Tettegouche: An accidental Trip

Not every trip goes as planned. Our stay at Tettegouche was not planned at all. Our original plan was to camp in the Boundary Waters, but things went awry. Sometimes improvising is your only option.

Well…. Not every trip can go according to plan.

The Original Boundary Waters Trip Plan

So here is what was supposed to happen:

  • Pack the Rogue while Scott finishes some last minute work
  • Leave midmorning and arrive at BWCA Entry point Larch Creek by 3pm
  • Set up camp and have s’mores as a treat for a hard day’s travel
  • Relax in camping bliss until noon on Sunday.

Easy day, simple trip. Right?


Friday Morning

Scott leaves to take care of some last minute work for a customer. Sandy and I get to work packing up the Rogue and loading the canoe. We ladies have everything ready to roll when Scott returns. All according to plan.

We hit the road feeling great about our exciting weekend ahead. As we drive along, I notice that the vehicle is giving a jerk every now and then when accelerating. We noticed this in Mora, Minnesota. We brush it off, knowing that the vehicle has been driven pretty hard and might just be showing her wear and tear. **Note- We should have stopped here.

Tobies!! This is one of our northern trip traditions. We always plan a stop at Tobies in Hinckley for an amazingly gooey caramel roll. Hinckley is a good spot for a potty break and to stretch your legs, too.

We fill up the tank and soldier on. Duluth at last! As we approach the giant hill that brings you up over Duluth, the car starts to struggle more. Huh… That’s not good. Scott is looking more concerned at this point, the decent into Duluth is smoother. And the Rogue hasn’t died on us yet. We start discussing what could be wrong and end up pulling off to the side of the road just north of Duluth. We smell something goofy, and aren’t entirely sure what it could be. We are no longer making good time and we have to keep moving if we are going to make it to our entry point on time. **Note- We should have stopped here.

Onward… I guess. Once we reach Two Harbors we are in rough shape. I am trying to keep the vehicle moving, we are getting so close to our destination. All I have in my mind is just to get there. I am longing so badly to be back in those serene woods and hear the rhythmic splash of my paddle against the water. **Note- We should have stopped here.

We make a stop to get something to eat in Two Harbors. Culvers was the most convenient and quick meal as we hurry along. As we load back into the Rogue we spot something that really grinds our gears. A little, rusted out, beaten down, ancient white car loaded up with a canoe and an obscene amount of gear has just been filled up at the gas pump and is headed off down the road with no problem at all. WHAT?! How is that thing even running without the gear? And our sporty SUV is struggling to make it along. Ridiculous.

Anyhow, we carry on. But just barely. Silver Bay is where we finally accept defeat. It seems that our circumstances are just to great to overcome. The Rogue is not going to make it there. We are not going to see those pristine waters. This is not the trip we were hoping for… **Note- We stopped here. Ugh. 3.75 hours from home.

Hurray for technology!! I hop on my phone call the Tofte Ranger Station to inform them that we will not be making it and cancel our reservation. Next, I search on that nifty Google machine for the nearest camping options. BAM! Tettegouche it is, I give them a call. They have just one campsite left, we’ll take it!… If I can get the rogue started again. Thankfully we do, but we can no longer get the Rogue to go past 40mph. Other drivers are obviously getting upset. We creep into Tettegouche State Park, it is a battle to get up the hills and finally into a parking space at our makeshift campsite.

Scott searches for an auto body shop and makes arrangements for the Rogue to be towed away. Meanwhile, I break the news to Sandy that we will not be making it to the BWCA this time. But we look on the bright side, at least we get to camp at a new place and see something different. We get to work on setting up camp with lifted spirits. That’s my girl!

Scott managed to find us a place to have the vehicle towed to. They even let us use a car to get back to our campsite. But first, dinner.

Another Boundary Waters Trip tradition that cannot be ignored. On our BWCA trips we usually stop at Northwoods Family Grille, formerly known as the Northwood’s Café. My family has been stopping at this same restaurant for breakfast before BWCA entry since I was a kid. Great food and a welcoming atmosphere. Though Sandy enjoyed the S’mores French Toast it was a little too sweet for me, but my mom loves their biscuits and gravy.

After dinner we took the little borrowed car back to camp. The three of us made the best of it, our goal was to bring Sandy on a camping trip. And that we did. We played cards in our tent until we were playing by lantern light and could barely hold our heads up.

In the morning, we made ourselves some oatmeal and hot chocolate with our new camping gear that we were supposed to tryout that weekend. It worked great! Sandy was very excited to hear that Grandma and Grandpa were coming to spend the day with us. Surprise!

Scott and I had made a couple of calls to family. My parents picked up a trailer from Scott’s dad and made the drive up to rescue us. As it turns out, the transmission in the Rogue burned out. I was unaware that I was driving with the vehicle in overdrive THE WHOLE WAY UP. Did you know there is a button for that? I must have bumped it at some point. Honestly, I still don’t know where that button is. That was a $3000 mistake. Whoops. Don’t do that.

We are very thankful to have the kind of family that will drop their Saturday plans to make a 6 hour drive to rescue their kid and her family. Again, we made the best of the situation and it turned into a neat visit at Tettegouche State Park.

While we waited for our heroes to arrive, we packed up our gear and hit the trails. We got a map at the visitors center and decided to go exploring some falls. Sandy was very proud to lead the way. The trails are well maintained and some would really be acceptable for a stroller. We did happen upon a set of stairs that was rather long and steep, but it lead to an area of the Baptism River that we were able to jump on rocks in.

Once my folks had arrived, we explored in a different direction. Not too far from the visitors center is a trail that leads down to Lake Superior. This was where the Baptism River enters Lake Superior. It was a perfect place to skip rocks and hunt for crayfish. We had a blast in this spot.

The coolest thing about Tettegouche, in my opinion, were the trees. The root systems were so unique. Watch your step! It made for some great photo opportunities too.

This is one of our most interesting and memorable trips. Not because we were going somewhere grand or because it was the most perfect trip. It was the most memorable because it wasn’t the perfect trip and we learned the most from it. Sure, at the time we were very frustrated and scrambled to figure out what to do. But we know now that we can handle that kind of situation when our plans go awry.

Lessons Learned

  • Take the most capable vehicle you own & make sure it can handle the trip
  • Don’t put it in overdrive if it isn’t necessary; $3000 people, yikes
  • Be thankful for your rescuers
  • Even when things turn sour, you can still salvage a trip
  • Some of the best memories come from mistakes made
  • Even on an accidental trip, you can still give your kids a great weekend full of adventure

Share your trip mishap and the lessons learned, I’d love to hear it!

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