Oh, Christmas Tree!

This year our Christmas tree was extra special. It was the first year that we cut down our own. What makes it even more special is that we cut it from our own back yard! Wait what? Yes, we got our Christmas tree from our back yard.

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The truth is, the tree was in a terrible location. It wouldn’t have been a problem, but a couple of years ago we put fence around our property, which rubbed right up against our tree. The bigger the tree gets, the more it pushes against the fence. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t we just have the tree relocated? Well, for the simple reason that the fiber optic cable and internet lines run very close to where the tree was planted and there was no way to remove it without causing thousands of dollars in damage and repairs.

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So the three of us made the decision to give our tree a grand farewell and show it all the holiday love we could. Jayden helped me cut it down, then we decorated it with ornaments we’ve been collecting since his first Christmas. He went through a Scooby Doo phase, a Star Wars phase and one year even chose the Beatles Yellow Submarine. Needless to say, it turned out pretty amazing and smells pretty good too!

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I’ve always loved Christmas lights! Growing up, I always had my own set of lights to hang up in my room. There’s something very magical about the glow of Christmas lights, especially when it’s the only light in the room! We love our little tree, and will enjoy every moment of this Christmas season. Then once spring comes, we’ll give our tree one final goodbye when we get together with our friends for the first neighborhood bonfire of the year.

For now, I need to find a way to keep the dogs from drinking all the water from the tree stand!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

 


Thankful, Grateful, Happy

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau

The picture above is from my dining room. In the frames, you’ll find all the turkeys my son made in elementary school; each one completely different from the previous years. I keep them behind our framed menus so that every November I can flip them out and display them. My favorite is the “Darth Vader Turkey” that we made together. The assignment was to create a disguise for the turkey so he wouldn’t be eaten for Thanksgiving! It was a lot of fun!

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Jayden holding our Darth Vader disguised turkey!

When Jayden was creating these turkeys, he wasn’t worried about making his turkey perfect. He wasn’t thinking about making his turkey better than his classmates. He was just happy to be making the turkey. I am thankful for many things this year, but mostly I’m thankful for my son and the person he has grown to be.

My son knows what he wants and what he likes. He doesn’t feel the need to do certain things because everyone else is doing them. He is a unique individual and lives his life in that manner; he doesn’t let insignificant things bother him or get him down. As a parent, you teach your children to be good people and to be themselves and when it’s time for them to live on their own; you hope like hell that something stuck with them. I don’t have that worry and I’m very thankful for that.

I feel that Jayden can teach us all valuable lessons about life.

  • Stop chasing perfection. No one is perfect. And no one expects you to be perfect. Stop stressing about little details that only you will notice. It doesn’t matter in the long run.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is a death sentence for your joy and happiness. It doesn’t matter what other people have or what they do. Focus on your goals, on yourself and success will follow.
  • Do what makes you happy. Even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.

I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic Thanksgiving this year. Cherish the time you spend with family and do what makes you happy!

 


Tuna Noodle Picnics and Blanket Forts

We got our first little bit of snow today. It wasn’t much, just barely enough to make the ground white before it started to disappear. It’s this time of year that makes me think about all the indoor activities we love that keep us warm and cozy. Although curling up in front of the fire with a bowl of hot soup always sounds amazing, there are other activities that are just as cozy and fun!

Our son Jaydens’ favorite meal is tuna and noodles. Which is really surprising considering he’s the pickiest eater in the world! It’s probably the worst meal you can make. We make ours with bow tie noodles, a can of cream of celery soup, a can of tuna and a little milk. That’s it! But for some reason he loves it! Unfortunately though, his dad hates it so we only made it when he was working a late shift. It  became a fun tradition for the two of us and to make it even more special; we turned it into a weekly picnic.

We’d spread a large beach towel on the floor and pour two glasses of milk. Then, with our plates nearly overflowing with tuna and noodles, we’d sit down on the floor and feast. Sometimes Jayden would tell me about his day, other times he’d turn on his favorite show and tell me all about the characters in it.

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Thick wool socks makes your tuna noodle picnic even cozier!

Another of Jayden’s favorite childhood adventures was building blanket forts. He’d become pretty skilled at them and built them with multiple rooms and levels. He loved having us visit him in his blanket forts. He usually had a working door that we’d have to knock on and he’d show us around. His favorite fort was the one we built on the deck. We put an air mattress in it and slept in it overnight like a tent. It was a lot of fun!Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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Even though our son has outgrown building blankets forts, he will still talk and reminisce about some of the more elaborate ones that we’ve built especially the one we built on the deck. Those memories are well ingrained into his mind. Also, we no longer sit on the floor and eat tuna and noodles, but it’s still his favorite meal, which he now knows how to make himself! Every once in a while, he does ask to have a picnic again and that’s a big deal for me since he’s now 17 and doesn’t spend as much time with us as he used to. Hearing him talk about things we did when he was a child makes me sad because he’s no longer my little boy, but also excited because he now has traditions that he can continue when he starts his own family.

What an adventure that will be!


6 Tips for Visiting Horseshoe Bend

A river is water is its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart.

Roderick Haig-Brown

Just south of the Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River makes a dramatic wave sort of taunting you as she continues her journey into the Grand Canyon. The Horseshoe Bend is a spectacular site and you really need to see it in person to really appreciate its beauty and energy. It’s located in a pretty convenient location. In fact, it’s only a few miles outside Page, AZ which is where you’ll find Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. It’s also just a couple of hours north of the Grand Canyon.

The bend is one of the most photographed places in the country; photographers come from all over the world to capture the contrast of the soft sunset against the rocky cutout. If you’re interested in the best ways to photograph the bend, you can find tips from professional photographers here.DSC00405

We did a little research when we were planning our visit here and we’re glad we did. Here are 6 things we found very useful to know before heading to Horseshoe Bend:

  1. No Fees! There is no cost to see Horseshoe Bend, you’re also able to park for free. Yay!
  2. Bring water. Well, you are in the desert! Also, you will have to hike about 3/4 miles to get to the lookout point. Next to the parking lot you’ll find some primitive bathrooms equipped with hand sanitizer, but no running water.
  3. Wear good shoes. We don’t recommend heels for this hike, but perhaps a good walking shoe. The path is well-traveled but is still uneven and you will have to step over small rocks sticking out of the ground. We saw folks of all ages making the hike, so don’t let that scare you off.
  4. No safety features. There are no safety rails around the lookout point and the rocks are uneven. If you’re brave enough to walk to the edge, do so slowly and with utmost care. Those good shoes come into play here as well. If you have young children or dogs in tow, be vigilant.
  5. Great views no matter where you stand. If you’re not a fan of heights, you can still get a great view of Horseshoe Bend away from the edge. If heights still aren’t your thing, there are rafting tours available to enjoy horseshoe bend from below.
  6. Can be very busy. Depending on the time of day you visit, it can be very busy. Sunset is by far the busiest time. But, if you’re not looking for that dramatic sunset shot, earlier in the day would be a less busy time to visit. We visited during the busy sunset hour, unfortunately the clouds rolled in and we didn’t get to see the sunset but it was still very beautiful. Especially the way the clouds reflected off the water.

If you’re planning a trip to Horseshoe Bend, don’t hesitate to ask questions below or share your own experience! We’d love to hear from you!


Come Get Your Kicks…..

If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the highway that is best. Get your kicks on route sixty-six….

Those words blared through the speakers of our Ford Mustang, keeping time with the purr of that V8 engine on that old stretch of highway.

Driving a Ford Mustang along Route 66? Can you get any more American than that? Throw in Chuck Berry’s version of Route 66? Now, you can’t get any more American than that, unless of course we were eating apple pie along the way.

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The Mustang in Williams, AZ.

 

On our recent Arizona adventure, we had the opportunity to travel the Arizona section of Historic Route 66. Cruising the entire route from Illinois to California is definitely on our bucket list, but this at least gave us a small taste until we can get that adventure crossed off.

Traveling west out of Flagstaff, most of the original Route 66 was absorbed by Interstate 40. Not until we passed Ash Fork did we find a stretch of old Route 66 that we could stay on for more than a couple of miles.

We made three stops on the route. The first was a quick stop in Williams and the second an even quicker stop in Ash Fork. Our third and favorite stop and the one we’ll dedicate the most writing to was Seligman, AZ.

Seligman and its history with the interstate are what Pixar loosely based the animated film Cars on. Angel Delgadillo, the man responsible for getting Route 66 listed as a historic site was born and still lives in Seligman. Angel was there at the beginning of Route 66 and unfortunately was there for its demise when I-40 opened. He used to run the towns barber shop, which is still there with the original chair and all his tools, but now houses a gift shop that includes everything you could ever want with the Route 66 logo on it. There are numerous little shops full of gifts and memorabilia. One shop even has a small museum with vintage cars and bikes in the back. The people are very friendly, curious about where you’re from and interested in what brought you their way.

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Angel Delgadillo’s barber shop turned gift shop in Seligman, AZ.

 

Seligman has this sort of magical quality to it. It brings you back to your childhood; back to a time where your imagination was free and untethered by the responsibilities that come with adulthood. There are motorcycles sticking out of the ground, numerous old cars and back behind the Snow Cap Ice Cream Shop is like stepping into another dimension. There’s a pair of legs sticking out of the dog house. A head in a toilet and so many other oddities it’s hard to describe them all. If we haven’t mentioned it yet, we love crazy, somewhat tacky places.

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Oddities behind the Snow Cap Ice Cream Shop, Seligman, AZ.

 

Now if that wasn’t crazy enough, we came into town close to the lunch hour.  Where do you eat in Seligman, AZ? The Roadkill Café of course! The café has an old school truck stop feel to it, but the food is pretty tasty if you can look beyond the crazy names. I believe we both enjoyed a Caddie Grilled Patty (hamburger). Their menu is so crazy and fun they actually sell copies of it in their gift shop!

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Roadkill Café, Seligman, AZ.

 

From Seligman, Route 66 takes quite a leap away from Interstate 40. There are numerous small towns along the way, each with their own quirk. We didn’t stop at any of them but we were able to glance out the car window and see what once was.


Jamaica’s Hidden Paradise

Pulling into the parking lot, it didn’t look like much. In fact we were kind of wondering what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into. Walking down a rough gravel path, the jungle opened up and we found it. Paradise! Aqua blue-green fresh water, lush greenery and a gorgeous waterfall garnishing the delicious scene in front of us.

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The Blue Hole is not your typical tourist attraction. In fact there’s really no commercialization at all. The paths are rough and precariously covered with tree roots. Although the guides are all excellent swimmers, there are no official lifeguards on duty. Water shoes are a must, since you will be climbing and walking over slippery rocks. It’s not handicapped accessible or appropriate for small children. There’s no charge for entering the Blue Hole, the guides work for tips.

Every group that came out had two guides; one main guide and the other to take pictures. We were going to leave our phones in our taxi but our second guide offered to take pictures for us. It was amazing! He took great pictures and even some videos for us. Watching him swim across one handed with the other hand in the air holding 3 cell phones was pretty incredible.

There were many different areas where we could jump off rocks into the cool blue waters. Most were around 6-10 foot jumps, but for the really adventurous there was the option for a 25 foot jump. My favorite part of the Blue Hole experience was scaling the waterfall. It was so amazing. They have a rope set up to assist you with the descent and when you’re about 10 feet from the bottom, they have you jump off.

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Blue Hole Waterfall, Jamaica

Jamaica has some of the kindest, most welcoming people we have ever met. The only reason we even found out about this place was because we were talking with the locals! Which, if you’ve ever read our post “6 Things We’ve Learned While Traveling“, you’ll know that talking with the locals is always a great idea!

 


A Year of Home Adventures!

We are a busy family. We both have full time jobs. Our son has an after school job. We own a home. We have 3 dogs and a cat. As much as we’d love to travel full time, it’s not in the cards for us right now. So, to pass the time between our bigger adventures, we like to come up with little adventures that we can have without ever leaving home.

Ever been on your way to work and heard the radio DJ talking about how today is French Fry Day? What? Seriously? There’s a day for that? Yes there is. In fact, there’s a day for just about everything. If you Google ‘silly holidays’, you can find websites that have calendars dedicated to all the silly, weird holidays for the year.

About 5 years ago, my son and I decided to look through those calendars and pick one day to celebrate each month. Now, my son loves to eat, so the majority of  holidays that were picked by him revolved around food!

Here is the list of silly holidays we celebrated that year:

January 19th: National Popcorn Day

February 20th: National Cherry Pie Day

March 14th: National Pi Day (get it? 3.14…….Nerd Alert!)

April 26th: National Pretzel Day

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We made homemade soft pretzels for pretzel day.

 

May 4th: Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with You!…..Double nerd alert!)

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May the Fourth be with You!

 

June 29th: Pinhole Camera Day (Our only non-food day!)

July 21st: National Ice Cream Day

August 10th: National S’mores Day

September 18th: National Cheeseburger Day

October 14th: National Dessert Day

November 3rd: Sandwich Day

December 18th: Bake Cookies Day

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It’s hard to tell, but we do have flour on our noses for Bake Cookies Day.

Each month, we’d plan what we were going to do for our chosen silly holiday and then celebrate it! We always took a picture to commemorate our day and shared it on Instagram. This year my son asked if we could do the silly holidays again and I of course said yes! Follow us on Instagram to see what holidays we chose and how we celebrate them each month!

We’d also love to see your silly holiday celebrations. Post your pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #sillyholidays.


5 Reasons Antelope Canyon Should be on Your Bucket List

When someone mentions Arizona, one of the first images that comes to mind is probably the Grand Canyon, but just a couple hours north in Page, AZ lies a hidden gem in the Arizona desert. You’ve probably even seen pictures of it, although you may not have known what it was.

It’s been named one of the 10 most beautiful slot canyons in the world. The water-worn passageways of Antelope Canyon attract visitors from all over the world every year and we’ve created a list of reasons why you need to see it too. The canyon is divided into Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. We toured Upper Antelope Canyon.

  1. Intimate canyon. The Antelope Canyon tour is an intimate experience. From the moment you enter, you are up close and personal. You see the water warped walls, you feel their texture, you feel the temperature drop and feel the sand displace beneath your feet.

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    Upper Antelope Canyon

  2. Colors change. Depending on the time of day and the time of year you visit the canyon, you will see a different palate of colors. In summer, you’ll see a bright glow of reds, oranges and yellows. In winter, you’ll see more deep purples, blues and pink.

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    Water-worn walls of Antelope Canyon.

  3. Hidden Gem. The entrance to the canyon is not obvious or easy to find. It’s seclusion and secretiveness make you feel like you’ve found the entrance to Narnia or a world from another time.

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    The ‘heart’ of Antelope Canyon.

  4. Artistic Experience. Antelope canyon is natures brushstrokes and carvings at its best, painted with light and carved by water. Then there’s those amazing light beams cast into the canyon by the sun. Late spring and summer are the best time of year to see them.DSC00301
  5. Always Changing. The canyon will flood when it rains, and therefore changes multiple times a year. You’ll never see the same canyon twice.

Antelope Canyon was by far our favorite stop in Arizona. Don’t get us wrong, the Grand Canyon was amazing to see as well, but there’s just something about this little slot canyon that makes us want to visit every year. Our Navajo guide made our experience even better because of his passion for the canyon and his heritage. He shared parts of his culture with us, as well as the geology and history of the canyon.

There’s a few things to keep in mind before your trip to Antelope Canyon.

  • Watch the weather. Flash flooding is a natural occurrence in the area, even if there’s no rain in the immediate area. A storm 10 miles away can cause the canyon to flood. The tour companies watch the weather very closely and will cancel tours last-minute so keep your itinerary flexible.
  • Two Canyons. Antelope Canyon is divided into Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Upper Canyon can be entered at ground level and remains level throughout. Lower Canyon requires climbing stairs to get in and out of the canyon. Both require a guided tour, as you cannot tour them on your own.
  • Book Early! These tours fill up very fast. You will need to make reservations months in advance to assure you get the date and time you want. We used http://navajotours.com, but there are other tour companies available.
  • Consider the time zone. Arizona doesn’t recognize daylight savings time, but the Navajo Reservations do. Most of the tour groups, however, are on Arizona time to cater to confused tourists. Contact your tour group to verify.
  • Bring cash. When we booked our tour, we didn’t realize that we had to pay in cash. Luckily we had enough cash on us and didn’t have to run back into Page.
  • Tip your guide! Our guide was amazing! He was very knowledgeable about cameras and camera phones and was able to help everyone set up their cameras to get the best possible photos. He also brought a hand carved Navajo flute and played it for us inside the canyon so we could hear how the music reverberated off the canyon walls.

We visited the canyon in early March. The weather was cooler and the tour group was smaller than they are in the height of tourist season. We ended up with so many beautiful images from our tour, we’d love to see some of yours and to hear about your experience!


Ultimate Lake Superior Road Trip 3

Day 3: South Shore Lake Superior

For the last day of our northern adventure, we are heading along the south shore of Lake Superior which takes us into Northern Wisconsin. The shores along Wisconsin are not the rugged, rocky shores we saw along the North Shore in Minnesota, these shores are much softer and sandy.

Amnicon Falls State Park

From Duluth, we headed east towards Wisconsin and traveled along US-53 to our first stop, Amnicon Falls State Park. The park was created by earthquakes and glaciers which you can read about here. The 55 foot Horton covered bridge, the most recognizable structure in the park, traverses the river at the lower falls and creates some beautiful photo ops. Like the other parks we’ve visited, the Amnicon offers camping and hiking for its visitors. We hiked along the river, where we saw signs of the parks furry residents and heard many of the local birds singing in the trees.

Our son enjoyed climbing on everything and playing in the small pools that formed along the riverbanks from the previous nights rains.

Bayfield

Once we left Amnicon, we traveled along State Highway 13, which stays close to the shores of Lake Superior, to Bayfield, WI. The views along this highway should not be missed and neither should Bayfield. Bayfield is a picturesque town, that looks as if it was designed especially for a Hallmark movie.

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The view of Bayfield from the docks.

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Main street Bayfield.

Downtown Bayfield is filled with local restaurants, ice cream shops and candy shops. It’s quite possibly the most adorable little town, we’ve ever been in. Do you love taffy? There’s a candy store with an entire wall filled with bins of taffy in every flavor you could possibly think of; and you can watch them make it too!

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Taking home a big bag of taffy is a great way to end your 3-day road trip around Lake Superior.

A few tips before you embark on this journey.

  • Dress in layers. Lake Superior has a strange effect on the surrounding weather. The locals call it the “lake effect”. It may be warm enough for shorts and t-shirts when you leave, but a few miles into your trip it’s cool enough for jackets.
  • Bring water. If you plan on hiking in any of the parks, make sure you stay hydrated.
  • Batteries. There are a ton of photo ops throughout this entire trip. Make sure you have extra camera batteries or have your phone completely charged, since you may not find a place to charge them along the way.
  • Gas station fish. Buy the fish! I wouldn’t normally encourage others to buy gas station fish, but in this case it’s absolutely worth it. Fish are caught and smoked daily in the area, and since most towns cannot support their own grocery stores, the smoked fish is sold at the gas station. I highly recommend the salmon!

 

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Ultimate Lake Superior Road Trip 2

Day 2: The North Shore

On the second leg of this journey, we are heading up the north shore of Lake Superior. By taking 61 north, you’ll overlook the breathtaking panorama that is the north shore and take in the best views Lake Superior has to offer.

Two Harbors

Our first stop along this journey was the quaint little town called Two Harbors. The town boasts many activities including: hiking, biking, fishing, golf, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, sailing and shopping. If you’re in a historical mood, the town also has a number of museums including a lighthouse that is also a B&B and the Depot Museum. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (a.k.a. 3M) was founded in Two Harbors and has a museum as well.

The Depot Museum gives you a look into the three big industries for Minnesota which included timber, commercial fishing and the railroads impact on iron mining. Plus they house their museum in a 110 year old brick building that was once the headquarters for the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad.

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A train engine at the Depot Museum in Two Harbors, MN.

If you decide to stay in Two Harbors for a night or two, the Lighthouse B&B will give you a unique experience you won’t find at a large chain hotel. There are only four rooms available so make your reservations as early as you can. For accommodations and rates click here.

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Lighthouse B&B, Two Harbors, MN

Gooseberry State Park

Continuing north on highway 61, you’re next stop is Gooseberry State Park to hike and view some amazing waterfalls. The park houses 5 waterfalls, the Gooseberry River and the Gooseberry Gorge. It also has a beach covered in agate, very beautiful! The park offers camping, 20 miles of hiking (including one mile of hiking that is wheelchair accessible) and biking trails. Gooseberry is a great stop for a family picnic!

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Falls at Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

 

Split Rock Lighthouse

After a long, beautiful hike and picnic lunch at Gooseberry, travel a few short miles further north along highway 61 until you come upon the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Although the main attraction of this park is indeed the lighthouse, it also offers hiking, cart-in camping sites, kayak camping sites, hiking camping sites, scenic overlooks and fishing just to name a few.

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Lighthouse employees baking pies in the Keepers Home.

 

The park offers guided tours of the lighthouse and it’s grounds for a fee, or you have the option to take a self tour. We opted for the self tour and after checking out the lighthouse, we toured the keepers home. They had employees dressed in period clothing baking apple pies in an oven original to the building. It smelled amazing! Prior to that, they had made caramel rolls and were handing them out to guests. This was our sons favorite part!

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Split Rock Lighthouse, MN

Split Rock Lighthouse was by far, our favorite part of our North Shore adventure. The lighthouse sits atop a rugged cliff overlooking Lake Superior. If you take the trail down to the rocky shoreline, you’re able to view the lighthouse in all its grandeur. You can definitely capture some great photos from that viewpoint, but don’t forget to stop and take it all in. Listen to the waves hitting the shoreline, it’s a relaxing way to end your North Shore day.

In our next post, we’ll be heading along the south shore of Lake Superior.

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