Loosened from the mud, I find myself floating in a world of possibility.

So can you.

Sawbill Trail - Part One - Late Morning

Our friends and neighbors always ask us how we find out about the great Jeep trails and scenic drives we take while on little trips away from the city. I say a good guidebook makes the difference between a good trip and a stressful trip. A good guidebook is often found for free at the library. I always cross check with a large online book seller to read how others have commented on each particular title.

Once we found ourselves out in the middle of Nevada-nowhere, hadn't seen another vehicle for at least 100 miles, met lots of cows, and made a scary turnaround near a volcanic crater that should not have been accessed without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We had a rental car. I read just about every guidebook I could find before going to Moab and even that led to a slightly stressful trip through Pucker Pass, but that could have been because we got a little overconfident.

As far as the North Shore of Lake Superior goes, I used to just look closely at maps to find little lines indicating dirt roads. This time around I got Scenic Driving Minnesota (by Phil Davies) at my local library and photocopied a route that seemed pretty promising between the town of Tofte (where we are staying) and Grand Marais (where we had planned to go anyway). How convenient to find a longer inland route than just taking the scenic lakeshore drive.

We had planned to do this on Tuesday, but Monday ended up being quite rainy so not good for a hike. We headed up the Sawbill Trail, a road we had traveled on a number of occasions to a rustic national campground. But, back up a minute and gaze upon the fabulous breakfast that the Big D made us in preparation for a long day of driving.

It's great staying at a place that has a kitchen. Bluefin Bay has great rooms with fireplaces and excellent views of the lake. Having a kitchen is also convenient for making up some lunches, yet another necessity for a long day of driving. We tend to go to places that have no places for food or services available. Get a packed lunch and a full tank of gas and you're good to go!

Now, on to the scenic drive!

The day was misty, drizzly and foggy which normally would keep people indoors, but for us, it's an opportunity to have the region all to ourselves. We only saw one other vehicle and that was close to where we turned off the highway. The colors of Autumn were rich and vibrant, and made more so by the misty droplets. The rain was off and on and that made the Jeep really muddy.

The drive took us through the Laurentian Highlands which Phil Davies describes as "a rugged landscape of forests, lakes, wetlands, and streams, passing the highest point in the state". Me? I'd just describe it as Northland paradise.

We crossed the Temperance River at least seven times as we made our way on this 56-mile arc towards Grand Marais.

The Temperance River flows all the way into Lake Superior and there it bubbles and roars through narrow canyon-like gorges. But here, it was much tamer and every time we crossed it, the river showed a new element of her personality.

The deeper we got in land, the taller the trees got. We passed grouse and mink on the side of the road. We lingered and awed over all the shades of green in the moss and in the pine needles.

All this in the late morning, before we stopped for lunch.

Next up: an afternoon on the edge of the Boundary Waters.