Tettegouche: An accidental Trip

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 days 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!

Crystal Caves

While we were unable to do our annual trip to the BWCA in the summer of 2019. We did get a chance to take Sandy’s Birthday trip to Wisconsin. Crystal Caves is a great day trip or pit stop on your way to other places.

This little gem is tucked into a rural area in Wisconsin. It’s not a very big attraction, especially in September so it really is appealing with my dislike of crowds. Being 8 months pregnant at the time of this trip, I was a little concerned be we went for it and it was a success.

Things to do

  • Hike the nature trail
  • Guided tour of the cave
  • Pan for Gems & Stones
  • Mini Golf

Hiking the Nature Trail

We were unaware of the nature trail prior to our visit, so this was a surprise little treat. The trail is rather short but offers a variety of interesting things. There are signs at different locations on the trail.

One of the coolest things was the sinkhole. What?! Yes, a sinkhole, don’t see that every day. It isn’t like you’d expect, no Indiana Jones action. But it is very clearly spotted just off of the trail. No, a rock isn’t going to get sucked right down if you throw one in, but still very cool.

Some of the other neat scenes on the trail include different berries, like gooseberries, and an interesting array of ferns, bushes, trees, and mosses. A sweet little escape away from the main attractions.

Guided Tour of the Cave

Of course the main attraction being the Crystal Cave itself, we took the tour down underground. In case you were wondering, you can take this tour while pregnant, I actually called ahead while planning just in case. If you’re planning a trip while pregnant, it doesn’t hurt to check ahead on something like this. There are not many places to sit on the tour, so be prepared for quite a bit of standing and walking around. There were a few places that Scott held my hand just in case of a slip, but no such things happened. There are no strollers allowed on the tour, so be prepared to carry any little ones.

Our tour guide was great! She was very knowledgeable and was able to answer our questions. Sandy had a lot of them! For those who are afraid of bats, we did see one. But it was asleep and didn’t make a peep while we visited her cave.

A couple of things that really peaked Sandy’s interest were experiencing “total darkness” in one part of the cave and the gems that glowed in the dark near the end of the tour. We did get a chance to see fossils in the cave walls, disolving agents, different rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites and learned the difference between the two. It really is a fascinating tour for the science nerd and the outdoorsman.

**Travel Tip** Wear a sweatshirt or jacket no matter what time of year you plan your trip. The cave is always a steady 50 degrees all year round. Also, wear comfortable, close toed shoes that grip well.

Pan for Gems and Stones

At the end of your tour, you’re escourted back up to the shop above. After being saturated with neat cave history and facts, it really gets you amped up to search for some cool stuff. And of course they have just the thing to satisfy that itch.

We purchased a bag of sand that contained a multitude of gems to be found. Sandy was so excited to go do some hands on exploring at their panning station outside. The bag she received contained a guide as well, so she was able to identify the rocks she didn’t already know. The panning station is under an overhang so even though we visited on a nice day, the Crystal Cave is a great location to visit rain or shine.

Inside the gift shop, there is an abundance of items to choose from for souvenirs. Sandy chose a Geode of course. She was on a rock kick at the time, so this trip was really fascinating to her. They have a device inside that the kids are able to crank to crack open their geode themselves by turning the lever. She only needed a little help from dad. Her first geode turned out to be a dud, It was very dirty inside and didn’t show much in the way of sparkles. They offered her a second one that turned out to be beautiful inside, and still let her keep the dud. We took a toothbrush to the dirty one when we got home and it ended up being quite beautiful too. Two for one!

Mini Golf

The mini golf course is a little route filled with dinosaur galore. It’s really quite cute and fun for everyone. There were some real little ones climbing on the statues and older kids trying their hand at putting.

We gave it our best, though we weren’t very good. It was really fun and a great way to end our trip.

Overall, this is a great little spot for a day trip or a pit stop. Your can make it as long or short as you want to. For a near end of pregnancy trip, I’d say it’s doable.

Share your cave adventure!