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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

North Shore Yearnings: Cove Point Lodge

Rush Hour Traffic in the Duluth Harbor

The first time I drove over the hill overlooking Lake Superior I was in awe. Interstate 35 literally cuts the country in half, running from Laredo, Texas all the way to Duluth, Minnesota and the international inland seaport of Superior. As you near Duluth you gain elevation until, almost unexpectedly, the Great Lady lays before you, as far as you can see.

The completed trail will run 86 miles along the North Shore

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and one of the deepest. Even on those few days each summer when insufferable heat marches down the hill to the very edge of the lake and the sand burns your sandaled feet with each step, it is nearly too cold to stand in the shallows.

Dog Tired
A Different Pace
The north and south shores of the lake could not be more different. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, considered one of the top sailing spots in the world, is just an hour and a half drive east from Duluth to Bayfield, Wisconsin. We have sailed among these twenty two islands (collectively, rather than individually, named for the Apostles) on many occasions and on many more, taken the ferry across to Madeline Island for hiking, shopping or just to party with friends at Tom's Burned Down Cafe. 

The Ice Caves near Meyers Beach

The elevations are somewhat lower here and the softer sandstone cliffs have been carved by thousands of years of waves into gaping caverns. We have hiked to these caves in winter from Meyers Beach, finding them coated inside and out in heavy slabs of ice, like massive sculptures.

Bayfield, Wisconsin

I am one of those people who has become enchanted by this huge expanse of water, at times docile and others immensely violent. Old fishermen sit at places like The Rum Line Bar or Morty's in Bayfield and tell harrowing stories of ducking into the shelter of Stockton Island 'just in time' or bailing water as fast as their arms could move “there is no bilge pump faster than a scared man with a bucket”. We are fair weather sailors and are far more likely to be taking photos of the occasional huge breaking waves from the shore.

Watch the Red Bull Surfing Team surf Lake Superior in March of 2011. The team was staying at Cove Point Lodge (buildings in the background).

Hiking the North Shore

The North Shore, along the high elevations of the Sawtooth Mountains, a mile or two inland, is a great contrast to its twin. The mountains skirt this side of the water with the Superior Hiking Trail running their crest. The trail runs from Duluth to the Canadian Border, some 277 miles. Here you see the massive basalt cliffs and the highest point on the lake, Palisade Head. The deep waters off the north shore make anchoring all but impossible in most areas, 1000 foot commercial ships and commercial fishing boats a far more common sight than sailboats.

Waterfall along the trail

This is hikers paradise, waterfalls flowing toward the lake at every turn, State Parks like Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche and Temperance River following the shore north toward Grand Portage and the Canadian border.

Cove Point

Just a few miles north of Split Rock Lighthouse, I am lucky enough to be working for a few weeks at Cove Point Lodge, built in 1995. Literally a stones throw from the water, each of the lodge rooms face the lake and the more recently built Fjord “cabins” (beautiful 2 and 3 bedroom homes) are just up the path.

I take my morning coffee down to Mickey's Fish House, a small building on the waters edge that once belonged to a local commercial fisherman, and lean on the deck railing. I feel the light spray of the morning waves on my face. Maybe I could live in this little building, nestled in the cove and run a porta-bar for tips or dole out firewood? I could pretend to be an old haggard fisher-woman and tell tales of near death on the lake like those old sailors in the bars of Bayfield.

Okay, maybe not, but it is romantic to think about it. For now, I guess I'll just finish my coffee and get back to work.       

Cove Point Lodge Wild Rice

Cove Point Lodge is just 4 miles north of Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior. This wonderful Wild Rice Pilaf is often served with dishes like their House Walleye or Steak and Steelhead (Trout) special. 

1 ½ # organic Minnesota wild rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 med red onion chopped
1 med yellow onion chopped
2 c shredded carrot
1 ½ c slivered almonds
1 c green onion
1½ -2 TBSP Brown Sugar
S&P to taste

Cook wild rice in salted water or stock, drain & cool slightly.
While rice is cooking, sauté red and yellow onion in olive oil until translucent. Place in large bowl.

To sautéed onions, add carrot, almonds, green onion and cooked wild rice. Mix thoroughly. Stir in brown sugar. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Rice can be made a day ahead and reheated in a little stock on the stovetop or in the microwave. 

Sunrise on Lake Superior
Recipe Notes:
  • You will find 2 kinds of wild rice from Minnesota: the darker colored cultivated wild rice grown in long oblong paddies, is often sprayed for pests and is combine harvested. California actually now grows more cultivated “wild” rice than Minnesota. Lighter colored truly 'wild' rice that is harvested by small boats along lake shores and in marshes and is a naturally organic product. It is a little harder to find and may be more expensive than it's cousin but if you look for organic wild rice you are likely to find it. 

  • Experiment! Cook different grains separately (wheat berries, quinoa, etc.) and then combine to create different textures. Grains and dried fruits also go together beautifully. Add dried apricots, golden raisins, cherries or other fruits as you like. 

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