A Superior Road Trip
By Barbara Morrow
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: MAY/JUNE 2007)
JUST AS THE SUN begins to light the sky, I sneak out of Naniboujou Lodge, a Depression-era hunting lodge-turned-inn along Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. Before another day of driving beside the world’s largest freshwater lake and its rocky shore, I want an up-close look.
I head down the broad lawn dotted with Adirondack chairs and start walking on a beach of lake-smoothed stones, empty as far as I can see. Superior looks like molten silver in the half light, calm and almost flat, joining a gray sky in an almost imperceptible line in the distance. As I begin to feel like I’m all alone, maybe the only one who has ventured this far, I almost trip on a carefully arranged pile of stones, then another. Previous visitors have stacked these little sculptures. This place seems to demand some sort of creative offering, so I pile up my own.
"People come here to be nurtured a bit and just to relax and sit by the lake. We all need that, there’s so much noise and action in our lives, " says Nancy Ramey, owner of the lodge nine miles north of Grand Marais in the state's northeastern corner.
"She’s right: That’s why we're here. In fact, those sorts of moments are what friend and colleague Joan Luckett and I are after on the legendary Circle Tour. This 1,200-plus-mile trek has been called one of the world’s ultimate road trips. But we want to make the journey for what we’ll find along the way, not for the thrill of logging miles. The drive has to be a way to get to Great Lakes scenery, interesting people, lighthouses, cool towns, local food, inns and other experiences that, for us, make a trip memorable.
This journey promises all of that on a grand scale. The route is long but fairly simple and will return us to where we start, giving us the joy of the unknown without serious map reading. Our goal is to travel clockwise from Duluth along the Minnesota, Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin shores in five days, about all the time we can afford away from our jobs and families.