Today’s destination, Ashland, was designed to set me up for a full day on the UP (Michigan Upper Peninsula) tomorrow, so it was actually a short drive (relatively speaking) from Bemadji. And you know what that means: side trips! I did two of them, one in the AM and one in the PM.
The morning quest was to find the official headwaters of the Mississippi River, the north end of Lake Itasca (which I only knew about because my friend Linda told me it was up here). On the way southeast to the site, I actually crossed the Mississippi twice, confusing me greatly and making me think I must have missed it, but google maps said I was on the right course. It was only after reading the displays at the Headwaters visitor center that I learned the river actually goes NORTH before it finally turns EAST and then SOUTH to meander down to New Orleans. Silly river!
The lake was deserted (and the Visitor Center closed till May 1st), just me and an older couple from New York, leaving as I arrived. So I had the headwaters all to myself! That little line of rocks? That’s where the lake ends and the Mississippi begins. Cool, right?
The park put a nice steady board across the water, so you can straddle the river when it’s way too cold to wade across (like today, when it was 38F at the time of my visit):
The whole park is beautiful, and I was particularly taken by the trees, and this detail.
Then it was back in the car, and off to find side trip #2.
After a long slog across small two-lane roads behind too many big trucks, I hit the big time, Duluth. I actually liked the look of it, but I was committed to my second side trip, and so just drove through, with a mental note to come back at some point and explore this port city. As a Seattleite, I do love a good port full of activity, and Duluth definitely has that. I would have taken a few photos, but I was on the phone with a friend, and figured that driving, talking, AND taking a photo or two might be just a bit too much multi-tasking 😉
The afternoon side trip was the Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway, a loop around a small peninsula with some great views of Lake Superior and forest lands. Lake Superior was as awesome as I thought it would be:
It was the forests I had trouble with, at least at the start. The trees are — well, there’s no way around it, — kind of puny when you’re someone like me, who grew up with forests of redwoods and sequoias. It took me about half the day to see that these trees have their own beauty, even in winter with bare branches.
Or when a fire has left them decimated but still standing.
- Miles Driven: 317 (2013 overall)
- MPG: 27.2 (25.4 overall) Avg speed today 55 instead of 75, so MPG is doing better…
- Side trips: Lake Itasca, Headwaters of the Mississippi River, and Route 13, the scenic drive on the peninsula just west of Ashland. Probably 2-3 hours extra driving, and a boatload of extra miles, but both really worth it.
- States: Minnesota, Wisconsin