This article is particularly written for North Shore foamers; those of us who foam at the mouth for a chance to spend time and photograph on the North Shore–and I count myself in that group. There is no better time than experiencing an early morning sunrise, or photographing the fall moon as it rises on mirror still lake, or capturing a foggy morning in late summer. However, from time to time even the most rabid foamer likes to get off the well worn Highway 61 and explore the inland lakes, streams, and woods. This article is for those that are interested in looking beyond the shore of Lake Superior for photographic opportunities.
Last spring I gave myself the assignment to find a back road route from Grand Marais to Two Harbors without traveling on Hwy 61. The images accompanying this article are from that trip.
Devil Track Road
Here is the route I took:
Leaving from Grand Marais and traveling south to Two Harbors. Take the Gunflint Trail (Cty Hwy 12) out of Grand Marais, about 2 miles west of Grand Marais turn left onto Devil Track Rd (Hwy 8.) Devil Track Rd turns in Forest 57 Rd. follow it to Bally Creek Road (Forest Road 158) turn right and head north to end of Bally Creek Road where it “T”s with The Grade (Forest Road 153) turn left and head west-south. Follow The Grade to the Sawbill Trail (Cty Rd 2.) Turn left onto the Sawbill Trail and follow that until you come to 6 Hundred Road (Forest Rd 166.) Turn right and head west on 6 Hundred Road until you come to the end where it will “T” with Cramer Road (Cty Rd 7.)
If you are hungry at this point turn right and go about 1-2 miles to the Trestle Inn on the left side of the road. Great place to get burgers and a beer or root beer. To continue towards Two Harbors you would make a left at the T of 6 Hundred Road and Cramer Rd. Follow Cramer Rd south/west to State Hwy 1 in Finland. Turn left onto Hwy 1 follow that to the top of the hill on the east side of Finland where you will turn right onto Lax Lake Rd (Cty Rd 31.) Follow the Lax Lake Road south/west to Forest Rd 11/4. Turn left onto Forest Rd 11, follow that a short distance (about 1 mile) to Cty Rd 4, turn right. Follow Cty Rd 4 to County Rd 3 (just past RR overpass) turn right onto Cty Rd 3. Follow Cty Rd 3 to Hwy 61 just north of Two Harbors.
What you will see along the way:
Here are some of the things to look for along the way. Devil Track Lake–campground where you can pause to photograph and admire the lake. The Forest Road goes through wonderful stands of Red and White pines. Bally Creek Rd dead ends at the trail head for Eagle Mountain so if you have time you may want to hike for awhile. The Grade winds around and next to several lakes. There are also some streams and fields along the way worthy of photo stops. Once you get to the Sawbill Trail if it is during the fall color season you may want to consider a detour back down Honeymoon Trail which is about
Blesner Creek along Cramer Rd
half way between The Grade and 6 Hundred Road on the Sawbill, on your left. During the fall color season Honeymoon Trail winds around and through some of the most spectacular maples anywhere in Minnesota. The entrance to 6 Hundred Road off the Sawbill with its distinctive bridge is a great photo opportunity too. The Cramer Road follows the Blesner Creek and one of the most scenic bogs you will find anywhere. Look for the Sonju Lake Road off the Cramer Rd for a scenic little lake worthy of the side trip. County Rd 3 follows the Baptism River for a short way. Look for a small dirt track on the left side of the road about 1 mile down Cty Rd 3. This little turn off–which is kind of rugged and only fit for high clearance vehicles, leads to section of the river that the locals call “Glen Avon” a very pretty section of rapids and worth an hour or two of shooting at least.
All along this route you will find little surprises depending upon the time of the year and what is blooming.
A note about the road conditions:
Most of this route is gravel. In general the road conditions are very good. You do not need a SUV or 4 wheel drive for this trip, however you will be traveling on gravel roads.