We spent Thanksgiving weekend with my fiancé’s parents in Rice Lake (Barron County, WI). The kids wanted to go see the new “Hunger Games” movie with grandma. So we used the time to take an impromptu trip into Northern Minnesota. Our plan was to stop in Duluth to see the Bentleyville Christmas lights display in Canal Park. To say the display was phenomenal would be an understatement. Unfortunately the highways were backed up for miles. And stopping just wasn’t feasible. We did however get an incredible view from highway 61 heading north. So we just kept going.Our county destinations were Lake and Cook – two fairly remote ones in the Northeast Minnesota corner. So we headed up highway 61, hitting such metropolises as Two Harbors and Silver Bay. We saw a sign for the “Spirit of Gitche Gumee” – which reminded me of the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” It turned out to be a restaurant.
As this highway to the Canadian border parallels the northern shores of Lake Superior, I suspect it’s a very scenic drive during the day. However, under the darkness of night… not so much. The main highlight was two small tunnels that seemed unnecessary in the middle nowhere. We ended up traveling 70 miles past Duluth and into and out of Lake County before we finally saw the sign for Cook County. We quickly entered it, turned around and headed back. I did stop to take a picture, hopping out in my bare feet into a little bit of snow. The dark picture was hardly worth the cold feet. But hey, we were there!
Rather than take highway 53 from Duluth back to Rice Lake, we decided to stay on Interstate 35 and headed south through Minnesota. We had yet to hit any of the Minnesota counties that border Wisconsin in that area. After a brief stop at a Dairy Queen in Cloquet to get some ice cream for the road, we hit Carlton, Pine and Chisago counties on the way back down south. Our destination was highway 8 in North Branch, which would take us right back to Rice Lake. A quick look at a map saw that the turnoff in North Branch was actually only a mile-and-a-half from the Isanti County border. So we took a right turn, hit Isanti, turned around and headed back to Rice Lake.In the end our Minnesota side trip netted six new counties, bringing our 2014 total to 322, and our overall total to 762.