About a month ago, I bought an ornament displaying a portion of a world map and the words, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Escape. Wanderlust. Adventure.
My earliest recollections of travel are family trips to the Black Hills, Wisconsin Dells and Amana Colonies. In between those adventures, I’d watch airplanes fly high above the family farm and wonder where the travelers had been and where they were going.
I was struck with wanderlust at a young age.
My favorite destination is anywhere, but I have a special fondness for ocean roads and scenic byways. From Puget Sound to the Outer Banks, I am calmed by wistfully watching the waves roll toward shore.
When the ocean is too far to reach, relax and return from in just one week, we Minnesotans can be grateful our northeastern shore follows the greatest of the Great Lakes — Lake Superior.
Last week, my mom and I set off for a three-day escape to Duluth, Two Harbors and Ely. Planning a quick getaway to see the fall colors on the same day that five inches of snow fell on the Worthington area had me a bit worried, but we packed our winter coats, hats and mittens and left town with a weather forecast predicting warmer days ahead.
Cloudy skies and a brisk breeze welcomed us to Duluth’s Canal Park, where I donned my hooded winter coat and alpaca fiber mittens, grabbed my camera and traipsed down the pier to visit the familiar black and white lighthouse.
Mom, inching closer to knee replacement surgery, stayed in the car and tossed popcorn from her window for the squawking seagulls.
We both had smiles on our faces. Adventure — a change in scenery — does a body good.
After being sufficiently chilled by the pier walk, we settled into our room at a lovely harbor view motel on Minnesota Point and made steaming cups of tea. We dined on homemade sandwiches, fruit and snacks as we looked for activity in the harbor, and when it was too dark to see anything but the lights of cars traversing the Bong Memorial Bridge, I pulled a book from my travel bag and settled in for the evening.
Even reading is better with a harbor view.
Sunrise on the second day lured us down the pier to Duluth’s south breakwater lighthouse before Greta Garmin led us toward Ely on a roller coaster of a road. I maneuvered curves and hills, through snow and ice and slush, all while hoping to see a moose just beyond the next bend or hilltop.
The last time I’d made this drive — some 20 years ago — we saw a moose in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, by the time I grabbed my camera and took her picture, she was stepping into the trees and the photograph revealed a blurry brown blotch that did nothing to convince my friends of the sighting.
The only moose we saw on this trip was stuffed and on display inside the North American Bear Center in Ely. Our visit — just days before the center’s seasonal closure — included seeing black bears Ted, Lucky and Holly before they crawled into their dens to hibernate for the winter. The center features lots of educational exhibits, interactive displays and a theater that shows a short film on bears.
I’d hoped for a return visit to the International Wolf Center, also in Ely, but due to its switch to winter hours it was closed the day we were in town.
Ely is also home to the original Jim Brandenburg gallery (located right on the main highway through town), and the city is in the midst of several access points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Our quick trip to Ely left us enough time to revisit Minnesota’s iconic Split Rock Lighthouse before returning to Duluth and our room with a harbor view.
Just as quickly as our getaway plans came together, our trip drew to a close and we were homeward bound … back to laundry, back to work, back to reality … and happy to have fed our wanderlust.