Jesse and I were excited to plan our first camping trip of the year in Grand Marais, MN. Unfortunately, as it got closer to our weekend away we realized that the weather was going to be cold and rainy. The weather, along with my never ending virus (which I still have over two weeks later - gah!), caused us to rethink whether we would go or not. In the end we decided to go anyway, but we rented a hotel room. The tent could wait until later in the season.
We made a stop in Duluth for lunch and a visit to the aquarium. After paying $5 for parking we stepped inside the aquarium door only to have Riley FREAK OUT and beg to go home. I looked up and saw a huge fish hanging from the ceiling and realized what the issue was.
I should back up and explain that from the moment we got up Friday morning Riley was hot and cold. Before we left the house she had multiple break downs over the simplest things. I was hoping it was just a passing thing, but it was a constant theme for the rest of the weekend.
Since the aquarium was a no go we walked over to a park to let the kid run off some energy. I was crossing my fingers that she would nap in the car for the rest of the ride so I wanted her as tired as possible.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. Riley did well when we told her 'no' on her request to play with the iPad with the hope that she would fall asleep. Turns out if we tell her the battery is dead she gets that she can't use it (hey, lying isn't always bad - stop judging). We were lucky enough for her to sleep most of the remaining two hours and I even got a nap in myself.
There was a little confusion over which hotel we were staying in as Jesse thought he booked the place down the block from the one he actually did, but after a loop around the block we were in our new home for the next couple days. We stayed at the Harbor Inn which is right across from the lake and centrally located with lots of restaurants and stores nearby. It was a little dated and the vertical blinds were broken, but I would stay there again.
Once our bags were in the room we immediately headed over to the beach. It was supposed to rain on Friday so we were pleased to have some sun for most of the day. It was a little cool, but it was the nicest weather we would see until Sunday. Riley was very content with throwing rocks into the lake and painting dry rocks with wet rocks. Jesse and I got to relax without having to chase after our kid or deal with one of her many fits of the day. We were all very content. It was lovely.
At some point in the afternoon the clouds started to roll in. We decided that we would walk around the beach and possibly walk out to the lighthouse that you can see yonder in the picture below before it started to rain.
As we rounded the beach it became apparent that the clouds were moving fast. Probably faster than I've ever seen. I knew in my mind that we wouldn't be going to the lighthouse this day, but we still kept walking farther and farther away from the hotel.
That really white cloud on the left (below picture) came up really fast and it was at this time that I thought we should probably turn around, but we didn't. There was also the smell of burning wood in the air so I was a little concerned that it was smoke instead of clouds especially in the way it moved, but it turned out to be all clouds.
And finally, we turned around when we looked up and saw the view shown below. I wish I would have taken a video so you could see how fast this was moving. It was sort of scary.
Moments later the rain came. Luckily, we weren't too far from shelter. Plus, it was dinner time. Jesse ran to the car to shut the windows and then met Riley and I at Gun Flint Tavern. Jesse and I were last here 5+ years ago and split a dish that we still salivate over years later. I was delighted to see that the Asian Big Bowl (with it's huge, tasty scallops and shrimp) was still on the menu. We almost got two of them, but Jesse decided to order a Gyro sandwich instead (and steal one of my scallops) and Riley got the PB and J. Jesse raved about his sandwich and my meal was as divine as I remembered it. Even Riley's PB and J was fantastic. My wine sucked (I didn't even finish it), but otherwise everything was perfect.
The rain let up so we spent a little more time outside before heading in for the night. Since I was unhappy with my wine at the restaurant we stopped by the local liquor store to pick up some beverages. Being the practical folks we are, we got a couple small boxed wines (red for him, white for me). At one point, Riley was standing next to us and was tapping the top of some of the boxed wines with her hands. The liquor store employee essentially scolded her and then told us she can't touch anything since she isn't of legal age. Seriously? I can understand if you thought she was going to break something, but because of legal age? She's 3 years old - do you think she is going to pocket some booze?
At any rate, I was hoping it would be warm enough that Jesse and I could hang out on our little patio while we put Riley down for the night, but that wasn't happening. Since we weren't looking to go to bed at 7:30 we let her stay up a little later than usual with her probably falling asleep around 9:00 pm while I played on the iPad and Jesse played on his Play Station Vita.
Sleep was a little rough since we were missing several slats on our blinds and the road in front of our window was busy enough with parking that faced towards our room (thankfully, this wasn't a romantic getaway - wink, wink). I was smart enough to bring my eye mask to sleep with, but that didn't help me from waking up starving at 2 am and then waking up when the room alarm clock went off at 5 am.Gah! I tried to go back to sleep, but that wasn't happening. Riley slept in until after 6 am so there was that.
We went to the Pie Place Cafe for breakfast since it was located in the Harbor Inn hotel and it was half price the first morning. It was a good solid breakfast as far as breakfasts go. While out to eat, Riley insisted that her feet were hot and she wanted to take off her shoes. We balked at this at first, but finally gave in deciding this was not the battle we wanted to fight with her touch and go mood. This was the first of many issues with her feet this weekend.
Since we knew it was most likely going to rain the second half of the day on Saturday, we wanted to get outside during the morning time. There are a lot of hiking trails nearby, but nothing that we thought we'd want to take a three year old on. We really wanted to take her to see a waterfall again and decided to head back an hour or so to Gooseberry Falls, but first we hung out in the morning fog by the water in Grand Marais.
We went to Gooseberry last time we were up north and it was pitifully dry. With all the rain and snow we had this year I was excited to see the falls with more water.
I have to admit that being near the water this weekend made me super nervous with Riley. Recently, there was a toddler that drowned in a local river and that was top of my mind. I know it just takes one little slip and a major disaster could happen.
Riley took us on a trail that we've never taken before - it was quite the adventure that included a lot of stairs. Turns out the path looped around - something I would have never discovered if it weren't for her persistence in climbing all these stairs.
|Dancing on the boardwalk.|
We were going to try and replicate the picture we took the last time we were here, but Riley freaked out for who knows what reason, and I wasn't going to push it.
We left Gooseberry at just the right time as it started to rain the moment we got into the car. Jesse wanted to go to Betty's Pies and I agreed even though I would have rather stopped at some other place along the way back. While their pies are good, I've never been that excited about the food. It decent, but I don't love it. I did decide to try something new as it seems wild rice burgers are the new big thing up north (I saw them on at least three menus). I didn't really think about it when ordering, but obviously something was needed to hold the rice together and it turned out to be copious amounts of mayo and cheese and who knows what else. This thing was tasty and rich and melted right in my mouth. It was good, but it was a little too much flavor and I couldn't quite finish it all. Plus, those chips we among the saltiest I've ever had. I'm pretty sure it was just fried salt.
After putting Riley's shoes back on (because she again insisted on taking them off at the restaurant) we hauled ourselves back to Grand Marais and inside the hotel while it continued to rain. Rain was ok, because it was nap time anyway. That is, if our child would have napped. I was beat so I laid down with her and would have gone to sleep, but that's a little hard to accomplish when your kid is bouncing next to you and kicking you for an hour. At one point she took her finger and ran it down my cheek several times... her finger that she licked and then dragged across my face. COME ON, kid.
So nap time was a big failure. It was getting close to dinner time and it had stopped raining so out the door we went. First, we stopped at a local store where we saw kids shoes. Riley had complained so much about her feet being hot, hurting, or having something in her shoe that we thought her shoes might be too small. We just bought these size 10 tennis shoes a little over a month ago, but when I bought her sandals a few weeks ago I was told her feet were just over a size 10 and that she should be wearing an 11. We did notice that her tennis shoes were a little tighter so maybe getting her new shoes was what we needed. But, every shoe we tried on at the store was met with "these are too tight". This isn't the first time she's complained about her feet hurting so we assumed that these were growing pains. She was, after all, a size 7 at the beginning of last summer. I'd feel a little pissy too if my feet grew that much in a year. We left the store empty handed and hoped for the best.
Riley cried that she wanted to go to a 'different home' while we were still in the store and after we left the store. She had said this multiple times this weekend, but it wasn't until now that we figured out that she was referring to the hotel. We thought she just wanted to go home and that she wanted a different home than the hotel, but the hotel was the different home. How silly of us to expect a 3 year old to understand what a 'hotel' is. Anytime she got fussy she would whine that she wanted to go to a 'different home'.
Next, we were off to get food. This time we headed to the Angry Trout Cafe - another favorite of mine. Lots of organic dishes and fish. I love me some seafood (my 10 year old self is gagging at the thought that I would ever be delighting in seafood).
|Menu made out of a box and a stick.|
|I think my husband was getting sick of me taking pictures (or he's really an eternal 14 year old).|
I had the grilled whitefish and Jesse had the whitefish chowder and a salad which also had grilled whitefish. They were all fantastic, but the chowder was to die for. The food (and the wine) was fantastic. A little spendy, but so worth it.
Riley, of course wanted her shoes off and we obliged. She also refused to eat most of her dinner ($9.25 for a kids meal - yikes!). She was good, but randomly fussy (this was just a constant all weekend). It was cold and sprinkling on and off so we knew that the rest of the evening would be spent holed up in the hotel. I would have rather sat with a glass of wine on the restaurant patio... if only it had been warm and dry.
Back at the hotel by 5 pm and we were all a little spent. We slacked in our attempts at good parenting and all settled in with different electronic devices. Riley watched Star Wars on TV (it had robots just like her jammies!) which seemed to calm down her testy mood.
This night we decided that we needed to stick more to the kid's regular schedule so we turned out the lights at 7:00. It was a little earlier than her usual bedtime, but without that nap it was needed. That left Jesse and I in the dark. Literally. We didn't want to use the iPad or anything until she was asleep so we just laid there. We had put a blanket over the window this night so it was nice and dark in the room. Again, if it had been nice out we would have just gone out onto the patio. I actually would have gone to sleep, but I was dreaming about the box wine and the cheesecake I had leftover from Bettie's Pies.
Once Riley was asleep I watched Arrested Development on the iPad (with headphones, of course). I didn't want to wake her when I ate my cheesecake so I moved into the bathroom and found myself enjoying my cheesecake in the cramped and dated bathroom while watching Netflix. Not really the highlight of the weekend, but as a parent you do what you've got to do to make the best of a situation.
I finally went to bed at 9 pm and got a much better sleep than the night before (even with the paper thin walls and the dream where I was kidnapped and forced into a cult).
Sunday was the nicest day of the weekend and the day we went home. I was determined to go out to the lighthouse so after eating a sub par breakfast at a place down the road from our hotel we headed out towards the lake. Riley complained the whole time as we were leaving the restaurant about wanting to go to a 'different home', but I convinced her that we were going on and adventure. Apparently, this tactic worked as she was quite excited about our walk and was talking about our 'adventure' for days.
|The Harbor Inn and Pie Place|
It was time to start heading home. We knew it would be another long ride that we'd want to break up in the middle somewhere. We decided to stop in Two Harbors for lunch (where, I believe, Riley kept her shoes on) and made one other pit stop at the Silver Creek wayside rest. The road up the shore used to hug the side of this huge rock formation until the mid 1990's when they blasted through the rock and created a tunnel for the road. We were able to walk up the old road which is now a part of the Gitchi-Gami state trail.
It was a lovely final rest along the water before spending the next several hours in the car... with a child that would not nap... and insisted on whining... and taking her shoes off.
But even with the crappy weather, my own illness, and Riley's weird fussiness it was a great getaway. Completely exhausting and completely relaxing at the same time.