I have found that opportunities sometimes present themselves in the blink of an eye, and we are either smart enough to accept them or we let them go and they are gone forever. I had such an event this past summer. My son is a senior in college studying Geology at Winona. I was quite busy at work, but he called and said he wanted to go to the Duluth area and see some rock formations and he would be doing some hiking on the Superior hiking trail.
Now my son probably would have loved his time alone or would have liked to bring a friend, but he knows how much I love the Superior hiking trail and the Duluth area, so he was kind enough to think of me and offer to take me along. He also knows that if possible, I never turn down an opportunity for an adventure or a road trip. That is way more fun than working. I have never studied geology, but it is one of those fun subjects everyone likes to hear about and who has not collected rocks at one time or another. I have always loved rocks and now as the mother of a geologist, I have rocks everywhere at our house and in the garage and in the gardens. I love them and so jumped at a chance to go along.
We have a lot of history with Duluth. It is one of our family’s favorite places. We took the kids there every year when they were young. I have a Minnesota bar convention in Duluth every second year and the kids would get to go along, and in the other years we made sure we at least went for a long weekend. The Bar conventions had a multitude of family fun planned, while we were busy at the convention meetings. One year the kids rode a Pizza train from Duluth to Two Harbors that had music and magic acts and activities for the kids during the ride. This kept them busy with Dad while the Bar convention had a cocktail party for the members. The kids still remember it and I actually think one of them still has the conductor hat she got on that train ride over ten years ago.
I went to college in Duluth too and so it has strong memories for me, but more importantly it is one of the most beautiful areas of Minnesota. It has hiking, biking, good restaurants, beautiful waterfalls and scenery, and nice hotels right on the Lake in Canal Park. I had worked my way
through college cooking at Grandma’s Saloon and Deli in Canal Park and I was actually fortunate enough to live on Park Point across the lift bridge from Grandma’s in Duluth, when I was a Junior and Senior in college. Three of us girls working at Grandma’s rented the house on the lake side from the Manager of Grandma’s. It was a beautiful place. I fell asleep to the sounds of Lake Superior waves hitting the shores and the sound of the bridge and the large loaded ore boats communicating by sound as they went through the lift bridge on their trek across Lake Superior.
When Ben was nice enough to call to see if I could go along to Duluth, I could have easily said I just could not make it. Making changes in my schedule and rearranging my calendar is not impossible, but it takes some work on my part. Thank goodness I seized the moment. Without hesitation I said yes and asked and firmed up the days we were going. I made the changes to my schedule and I made us reservations at the Inn on Lake Superior, my favorite hotel. It has nice rooms and pools, but they are also right on the Lake and have beautiful views. You can walk right out the back door of the hotel onto their back patio and you are on the walking trail on the shore of Lake Superior. At night they have a fire pit going and they bring large trays of the makings for smores. You can walk in the dark along the lake and actually walk out onto the pier to the lighthouse and look back at the Duluth lights glimmering against the dark backdrop of hills. It is beautiful!
We had three days and a packed schedule for our adventure, starting the first afternoon with a hike to the end of Park Point. We had beautiful weather and hiked the entire way until we could see Wisconsin. It is a lovely trail that starts at the airport at the end of the road on the Point and goes through old growth pine forests and along the beach. We of course had dinner at Grandma’s and Ben had to again hear my stories of days gone by, when I worked there and the fun we had. We went to Ely and went down into the old mine and the entire way there and back Ben stopped and pointed out interesting rock formations and areas he needed to see, or ones he had seen on past field studies and wanted to show me. It is amazing to think that I have driven that North Shore so many times over the years and he could stop and point out rock formations and even an old fault line that I had never noticed before. It is so interesting when your kids take up such a fun area of study and you as a parent learn something new.
The Soudan mine, now a State Park open to tours, was particularly interesting. We had been there when our kids were very young, but Ben was so young he could barely remember it. When we first got our hardhats to go into the small, loud elevator to descend over a mile into the earth, a light went off for him. He said he did remember the hard hats and the elevator ride. He was fascinated with the mine tour now that he has so much knowledge about the geology of it all. We both had a wonderful time and I learned a lot.
On our last day we hiked a small portion of the Superior hiking trail. This is a gem of our state. It winds through heavy forests, up and down rocky ledges and along waterfalls and streams. It has beautiful bridges and is well maintained, safe and well mapped. We ran into other hikers occasionally, but we felt completely immersed in nature. Being experienced in such things, we had plenty of water and some Gatorade and snacks along. We took our time and we took a few rest stops. It was just he and I, and we had a nice chance to talk about everything from the family, our past adventures, plans for future adventures to some of his plans for after college. It was so great to hear the birds and the water flowing and feel the moist, cool air of the thick forest, and to just spend time together. It was warm on the trail and after more than 4 hours of hiking, we were really sweaty and hot. We stopped at the next State Park rest area and completely changed clothes before finding another good local restaurant for a meal together.
Once those kids leave for college they need to forge their own life and they are busy with that, and that is a good thing, but it is so nice when we can take an opportunity like this between their busy life and ours, to be together even if just a few days. Even though I was tired after our trek in the woods, I felt refreshed and more alive than I had in weeks. Nature does that to a person, but more importantly sharing time in nature with those we love is life renewing.
Had I not taken that spur of the moment opportunity to go with Ben when he called and not juggled my calendar around to spend time with him on the North Shore, I would have lost the opportunity for a great hike and education in the geology of Northern Minnesota, but more importantly I would have forever lost that moment of time with him. There is sheer joy in seizing those rare opportunities. They present themselves in a moment and if we do not seize the moment, the moment is gone forever. Fun living is the seizing of those rare opportunities that present themselves.