Duluth and the Northwoods

After much prodding and poking by my sister and brother-in-law, I ventured to their cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin. The cabin sits on a six-acre plot of land situated ¼ mile from the Brule River, four miles from Lake Superior, and 35 miles from Duluth, Minnesota.

Although brief and with rain in the mix, my four-day trip packed with familial bonding, commingling with the forest, and even urban exploration has forever made me a fan of the area.

 

Day 1 | MCO > ORD > DTH > Winterfell?

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“Winterfell” – Brule, Wisconsin

Getting to Brule, Wisconsin from Central Florida is not the easiest plane trip you will ever take. To get to the Northwoods, I jumped aboard a flight from from Orlando to Chicago O’Hare and, after a brief layover, I boarded an 80-seat plane bound for Duluth. While aboard to Duluth, I met one of the many members for the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, the Skyhawks. These go-getters were scheduled to jump out of a couple planes during the Duluth Air Show. Having met the Skyhawks eased my reactions to the practicing fighter jets that met us upon landing in Duluth.

Thanks to its small size, the easy to navigate airport allowed me to find my family quickly and get on the road to Brule. Once the 45-minute trip was completed, I was introduced to the property and cabin. Over beer brats and bourbon, I was given a tutorial on the area and local wildlife.

Quaint is the only word appropriate for the cozy cabin nicknamed “Winterfell” after their affinity with George R.R. Martin’s epic. A sign gifted to them with the name hangs over the outside front door, while inside a Winchester 101 hangs conspicuously over the back door.

 

Day 2 | Hiking!

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We set out in the early afternoon following a steady morning rain. Our first task was to introduce me to a few key local points along the 52-mile long Brule River. We visited access points Highway FF, Pine Tree Canoe Landing, and Copper Range Campground, along with the mouth of the river. We completed the day with a late lunch, sandwiched between visiting Amnicon Falls State Park and Pattison State Park. Both state parks are known for their scenic waterfalls, with Pattison boasting the largest falls in the state.

With a couple of pizzas from the Hungry Trout Inn (loaded with Real Wisconsin Cheese!) we set in for a long night of eating, drinking, and talking about world events. But we often found ourselves in complete silence listening for wolf packs and a young black bear grunting in the nearby woods.

 

Day 3 | Duluth

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Downtown Duluth from Superior Hiking Trail below Enger Tower area. Photo by J Belote (12.24.2008)

Head west from “Winterfell” on US Highway 2 and grab US Highway 53 north-northwest and you will hit the “Zenith City.” Duluth pulled me in right away. This burg of nearly 87-thousand residents comes with a unique culture that’s hard to put my finger on after just a couple days.  Though the pride they showed for their city shone through immediately.

First stop was Duluth Trading Company in downtown Duluth. Introducing my brother-in-law to Firehose Work Pants and Armachillo underwear was worth the trip. After a late lunch, a couple blocks over in Canal Park, we bummed around some sole proprietorships and local art galleries. After my sister got her fill of “funky kitchen gadgets” and owl paintings, we sauntered over to Lake Superior Maritime Center. A few info board reads and a couple of aerial bridge lifts later and we were off to our only scheduled event of the day.

A few blocks away from Canal Park, the folk-rock/bluegrass ensemble Trampled by Turtles put on a mini-festival annually. The Duluth natives were joined by a slew of bands at the beautiful Bayfront Festival Park. Unfortunately we did not catch all six performances, but we arrived in time to catch The Cactus Blossoms, Hippo Campus, and then the main attraction.

The atmosphere in Bayfront Festival Park was warm and inviting, even though the cool breeze off Lake Superior lowered the July temperature to 62-degrees at sundown. There was not a bad seat in the venue. We chose an area near the back, at the top of hill, that gently sloped away from the baroque stage. It made for an amazing scene as it was backset against the world’s largest lake and flanked by sailboats.

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Bayfront Festival Park – Duluth, Minnesota

As a long-time fan of Trampled by Turtles, I was overjoyed to share their unique and great music with my family.  It is always a joy and a privilege to see a major act perform in their hometown. The vibe was strong with the hometown crowd. Afterall, Minnesota knows music (Hint: Stream the Current). THE highlight of the night was when they played “Duluth.” MY highlight was when they covered Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” during the encore.

Back to the woods….

 

Day 4 | The Last Day

Rain. Again. The ultimate buzzkill of a four-day outdoor vacation. Luckily the Ojibwa gods were smiling down on me and the weather cleared for an afternoon of adventure.

Our first hike was the Stoney Hill Nature Trail. It was the only walkabout we took that did not include the Brule River in anyway. It was the best view of the mature Northwest Wisconsin forest. Following a hearty lunch at Kro Bar in Brule (did i mention it is unincorporated?) proper, we set out to hike a familiar spot. We visited FF on day two, but due to the heavy morning rain we were unable to walk north. This time we went along the trail with giant bear-hiding ferns on our left and the river on our right.

The sound of the river is luring. The scenery is unforgettable.

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Next Time | There will be a next time!

Just a quick list of the things I missed out on during the first go around:

  1. Apostle Islands / Bayfield
  2. Become a Canoeist
  3. Four-wheeling
  4. Duluth Nightlife (Oh, Yoo Betcha!)

 

Photo Album

Duluth and the Northwoods

 

Song of the Trip

Robert Brennecke

Robert Brennecke

Author of failed blogs "God's Third Grade Science Project" and "The Surly Otter," Rob really hopes Folk Rooster makes a good run. In the meantime he resides near the beach and works closely with a handful of colleges and universities. He'd rather be reading Chuck Klosterman and Jean-Paul Sartre. He may ask you to refer to him as a "high concept guy." Whatever that means.