THIS RETIREMENT THING isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. I, for one, am exhausted by it.

When you think of retirement, you might well think of Ma and Pa Kettle finally selling the farm for 10 million bucks to a speculator who incorrectly thinks there is a vast deposit of gold under the back cornfield and then, using that money to retire to a lovely log cabin on a lakeshore in northern Wisconsin, never to lift a finger working again.

Let me tell you, at least for this retiree, that just isn’t the way it works. In my case, retirement over the past two years has meant washing the dishes and doing the laundry all the time under dire threats from the boss lady of the house, serving as town chairman for the past six years, writing a sometimes goofy newspaper column, and grooming and maintaining cross-country ski trails.

That would be enough for most people, I suspect, but added to all those “heavy on the shoulders” responsibilities for the past several months has been the chore of hitting the road for camping and exploration trips almost every week.

Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I headed north for four of the most enjoyable days we’ve spent ever since this COVID-19 junk started. Our sturdy camper in tow, with Molly and Gordie on board as faithful companions, we traveled to Gooseberry Falls State Park some 40-odd miles north of Duluth, Minn., on the shore of Lake Superior, for a relaxing time of hiking, visiting waterfalls, eating at some very nice restaurants and cafes, and going to sleep with the sound of Gitche Gumee sometimes gently, sometimes rather violently, splashing up on rocky headlands abutting the lake.

The four of us hiked together to the lower, middle and upper falls of the Gooseberry River, while Gordie and I, with the latter well along the river trail finally freed of what is mostly a mandatory leash area, trekked all the way up to the Fifth Falls.

We enjoyed superb dinners and lunches at the Grand Superior Lodge, Camp 61 and Judy’s Café along the route, but passed on what may be the biggest tourist trap in the world, though still definitely an excellent place to bite into a pie: Betty’s Pie just north of Two Harbors.

Everywhere you go along the north shore of Lake Superior, the scenery is superb. We have explored all the parks along Highway 61 over the years, with the Gooseberry and Temperance rivers, Cascades and Judge Magney being our favorites.

To be able to stand at the foot or head of falls roaring in full throat through narrow rock-lined clefts or to actually wade what in dry times of summer may be little more than a gentle trickle at the base of some falls, never fails to pull me like a magnet to the rivers. This year was no different.

One of the biggest highlights of this year’s trip was a tour of the giant train depot museum in Duluth, and my very first ever train ride. We rode on the North Shore Scenic Railroad’s Duluth Zephyr. The one hour-plus tour runs almost along the edge of Lake Superior in places and from the first-class dome seats we sat in, we enjoyed beautiful views of the lake and heavily forested lake shore.

Maybe the best part of the trip was the service provided by our hostess, Mercedes-Mary McPherson, a lovely lady, and a native of northern Minnesota who, like me, has not really retired from anything.

She reminded me a lot of Flo, the waitress at Mel’s Diner. A little bit wisecracking, a little bit gently grandmotherly stern to the children on the ride, a heart which I detected to be made of gold and a lot of humor all wrapped up in one.

We enjoyed our lengthy conversations with her, even when she unabashedly announced, again with a great dash of humor, that she has written a trilogy of novels and would definitely accept orders of them from her passengers. My wife has duly ordered such.

One thing I did learn on this trip to Gooseberry is that it is not only the most popular and visited state park in northern Minnesota, but also is by far the most visited state park in all of Minnesota.

And to think, I spent four full days in that country, a country teeming with trout streams which flow into the big lake all along the coast, without so much as one trout rod in my possession.

This camping trip was spent entirely enjoying scenery, hiking some new sections of trails, reveling in the sights and sounds of waterfalls, enjoying good food and just plain getting away from any care we might have in the world.

We might well do it again.