10th stop: Duluth, Minnesota: Over the Mighty Mac n Cheese (aka the Mackinaw Bridge) we went, entering the Upper Peninsula. We gazed out the windows at the beautiful lake, we stopped at an adorable store for a pastie (a Yooper delectable), some local brews and Evan was after some locally made cherry whiskey. After an 11 hour drive, we pulled into the sleepy town nestled by Lake Superior around midnight. Following a quick “get your wiggles out dance” by our excited girlies we tucked ourselves into bed and slept.
The next morning, we went to Amazing Grace Café & Bakery for breakfast down in Canal Park near the great lake. We ordered eggs benedict, blueberry pancakes, blueberry oatmeal and a breakfast burrito. Delicious food and a perfect spot with toys and books for the girls to keep busy while Ev and I sipped our coffee.
Then we strode down the cobble stone streets toward the water, we went to the Maritime Museum to gaze at all the freighters that make their way into the port carrying ore, salt, coal, etc. Then we meandered down to skip stones on Lake Superior. We found Canal Park Brewing Company and Ev and I tried some yummy beers “brewed in the middle of somewhere”… my strawberry woodland beer was light and refreshing. Evan’s nut brown ale was surprisingly light and satisfying for a warm day in “you betcha” land.
We walked along the water, laid in the shade of a pine tree to regroup and headed toward Duluth Trading Company to search for some sales. I came out on top with a few tops and a hat that would makes my outdoorsy, tradesmen in another life wink. We then made our way toward Northern Waters Smokehaus, ordering a dinner of a sushi sammy for Evan with sushi grade fresh salmon, a simple but local turkey sammy for the girls and a smoked salmon salad for me with a siracha dressing (swoon). Our girls started the meltdown of all meltdowns and before we wanted to call in Nanny McPhee, we make the decision to head back to our hotel so we could keep our chimpanzees confined. After baths, we started a movie marathon of 80s family movies. (aka perfection)
11th Stop: South Dakota- We left early the next morning, heading southwest. It felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, we pulled into a KOA for the night. Perfect spot for a traveling family. Bright and early the next day we made our way to Mount Rushmore. We drove through the mountainous region, awing at the tall pine trees and rocky ridges then suddenly we turned a corner and saw faces carved in the mountain! It was so impressive. Most are told about Mount Rushmore their whole lives, are taught about it in history class, shown pictures, etc. But to actually see the monument in person was pretty surreal. Halen and Henley became Junior Rangers at Mount Rushmore and after snapping a few pictures we kept heading toward Glacier National Park.
12th Stop: Glacier National Park- On our way to Glacier, I looked up our campground and read an article about how bears were walking through the campground and how the park service shut down soft side campers and tents because of these bears. "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear" was much of what the article contained. With two little girls, I was thankful to have read that article...now we had to hurry and find a cabin to stay in. That was quite a reminder of the environment we were entering. Thank you to the KOA (becoming a favorite for us on this long road trip), we arrived and unpacked in our little cabin ready to experience one of the most incredible places in the country.
We quickly learned that we were officially off the grid, WiFi was not something people used and it was nice to be able to force ourselves to break up with the outside world for a few days. We went for some small hikes and on our first one, we were told there were moose in the river. Giddy with excitement we set out on our trail, but somehow, we got off course and turned around…finally we found the lake and spotted a mom moose (cow) with her pup. Mom was thrusting her head under the water and kept coming up with some sort of grub, her little one stood by waiting to follow his mom’s next move. It was pretty amazing watching such a large animal at peace in their environment.
Hiking with our own pups is not easy… one mile feels like a marathon… sweat, tears, sometimes blood, temper tantrums, refusing to get off the ground, tired muscles, more often than not the pups are being carried along the rugged trail as daddy and I huff and puff. Nevertheless, we breathed in the
mountain air and relished in our summer far away from the Texas heat.
The next day we woke to a drizzly cold day, thankfully that was the day we booked the Jammer ride around the park. We drove to the majestic Many Glacier Hotel that looked like it was set in a smaller version of the Swiss Alps (sort of had us thinking about The Shining...). After boarding our red jammer 1920s van, we cuddled up in the back row with coffee and blankets. The coffee turned out to be a bad idea as we were bounced all over the roads, but it made for some mild entertainment for everyone else.
For the next two hours, we stopped along the way to see different unique sights like Goose Island, we heard stories about how Glacier National Park was created…mostly Native American tales. That morning it was bitter cold and we were instantly glad to be nestled in a van viewing the park versus our tiny cabin or outside. We ate Huckleberry Ice Cream, bison chili, an elk sandwich and enjoyed all things in the Montana wilderness. Our KOA was perfect, nestled in the valley surrounded by mountains, we enjoyed the pool and hot tub. Perfect spot for the girls to run around and play. On another hike we found a waterfall and a mouse running on our trail. We were always on the lookout for wildlife and avidly completing the girls Junior Ranger packets. After a few days it was time to head to Yellowstone.