Camping With Henry in Northern MN

>> Monday, July 18, 2016

Henry and I spent 3 days camping in Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth last week. We had an AMAZING time. Seriously. We headed to the Great Lakes Aquarium to meet with one of my wife's cousins, Kerry, who works there. She was going to show us around behind the scenes.

Mama said we had to stop at Tobie's in Hinkley on the way for sweets. So we did!

Kerry (blonde, female) releasing some large lake sturgeon into a new "touch" exhibit.
She let us back there as she finished up, as this part isn't open to the public yet.

One of Henry's favorite parts was the large model of the locks and dams through
the Great Lakes. Kids got to take little boats and work them through the locks.

Big tanks!

Electric eels!

Selfie over St. Louis Bay on Lake Superior from the Aquarium's balcony.

As we were behind the scenes with Kerry, she said "look through that door." I practically
came face-to-face with this pissed-off bald eagle. Thanks Kerry! Sheesh. :)

After viewing a lot of these tanks from above (and going through the kitchen
and other fun places), we got to see the rest of the Aquarium like regular people.
This is a big shark.

Henry the otter.

DQ for lunch.

Lake Superior.

The lift bridge.

In the biggest lake in the world.

Henry ran through these fountains and soaked his butt...

... then he fell asleep in wet shorts a few minutes later. While looking at a magazine.

Headed to our home for the next 48 hours.

On Jay Cooke's famous "swinging bridge." It was SOOO loud from the rushing water!

Close up of Henry in that last photo. He's covering his ears.

The view of the LOUD St. Louis River from the Swinging Bridge.

Looking back at the Swinging Bridge. The water is so brown from tannins.
(Basically, the St. Louis River is fed by a lot of bogs that have
decomposing plant matter, and that "stains" the water root beer brown.)

On top of the falls. Henry loved it up there.

Setting up our tent.

Climbing on the crooked rocks. Henry could do this forever.

Playing in a little bay off the river.


Pooping in the vault toilet.

Henry wanted to shower.

The first night, I didn't sleep well. Once I started to sleep, people showed up at the campsite right next to us and started setting up at 2:30 a.m. And then they had giggly sex at 4 a.m. Super. In the morning, I'd learn they were a lovely pair of ladies.

Waking up on day 2.


Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich! (With more bacon on the fire in the background.)

Eating in front of our tent.

Exploring. Everywhere along the river was super loud.

This photo doesn't look steep, but it was!

We hiked a bit down the Superior Hiking Trail, and then Henry found a trail
leading off of it. We followed it down to the river's edge.

Throwing rocks.

Then we took off for Duluth again. We were on our way to the train station to have a train ride along the North Shore. On our way, we stopped just a mile out of our campgrounds to Oldenburg Point. Henry wanted to come back and hike down to the river later. Just LOOK at this view:

200 feet below us was the sprawling, noisy river.

In the dome car on the zephyr.

Watching the lake go by.

The steps up to the dome car.

Above the river coming out of Lester Park.

Another thumbs up for pooping on the train! (See behind me?)

Making the conductor smile as we were waiting to head back.

Last photo on the train.

Ringing a bell next to the train station.

We stumbled across a big street festival. So we HAD to get mini donuts.

Henry wanted to go back to Lake Superior to play.

Lounging on a big rock.

A bunch of teens and their Dad jumping off this thing in the lake.

Henry was getting too adventurous on these big rocks. He didn't listen to me when I told him not to keep going, and then he slipped and fell in the the freezing lake. It took his breath away. Soon, he started joking, "I've been a good listener, but the only time I *didn't* listen, I feel in the lake!" We had to stop at a grocery store to get food to grill that night, and we saw a Fantastic Sams right next to the grocery store. So we got Henry a quick trim:

For the 2nd day in a row, he passed out in his car seat with a wet butt.

Drying out his clothes after his accidental/impromptu dip in the lake.

Supper on day 2: old-fashioned hotdogs and lemon pepper shrimp.

Eating with my big dude.

Henry wanted to go back to that big overlook from earlier in the day. We got there as 2 college-aged guys were making the climb up that trail, and they warned us it was steep and slippery with mud. We were ready to try to tackle it:

There were a handful of SUPER steep muddy sections like this.

Hiking down.

At a little washed-out creek at the bottom.

The view of the river at the bottom! 85% of the river is on the other
side of this rocky island, so this is just a bit of it. This is looking to the right...

... and this is looking to the left. Notice that
house-sized plume of mist behind those trees from the rapids.

Selfie #6 (if you can count the "train ride bathroom" as a selfie - which I think you can).

I climbed higher to make some photos, and Henry played 20 feet below me in the little creek.

HERE WAS OUR LITTLE BIT OF DRAMA DURING OUR TRIP: I took that last photo and then noticed how dark the sky was. I looked out at the sky and saw it swirling around and heading our way. I hopped down the hill to Henry and said "Buddy, we've gotta GO! There's rain coming, and we need to get up these muddy hills FAST so we're not trapped down here!" So we took off in a hurry.

The only photo I took on the way back, as we climbed these 60 rocky stairs.
(Henry looks like he's hardly moving here, but we were going fast!)

We made it up that 200 foot hill in about 75% of the time we took to get down it, which is crazy fast. We were both breathing hard! The sky above us was getting dark, and it JUST started to drizzle as we got to the car. We pulled onto the highway as it started to rain:

Damp s'mores back at our campsite.

Time for a warm shower.

G'night on day 2! We fell asleep to the sound of rain on our tent.

I woke up at 2 a.m. and pulled up another quilt and put on a shirt and socks. It rained the first half of the night, but then we woke up to a calm 60 degree morning. Henry woke up at a normal time (6:45) and had to pee. So he went out and "watered a tree." Then (to my surprise) he crawled back under the covers. I had to wake him from a DEAD SLEEP at 8:20:

Left over old-fashioned hot dogs sliced and fried.

Trying to feed peanuts to a little squirrel behind our campsite.

Our new little buddy.

We got packed up and took off. I wanted to check out the area just upstream from us at the Thomson Dam. Henry didn't really want to, but once we got out of the car, *HE* was the one who wanted to keep exploring. It was another beautiful stop:

Willard Munger State Trail bridge in the distance.

Looking back toward the highway, with the dam in the distance behind that!

Climbing up to the state trail.

Awesome terrain for hiking!

Tiny blueberries all over the place.

Tiny Henry.

At another overlook.

Throwing more rocks.

Our final stop in Duluth before heading for home that afternoon was the Lake Superior Zoo.

They had a big exhibit on big spiders!

Henry the tarantula.

Watching the tiger.

Asleep in the backseat for the 3rd day in a row. Only in dry pants this time.

My wife posted this the morning after we were back saying
this is why it's hard for her to leave for work. :)

We've had a LOT of fun so far this summer (like a quick trip to CO with my wife, taking Henry on his first airplane ride and then playing with horses, camping with my family and in-laws, taking a few fun trips to Red Wing, riding rides for Henry's 5th birthday, and taking the boys on a fun hike around Pike Island), but this was by far the most fun. I won't be forgetting this trip anytime soon. And believe it or not, we did more than what was pictured here - this is just when I had my phone handy. Henry wants to go back and hike and play at the Aquarium and in Lake Superior again.

p.s. Henry and I also stopped at a soda/candy store twice while we were in Duluth. I posted about it here on my Root Beer Blog. My first review of the 3 sodas I got there is also posted (which has Henry having a sip of it by the campfire).

p.p.s. Also, before camping, my boys and I headed to the Anderson Center to see my work up in their gallery. Click that link to see photos of the exhibition on my Photo Blog.


Carolina John 1:20 PM, July 18, 2016  

That is fantastic Steve. Getting one-on-one time with Dad like that is very important for them. I take my girls camping too, but usually just one night. You guys got ambitious! But this is how your boys learn to be good men. Well done brother.

Steve Stenzel 1:48 PM, July 20, 2016  

Thanks John. That's the goal, right?... Teach my boys to be good men, humans, and fathers. :)

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