Saturday, March 28, 2015

I can camp -Grand Marais

After our partial success with the I-can-Camp! Program, we were hungry for more. Partial I say because in the program not everything was done by us right from the beginning –like finding the right spot to setup our tent or lighting up the fire pit. We had some kind of guidance available at Sibley State Park when we attended the program. However we were confident that we should be able to pull off our next camping experience all by ourselves and so we selecting Grand Marais for one reason –its proximity to the town. Worst come worst, if nothing worked for us we could still find food from the local restaurants; which we did just because we wanted to. 

From our previous experience we had listed down things that were missing from our camping gear –cooking stove, propane gas cylinder, utensils, hatchet, blankets, lantern etc. We were able to buy all of these from the local REI store with assistance from the salesmen there. Finally a couple of days before leaving for this small town along Lake Superior we stacked up on food that we might need and went through the gears once more. We bought black beans and pasta, fruits, milk, coffee, marshmallows, cookies etc. Before hitting on the long drive we tanked up the cooler with ice assuming it should be fine to last the couple of days that we were planning to be there.

Grand Marais is a small town on the US side of Lake Superior’s north shore. Our getaway was planned for the first week of September [Labor Day weekend] and it was chilly with occasional rainfall. Our campsite was right next to the shoreline, maybe a few shrubs/trees in between our site and the Lake.  We booked our site a couple of months in advance; details available at the Grand Marais Campground website.

Except for a slight detour that we had to take due to road construction, our travel to this campground was nothing out of the ordinary and was not difficult to find. The first question I asked the lady at the gate who was collecting fees and helping with general information –Any bears sighted recently nearby? “Nope” came the reply and she would have figured out that it was our first visit to this campground. When I drove to our site, I could very well understand why no wild animals were sighted. That place was teeming with kids on their bikes or people just taking a stroll –there were a lot of people –maybe due to the long weekend and we were not at all complaining.

Per law we had to buy firewood from the same campsite which was quite damp and took an unusually long time to light up. Moreover being first timers we had lack of experience playing against us too. We had learnt that the firewood would need to be chopped into small pieces so that they catch fire but it was becoming very difficult to drive the hatchet right through damp wood. A couple of campsites away an elderly guy too was doing the same thing, except for he was striking a hammer to drive down the hatchet. And he was very kind to allow me to borrow the hammer. Not just that, on learning that we were camping for the first time on our own, he came down to our campsite and showed us how to chop down the firewood, light up the fire and gave us little tips on how to keep the fire going.

Next task on our list was to setup the tent. Having done that in our earlier camping experience we were quite comfortable on the setting up part, but finding an appropriate spot took us some thinking. We kind of figured out two spots, one that was under a little tree but the ground seemed to be devoid of grass and so seemed to be a bit hard while the other one was grass covered but was quite close to the fire-pit. We finally decided to set up camp under the tree and which later proved to be a good decision because it saved us from direct the rain that we got a few times.

With the fire going strong and the tent setup done, we made some hot coffee and had it with cookies. We set our chairs close to the fire and thus started our relaxed two days. A little way further was a small opening between two campsite which was a way to the little beach full of pebbles and little rocks. The water was cold so we kept ourselves from going in. There was a small bench too for those who’d want to sit and just enjoy watching the waves come in and go.

On the other side is the city of G. Marais and it was an easy walk for us. We had a couple of meals at Crooked Spoon Café and the food was delicious, especially the French onion soup. Another good café was the World’s Best Donuts shop. We had to stand in a line to place our order, such was the rush. Inside the café there were a few tables and along the walls were photographs of people with the World’s Best Donut coffee mugs from all around the world. A lot of photos also date way back from the 1980s too. Moreover these donuts weren’t expensive. I would advice to visit these two places if you happen to visit the town.

It was a nice two days that we spent there in the little town. We lazed in our recliner chairs, read books on our kindle, talked about life and enjoyed good food. If it had not rained a couple of times, I’m sure it would have been even better for us. We came back with the memory of going to sleep in our small tent warm inside the sleeping bags while it was raining outside and waking up to the sound of waves and chirping of birds. Had it been cloudless, I’m sure we would have seen stars too since there wasn’t ambient light around us.

Our little trip left us a little healthier, a little happier and a little wiser.

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