Minnesota

Our travels three years ago took us through Minnesota on our way to the UP of Michigan and points further east. We camped only once in Minnesota during that trip along the St Croix River, which we thought would be a very good place to revisit on a future trip.

This visit to Minnesota had several objectives rather than being just a pass-through state as before, most importantly to attend Sarah and Doug’s wedding.

We continued up the Mississippi River from Iowa to Red Wing, MN where we stopped at a Duluth Clothing Store outlet, next to the Red Wing Shoe Store, two of my favorite places. It was a nice day when we went inside, but the rain was blowing by the window horizontally when we went to leave. It was an unexpected cloud burst that was reminiscent of an Arizona monsoon in its intensity and duration. Ten minutes later is was a nice day again.

We camped the night at St Croix Bluffs Regional Park, just SW of Minneapolis on the St Croix River, so we could run some errands around town the next day. We had the oil changed on the truck and did some needed shopping. Aveda was started in this area so Pam got her hair cut for the wedding. Although, I didn’t mind the wild and wavy look she had going every morning.

We camped the next couple of days a few miles north of Stillwater, MN on the St Croix River at William O’Brian State Park. The park had a nice hiking trail along the river and through the park.

Our camp spot was nice too, even though we weren’t there very long due to errands and meeting up with folks. We met up with one of Pam’s high school classmates and her future husband for dinner at their place. The steaks, corn and beer were great. Greg had a high-temp steak searing attachment to his grill that made me envious.

We crossed the river one day into Wisconsin to check out the falls at Willow River State Park. It was a nice lunch spot and 4 mile hike to the falls and back.

The wedding of Clark and Jill’s daughter was beautiful, performed in the old Catholic church in Stillwater. You can see the steeple of the church in this picture reaching above the trees. We explored the area prior to wedding and found that Stillwater was the territorial capitol of Minnesota in its early days and a booming logging community. Picture the entire St Croix River jammed with the white pine logs that flowed down these shores.

We could have just camped in the riverfront parking lots, but we parked in the driveway of the VRBO house other Phoenix friends had rented in town for the wedding. That worked out better since we were supplied with food, beverages and campfire wood for some enjoyable meals and evening fires.

In the “it’s a small world” story category we talked with Clark’s niece and her husband at the brunch the day after the wedding. Turns out we had also talked to them at the campground in Fairbanks, Alaska two years ago when we were both camped there. We didn’t know it at the time that they were related to Clark, but they recognized the Roamer at the wedding and then we both realized we had met. Small World.

We camped at Rice Creek Campground, just north of Minneapolis after the wedding festivities were over and folks began to head home. The next morning we met up with Kirk, who flew in from Phoenix and we all headed for International Fall, MN. There we crossed over to Ft Francis, Ontario to get a CANPASS, which would allow us to cross into Canada over water and not at a regular border patrol station. Our Global Entry cards, which we both just recently obtained, allowed us to do the same to get back into the US.

We needed the CANPASS because we met up with Kathy and David and boated to their island on the Canadian side of Rainy Lake. The island has been in her family since the 1930s and is just north of Nowhere Island, so it really is “north of nowhere”.

We kayaked around the many islands in the area. It was good to be on the water and away from the mosquitoes, which were ever-present.

Kathy and David have two miniature schnauzers. Zoey discovered minnows in the shallows. It was tough to get her back onto the kayak after that new discovery.

We celebrated Pam’s birthday while on the island with a cake that Kathy baked using wild blueberries from the island to spell out “happy b-day”. As you can see by the candles she is now 8 and some.

David and Kathy had “fish taco night” with some cousins just before we arrived, using fresh caught bass and walleye from the lake. He attempted to land some more for another taco night, but only caught several northern pike during our stay.

There was a lot to see on the islands. Hidden in a back bay of one island was a nice beaver lodge. While I like beavers, all of the folks I’ve run into that had beavers on their property tell of the rapid and total destruction they do to the local trees to build their projects and eat. Maybe there are trainable beavers out there somewhere.

The lake was glacier formed and the remaining granite rock varies in depth along the lake. The water is dark due to its mineral content so the rocks appear from the depths much quicker than boaters would like. The prop refurbishing guy has a full time job in the summer on Rainy Lake. Here was one such rock outcropping that broke the surface this time of year marked with a prop and shaft.

There is also a rock outcropping that some artist back in the 1930s took bent steel rods, props and cement to create Mermaid Rock. There are also many stories that go along with the mermaid that only the locals can tell.

After leaving Rainy Lake, we headed into Voyageurs National Park for a brief visit because you really need a boat the truly appreciate the park. The visitor center was very good, and I was amazed how far snow mobiles have come from this vintage 1964 Arctic Cat.

As we headed out of Minnesota on our way to the North Dakota grasslands, we stopped for lunch at Itasca State Park. It is a beautiful park with great trails and lakes, and unknown to us when we stopped, Lake Itasca – the headwaters of the Mississippi River. From here the Mississippi River flows 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Our stay in Minnesota was awesome and we hope to return.

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