I was raised in Minnesota, yet 20 years after leaving to explore the globe, I’ve discovered a little piece of heaven that exists in the northernmost reaches of the state. Driving northeast from Duluth, Highway 61 follows the North Shore of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The shoreline here is nothing short of majestic.
I arrived in Lutsen, a small village about 60 miles from the Canadian border for a family vacation. Inspired by my friends at KissMyCountry and The Daily Ocean blog, I decided to do a beach clean up on one of the North Shore beaches. Never having been to the area, I wasn’t sure what condition I would find the beaches in. Much of the shoreline here is rocky cliffs, with expansive gravel beaches at the points where rivers cascade into the epic lake. I reached out to the SurfRider Foundation, Superior Chapter for some tips on where to go. One of their suggestions was Kadunce Creek Beach.Looking out across the lake, you cannot see the other side. You don’t feel like you are on a lake, but rather a fresh water sea. It is truly awe-inspiring. I never guessed that not finding trash would be an issue for my first beach clean up, but I am thrilled to report that was indeed the case. The rhythm of the waves hitting the shore was a perfect accompaniment to the soft sun and gusty breeze.
I walked the beach with my 7-year-old son for 20 minutes. In that time we found two small fragments of paper towels and one small plastic wrapper. That’s it! Not even enough to weigh. There was a trash receptacle at the parking lot where we left our meager findings.
We stopped in Grand Marais for lunch. Seeing the town beach right next to the harbor, I was curious if I would find the beach in the same immaculate condition as Kadunce Creek. We decided to spend another 20 minutes cleaning up whatever we could find. As it turns out, we had more to pick up here. Walking the beach, the first thing I noticed was the number of cigarette butts… one after another. We also found a plethora of clear plastic straws. This is a tourist area, and I’m guessing one of the neighboring shops gives these out with their drinks. It’s just a shame that they didn’t make it to one of the numerous trash cans lining the beach. Aside from the straws and cigarette butts, we found a lone plastic clog and an action figure.
Even though it turned out there wasn’t a lot of work for us to do cleaning beaches on Lake Superior, I am grateful for the experience. As a mother as well as a woman who loves and enjoys our planet, I strive for ways to teach environmental stewardship to my son. The following day, we hiked a forest trail. We came to a bridge across a creek and my son pointed out a plastic cup left by a previous hiker. He said, “Mom, look, trash. We better pick it up and take it back to the garbage can with us.” Ahhh… a small success. I was proud of him and thankful for his attitude.