microadventure travel

Duluth in Black & White


Last week, John & I took an early weekend off to head North (our favorite direction). Admittedly, we live pretty far “up north,” near the Marquette shore of Lake Superior (and yes, there’s still some snow on the ground), so going north always involves going West first–otherwise we’d be in the lake. When we’re able to put a couple days together to get away, we usually stay in Michigan and head to the Keweenaw Peninsula: Houghton/Hancock, Eagle Harbor, Copper Harbor. We’re homebodies at heart, and love Michigan, but it was time to venture out. Duluth was calling.


Marquette feels like the perfect home for us–it’s like a mountain town without high mountains but lots of lakes and rivers–so while we figured we’d like Duluth, another Lake Superior city, we weren’t quite expecting to like-like Duluth, love-like-we-could-move-there-tomorrow Duluth. But we could move there tomorrow, Duluth.


We’re not “city people,” but…
We only had a couple days to explore this part of Minnesota, and with the North Coast beckoning, we didn’t actually spend much time in Duluth proper. We wandered the streets a little bit, walked the waterway and visited the parks (I bet they’re even more beautiful in the summer when everything’s bright & blooming!), found a few places we definitely have to come back for–Fitgers, The Snooty Fox, Blacklist Artisan Ales, to name a few, but we wanted to spend most of our time outside the city and in the woods.


Not to keep comparing Duluth to Marquette, but…
Both cities are industrial, hilly, Great Lakes shipping towns, and the wild nearby means you’re able to get out of the city and into the middle of nowhere fast (this is a compliment). Our destination for the day: Split Rock Lighthouse. On Instagram, I follow lots of folks from Minnesota, and over the past couple of years, I’ve “loved” more photos of this light than I could count. Visiting Split Rock likely wasn’t my idea–I’ve been “inceptioned” by all the MN IGer’s!


We took a leisurely drive, and spent a couple hours hiking around Gooseberry Falls State Park–definitely a must see if you’re visiting the Duluth area, from my limited experience. I’ve got a separate post in the hopper for Gooseberry Falls (in color!), so check back later this week for more waterfall photos. Most of our morning was spent here, wandering the trails, watching the waterfalls, and wishing we’d brought our fly rods. The State Park itself was incredible, with well maintained trails, signs, and a beautiful visitor’s center. It’s such a wonderful resource, protecting nature and making it accessible for everyone to learn more, bathe in beauty, and get wild.


From the falls, we journeyed farther north, and arrived at Split Rock on a bright, breezy, and a bit chilly afternoon. What a sight! Lake Superior was pretty calm, yet seeing the light atop a rocky cliff brought to mind windswept shores and wavy, riotous waters. Or misty, foggy, rainy days. Or! I wonder what’s it like in the winter, with ice and snow and the vast expanse of Superior. Obviously a return trip(s) is in the works.


After a full day of hiking and exploring waterfalls, woodland trails, and a new swath of Lake Superior’s coast, we ventured back to Duluth, seeking a sit-down and brews. After circling the block a few times, we managed to find Bent Paddle Brewery (it was surprisingly difficult to find despite knowing exactly where it was), and sampled a flight while scrolling through photos of the falls and making plans for a return weekend. I’m not one for IPAs or light-colored beers of any kind (too “piney” for my unrefined palette), so John enjoyed the pale ales and bright, bitey brews while I savored the chocolatey and coffee-y? stouts. Clearly I’m not the one to tell you about the beers themselves (the stout was great! yum! and other non-conissuer words), but it was the perfect post-adventure place to hang out.


Another micro-adventure in the books! I highly recommend a visit to Duluth if you’re nearby or planning a trip to the Great Lakes region (and I hope you are). For us, the trip to Duluth is only about a five hour drive, and we were able to find two consecutive days off to make it happen. John’s blog post on micro-adventures (ala Alastair Humphreys)  talks more about how to squeeze more adventure into everyday life, how to get out, get wild, and get a break, without taking a week off from work or having to spend a lot of money. We splurged a bit on this trip, staying in a hotel rather than camping, but found a decent deal online and spent most of our time outside enjoying nature. It was a welcome respite and reset, and now we’re geared up for a busy week and inspired to take on our new projects + goals (stay tuned!).


In short, Duluth is rad. Lake Superior’s coast is beautiful. Make some time to get outside. Got some Duluth recommendations? Let me know in the comments!