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Summary of the Lake Superior
Circle Tour, September/October 2006

Lake Superior Postcard

Not counting the two days up and two days back it took to get to and from our jumping off point of St. Ignace, Michigan, it took us 14 days to circle the entire Lake. Are we glad we did it? Yes. Would we do it again? No. Would we recommend it to others. Yes.

It was a trip that was impossible to plan from our home in Reston, Virginia. We had to just get in the car and drive north, making plans along the way. It was an exciting, challenging, sometimes frustrating adventure because we didn't know what to expect. For example, we had thought to spend much more time in Canada, but ended up spending only three days, partially because of bad weather, and partially because there just wasn't that much to see and do along the Canadian north shore. Although we had a rough idea of mileage and driving times from other trip logs on the Internet, we didn't have a really clear idea of how long it would take us to drive from one place to another or how much time we would want to spend in each location.

Some people wrote that they had completed this trip in five days. Sure, if you do nothing but drive and don't want to see anything but an occasional glimpse of the Lake. We felt that this trip would have been better if we had had a month or more in which to complete it. Because it took so long to get from one location to the next, we spent part of almost every day driving. To spend an entire day in one spot, you need to spend two nights. You can't do too much of that if you expect to get around the entire Lake in two weeks or less.

Because we ran into a lot of rain the first week, we ended up flying through Canada and Minnesota. Sad really because we would have liked to spend a lot more time in the Minnesota state parks. As it worked out, we ended up spending the better part of week 2 in Michigan, where there was much to see, good weather, and good fall foliage. We will have to make a point of going back to Minnesota, especially the Grand Marais area.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan had to have the friendliest people we've ever met. Everyone has a smile and a "hi" on their lips, and most want to start a conversation. All the tourists we met, with the exception of one family from California visiting Ontonagan because their mother used to live there, were from either Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Illinois. People seemed very surprised to see two people from Virginia so far afield, as if they never see southerners in that part of the country.

Traveling around Lake Superior the end of September/beginning of October is great for seeing fall foliage, but it is the end of the tourist season. Many tourist-oriented attractions and activities close in September. By the middle of October, many more close for the season. For example, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore cruise was available for only a few days more after we took our cruise. Another example, the Comfort Inn in St. Ignace is open only until the end of October. And, there is no accessibility to some roads along the coast because there is no snow plow service during the winter. If you travel to Superior during the winter, it is because you want to go ice fishing, snow-mobiling, or cross country skiing. There are a few downhill slopes around, but given that the terrain is so flat, they would probably interest only the most beginner of beginning skiers.

The best aspect of this trip was the opportunity to explore a large area of the country we had never before visited. The worst aspect was not being able to do any long hikes because there wasn't enough time. We traveled approximately 3,500 miles in the course of 18 days, 2,000 of them around just Lake Superior.

Best and Worst
Favorite Area:  North Shore, Minnesota
Least Favorite Area:  the stretch of the TransCanada Highway between Wawa and Marathon

Prettiest Area:  Copper Harbor, Michigan
Least Pretty Area:  Thunder Bay

Most Impressive Fall Foliage:  Copper Harbor, Michigan
Least Impressive Fall Foliage:  the stretch of the TransCanada Highway between Marathon and Thunder Bay

Best Place We Hiked:  Miners Beach, Munising
Worst:  None

Best Beach: Paradise Beach, Grand Marais, MN for rock collecting
Worst Beach:  None

Most WOW:  Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Least WOW:  the Lake shoreline between Marathon and Thunder Bay

Most Historically Interesting:  Grand Portage National Monument, Grand Portage, MN
Least Historically Interesting:  the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, MI

Best Surprise:  the views from the escarpment on the Brockway Mountain Parkway, Copper Harbor, MI
Biggest Disappointment:  the cities: Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and Duluth

Best Eating Establishment:  The Angry Trout, Grand Marais, MN
Worst Eating Establishment:  The Bear Trap Inn, outside of Munising, MI

Best Lodging:  Lake Fanny Hooe Resort and Campground, Copper Harbor
Worst Lodging:  the New! (i.e., barely refurbished) Dorian Inn, Dorian, Ontario

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