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)

Not Cold? My Ears are Frozen!

Last weekend we shared a lazy Sunday brunch with our neighbors (yes, the same one who borrowed Voltes V). They have just moved from Minnesota to Iowa last summer, and as good neighbors we befriended them. They did fit in quickly to our neighborhood, and have settled in pretty much in their lovely new home.

Trying to know people with very different background than us is always interesting. They were curious how we who grew up in another country ended up here in Iowa. We told them of our experiences and what it was like back home. We were happy to inform them that the Philippines have more than 7100 islands (and that some of them disappear during high tide), and that our country’s land area is only twice as big as Iowa, but our population is about 92 M, compared to 3 M here in Iowa.

Then we talked about the Philippines’ climate where the temperature varies between 70’s to 90’s F all year through, unlike the very wide range of -20 (below 0) to 100 F here in Iowa.

As we were sharing stories, they told us that their friends have called them earlier that day and told them that they should be thankful, for there was so much snow and it was so much colder there in St.Paul/Minneapolis (Twin Cities) where they use to lived, than what we were experiencing here in Des Moines.

This couple grew up in Minnesota and spent most of their lives there, and they are very accustomed to cold. They claimed that in Minnesota, they can have up to 6 months of snow in a year. (Half a year of snow?!!) They have learned to embrace the cold weather and enjoy activities in snow. To them, Iowa winter is considered mild. (What do you mean not cold? My ears are already frozen!)

I find it funny that we have such different perspective of what cold is. I guess, to each his own.

Should I be thankful then, for it is warmer here than in Minnesota? I went out and checked the temperature outside: 8 F. Yeah, right.