MN North Shore – Autumn Journey – Day 3

Day 3 was the day – the morning actually – the sunrise shoot we had hoped for back in July when we planned this trip.  I love it when a plan comes together!  Hollow Rock was right outside our cabin; a mere 100 yards or so to the shooting location on the rocky beach.  That morning was absolutely gorgeous.  Everything came together nicely.  The clouds, color and sun all working in perfect harmony.

After an epic sunrise experience we set out to explore forest roads between the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage.  The color around Grand Portage [although past prime] was better than Grand Marais.  I’ve never seen so many Ruffed Grouse in my life.  I seen as many birds on this trip as I had all the years I used to upland hunt.  We were also searching for the third waterfall, Partridge Falls, on the Pigeon River and eventually found it.  We were unable to find a decent falls vantage point down river for a good photograph, but enjoyed the location just the same.  It is quite peaceful out in the middle of nowhere.  Natures beauty really consumes and carries you around from one location to the next.  At one point our travels were impeded by the handiwork some busy beavers.

One bit of advice whilst out and about in strange lands and big wilderness – study a map or two before you set out.  GPS, on more than one occasion, failed to provide adequate direction.  A little bit of mystery is fine, but having a general idea of where you will be traveling – starting and ending up – is paramount to a good trip.  “Ready to Navigate” displayed on the GPS, although humorous, is not helpful at all.  As you can see from the Lightroom Map below from GPS data, we covered some ground over three days.  It was a fabulous trip and experience with my betrothed.


Here are some photos from Day 3.


Grand Portage State Park – Pigeon Falls – Grand Portage, MN

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Grand Portage State Park – Gunflint Trail | MN North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]



North Shore Abstracts

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North Shore Abstracts – Gunflint Trail | MN North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]



Hollow Rock – The Location: Resort & Sunrise

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Sunrise @ Hollow Rock | MN North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]


Minnesota North Shore – The In-Between, Day 4

Day4This was finally the morning where there was no fog to speak of.  Although waking up at 4:30 a.m. while on vacation seems a bit crazy, sometimes it pays off.  The Grand Portage Trading Post (gas station) is not open at this hour.  You are stuck with the coffee in your room.  We made our way to Hollow Rock Resort for a sunrise shoot.  It is a very short distance from the casino.  It was a cool morning and the mosquitoes where a titch unruly, but manageable…at times.  Our Hallow Rock Point sunrise shaped up nicely – no fog, clouds on the horizon and beautiful color.

Grand Portage National Monument was next on the list.  There is some amazing history to learn about there.

The journey didn’t end here.  We ventured into Canada.  I have never been into Canada from this entry point and finally my curiosity was going to be over.  Not far in we spied a cheese sign and had to check it out.  Thunder Oak Cheese Farm was a nice little pit stop along our way and certainly filled the void during snack time, which happened to be at that very moment.

We made our way through the city of Thunder Bay on our way to find some Amethyst.  There are a few veins of the purple rock North and East of the city.  Amethyst Mine Panorama is where we ended up (B on the map above).    The mine is about 80 miles from Grand Portage, MN and 63 km from Thunder Bay, CA off of the 11/17 Trans Canadian Hwy.  How exciting this destination is – is directly related to how much you like Amethyst.  The mine tour is pretty minimal.  You exit the office and walk by some really big Amethyst rocks and then stand there overlooking a hole in the ground.  The gist of it is that there are two miners picking out the premium Amethyst.  What they don’t want (the not-so-premium stuff) they dump in an area where you can go and dig around yourself.  That is precisely what we did.  They have tools for digging and buckets to collect your treasure in.  When you are done with all of that, there is a washing station to scrub your gems clean to get a closer look at them.  Once you have decided what you cannot live without, it is a short trip to the office to pay $3.00/lb.  Cyndie found some really interesting specimens; for $12 we got to bring them back home.  *WARNING* — *BEWARE* — crazy Canadian blood-sucking vampire gnats abound in the treasure hunting area.  We suffered a bit of a casualty that beautiful July afternoon.  Cyndie was bit in the eyelid a few time – enough to make her one eye swell almost completely shut and there were also a couple of swollen welts on her neck.  There were a few eye patch and pirate jokes.  She was a trooper.  The gnats didn’t bother me, but the crazy Canadian blood-sucking vampire mosquitoes were all over me tapping me for much O Negative nectar.

Here are some shots from our visit to Amethyst Mine Panorama

We had a pleasant excursion into Canada.  We had planned to visit a couple of provincial parks, but didn’t make it there.  We made our way back to border crossing and then back to Two Harbors.  That was a long day (just shy of 3oo miles), but we saw a lot of beautiful country.

Here are my shots of the Minnesota North Shore – The in between, Day 4

Minnesota North Shore – The In-Between, Day 3

Day3Ahhhh beautiful Grand Marais, MN.  This (and points North) is my favorite area of the North Shore.  We got off the beaten path and explored a few forest roads on our way to Judge CR Magney State Park.  The wild flowers were incredible as were the butterflies.  One of the forest road dead-ended out in the middle of nowhere.  That wasn’t terribly convenient and it forced us to backtrack back to where we started.   .It could have been worse; we could be at work 🙂  We had the windows down driving along the forest road just fast enough to stay ahead of the mosquitoes and then…Cyndie was viciously attached by a dragon-fly.  Yep, from out of nowhere a dragon-fly came in the window and landed between the seat and the door.  Cyndie about jumped out of her seat.  The danger was quickly ejected from the vehicle and we continued on our way.

We spent a fair amount of time at Judge CR Magney State Park and generally took it a bit easier than we had in the last two days.  We did set a pretty aggressive pace initially and we were both starting to slow down some.  We arrived in Grand Portage in the early afternoon.  The lodging available is somewhat limited in these parts.  There are plenty of places to stay, but if it is a cabin, you’ll have to stay a minimum of two nights.  We had hoped to stay at Hollow Rock Resort so we could just wake up at sunrise and walk out right onto the shore for sunrise, but the two-day stay stamped that plan out.  The Grand Portage Lodge & Casino is a suitable solution to your one night stay needs.  Hollow Rock Resort is part of the casino and there wasn’t an issue gaining access to do a sunrise shoot there.

We checked in and then explored the surrounding area some as a late afternoon thunderstorm rolled on through.  An early dinner at the Casino and some much-needed shuteye seem like the perfect end of another full day of traveling the North Shore.

Here are my shots of the Minnesota North Shore – The in between, Day 3

Minnesota North Shore – Hollow Rock Point Sunrise

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Sunrise @ Hollow Rock | MN North Shore


Minnesota North Shore – Grand Portage National Monument


Grand Portage National Monument is located on the north shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota.  It exists to preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage.  Opened in 2007, the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center features exhibit galleries about Ojibwe culture and the fur trade, a bookstore, multi-media programs, park offices, archives and a classroom. The center is a collaboration between the National Park Service and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.


As early as 2,000 years ago, Indian Nations probably used Gichi-onigaming, or “the Great Carrying Place”, to travel from summer homes on Lake Superior to winter hunting grounds in the interior of Minnesota and Ontario. In 1729 Cree guide Auchagah drew a map for some of the first French fur traders, to show them how to reach the “western sea” of Lake Winnipeg. In time, Grand Portage became the gateway into rich northern fur-bearing country, where it connected remote interior outposts to lucrative international markets.

The Grand Portage trail is an 8.5-mile trail connecting Grand Portage with Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River. Voyageurs from the interior of Canada would carry their furs by canoe to Fort Charlotte, and portage the bundles of fur to Grand Portage. There they met traders from Montreal, and exchanged the furs for trade goods and supplies. Each canoe “brigade” then returned to its starting place. The fur traders built Fort Charlotte as a trading fort at Grand Portage. There they built the Grand Hall in the French colonial style, which housed their meetings, a general store, and other facilities.

In mid-July 1802, partners of the North West Company, the most successful fur trade company in North America, met in their Grand Hall at Grand Portage. They voted to move their summer headquarters from the protected shores of Lake Superior’s Grand Portage Bay 50 miles north to the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. Almost from the time the Anglo-Scot Nor’Westers had organized at Grand Portage in the mid-1780’s, an emerging United States wanted them to stop competing with Americans in this territory.

The July vote meant that the North West Company would tear down its 18 buildings and transport the materials north in company schooners for use in constructing the planned new Fort William, far from U.S. soil. The buildings were constructed from native squared spruce, pine and birch and were surrounded by more than 2,000 cedar pickets.

Here are my shots from a recent visit to Grand Portage National Monument.

The Grad Portage Trail – seen here in red – must have been quite a haul.  The North Canoe was used on this routed.  At 25′ long, 4′ wide with about 18″ of draft when fully loaded; the canoe itself weighed about 300 lbs.  This was about half the size of the Montreal Canoe that was used on the Great Lakes.  Even with a crew of 5-6, transporting the 300 lb. canoe and just under 3000 lbs of supplies all divided out into 25-30 90 lb packs called pieces, could not have been an easy task.  Those voyagers where hearty stock no doubt.


Beginning at the stockade on Grand Portage Bay of Lake Superior, the 8.5-mile trail leads westward into the wilderness to a mid-point on the Pigeon River. It passes numerous rapids and a variety of waterfalls.  The most notable are Middle Falls and Pigeon Falls.  Both are part of the Grand Portage State Park and are within the Rove Formation.  Middle Falls is most easily seen from Pigeon River Provincial Park on the Canadian side of the border. To avoid numerous short portages, the Grand Portage was developed.

Minnesota North Shore – Grand Portage State Park

Grand Portage is the last and final state park along the North Shore.  It was the newest state park in Minnesota until 2010.  Lake Vermilion State Park is now the newest.  I look forward to visiting this location soon.  For more information, check out the Master Plan.

Grand Portage State Park is situated on the northeastern tip of Minnesota on the Canada-Untied States border.  The tallest waterfall in the state is located here; at 120 feet, it is impressive.  I can only image how it must have been to happen upon this waterfall in a canoe loaded down with supplies, crew and furs.  The nine mile portage around this falls and rapids downstream was a very laborious process no doubt.

The day we visited there was rather think fog to contend with.  At times, the visibility of the falls was impossible and you just had to stand there listening to the thunder of the water until it came back into view.  This is one of the few handicap accessible park that will bring you up close and personal with this gorgeous waterfall via ramps and board walks.  This is a day use only park with 5 miles of hiking trails.  The views of the falls and river are very picturesque.

Pigeon River – High Falls (video)
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Park Creation

The land adjoining High and Middle Falls was purchased as a possible commercial property by Lloyd K. Johnson, an attorney and land speculator from Duluth, who held onto it for decades.  In 1985 a park advocacy group, the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, suggested complementing Ontario’s Pigeon River Provincial Park with a Minnesota state park.  Johnson, who in the 1930’s and 40’s had sold hundreds of thousands of acres to the U.S. Forest Service to help create Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, agreed to sell 178 acres and donate a further 129 acres.   The Parks and Trails Council raised Johnson’s asking price of $250,000 through contributions from individuals and foundations and completed the sale in 1988.

Since the land was within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, the state park bill was drafted with several provisions establishing a novel collaboration. Legislation establishing the park passed unanimously in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature in 1989.  The Parks and Trails Council sold the land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for $316,000, an amount well under its appraised value.  The DNR then began the complicated process of transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would hold it in trust for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, who in turn would lease the park back to the DNR for $1 a year. Grand Portage State Park finally opened to the public in September 1994.   It took so long to finalize the land deal that another entire Minnesota state park, Glendalough, had been authorized, developed, and dedicated in the meantime.


Git-che-O-ni-ga-ming and Grand Portage are Ojibwe and French words for “a great carrying place.” Grand Portage State Park and the surrounding area is rich in Indian and fur trade history. To American Indians, voyageurs and fur traders in the 1700s, the natural features of the area were an awesome sight. Travelers and traders were faced with a 120-foot waterfall, the thundering rapids of the Pigeon River, cliffs, and rocky terrain that was impossible to cross. The only option was to go around these obstacles. The nine-mile trek became known as “The Grand Portage” and ultimately gave the area its name. The park lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and is bordered by Canada on the north and east. Lake Superior is about one mile east of the park. The park was established in 1989 through the cooperative efforts of the State of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians. A unique situation exists in that this is the only state park not owned by the State of Minnesota. The land is leased from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which holds it in trust for the Grand Portage Band. The development and operation of the park rests primarily with the Department of Natural Resources and is implemented through the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Here are my shots from my recent visit to Grand Portage State Park.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage