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Home » Adventures » BWCAW » Day 1

Friday, June 16 — Exploring Duluth

After sleeping in a real bed, I said goodbye to my generous hosts and kept heading north to Duluth. That comfortable surface was a blessing since I was not sure where I would slumber this night. The city is always a zoo marathon weekend, and I did not want to pay the exuberant rate for an unneeded two-night stay in a hotel room, which were difficult to obtain anyway. To lessen the damage on my wallet, I originally planned respite at Jay Cooke State Park, a little outside of town. I did not know if many other people had the same idea though, so it could have been just as busy as everywhere else. Regardless of its occupancy and despite being a single engineer with few expenses, I could not bring myself to expend eighteen dollars on a tent site when all I really needed was a small slab of ground for the night. Moreover, taking down a tent in the darkness and frenzy of marathon morning would be an ordeal I would rather avoid. My money saving idea instead was to sleep in my car at a rest area, but the one nearest Duluth contained a State Patrol station. I was doubtful the state police would approve of my plan. I discovered a couple scenic overlooks on less frequently traveled roads that would suffice though, assuming a vagabond did not dismember my body in the middle of the night.

While searching for parking in Duluth I found a free lot a little south of the DECC, which hosted the marathon expo. Besides not having to pay to stow my car for the day, this area also permitted overnight parking. The spots were within sight of the bus pickup the next morning, so I would take up residence there for the night instead.


Old Steam Engine

Before contending with the throngs of runners I visited the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. It contained numerous exhibits comprised of many full size restorations, old photographs, and information on the train’s influence on the area’s past. Although thousands of extra people descended upon Duluth for the marathon, the museum was sparsely populated. The spacious atmosphere allowed for relaxed browsing, especially juxtaposed against the marathon activities a couple blocks away, but many visitors missed this gem.

The North Shore Scenic Railroad’s routes started from the museum, so I purchased a ticket on the Lester River excursion. The trip was short, about an hour, but sadly I did not have all afternoon to spend riding the rails anyway. The tour guide provided interesting insights into the town’s history nonetheless. Besides, sticking your head out the window of a moving train is always a great time. The historic railroad also ran a train to the marathon starting line in the morning as an alternative to the buses. That would have been a great way to reach the start, but for some forgotten reason I did not take advantage of this option. I really wish I knew about the train the prior year, so my parents could have ridden with me and experienced more of the race.

Marathon Expo

After my rail history lesson I ventured to the marathon expo to retrieve my race packet. As expected, runners and their families inundated the area, and even to move I had to force my way through. The vendors lacked any breathtaking demonstrations or products, and I quickly surveyed everything on display.

Walking back into the daylight, I watched the 5K race before having dinner in Canal Park. I concluded my packed day by retiring to a secluded spot on Lake Superior’s shore to read. As the dusk became too dark for my eyes to decipher the words on the page, I retreated to my car for slumber before the big race. I reclined in my car’s passenger seat, which was surprisingly comfortable, and hoped no one would bother me.