My family began camping when I was around six years old. We started out in a tent loaned to us by my grandparents. It had a huge green canvas body with old, clunky, metal poles. It was truly a team effort as my mom held the poles in place while my dad tried to find the other connecting pieces. I can still remember the musty, dirty smell as we stepped inside, ready to throw down our sleeping bags. My mom ended up sleeping in the van for the rest of the camping trip because her allergies could not stand up to old, musty smell of the tent.
My parents eventually saved up for and bought a gigantic, grey and red tent. It fit all five of us perfectly and even had space for the friends we girls would bring along. After a few years, we realized we were indeed a camping family for the long run, and my family graduated to a pop up camper. We were truly camping in style and in my sisters and my eyes we were indeed “glamping”. Glamping is a fancy new word that stands for “glamorous camping” with all the amenities of a house.
One of our very favorite camping vacations was to make the trek up north to the place known among natives as the “North Shore”. From south-central Minnesota to Duluth, the beginning of the North Shore Drive is about five to six hours. To go to the very tip of the North Shore, also known as the Boundary Waters, is an additional five to six hour drive.
The North Shore is where the famous tales of Ole, Sven, and Lena began. They are true legends amongst Minnesotans, and many stories have been told about their various and hilarious outings around the state. Ask any Minnesotan and we’d be happy to give you a few Ole and Lena jokes! Ole & Lena’s Pizzeria was one my favorite stops along the way! The pizza is great and the jokes hilarious!
Every trek to the North Shore my family took usually found us lodging at one of three places. Our first preference was my great Aunt Rosie’s house. When we stayed at her house, we sometimes stayed in the camper they had on their property for guests. I was always afraid I would open the door and be greeted by a black bear. The other two places we stayed at were either the Split Rock Lighthouse campground or Gooseberry Falls State Park. Both of these iconic landmarks in Minnesota have campgrounds, hiking trails, and hold amazing memories that I cannot wait to share with my own kids.
The lighthouse and falls are not far from each other, allowing us to visit both no matter which campground my parents chose.
My great Aunt Rosie also runs and cooks for the restaurant called Rosie’s Cafe. After 50 years of working at Lutsen Mountains, they named the cafe after my sweet great aunt. I remember as a little girl going up to the cafe to visit her. We always made sure to ride the Apline Slide every time we went! I remember running around Rosie’s house as my parents spent time talking and having coffee with her. It was magical to be among the tall trees, see deer walking through her yard, and experience the excitement of possibly seeing black bears. (Although we always hoped our encounters with the black bears would not be up close and personal.)
Camping at the state parks in our state allowed us to get away as a family. My parents were as relaxed as a vacation with three little girls can be. They were away from the day to day life, phones, and hassles of being at home. We were able to focus on our relationships, and I learned to appreciate nature and all it has to offer. I learned how to build a fire and keep it going. I learned how to safely chop wood, recognize the hoot of owls, and identify various animal tracks.
I love Minnesota’s North Shore. Share some of your favorite Minnesota North Shore memories!