Saturday, September 7, 2002: Fargo – International Falls.
I am leaving Fargo around . Somewhat late for a 2-day weekend trip; however, I am feeling a bit
sick so I needed to get some good sleep (12 hrs) prior to leaving. Initially, I
had planned to go to Winnipeg in Canada. As it turned out, the weather was better to the East and South, and
worse to the North and West. So I decided to head East – North-East towards the
lakes of Minnesota and further all the way up to the Canadian border in InternationalFalls. Nearby they have the VoyageursNational Park – I guess this must be similar to the Apostle Islands National
Shoreline I had seen two weeks ago.
The drive is
uneventful. Now that I have my own car (without CD player), it feels a bit
different than in the rental car. There are about 300 miles to cover, but I
take it easy and stop frequently along the way. First stop is at DetroitLakes. I sit down on the bench where, just 5 days ago, I had sat down with
Sarvenaz during their house-hunting trip. Sweet memories…
continue North-East towards the relatively large LeechLake. While DetroitLake compares in size
to the Woerthsee in Bavaria, LeechLake is more like Ammersee, if not bigger. It is very beautiful up here with
the late summer weather. In fact, it is a near record-setting heat up here. South Dakota is baking in
triple-digit heat (100 F, almost 40 C). We have about 92 F (33 C) and a warm
wind. It is actually hotter here in Minnesota this weekend than
down south in Florida – but not much
longer: Next week autumn is coming with much colder air pushing south from Canada…
I stop at LeechLake for a lunch snack
at a municipal lake park and watch people put their boats in the water or
pulling them out back on their trailers. Kids are playing in the water and it
is really hot and windy. Many people up here have boats and these are the last
weekends for them to come out and enjoy the water. After a while I continue to
drive. First, I am exploring a dead-end to a peninsula in the lake; however,
there is no public access to the water and private homes everywhere. So I have
to turn around and lose about ˝ hour. I continue north towards the Canadian
border. I stop in a little village called Blackduck and take two pictures of a huge black duck.
From here on the road is cutting in one
straight line through the forest of birch trees. It reminds me a lot of Canada and the Alaska Highway. I guess at one
time it is about 10 miles in one straight line – beautiful.
Eventually I reach the little town of International
Falls. There are plenty of lakes and a river-like
connection between two major lakes called RainyRiver marks the border
to Canada. A few miles to
the East I drive out to the tip of a peninsula called Island View. From here it
is just a short distance to the VoyageursNational Park, the destination
of my short trip.
I get here around , so I have some
time until sunset. There appears to be a party at a Resort with plenty of
people on deck and some radio-station brought in to play music as well as a live
band for later in the evening.
People come here
with their boats; it reminds me so much of Florida and the
restaurants at the intra-coastal waterway. The difference here: In 3-4 months
the water here will be frozen! You can already see the first signs of autumn:
Leaves are turning yellow and red, slowly at first, but I guess rapidly in the
next 2-4 weeks. There are a few pine trees, but most trees are birches, maple
or oaks. It should be beautiful for the next month or so – then it’s going to
be winter with cold and long nights…
I look around and take in the scenery. It’s
a nice place here. I can see why people come here with the boats: There are
hundreds of little islands and bays, without many roads to reach the shore. On
a hot summer-day like this, there is nothing better than to hop from island to
island with the boat!
After a little while the sun sets just
before and I drive back
˝ mile to a nice restaurant overlooking the water. It is here that I have
dinner followed by a glass of red wine. I unpack my Laptop and start typing
this report. It again reminds me of the Lake Superior trip I had just
two weeks ago. What a nice late summer this is for me coming to this area just
three weeks ago.
I’m not quite sure
where to go from here; but tomorrow I want to get up early and start to explore
the VoyageursNational Park.
Sunday, September 08, 2002:
I sleep in the back of my Ford Taurus wagon
– with the pillow I brought it’s almost comfortable! Around I get up and drive over to the nearby VisitorCenter. It only opens at
, so there is a
little time for some breakfast in the back of the car. On a weekend like this,
I spend 80% of the time in the vehicle!
I study the exhibits in the visitor center
and they also show a 15min movie about the Canadian traders called Voyageurs;
they traded all kinds of goods, silver, metals, etc. for fur. In the 18.th
century fur was highly sought after in Europe, so the Indians
caught otter and wolf to trade the fur with the Voyageurs.
The VoyageursNational Park was instituted in
the 1970’s, for the inspiration and enjoyment of this and future generations
alike. The park is mostly a 400 square-mile area of hundreds of little islands
and abundant lakes and waterways. It is easy to imagine that the voyageurs
paddled through this area some 150 years ago in their canoes pretty much the
same way we do today – except the frequent motorboats and several houses near
the park boundary.
Actually, the National Park operates a Grand
Tour on Sundays with a boat seating maybe 50 people or so. However, they
already finished for this season at Labor-Day weekend 1 week ago. So it is
definitely unusual to have 90F (32C) heat here in September.
Luckily, the Island View Resort where I had
dinner last night is also the only place in this area to rent kayaks! So I go
back there and get myself a kayak for ˝ day. It is a very short, red plastic
kayak, the sort of wild-water kayak. Quite a difference to the long, elegant
wooden boat two weeks ago in the ApostleIslands!
I start exploring the islands and lakes, but
don’t venture out too far, as I have heard about changing weather conditions
later in the afternoon and I don’t want to get caught out on the water in high
seas with this little boat. To add to my concern, they didn’t provide a girdle
to close the top of the boat around the waist-line. Consequently, when going
upwind into the waves, water keeps splashing up and into the boat soaking my
pants. Today I’m definitely only equipped for light-wind calm conditions; therefore
I stay close to shore and never go too far from the Resort. I explore three
different directions, as the resort sits at the tip of a little peninsula.
There are plenty of private boats, sailboats, motorboats, other canoes –
everybody enjoys the last warm days of this summer.
I stop at one
little rocky island the size of a football field, pull my kayak ashore and
climb up on a rock some 20 ft. It is a magnificent spot for a lunch break. I
take some pictures of other canoeists and self-timed pictures with myself in
the foreground. Looking at the dozens of little islands in the summer sun I
contemplate that these are the moments that bring me here, some 250miles
(400km) from Fargo!
Eventually I return the kayak by closing a
loop around one peninsula and coming back under a little bridge of the road
Without much ado, I change, get in the car
and start the long drive back. The 30 mile straightaway seems to take forever
in the simmering afternoon heat. Every once in a while, I recognize some building
or landmark along the road; it’s like a little memory quiz of replaying the day
I stop at the same food mart and coffee shop
in Blackduck like yesterday. And again, I sleep for
20 min or so at the nearby rest-stop in the dry grass. It is just wonderful.
Somewhat refreshed after the short nap, I continue South-West towards Park
Rapids and then West towards DetroitLakes. I listen to the
various radio stations of Bemidji and Walker, another way of
getting some local information. (Yesterday I listened to a story of a September
11 survivor story – it was bone-chilling! They played it due to the upcoming
anniversary of that tragic act of terror…)
Finally I get to DetroitLakes and stop one more
time at the bench by the rest-stop. The sun is about to set behind a massive
bank of clouds moving in from the West. Is this the end of summer and are these
the first cold fronts of autumn? In any case, I still had another perfect, hot
summer weekend to explore the Northern Mid-West of Minnesota. Land of 10.000
lakes, I learned to like it in the last 4 weeks!