Saturday, September 7, 2002: Fargo – International Falls.

 

I am leaving Fargo around noon. 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 International Falls. Nearby they have the Voyageurs National 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 Detroit Lakes. I sit down on the bench where, just 5 days ago, I had sat down with Sarvenaz during their house-hunting trip. Sweet memories…

 

I continue North-East towards the relatively large Leech Lake. While Detroit Lake compares in size to the Woerthsee in Bavaria, Leech Lake 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 Leech Lake 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 Rainy River 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 Voyageurs National Park, the destination of my short trip.

I get here around 7:00pm, 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 8:00pm 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 Voyageurs National 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 8:30 am I get up and drive over to the nearby Visitor Center. It only opens at 9:00am, 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 Voyageurs National 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 Apostle Islands!

 

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 overhead.

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 before.

 

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 Detroit Lakes. 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 Detroit Lakes 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!