Seeing as shooting off fireworks for one day to celebrate the date of our country’s independence is no longer a thing, we might as well relabel Independence Day to Independence month right? I mean, that’s how long the fireworks have been going off in my town, whether legal or not….
But I digress…
Whether fireworks are a part of your independence day or not, here are a list of sights to see, and food to eat that SHOULD be a part of your summer celebrations. If you don’t get a chance to take a vacation in the summer, at least take time out of the year to enjoy them at least once.
So here are my top 5 things that YOU can do with your summer vacation. Party on!
*NOTE: All photos taken with iPhones. I wasn’t brave enough to take my DSLR along:
#1: CAMPING (real camping….not “glamping”)
Peace. Quiet. Serenity. In my humble opinion, I think we all need to occasionally get away from the rush of the big city (if that’s where you live), unplug from the internet, put our phones away, and reconnect to nature (and each other!) The only downside is you might have to apply some bug repellent and sunscreen…
My husband and I got to escape for a week to the North Shore of Lake Superior in upper Minnesota. We were so close to the lake, and Canada, that we swore it was October, but it was only July . Both of us were glad to escape the hot weather of Nebraska for cooler breezes up North.
We had the pleasure of staying at one of the last remaining mom-and-pop style camping and RV resorts on Highway 61, known as Lamb’s Resort. You really need to check it out. This place stole our hearts so much that we might make it a yearly tradition!
The pleasure of looking up at a canopy of trees, seeing the stars (not pictured sadly), picking your favorite rocks from a lake beach, and finding your inner child can never be a bad thing right?
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
If you’re the campfire type ( which I totally am!), bring on the hoodies and the mallows and the—-holy buckets—-a chocolate dispenser?! Where have you been all my life!? Now you can’t say no to S’mores!
You toast…..the mallow….
Our campsite was literally lake-side. This is campsite #4A if you ever visit Lamb’s!
Using a grill and a percolator to make coffee….well, we tried to anyway…
Foil packets never tasted so good. Roasted baby potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes, complete with a little oil and Wild Tree seasoning. I mean, how many times do you get the opportunity to make a meal like this!?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
We used a baby cast iron skillet and a tripod fire grill to make pork and beans!
“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”
― Germany Kent
#2: LOCAL FOOD AND BREWS
Not only is that about all there was available in some smaller towns, (we took the road less traveled, kind of…) it’s just the nice thing to do. It’s often times more entertaining because of talking to the locals, and the craftsmanship of food and wares is also more often than not a lot better made than your typical chain business.
TIP: Be prepared to go back in time a little bit and bring cash. Some small businesses can’t or won’t resort to using a credit card system.
TIP 2: Bring a cooler and stop at local groceries for picnic food. Set up lunch at a quaint little park and enjoy eating on the road, rather than hitting the drive through. Even gas stations can offer some local eats!
Beth’s Fudge and Gifts – Grand Marais, Minnesota
Lake Superior Brewing of Minnesota
Jams by Jan – Gooseberry to be exact!
Maybe not local to Minnesota, but I had certainly never heard of this candy!
And again, I was transported back in time by all the candy that was next to it in the store, like Necco wafers, candy cigs, etc.
The Trestle Inn – in the backwoods of Finland, Minnesota. In winter you have to use a snowmobile to get there! It was exactly the hole-in-the-wall saloon we were looking for.
We had to take National Park roads with NO signs to get there-literally by using a hand-drawn map made by our campground concierge. They had locally caught Canadian Walleye. Yum!
Rhubarb pancakes and homemade sugar maple syrup-covered bacon from Como Lake Bed & Breakfast in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Carla, our hostess, taps her own tree in her front yard to make the syrup!
Toasted pecan croissant from the Schroeder Baking Company in Schroeder, Minnesota
Pretty good for bar food!
Shepherds pie with Irish brown bread, and bangers and mash from Half Time Rec Neighborhood Bar in St. Paul, Minnesota
Instagram worthy festival food!
Hot sausage, purple rice (aka black or forbidden rice), tri-color boba drink from the Hmong Freedom Athletic Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota
Surly Brewing and Big Wood Brewing of Minnesota. Pretty darn good beers!
Nova Scotia Fisherman’s stew with olive spread-sourdough toasty points from Gun Flint Tavern in Grand Marais, Minnesota
Blackened Canadian walleye and more local brews from the Como Dockside Cafe
#3: TRYING SOMETHING/VISITING SOMEWHERE/LEARNING SOMETHING NEW
I truly believe that we were made to challenge the things we know to be true. Thus, if you’ve never left the place you grew up, or tried a new food outside of your favorite palate, or explored the road less traveled, how will ever know what the world has to offer?
When I was 10, I had the opportunity to go on a week long camp to Minnesota, and that was the farthest and longest I had ever been away from home. Ever since, I went on church trips, band trips, spring break vacations with friends- and I was hooked. I wanted to escape my small Midwestern farm town to see the unknown, to live “dangerously” and seek adventure.
I believe that leaving everything I knew was truly the best thing to ever happen to me, so that by stretching my comfort zone, I was becoming the person I was meant to be. It’s almost a challenge now to see how many hole-in-the-wall places I can discover and cross off my bucket list. At least, I’ve made the decision that this will be my life-long goal.
So, that being said, I will leave you with a few pictures and favorite quotes:
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
At Lamb’s Restort – This reads: “Our Office”, in Norwegian 🙂
The 36th Annual Hmong Fest in St. Paul, Minnesota
Grand Marais Harbor—Voted coolest small town in America!!
The view from the top of Mount Josephine in Grand Portage, Minnesota
One of many Superior Hiking Trails: http://www.northshorehiking.com
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
A plaque at the foot of Baraga Cross, near Lamb’s Resort property.
It overlooks Lake Superior.
I told my husband that the Cascade River Falls resembled Root Beer- and low and behold, we found a trail plaque stating the same thing, and the reason why. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/cascade_river/index.html
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” – Alan Keightley
My new favorite wild flower- LUPINE! It was blooming everywhere up North!
A bocce ball tournament room in the basement of Half Time Rec. EPIC.
I had almost forgotten how to play…
“Trains are great dirty smokey things”, said Will. “You won’t like it.”
Tessa was unmoved. “I won’t know if I like it until I try it, will I?”
“I’ve never swum naked in the Thames, but I know I wouldn’t like it.”
“But think how entertaining for sightseers,” said Tessa…..”
― Cassandra Clare,
#4: MAKE SOME NEW FRIENDS
Ok, ok, so the “folks” in the picture are obviously not going to talk back to me, but I am just seeing if you are still paying attention.
Another joy of traveling ( for me anyway) is people watching, eavesdropping at the local watering hole, and meeting folks and probing them with questions to see if we have any of the same acquaintances (yes it’s happened to me!).
I may have a twisted sense of humor, but people and the things they say, and the ways and customs of their homelands can almost come off as watching a sitcom. I LOVE overhearing toddlers babbling the funniest things to their mommies and daddies at a baseball game. I LOVE spying the gaggle of Red Hat Ladies come in to the local cafe for afternoon tea. I LOVE overhearing the old Vets up at the bar tell their stories from the glory days, and I LOVE to think about if others are doing the same of me.
“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” – Harvey Pekar
Animals can count as friends 😉
Whether we met Bigfoot or not, we would never tell 😉
Meeting Maggie from Como Lake B&B
Carla, our B&B hostess, had each guest pose with a plate from their state of origin. Nebraska!
Carla also had a journal on the breakfast table for guests to write down their favorite trips. She aspired one day to visit all of these places. What a fascinating lady!
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
#5: DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT
One of my many regrets from traveling in my earlier years is that I didn’t journal. Taking pictures is one thing. Enjoying the moment is another. But writing-with a true pen and paper is something I aspire to do going forward. Just a little bit every night before bed, just to reflect on the day and give my mind something to remember from the trip.
My fear is that one day I will grow old, and forget all of these adventures I had when I was young, and that I’ll have nothing to look back on with fondness. The best I can do right now is to blog about the pictures I took—sooner than later—before I forget.
Next travel purchase – a nice moleskin journal to help keep these anecdotes forever.
“I was seized by doubt. Should I have come here? But going back was impossible. I had fled a known terror, and perhaps I could cope with this unknown terror that lay ahead.”
― Richard Wright,
Ah Lamb’s. One of the last remaining mom and pop resorts (that also offered tent camping) this far north on Highway 61. Suggested to me by my friend Caroline, we couldn’t have made a better decision.
I wrote down my favorite food from our honeymoon in Carla’s journal. She wanted to make it for her guests at the B&B after I told her all about kaiserschmarrn!
Lamb’s resort had a beautiful and easy-to-hike river trail that ended up at the mouth of the Cross River. A great little escape from camp.
Little nuggets like these, a hand-cut and painted loon, a hand-drawn map of the camp, and other little cutesy things at the office are things that I’ll remember about Lamb’s.
I love taking pictures of the historic markers wherever we went. I never find them boring. And it’s something to do while waiting for your partner at the rest stop 😉
This picture was at the bakery where we got breakfast at camp a few times….too funny.
There were a few folks in the bakery sitting around a table drinking coffee and telling fish stories every morning. They were SO so so nice too, and held open the door for us when our hands were full of coffee and donuts.
I decided to take a screen shot of our location after having reached the top of Mount Josephine. A breathtaking view of the harbor and the very outskirts of Canada. I’m glad I did—look at where we were at! (The blue dot)
I also used an altitude app to capture our final destination. Now this is no 14-er, but the hike was straight up a rocky, minimally maintained path. Well worth the trip.
We found an old fire tower from the 1920’s/30’s on top of Mt. Josephine. What we didn’t know is that the reminder of the trail disappeared and we thought we had reached the end. However, it kept going behind this tower to a point where a sacred tree rumored to be hundreds of years old, lurked on a cliff. It is called the Witch Tree. We’ll have to go look for it next time-if we’re allowed. Supposedly it is truly blocked off for people who are not a part of the local tribe:
Grand Portage, Minnesota
More historical markers at the Grand Portage Heritage site.
Info boards at McQuade boat ramp along Highway 61
Locally painted artwork on buildings all over Grand Marais, Minnesota
Unfortunately, however, we did not spot any Minnesota Moose.
Schroeder Baking Company – Next door to Lamb’s Resort
Another fascinating rest stop historical marker.
Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse on Scenic Highway 61 (Be sure to take the scenic drive and not the freeway).
Knife River, Minnesota
Sugared smoked trout from Russel’s Smokehouse
Scenic Route Highway 61
The beautiful and charming Duluth Minnesota
Leif Erickson Park and Rose Garden
(where we stopped at a grocery and then had a picnic lunch)
Grand Portage National Monument (Recreated fur trading lodge)
Grand Portage Indian Reservation, Minnesota
World’s Best Donuts
Grand Marais, Minnesota
So, even though these are a fraction of the images we took—I enjoyed picking out some of the best, especially the ones that highlighted the places, people, and eats we encountered along the way.
I had to include the food because after all, this is technically a food blog. But I am glad to also include travel as part of my blog so that if others happen to read it, they too can discover new worlds through the blogging community and maybe visit those places themselves someday.
Please ask away if you have any questions about our trip!
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes