The fella and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary this month with a trip up north. Our goal was to keep it short — less than two days — and inexpensive. Once we decided which direction we wanted to go and how far we wanted to drive, everything else pretty much fell into place.
With a full tank of gas in Connor, my rusty, but trusty 2003 Toyota Highlander, we left Minneapolis around 6:00 a.m. Friday and headed north on Interstate 35. While our goal was to drive to our northern most destination and then gradually make our way back south, we had to stop in Hinckley. More specifically, Tobies. Its tradition. Their caramel, cinnamon and pecan rolls are positively sinful. The fella and I had breakfast — and got our pecan rolls to go.
I have lived in Minnesota for most of my life, but there are still so many places in the state that I have never visited. One of those spots is Split Rock Lighthouse. It’s one of the most photographed landmarks in Minnesota. So iconic that it’s even on our driver’s license. (I learned that little tidbit from our tour guide.)
Split Rock Lighthouse sits on the North Shore of Lake Superior atop a rocky cliff. It was built in 1910 after a catastrophic storm in November of 1905 destroyed dozens of steel freighters. The lighthouse and accompanying fog signal were in service for a half century until new technology like Long Range Navigation, radar and GPS rendered them obsolete.
The skies were cloudy that day and it was very windy, but it did give the fella a great opportunity to do his own take on The Cure’s Staring at the Sea.
Once you’ve explored the lighthouse and surrounding buildings, I highly recommend you take the trail to the tram house and go down the stairs to the lake. This is where you’ll find the most stunning views of the lighthouse and of the North Shore. The stairs run alongside the ruins of the old tramway, which was used to hoist supplies from ships on the lake.
Going down the stairs was great. The thought of going back up — not so much. Instead, we took the Two Harbors path back to the visitor center.
From Split Rock Lighthouse, we drove seven miles south to Gooseberry Falls. Growing up, I’ve heard a lot about Gooseberry Falls and how it’s a must-see destination. I must say, it’s impressive.
There are spots along the Gooseberry River where you can get into the water and play among the falls. We decided to leave that for a future camping trip to the Falls.
Our next stop was for a late lunch in Duluth at my favorite sushi restaurant, Hanabi. I remember my first time there. I had just spoken to a group of students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. As a thank you, they treated me to Hanabi for lunch. I got hooked.
The thing I love about their sushi is the sheer creativity that goes into each roll. Each dish is a work of art.
My favorite is the North Shore Roll. It’s like the supreme pizza of sushi rolls. There’s tuna, avocado, salmon, seaweed salad, five different kinds of caviar and topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce. The good news is that when I have a craving for the North Shore roll, I don’t have to drive two hours north to Duluth. The owners of Hanabi also have a restaurant in Blaine called Hajime.
After lunch, we decided to go check out Canal Park along Duluth’s waterfront. The wind had really picked up by the time we got there. We watched wave after wave crash along the lakewalk.
We also drove over the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point because we had spotted some kite surfers in the distance and wanted a closer look. By the time we got to the beach, they had already packed up and left, but there was still one brave soul out in the lake windsurfing. We must have watched him for 15 minutes zip back and forth across the water with three massive freighters as a backdrop.
Our last stop was at Black Bear Casino in Carlton. We splurged and got a room for the night. But let’s be honest, I did not want to attempt to drive the two hours back home after gorging myself on their seafood buffet. I know the fella didn’t want to either.
Our 36-hour trip was a great way to recharge our batteries and reconnect as a couple. It’s easy to let the stress and activities of day-to-day life impact our relationship and this short trip really gave us some much needed one-on-one time.
We had so much fun and really like the idea of day trips. We’re now looking at other places to do for a short getaway. I’d love to take the fella to southeastern Minnesota. I know we’d have a ball in Red Wing and Lake City. I think he’d get a kick out of LARK Toys in Kellogg. I’ll keep you guys posted.