Lake Superior circle tour | Midwest Living

Lake Superior circle tour

Two cars, five days and 1,200 miles of highway. Two sets of travelers with different ideas of the perfect vacation create memories of a lifetime around massive Lake Superior.
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    Canada's Highway-17 near <br>Rossport, Ontario.
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    A freighter passes Duluth.
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    The dining room at Naniboujou Lodge <br>near Grand Marais, Minnesota
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    Guests can climb the tower for a <br>Lake Superior view from Michigan's <br>Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn.
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    Both trailers and tents find beachfront <br>camping at Munising, <br>Michigan's Tourist Park.
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    Ojibwa pictographs decorate Agawa <br>Rock in Lake Superior Provincial <br>Park, where hikers follow signs <br>of the lake spirit Misshepezhieu <br>down the rock.
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    Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn

Barbara's trip, Day Two


By Day Two, our stops and the Superior views already have made the drive worthwhile: the walk along the shore in Duluth and lunch at famous Grandma’s restaurant; Gooseberry Falls, where we watch kids splash just steps from Minnesota’s State-61; Grand Marais, with its shops, galleries and cafes around a Lake Superior harbor. Naniboujou, which has a dining room decorated by a 1920s artist in striking Cree-inspired designs, proved as magical as we hoped. (OK, our room’s No. 2 bed (the kind in the wall that flips up suddenly in old cartoons) is a little scary, I admit.) Day Five finds us wondering how we can fit this epic journey into one fairly short story.

The route winds through a panorama, between hills covered in tall pines and aspens and vast, blue Superior. Whenever we see a promising roadside overlook, we stop and follow trails to sights that are surprisingly easy walks from the road. Ontario's Kakabeka Falls, a roaring torrent plunging 130 feet, seems too spectacular to be just a few steps from a parking lot. So does an overlook above Lake of the Clouds, a mirror-bright swath reflecting sky and woods in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). The UP’s Tahquamenon Falls and Ontario’s Ouimet (WE-met) Canyon require longer walks, but nothing that would justify all we’re eating.

By the time we reach Ouimet, we’re ready to stretch our legs, whether or not this place we’d barely heard of is worth the detour. I stop to read a sign to figure out if we have far to go, and Joan forges ahead. I hear her gasp, not a good sound when you’re surrounded by Canadian wilderness.

Then I see why. The shaded path ends abruptly at a wooden platform hanging over a gorge. According to the sign dizzyingly close to the rail, the canyon is 30 stories deep, more than a mile long and almost 500 feet wide. Ontario natives Sherri Smith and her son Andrew, 15, are just as awed. We ask them whether this place is well-known in Canada. Surely, it must be. But Sherri says, "No one knows about it. We just happened past. "

Shadows lengthen across the rocks, and we realize we’d better get moving. The price of all our irresistible stops becomes clear at about this point of each day. But long hours driving do offer time to talk, more in a day than we usually have time for in weeks. The rambling dialogue covers books (finding time for them), ideas (you need some down time like this to have some) and our families ("Your daughter won’t be a senior already! " I protest, stalling a discussion of college visits).

But after a sudden downpour and a stretch of Canada-17 that’s been reduced nearly to dirt by construction, we can’t get to our last stop, tiny Rossport near Superior’s northern tip, fast enough. At the landmark Rossport Inn, we gratefully eat lake trout and pie, looking out on an azure bay studded with green islands. Our cabin is simple but has pretty quilts on good beds, and we sleep deeply despite trains thundering past.


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