It seems fitting that this fourth of July I find myself writing my first blog post about the US since our return from overseas’ life. Honestly, I wish I had more to be excited about. Since our return, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, Clarence Thomas has essentially declared war against women & the LGBTQ+ community, and two cities that we’ve visited have experienced shootings. I can’t say it’s been an awesome welcome back.
But I have to remind myself of the reasons we moved back in the first place: To be closer to friends & family, traveling internationally during a pandemic STILL sucks, shitty things were happening in the US before we arrived (only we felt helpless to do anything to help from so far away), and Chandler has a two-year post-grad program that needs to happen in Texas.
Summer is often an unstable time for us – it’s when we get to do the most traveling, but also when we feel the most unmoored. This summer is no exception. We flew back to Texas mid-June, thinking we’d get to move into our apartment in July. When that got pushed to August, we realized we needed to rearrange our summer plans.
One thing that stayed the same was our trip to Minnesota. Initially, we had planned on driving up, but those plans had long ago changed when we learned we’d be bringing two of our Jordanian rescue cats to Minnesota (I should probably do a follow-up to my post Pandemic Hobby: Kitten Rescuing – a lot has happened since we brought our first rescue to the United States!). Due to Chandler’s severe allergies, we knew we’d have to fly Felix & Mario to MN vs take them on a road trip.
I’m not going to lie, the logistics for getting two cats from Amman, Jordan to Dallas, Texas through Doha, Qatar and on to Brainerd, Minnesota was intense. But it was worth it when I got to place them in their forever homes.
With that done, we had the rest of our time in Minnesota to relax. We spent most of the time with my family, but we did have a three-day getaway to Duluth.
We stayed at Fitger’s Hotel – the same place we stayed for our “honeymoon” right before we flew to Ghana. I put honeymoon in quotation marks because I’m not convinced you can have a honeymoon in the town you were born in! But we always have a fantastic time in Duluth. This time was no exception.
Our second day actually took us out of Duluth and out of Minnesota too – we were headed to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. Our first stop was Meyers Beach. We had deliberated on if we wanted to hike through the national park on the mainland or head to the islands themselves. We found a way to compromise.
Starting at Meyers Beach, we followed a well-marked trail through a peaceful wooded area to the well-known sea caves and Lake Superior beyond.
Our only mistake was not arriving early enough. We thought we had budgeted plenty of time into our morning, but we had barely gotten to the sea caves before we were out of time.
The compromise we had decided to make was to hike along the shoreline and then take a cruise around the islands. Apostle Island Cruises (out of Bayfield, Wisconsin) is authorized by the National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior as a park concessioner.
So, as much as I would have liked to stay much longer on the shoreline, we had to make it to Bayfield for our 1:15pm boat tour.
We hadn’t known quite what to expect from the cruise – and we were certainly surprised! We arrived 30 minutes early, had a difficult time parking, and then got in a surprisingly long line to board the boat – I wonder how long some of the people had been waiting out in the sun!
When it was time to board, we chose window seats in the boat as opposed to baking up top for the next three hours. It was definitely the right call. I kept the window open most of the time (including when we were eating our lunch!), which made it difficult to hear some of the fun facts we were given throughout the tour, but the views were worth it.
We wove our way through 21 out of the 22 Apostle Islands and got to look at the most beautiful shorelines, as well as a couple of lighthouses scattered on various islands.
But the best part of the tour was our time around Devil’s Island. The mainland shoreline (that we had just been hiking) is well-known for its sea caves (which can also be visited via ice in the winter – that might still be on my bucket list), but Devil’s Island also has incredible sea caves, which can only be accessed via boat.
We probably spent more time boating around that island than any of the others, and hopefully you’ll understand why from the following photos.
The only downside to the boat trip was the intensity of the fly population – the biting kind. We were mostly ok indoors, but when I went to the back of the boat to use the bathroom, the flies practically mauled me.
Other than that, we loved our time out on Lake Superior, boating around the Apostle Islands. I wouldn’t be surprised if we made our way back one day. The town of Bayfield, Wisconsin was also charming – it seemed to be thriving, unlike my beloved Duluth, Minnesota.
We got back to the marina and wandered through the small town, stopping for ice cream and book browsing.
It was a perfect day. We drove back to Duluth and made sure to spend a bit more time on the boardwalk before we drove out the next day.
We still have a lot more of our summer left and over a month before we finally get to settle into our apartment in DFW. In the meantime, we’ll spend more time with friends & family, tour more of the US, and find ways to get involved socially & politically so we can feel like our time here is really worthwhile.
A quote from photographer Cristina Mittermeier really hit home after the Roe v. Wade decision: “I’m past mourning for a nation that has failed its people at every turn. It’s time for the rising. So donate to abortion funds, call your state representatives, and flood the voting booths with our unwavering voices. Our futures will not be dictated by a handful of misogynistic justices and power-hungry politicians. We will reclaim the fundamental rights they have stolen.”
So, America, let’s fix this.