Minnesota: The north shore, a giant lake, and a lighthouse

Wedding Week part two began with a drive from Madison to Minneapolis followed by another drive in the morning from Minneapolis to Castle Danger, an “unincorporated community in Silver Creek Township, MN”, nestled along the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Superior.(1)

Silver Creek is a short drive north from Two Harbors, MN where we stopped for a bridal hair preview appointment. While Danielle was busy I gave myself a quick tour of the city that birthed one of the world’s most innovative companies, 3M.

The company originally called “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing” started in this humble location in Two Harbors.

By the time we made it to Castle Danger there was just enough light for a dinner over last minute wedding planning. From the decks on our rooms we could see infinite darkness stretching across the lake, and looking up countless stars glimmering above. It was the first of what would turn out to be a phenomenally beautiful weekend on Minnesota’s North Shore.

The next morning we decided to go for a bike ride. The hotel rented bikes for free and while none of them were bikes I would buy, they were suitable for the 20 mile ride to Split Rock Lighthouse and back. We headed out on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, a network of 29 complete miles of off-highway bike trail that will one day connect Two Harbors and Grand Marais over 88 miles of bike trail. From Gooseberry Falls onward we rode on one of the newest stretches of trail, stopping along the way to pick agates, visit with boaters, and take in magnificent views of the North Shore.

A scenic overlook from the Gitchi-Gami Trail near Iona’s Beach Scenic Natural Area, MN.

It had been at least 15 years since I was last at Split Rock Lighthouse, and had forgotten its importance to the region. It was built in response to a series of wrecks cause by a large storm that hit the lake in 1910 and was a large motivator to extending the road that became Highway 61 up to Split Rock due to its popularity as a tourist attraction. I have to say the station is something to behold. While there we learned that it was built in such a precarious location that all kinds of clever—and dangerous—methods were used to supply the lighthouse and it’s keepers with basic necessities before the road was built. If you pay the admission you can climb the tower and get up close and personal with its Fresnel lens.

A Fresnel is a type of lens constructed to project a beam of light visible for distances upward of 20 miles. This one is apparently “third order” and the light is officially visible at a distance of 22 miles, though the MNHS reports some fishermen could spot the light from 60 miles north of the station.

By the time we arrived back in Castle Danger, our guests were starting to
trickle in and the full wedding weekend really began.

1. By surface area.