!”

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We also did some no-sweat hikes. Here’s the view when we hiked down off the road into this mountain side.

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We also hiked up and down this ski slope in our t-shirts, shorts and rubber shoes. Even though the hike up the snow is probably a quarter to a third of a mile, it was comfortable. Not hot nor cold. I don’t think we even broke a sweat climbing up this snow-covered hill (photo below).

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When the snow melts, the water find its way to the rivers, falls, and lakes. Even though the lakes and the rivers seem inviting for a swim, they are icy cold.

Below is a photo after a climbed up a ledge near a raging river.

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We also hiked to a nearby falls. Again, not a serious hike as it was less than a quarter-mile from the dock where the boat dropped us off.

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Another highlight of the visit is seeing the sunset and sunrise with the play of light changing the colors of the mountains and the sky.

Here I am at the lake during sunrise. Of course I have to wear a colorful jacket too.

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When not busy roaming around outside, we just cooled our heels in our beautiful retreat. And what did I do in my downtime when we were there? Blog, of course!

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With a view like this, who would not be inspired to write? This is where I wrote my earlier post “Serendipity.”

I hope you can visit this place, before all the glaciers are gone.  I know the subject of global warming is such a hot and debated topic, and I would leave the politics and the science of that to the experts. But I do hope that we as a human race, will be responsible enough to keep this world of ours as beautiful as it can be.

from Glacier National Park,

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Pinoytransplant.

(*All photos in this post were taken with an iPhone. I am grateful to my “unofficial”photographers.)