Author Topic: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)  (Read 1964 times)

Offline PBaruch

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Unbeknownst to me, DW had been secretly planning a summer trip to the wilds of Minnesota and Michigan.  Ever since driving past Lake Powell a few years back, and seeing houseboats, DW had wanted to spend a few nights on one.  Lake Powell was not an option for a summer trip due to the heat, but after some research, she discovered that houseboating is actually a thing in one of the more northerly National Parks, Voyageurs NP in Minnesota, on the border with Canada.  Wanting to add a second national park to our trip, Isle Royale NP was the obvious choice.  Isle Royale is the least visited national park in the continental U.S., and most who go are backpackers.  Now she just had to convince me.  Although I had read about houseboating in Voyageurs National Park some years back, it never really registered on my list of places to visit.  I never gave much thought to Isle Royale National Park, either.  However, her persistence eventually paid off, and I reluctantly agreed.

Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

It made the most sense to fly into Minneapolis, where we could stock up on kosher food and eat at several kosher restaurants before taking off to Voyageurs National Park.  In addition, the kids looked forward to visiting the Mall of America, which has a host of family friendly attractions.  Although Duluth is closer to Voyageurs, there are no kosher shops or restaurants. 

While looking for lodging in Minneapolis, I initially sought a luxury hotel and was drawn to the Hotel Ivy, a Category 5 Marriott property.  However, after careful consideration, we decided it simply wasn't worth it for us.  A cramped room and the additional parking fee ($44 a day for valet parking and $20 a day for offsite parking) didn't make sense.  Instead, we booked the Hilton Home2Suites which offered a room with two queen beds, a sofa, table with chairs, full size refrigerator, and free onsite parking.  The total cost was 120k Hilton points for four nights (30k Hilton points per night).  Unfortunately, we couldn't take advantage of the fifth night free, as we only needed four nights in Minneapolis at the beginning of our trip.  Information about the Eden Prairie Home2Suites can be found here:

https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/mspenht-home2-suites-minneapolis-eden-prairie/

After the initial weekend in Minneapolis, we booked three nights on a houseboat at Voyageurs National Park.  Since Voyageurs is primarily an aquatic park, there are only three ways to see it: (i) your own boat; (ii) national park concessionaire day cruise; or (iii) on a rented houseboat.  In researching houseboat rentals, the name that kept coming up was Ebel's, so we went with them.  Information about Ebel's can be found here:

http://www.ebels.com/

Ebel's rents a variety of houseboats, some of which can be very pricey.  We chose the "Voyageur 47" houseboat (10% off for moving our reservation up a day to begin in June; partially paid with Arrival credits), which sleeps a maximum of six, information about which can be found here:

http://www.ebels.com/boat_categories/voyageur/

Here's the approximate floor plan of the Voyageur 47:

houseboat floor plan by P Bryan, on Flickr

This particular boat wasn't equipped with air conditioning since DW was under the mistaken impression that there would be cool temperatures at Voyageurs (more on that later on).  The fancier boats have air conditioning (which runs off a generator) and a hot tub.

After Voyageurs, we decided to spend a long weekend in Duluth, which would give us a few days to explore neighboring Wisconsin.  We chose the Marriott Residence Inn, which had a king size bed, sofa bed, full size refrigerator, and free onsite parking.  Total cost was 25k Marriott points per night.  Once again, we couldn't take advantage of the fifth night free, as we only needed four nights for our second weekend of the trip.  Information about the Marriott Residence Inn Duluth can be found here:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dlhri-residence-inn-duluth/

After Duluth, our plan was to drive to Grand Portage, Minnesota, where we would stay in a lakeside cabin at the Hollow Rock Resort, which was managed by the Grand Portage Resort and Casino, information about which can be found here:

http://www.hollowrockresort.com/cottage_rental.htm

http://www.grandportage.com/index.php/staying/cabins

We chose the "Fish" Cabin, a two bedroom, two bathroom log cabin with a large deck on Lake Superior.  We decided to spend the night in Grand Portage because we had to be up very early the following morning for our ferry to Isle Royale National Park, which left at 7:30 a.m.

The following morning we were scheduled to take the ferry from Grand Portage to Windigo, Isle Royale National Park (paid for by Barclay Arrival bonus credits).  There are only three ways to get to Isle Royale, an island on Lake Superior: (i) private boat; (ii) ferry; or (iii) seaplane.  Information about the ferry to Isle Royale can be found here:

https://www.isleroyaleboats.com/home.html

While on Isle Royale, we rented a cabin for three nights at Windigo.  Information about cabin rentals at Isle Royale in Windigo can be found here:

https://www.rockharborlodge.com/index.php/windigo-camper-cabins

The two cabins at Windigo are in high demand, and we were told to book on January 2, which is what DW did.  She made sure to be up early to grab one of the two cabins.  The cabins are rustic but are equipped with electricity.  There is no indoor plumbing, kitchen, or air conditioning.  An outhouse is located nearby and flush toilets and paid showers are a short hike away down the hill. 

After Isle Royale, we planned to drive back to Minneapolis for our last weekend before our flight home.  We again reserved the Hilton Home2Suites in Eden Prairie.

Part 2 - First Weekend In Minneapolis

We booked direct flights on Delta from JFK to MSP and arrived in early afternoon.  Since the flight is so short, we booked in economy. 

JFK-MSP by P Bryan, on Flickr

After our arrival, we picked up our rental car at National.  Seeing the executive aisle bare, I asked one of the employees about vehicle availability, only to be told that there were sedans and pickup trucks left.  I explained that a sedan would not be adequate for us and that I didn't want a pickup truck.  I also told the employee that I had Executive Elite status.  Upon hearing this, he magically pulled an upgrade out of his hat to an Infiniti QX60.  Afterwards, the remainder of the day was spent on shopping and settling into our room at Home2Suites.

Our room at Home2Suites:

Home2Suites Prairie Eden by P Bryan, on Flickr

Supper was from the Prime Deli & Restaurant; I had a "Prime Burger Deluxe."  An accurate description of this monstrosity would be a burger wearing a tuxedo - overdressed and too large for my pie hole.  It really wasn't very good.  The Kosher Spot grocery store is right next door and this is where we bought our meat, chicken, dairy, and grape juice for our Shabbos meals (for both our first and second Shabbos).  Information about the restaurant can be found here:

https://www.primedelimn.com/

The following day was spent at the Mall of America, where we visited the Mirror Maze, Nickelodeon Amusement Park, and had lunch at Earth Burger (kosher vegetarian burger restaurant). 

The Mirror Maze:

Mirror Maze, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Nickelodeon Amusement Park, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

Earth Burger, certified Kosher-Dairy Equipment by the CRC, was a hit with the family.  With the exception of one of the kids, we are not big meat eaters.  I had a burger, and actually liked it much better than the real-meat burger I ate the night before from the Prime Deli.  We also enjoyed their coconut soft-serve and kale ginger lemonade.  Information about Earth Burger can be found here:

https://www.eatearthburger.com/

Earth Burger, Mall of America by P Bryan, on Flickr

For supper we had a Basil pizza at its namesake; it was pretty decent.

On Friday, we went to the Breadsmith in St. Paul to pick up challah and other goodies for Shabbos.  Information about Breadsmith can be found here:

http://www.breadsmithmn.com/

I recommend their soft pretzels, and DW really liked their zucchini walnut bread.

Breadsmith, St. Paul, MN by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190628_094830 by P Bryan, on Flickr

From there we went to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center located in the Science Museum's lobby.  They had some high-tech exhibits, like virtually navigating the river and a virtual reality eagle game.  We didn't stay too long, and opted not to go into the museum.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area's Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then headed to the Mississippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center where we learned about the falls (the only waterfall on the Mississippi River), and were able to walk along the lock wall.  DW and kids got their first Junior Ranger badges of the trip. 

Mississsippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Mississsippi NRRA's St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

Then we headed back to the hotel to prepare for Shabbos.

Shabbos table at Home2Suites by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 3 - Voyageurs National Park

On Sunday, we packed out of the Hilton Home2Suites and made our way to Orr, Minnesota, to pick up our houseboat.

Driving from Minneapolis to Orr, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Along the way, we drove through some mean looking clouds, before heading through a massive downpour:

Driving from Minneapolis to Voyageurs National Park - hit some mean looking clouds on the way. by P Bryan, on Flickr

Thankfully the weather was sunny and clear when we arrived in Orr:

Ebel's Houseboats, Minnesota, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After arriving at Ebel's we were told that this would be our houseboat, labeled simply as Boat 6.  I felt that this was an undeserving name for the pile of crap we were given, with a dated interior that looked at home in the 60's (middle daughter said the plaid curtains looked like they had come from some grandpa's basement).  So I promptly renamed our boat the SS Captain Poopypants:

Houseboat at Ebel's, Orr, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Looking from the rear bedroom to the front of the houseboat. by P Bryan, on Flickr

The bedroom at the rear of the houseboat with 4 bunks. by P Bryan, on Flickr

My little one's drawing of Captain Poopypants:

Picture of our houseboat, as drawn by my little one. by P Bryan, on Flickr

After checking in, our luggage was loaded onto Captain Poopypants and we purchased some last minute provisions.  The kids, especially my middle one, were looking forward to kayaking but Ebel's only had two single seat kayaks left.  We didn't really want to rent two kayaks for three days, but middle kid was quite upset and disappointed.  Figuring that the frowns weren't worth it and seeing middle kid so upset, we decided to splurge and rented the two remaining single seat kayaks.  Ultimately, it proved to be a smart move as the kayaks saw quite a bit of use. 

During our orientation, I learned an interesting tidbit about the houseboat.  We were under the mistaken impression that a houseboat is similar to a motorhome, in that it had a freshwater tank, gray water tank (for the shower and sink wastewater) and a black water tank (for the toilet waste).  What I then learned was that Ebel's houseboats are not equipped with a freshwater tank for the shower, bathroom sink, or kitchen sink.  Instead, all of that water is pumped up from the lake and only filtered to prevent fish and critters from coming in.  (There is a small hand pump in the kitchen and bathroom for purified water.)  My immediate response was "that's disgusting."  However, the folks over there don't seem to mind.  Their response was, well, the fish live in the water and you eat the fish. 

The Ebel's employees typically show you how to operate the houseboat until they feel that you are comfortable on your own, at which time they abandon you to your own failings.  Sensing our complete and utter noobness, as we had never captained a boat before, they decided to drive the boat and moor it for us.  I had to learn how to navigate the lakes, drive the boat, moor the boat and tie it up (using various knots).  What made things even more difficult was that they didn't provide a GPS and I had to navigate solely using a map:

Map of Voyageurs given by Ebel's by P Bryan, on Flickr

I asked why customers weren't provided with a GPS and was told that they were concerned that folks would follow the GPS instead of watching where they were going and that it was "something else for people to break."  We ultimately ended up using our Garmin car GPS, which gave us a general idea where we were. 

Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

The Ebel's employees moored the boat for the night at an undeveloped site on our own private island, Filla Island, on Sullivan Bay:

Location of our first mooring spot on Filla Island by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota (DSC_5472) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Sullivan Bay, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

MVIMG_20190630_205208 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After we settled into our spot for the night, DW and middle daughter went kayaking around our private island:

Kayaking around Filla Island, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Filla Island, Voyageurs National Park Minnesota, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

At some point, DW and the kids went to sleep, while I lay restless in bed from the heat.  As mentioned earlier, DW was under the impression it would be cool at Voyageurs, but it most certainly was not that first night.  The houseboat was quite hot and muggy.   As I lay awake feeling quite miserable while sniffing the occasional waft of propane sewage smell (about which we complained in the morning) I heard an unfamiliar howling in the night.  First thought was, can that be?  Is it wolves?  Then I heard it again and again - a pack howl.  A part of me thought that this was amazing to hear wolves howling in the night, while the New York skeptic in me thought that this was perhaps what park rangers do for fun in these parts.

The next morning, being quite unsatisfied with our current mooring spot and wanting to explore farther afield, we decided to strike it out on our own and pilot Captain Poopypants to another spot.

Initially I thought to pilot the boat to a remote spot that had previously been marked as a "nice" spot on the map.  However, the stress of driving and navigating the boat led us to decide to take the first nice developed houseboat site that we saw on Namakan Lake.  We ultimately settled on Blind Indian Narrows South, a beautiful cove with a small sandy beach, a BBQ pit, and nice hiking trails and overlooks.  We really enjoyed spending time at Blind Indian Narrows South and, except for seeing passing boats from time to time, felt as if we had the place all to ourselves.

MVIMG_20190702_091539 by P Bryan, on Flickr

As we pulled into Blind Indian Narrows South, I pointed the front of the boat into the sandy beach and left the boat in gear, as instructed, so it would not drift while I went to tie it up.  No sooner had I disembarked the boat and while holding the ropes, I turned around and saw that the boat shifted sideways and was now parallel to the shore.  (What I should have done was to give the boat some additional throttle to keep it pushed up against the beach.  This would have prevented the drift.  Live and learn.)  Although instructed to call Ebel's for help if this happened, I instinctively stripped to my underwear, jumped into the water and pushed the boat back to a position perpendicular to the beach.  As I'm in the water in my underwear, while muttering how much I hated Captain Poopypants, a boat from Ebel's pulls up.  We had radioed them early that morning complaining of a strong propane smell emanating from the back of the boat.  They decided to find us to check on the problem.  The guys tied up the boat for us and fixed a small leak in a fitting by the propane tanks.  After this fiasco, we decided that we would stay at Blind Indian Narrows South for our final two nights on the boat, rather than try to navigate and moor elsewhere on our own.

Photographs taken at Blind Indian Narrows South:

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (DSC_5563) by P  Bryan, on Flickr

Our rented houseboat at Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5508) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5513) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5514) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5564) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5578) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (DSC_5623) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Kayaking and swimming at Blind Indian Narrows South:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Taking the dinghy boat out to explore the surrounding islands and coves:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA (MVIMG_20190702_113759) by P Bryan, on Flickr

While exploring with the dinghy, we saw a bald eagle eating a fish in a tree.  As we approached closer, the eagle took off with the fish in its talons. 

For both nights at Blind Indian Narrows South, we made a BBQ:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Veggie burgers on a camp stove:

Blind Indian Narrows South, Voyageurs National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

During our final night at Voyageurs, I got up at 2:00 a.m. to photograph the boat under the stars.  I have learned to view night and darkness in a completely different way, after spending time with my buddy Bruce Omori in Hawaii. 

Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5669) by P Bryan, on Flickr

In the morning, we pulled out of Blind Indian Narrows South before 6:30 a.m. to head back and return the boat, which was expected between 9 and 10 a.m.  But first I had to get the boat off the beach.  I put the boat in gear and gave it a bit of throttle to push it against the beach, to prevent it from drifting while I untied the ropes.  After untying the ropes, I boarded the boat and retracted the wooden plank.  To my surprise, the boat didn't budge.  It was stuck against the beach.  With DW reversing the boat, I had to jump in the water and push the boat off the beach, getting all wet in the process.  The moral of the story is that if you have a boat, you will get wet.  We then made our way back slowly, and were much more relaxed on the way out.  By this point, I was getting used to the boat and was much more comfortable with navigating and driving.  Even the wake of a passing boat in a spot called the "Narrows" didn't phase me too much.  The return trip took about three hours and we arrived at Ebel's by 9:30 a.m.  Captain Poopypants was no more, and it reverted again to being boat number six. 

Afterwards, we headed over to the Voyageurs National Park Visitor Center for Junior Ranger badge number two.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2019, 02:16:29 AM by PBaruch »
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Offline PBaruch

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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2019, 11:18:50 PM »
Part 4 - On to Duluth

Not being in a rush to get to Duluth, we stopped at the International Wolf Center, which "advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future." 

Ebels to International Wolf Center by P Bryan, on Flickr

They had exhibits on wolves (including a children's area), some presentations, and large viewing windows to hopefully view their wolves.  To find out more:

http://www.wolf.org

To lure the wolves toward the viewing windows, they put food nearby.  As the wolves appeared, you can hear the awe in people's voices, "Wow!  They're beautiful."  I found the entire experience quite lame and wouldn't recommend the place.

DW wanted to attend a presentation on "The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale" ahead of our visit there.  Little one was not interested, so I took him to play in the children's play area, while the girls went with her.  The previous program, "Ambassadors to the Wild" was pretty full, so it came as a surprise that they were the only three people that showed up, and they had a private interactive presentation.  They discussed the reintroduction of wolves to Isle Royale that began last fall.  Interestingly, the two "original" wolves left on Isle Royale, from before the reintroduction, were father-daughter as well as brother-sister.  Although they did have a pup together, it did not survive its first year, as it was so inbred.

Photos taken at the International Wolf Center:

International Wolf Center, Ely Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

International Wolf Center, Ely Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

International Wolf Center, Ely Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then went to the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, which I had read about, to see wild black bears.  I'm not really sure what I was expecting to see, but I found the experience to be quite disappointing.  The bears show up to baited feeding stations and you observe them from an elevated platform.  I suppose some might find it interesting, but after seeing bears in the wild in Alaska, it wasn't all that interesting to me.

International Wolf Center to Vince Shutte Black Bear Refuge by P Bryan, on Flickr

Upon arrival, DW and the kids refused to get out of the car.  There were horse flies around, and having finally left them behind in Voyageurs National Park, they did not wish to become reacquainted.  They gave me their blessings to go on my own, and off I went on their bus to the viewing platform.

Information about the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary can be found here:

https://www.americanbear.org/

Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, Orr Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, Orr Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, Orr Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

We then made our way to Duluth:

Vince Shutte to Duluth by P Bryan, on Flickr

Finally we arrived at the hotel for our second weekend, the Marriott Residence Inn Duluth:

Marriott Residence Inn, Duluth, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Marriott Residence Inn, Duluth, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 5 - Wisconsin

Being right on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border without spending some time in Wisconsin would have been unacceptable to DW and the kids.  The kids each have a map of the U.S., coloring each state they visit.  In anticipation of visiting Wisconsin, my little one had already colored in Wisconsin on his map, so skipping it was not an option.

We got a late start and headed to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (http://www.nps.gov/apis).  Along the way, there were numerous "Historical Marker" signs, and when we saw one referring to a windmill, we pulled over to check it out.

Davidson Windmill, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Davidson Windmill, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Continuing on, we arrived at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitor Center not too long before they closed, and DW and the girls went in to find out what to do in the area with the weather being overcast.  They also got the Junior Ranger booklets, but did not have time to complete them, and will have to send them in to receive their badges.  Although we were originally thinking of going kayaking among the sea caves, we got there too late, and besides, we were all kayaked out.  Instead, we went to the Bayfield Maritime Museum, information about which can be found at:

https://www.bayfieldmaritimemuseum.org/

This is a small, but nice museum, and we stayed until closing.

Bayfield Maritime Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bayfield Maritime Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bayfield Maritime Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Bayfield Maritime Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

In the immediate vicinity is the Frog Bay Tribal National Park, the country's first, and at this time only, tribal national park, so we decided to check it out.

http://redcliff-nsn.gov/divisions/TNRD/FBTNP.htm

Upon arrival, and seeing an abundance of mosquitoes, the girls refused to get out of the car and decided to sit it out.  Instead, DW took little one (both wearing head nets and bug juice) on what she thought was the Easy Trail to the beach.  After a while, DW expected to see the beach but didn't so, getting concerned about the waning daylight, turned around and headed back.  Turns out they took the Ravine Trail, which was twice as long.

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

When they returned, I headed out on the direct trail to the "beach," which could barely be called that.

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way to and from the Apostle Islands, we passed a tank at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and pulled over to take a photo of it.  Here it is in its Independence Day colors:

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

The next day was Friday, and after putting a well-traveled chicken in the crockpot, we headed back to Wisconsin to the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center to see the tank once more.  We splurged on a guided tour - the Heavy Metal Tour -  and our guide introduced himself, saying he was going to be a Sophomore next year at such-and-such school.  It didn't hit us until later in the tour that the school he mentioned was not a college, but rather a high school, and he was in fact younger than our oldest.

It was a nice clear day, and we got some more photos of the tank, albeit without its red, white, and blue colors:

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Inside the museum, its centerpiece was a World War II-era Lockheed P-38, around which the walls of the museum were built, that was restored to look like the one the museum's namesake flew.

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

When Major Bong was killed test piloting an airplane in California, his death was front page news and was placed ahead of the news that the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan:

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way out we stopped at the gift shop.  I was thinking to buy one of their World War II-era deactivated pineapple grenades, but it would not have been allowed on the flight home and I was too lazy to go and ship it.

Our next stop was the Old Firehouse & Police Museum, also in Superior, WI.

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

Old Firehouse and Police Museum, Wisconsin by P Bryan, on Flickr

From there we headed back to Duluth, to the Lake Superior Marine Museum, which is barely even worth a mention.  Crowds, and not very interesting.  Here is the only thing that we found to be of any interest, an A-frame steam engine.

Lake Superior Marine Museum by P Bryan, on Flickr

Wanting to pick up some goodies for Shabbos, we searched for a Whole Foods in the area, and found one, but upon arrival, discovered that it was a "fake" Whole Foods.  Despite being a "Whole Foods" in name only, they had some nice Pareve options, like natural gummy fish and natural ice pops.  Plus they had some Chalav Yisroel chocolate wafers.  After picking up some fresh challah at Chabad, we returned to the hotel to finish up Shabbos preparations.  The nice thing about residence-type inns is that they provide you with a place to cook, and you feel absolutely no qualms about doing so.  I made my usual Shabbos kugel on our camp stove in the barbecue area, and shared some with a couple I had been shmoozing with.

MVIMG_20190705_194638 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 6 - Grand Portage

On Sunday, we drove from Duluth to Grand Portage, Minnesota, as we needed to be at the ferry to Isle Royale National Park bright and early the following morning:

Duluth to Grand Portage by P Bryan, on Flickr

We made a quick detour to the Grand Portage National Monument Visitor Center (http://www.nps.gov/grpo), where DW ran in to get Junior Ranger booklets, and we'll have to send those in as well.   We spent Sunday night in Grand Portage, at the Hollow Rock Resort, in their "Fish Cabin."  The cabin was large, comfortable, and right on Lake Superior:

Cabin in Grand Portage, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cabin in Grand Portage, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cabin in Grand Portage, Minnesota by P Bryan, on Flickr

It was here that our phones started acting wonky, randomly switching back and forth between Eastern and Central time - the demarcation between Central and Eastern time zones runs between Grand Portage, Minnesota and Isle Royale, Michigan.  This wasn't exactly conducive to making an early morning ferry, so I put my phone into airplane mode to lock the time.

At the dock the next morning, we unloaded our four duffel bags, large cooler, two carry-on bags, and assorted other stuff.  We were taking the Voyageur II, a ship intended for those overnighting on the island, almost all backpackers.  Clearly we were not among that group.  Here's the Voyageur II with the Sea Hunter III, the day trip boat, in the background:

Voyageur II - Ferry to Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Trip to Isle Royale:

Grand Portage to Windigo, Isle Royale NP by P Bryan, on Flickr

Lake Superior is, by at least one measure, the largest lake in the world.  (Ryan Island on Isle Royale's Siskiwit Lake is sometimes referred to as "the largest island on the largest lake on the largest island on the largest lake in the world.")

Lake Superior (DSC_5811) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 7 - Isle Royale National Park

Upon our arrival at Windigo after the two hour boatride, we had the standard Leave No Trace talk and checked into our cabin.  This is easier said than done, as the cabin is up a hill and is more than 150 feet higher in elevation than the dock.  Although we carried up some of our bags, this part of Isle Royale is actually frontcountry, and they were able to deliver our duffel bags to our cabin (named Radisson) by Club Car.  Facilities at the cabin: a drinking fountain/water spigot with potable water and an outhouse.  Although we almost never used the outhouse, choosing to use the comfort station at the bottom of the hill instead, as soon as we'd come up to the cabin, Little Guy needed to "rest," and back down the hill we'd go.

MVIMG_20190708_102559 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cabin at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Water spigot near our cabin in Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Inside, the cabin had three rooms:  a main room with a futon, small table/desk, and two chairs; and two smaller rooms each with a bunk bed.  In total, this tiny cabin had 20 outlets.  Not sure what exactly we could've used them for...2 cell phones, camera battery chargers, laptop?

Cabin at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cabin at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cabin at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cooking on the camp stove:

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

One of the locals paying us a visit:

One of the locals at Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

While we brought most of our food along with us, the Windigo Store was well stocked, even carrying Pas Yisroel bagels and fresh eggs.  If you could catch your own fish, you wouldn't need to bring any food with you.  However, catching our own fish didn't quite work out for us, so it was good that we had backup.  I purchased a cheap $20 fishing rod and reel on the way up to Grand Portage (wished we had it in Voyageurs NP) and we spent lots of time on the dock casting, but to no avail.

Fishing at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fishing at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fishing at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fishing at Windigo, Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fishing at Isle Royale National Park by P Bryan, on Flickr

An eight year old boy, Dylan, was at the dock when we came down to fish, and he handed each of us some "real pirate treasure" that his father clarified was from the SS Amazon.  Dylan was there with his parents on their 40-foot sailboat, and they graciously offered us a tour of the below decks area, which was quite interesting to us landlubbers.  I was able to get some nice night shots of their boat as well as another 37-foot sailboat on the one clear night we had:

Isle Royale National Park (DSC_6029) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park (DSC_6038) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We planned to rent kayaks and head out to Beaver Island in Washington Harbor for a picnic, but they only had two tandem kayaks, not enough for the family, and renting the small motorboat didn't work out.  Instead, Dylan took all the kiddos for a little ride in their dinghy rowboat.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Activity-wise, we hiked a bit:

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5884) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5894) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5882) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5987) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5898) by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_5842 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Beavers at work:

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5878) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw lots of moose prints but no moose (except that I saw two bull moose fighting across the bay once):

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5990) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And we saw an abundance of beautiful wildflowers and butterflies:

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park (DSC_5837) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5917) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5935) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5947) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5950) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5962) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5967) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The company that runs the store and cabins at Windigo also owns a WW II era Willys Jeep, which I was told still runs but needs some parts:

WW II era Willys at Windigo, Isle Royale NP, Michigan, USA (DSC_5945) by P Bryan, on Flickr

WW II era Willys Jeep, Windigo, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA (DSC_5924) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The one activity we did the most of was hang out on the dock.  Dylan's family set up a "living room" on the dock and we got to know them some.  They were happy to take our pillows when we left, and we were happy we didn't have to bring them back.  I later found out that they passed them along to the park rangers.

Speaking of park rangers, on Monday and Tuesday there was just one ranger program, in the evening.  We missed that first night, but on Tuesday, Ranger Jenna personally invited us, so DW and Co. went and and they all earned their Junior Ranger badges.  The Sea Hunter III arrives on all the other days of the week, so they schedule more ranger programs on those days, and we attended another one with Ranger Jenna. 

On Tuesday night, just after 6 p.m., we saw one of the rangers walk away with the flag that she had just taken down.  Little one was interested in seeing how that worked, so the next evening we made sure to be near the flagpole at 6, and he had his own private ceremony.  In case you were wondering, yup, it was Ranger Jenna's turn to do the honors.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After spending three nights at Isle Royale, on Thursday, in the early afternoon, we took the Voyageur II back to Grand Portage, passing the wreck of the SS America, which could be seen below the water, at the mouth of Washington Harbor:

Wreck of the SS America near Isle Royale National Park (DSC_6052) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 8 - Back to Minneapolis

Upon arrival in Grand Portage, we loaded up the car, and made the five and a half hour drive to Minneapolis. 

Grand Portage to Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

During the drive, we ordered dinner from the Prime Deli.  I decided to try something a bit different, and got their walleye tacos, which were pretty good, and the burger from the kids menu.  I liked this burger better than their regular burger.

Upon checking back in to the Home2Suites, we were given the same room as we had two weeks earlier.  Opening the refrigerator, we found the light off - we had forgotten to remove the tape that covered the switch for Shabbos and no one had done it in the interim.  Although we intended to remove it after Shabbos, we forgot once more.

The next day, while trying to figure out what to do, and after looking through the trip reports of @saw50st8 and @Dan, we decided to go to the Sculpture Park.

Sculpture Park, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sculpture Park, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Sorry guys, but I thought the place was completely lame.

After walking a round a bit, some of us needed a restroom and, not being able to find one, we asked someone who responded that the nearest one was "probably at the Walker."  We had no idea what the Walker was, but headed over.  I walked ahead with my son, with DW just behind with the girls, but on her way in, someone stopped her and asked if she had a pass.  When she said no, the woman handed her a pass, telling her she needed it but the kids were free.  Still not knowing what kind of place the Walker was, she accepted the pass and headed to the restroom.  Who knew that asking for a pass to the bathroom was the secret code word for getting free museum admission.  Afterward, figuring she already had a pass, she wandered off with the girls to figure out where they were.  From DW - turns out it was the sort of art museum where you say "huh?" a lot.

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis by P Bryan, on Flickr

They enjoyed it - middle daughter asked to go to more museums like it; I was happy to sit this one out.

We then went to the Breadsmith on Minnetonka to get some goodies for Shabbos, and shared the very tasty margherita focaccia for lunch.  This Breadsmith also had complimentary coffee.

Sunday we packed out of the hotel and went to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.  Little one enjoyed the street car ride, but don't expect an actual museum.  From there, we went to the third and final Breadsmith in the area and then headed to the airport for our flight home.

Total miles driven: 1622

Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed this trip report.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2019, 02:17:15 AM by PBaruch »
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2019, 01:21:26 AM »
Nice TR!

Seems to me that Captain Poopypants was a case of mmismanaged expectations... am I wrong? I looks pretty cool to me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2019, 03:10:14 AM »
Nice TR!

Seems to me that Captain Poopypants was a case of mmismanaged expectations... am I wrong? I looks pretty cool to me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Too much to expect "clean" water for the shower?  One time my little guy got all dirty so we had to give him a shower in the houseboat.  The lake water smelled real funky heated up.  Suffice it to say, that first shower at the hotel after the houseboat was really nice.
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2019, 12:00:04 AM »
Too much to expect "clean" water for the shower?  One time my little guy got all dirty so we had to give him a shower in the houseboat.  The lake water smelled real funky heated up.  Suffice it to say, that first shower at the hotel after the houseboat was really nice.

I'm not saying some things are good or bad. But isn't this sort of info known ahead of time? If so, it's all about managing expectations.
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2019, 12:28:32 AM »
I'm not saying some things are good or bad. But isn't this sort of info known ahead of time? If so, it's all about managing expectations.

There are certain questions that I never thought to ask and in hindsight, yes, it would have altered my expectations. We all really thought that the houseboat would be like a motor home/RV and would have a freshwater tank.   The lack of "clean" water for the shower was a big inconvenience for all of us.  It's just something that everyone takes for granted these days.  I should have also asked about navigational aides - in this day and age, who would have thought that you'd be required to navigate using only a map. 

At the end of the day, we got used to it and were able to navigate using the map and marked buoys.  It was just a bit daunting in the very beginning to someone having no experience with boats. 

That being said, being thrown into this experience was good for us and enhanced our skill set and confidence level in being able to pilot a boat in the future. 

DW has been bugging me to answer a question that she thinks some are probably curious about - whether I'd do it again.  The answer is yes, but I'd splurge for the better boat with AC and the hot tub.  Due to the increased cost of such a boat, we might look to do it with some friends though.  I'd definitely splurge for a marine GPS though if I was doing it again (if the boat wasn't equipped with one).
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2019, 01:11:17 PM »
Very nice, thank you for posting

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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2019, 02:13:53 PM »
awesome! there are actually some stuff I would do ;D
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2019, 02:38:37 PM »
awesome! there are actually some stuff I would do ;D

I may be able to get you a discount on Captain Poopypants.  Just say the word. 
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2019, 02:40:24 PM »
I may be able to get you a discount on Captain Poopypants.  Just say the word.
;D
« Last Edit: August 06, 2019, 02:44:35 PM by ushdadude »
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2019, 05:30:25 PM »
Awesome TR as always! Thanks for sharing!
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2019, 11:54:07 AM »
During our final night at Voyageurs, I got up at 2:00 a.m. to photograph the boat under the stars.  I have learned to view night and darkness in a completely different way, after spending time with my buddy Bruce Omori in Hawaii. 

Voyageurs National Park (DSC_5669) by P Bryan, on Flickr
This video (especially the night scenes, including the Aurora shots) was the first thing I thought of when I saw you posted a TR including Voyageurs:

(if you're at a desktop with a nice size monitor and good connections, make sure to crank it up to max quality)

ETA: Kudos again, for yet another excellent addition to the DDF TR catalog.

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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2019, 01:13:05 PM »
Nice video. Not sure when it was shot but we didn't see any northern lights. It got dark very late and the sky was only dark enough to shoot the stars for a few hours, if it was even for that long.
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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2019, 01:15:50 PM »
Always enjoy reading and seeing your TR's! Amazing as usual!

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Re: Into the Wilds of Minnesota and Michigan, by PBaruch (June - July 2019)
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2019, 02:23:07 PM »
Nice video. Not sure when it was shot but we didn't see any northern lights. It got dark very late and the sky was only dark enough to shoot the stars for a few hours, if it was even for that long.

That green in the shot is airglow.
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