Living in Minnesota inevitably means you’re going to have to get used to spending a lot of time outdoors. If you ask a typical Minnesotan about their favorite hobbies, you’ll usually hear fishing, hiking, swimming, camping, biking, walking, hunting, sledding, four-wheeling, and more. The list could go on for quite a while. Our great state makes a perfect playground for the adventurous souls who dwell here; our nature scene is truly spectacular.
I’ve had my fair share of outdoor excursions, and out of all of my Minnesota memories, there is one location that never ceases to amaze and excite me every time I visit—Gooseberry Falls.
As a child my mother always took my sister Lizzy and I camping each summer, along with many of our aunts, uncles, and cousins. We always had new destinations! I remember the first time she took us to Gooseberry Falls; I was in complete awe of the rushing bodies of water, the luscious green forest, the mysterious rocks formations, the wildlife. The park captured my young heart and taught me what it was to fall in love with nature.
Gooseberry Falls is located along the North Shore just past Two Harbors. The park is known for its rushing waterfalls, successful fishing waters, scenic hiking trails, and panoramic overlooks. There are approximately 18 miles of trails to hike where aspen, cedar, spruce and other pine trees tower above you as you trek along and take in the sights and sounds of the forest.
The park is home to five different waterfalls! The roaring upper, middle, and lower falls areas allow for a rigorous, yet exciting challenge where tourists will climb on the rugged rock formations surrounding the waterfalls. There are many rocks scattered below the falls, amongst the rushing rivers. My favorite childhood activity was playing lava (attempting to jump from rock to rock to reach the nearest piece of dry land without getting caught by the racing waters of Gooseberry River). I can recall being a master of the game, but the photos my mother has of Lizzy and me leaving the park with sopping wet clothing say otherwise.
The park offers 70 camping sites, biking trails, and many winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. My family sets up camp a few days there each summer. I remember each morning Lizzy and I would wake up in our High School Musical sleeping bags, surrounded by all of our stuffed animals crammed around our side of the tent, and we would get dressed as fast as we could. We’d rush out to find all of our family around a morning campfire with coffee brewing and eggs and bacon being grilled by my Aunt Edna. This was the way it was no matter where we were camping; those mornings hold their own special place in my heart.
Near the camping area you can find the Picnic Flow. This area is located on an ancient lava flow right on Lake Superior where you can watch ships pass and bask in the scenery as you enjoy your homemade lunch. As a young child, I was always very eager to help the adults by packing our picnic basket before we set out on a hike. Little did they know, the basket would be full of crackers, fruit snacks, Oreos, and juice boxes. No one would ever complain; we’d all happily enjoy the meal and continue on with our hiking.
When you’re at Gooseberry you’ll take to noticing the endless amount of wildlife living within the park. Although many species take refuge there, you’re most likely to spot black bears, whitetail deer, martins, timber wolves, ravens and herring gulls! If you cast your line into the water, you’re likely to reel in trout or salmon. The wildlife in the park can be very friendly at times. I had a squirrel come up to me years ago while I was snacking near the falls. He only wanted a small nibble of what I was enjoying, so of course I had to share.
Recently my mother, Lizzy and I found our way back to Gooseberry after quite a few years of trying out some new camping destinations. As we began our trek, the memories flooded right back to me. Standing there, once again in awe of the magnificent falls, I was reminded of all the times I had been there as a child. I watched as small children hopped across the rocks in the river, mastering the game of lava the way I used to and “accidentally” fell into the river because leaving with dry clothes is too boring. They dragged around backpacks with snacks and small toys—because you can’t ever go anywhere without your essentials— and begged their parents to swim near the falls because “it was totally safe and there was nothing to worry about.”
As I was reminiscing, I could have sworn I was in their shoes just last summer, but instead there I was, 18-yearsold, and it had been about 10 years since the last time I was in their position. Life is much too short and the older you get, the faster it seems to fly. Being alive is such a privilege in itself and none of us should take that for granted.
Live each and every day to the fullest because you never know when it may be your last. (While you’re at it, take a trip to the North Shore! You won’t regret it!)
Serena Tuomi lives in Hibbing, MN. This is the seventh in a series of articles she is writing as a summer intern for Hometown Focus. Serena is a 2018 Hibbing High School and Hibbing Community College graduate. In August, she will be moving to New York City to attend The King’s College in Manhattan where she will be pursuing a degree in journalism.