In answer to several queries “Why Duluth?” Well, quite frankly I don’t know why I selected Duluth as the place to celebrate my milestone birthday; just knew I wanted it to be something different and some place we’d never been before! And then when Randy and Konnie said they’d join us to celebrate and drive the 350 miles from their home at the Lake it became even more special! We coordinated our appetizers and refreshments, meal choices, and how to spend the days.
Duluth is the third-largest city in Minnesota and is a city of many faces. It seamlessly blends small-town charm with a touch of big-city pizzazz with only 87,000 residents. “Outside” magazine named it one of its ten American “Dream Towns”. However, and ironically, it is the gritty industrial side that attracts most visitors. It sits on 2,432 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, Duluth, along with Superior, Wisconsin (its neighbor to the south) is one of the busiest ports in the world and the top on the Great Lakes. Some of the world’s largest grain elevators and ore docks dominate the shoreline and over 1,100 monstrous ships sail into the Twin Ports each year. Duluth is also the stepping stone to drive up the North Shore to Grand Portage on the Canadian border. We hope to do this drive before we leave Minnesota.
The French voyageurs were the first to discover this area in the mid 17th century and called it Fond du Lac (Head of the Lake) and particularly liked this area for the natural harbor for protection from Lake Superior’s notoriously severe and sudden storms. Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, a marine captain in the French army – for whom Duluth is creatively named – landed on Minnesota point in 1679 to promote peace between the warring Ojibwe and Dakota. A small outpost was built and in 1809 John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company built a fort here. This station was later abandoned the same year Minnesota became a territory in 1849.
The city continued to flourish with the discovery of iron ore close by and again by its natural harbor and the arrival of the railroad to the area. In 1870, Dr. Thomas Foster, publisher of the city’s first newspaper had declared Duluth “the Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas” and the population exploded from 14 in January to 3,500 by the Fourth of July that same year.
What we all found the most interesting about the town is that the downtown is tucked into the steep, rocky hills that parallel the shoreline, and a few streets here are as steep as any in San Francisco. There is also a seven-mile finger of land jutting out beyond the city, Park Point and is rarely referred to by its official name; Minnesota Point, the world’s largest freshwater sandbar. The city also has a skywalk system on a smaller scale from Minneapolis, but nonetheless – a wonderful way to get around the city with never going outside and with maps and signs posted throughout the skywalks helping one get around the city effortlessly!
To call Lake Superior big is to make a colossal understatement. Check out these numbers: The lake’s surface area covers 31,280 square miles – almost the same size as South Carolina – making it the largest lake in the world. It stretches 350 miles at its longest and 160 miles at its widest, has 2,726 miles of shoreline, and its deepest point sinks 1,279 feet below the surface. Its three quadrillion (that’s 15 zeros) gallons of water constitute one-eighth of the world’s fresh water supply and is enough to cover all of North and South America one foot deep. Only Lake Baikal in Russia and Lake Tanganyika in East Africa, both much smaller but deeper lakes, contain more. It isn’t just the volume of water that makes this lake special, it also happens to be some of the purest and cleanest in the world.
We arrived at the Radisson Hotel around 1:00 and immediately got unpacked and organized and settled in awaiting Randy and Konnie’s arrival. We were fortunate to have gotten the Presidential Suite so we had a separate sitting area along with a mini kitchen for our use. While Jerry was out returning the luggage cart, a knock on the door brought the manager of the restaurant delivering a bottle of champagne to the room in the bucket along with four champagne flutes. He proceeded to tell me it was an excellent champagne and what was served at the Obama inauguration party – special delivery from our friend Emerson, and thank you again very much! We saved it to enjoy the following morning! We ate upstairs at the revolving JJ Astor Restaurant and everyone enjoyed delicious meals while watching Duluth unfold below us.
The pictures better portray the enjoyable time we had during phase one of the celebration and another one from my actual birthday tomorrow! It truly was a magical and very fun day in this really darling city!
Till the next time . . .