– River Falls, Wisconsin to International Falls, Minnesota –
Our run was rather boring today. It turns out that there really isn’t much in River Falls, and anything that even remotely resembles a decent running trail is half way back to St. Paul, which is much too far to drive just to get some exercise. We ended up in a tiny park between an RV campground and a cemetery, dodging frisbee golfers at 6:30 in the morning. It wasn’t ideal.
Regardless, we did manage to get our run in, even if it wasn’t our favorite. Ripley didn’t wear out today, which was good. I don’t have to worry that she’s sick or something. We were out of our hotel by 9am, and since we got out of bed at 6, that was a pretty good time. We stopped at the gas station across the street for giant teas, and we were off.
We made a stop at a rest area in Kettle River Minnesota, where we encountered our first real mosquito troubles of the trip. I took Ripley over to the pet area, which turned out to be a forested trail leading away from the buildings. I turned back as soon as the mosquitos found me, but while I was inside in the restroom, John and Mark braved the blood-suckers to entertain Miss Ripley. They all came back itchy.
Most of the morning was pretty quiet. We finished up our first Tony Hillerman book before lunch, and switched to People of Darkness after. This is the first Tony Hillerman book we’ve read that doesn’t feature Joe Leaphorn as the main character: this one’s about Jim Chee.
Lunch was sub sandwiches at an Erbert & Gerbert’s in Cloquet, Minnesota around 11:30. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it; we hadn’t either until today. It turns out we have one in San Marcos, Texas, but I’ve never seen it. Most of them are up here around the Great Lakes. It was very much like a Jimmy John’s. We had a pretty early lunch, since our next option was in Virginia, Minnesota, which we wouldn’t have reached until 1. Nobody wanted to wait that long for their food.
It was time for a driver switch, so we pulled into the Walmart parking lot behind our restaurant and Mark took us on to Virginia. When we got there, we stopped at a Starbucks in a Target for more tea, since our restaurant had only had soda. Vicki bought two bottles of bug spray, too. We already had one, but now we’re really prepared.
Our original plan was to drive straight up to International Falls to stop at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center for Voyageurs National Park, but as it turned out, we were driving right past the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center, so we decided to stop there first. It was only about an hour and twenty minutes up the road.
It’s a very pretty little lake. I guess it’s a big lake, but not a great one. For reference, it’s about 25,000 acres, and Lake Texoma (assuming you’ve actually been) covers about 89,000 acres. Of course, Kabetogama was made by a glacier, and Texoma was made by the Army Corps of Engineers. I’ll let you decide which is more impressive. And of course, the Great Lakes are measured in miles instead of acres.
In any event, everybody bought some souvenirs, and Ripley had a great time playing on the docks and wandering around the visitor center. We got a stamp for our national park passport book, too. There’s a lot of Voyageurs that you just can’t see from the shore. It is made up for four lakes, and most of the park is out on the water or the islands on the lakes.
It’s still impressively green up here, and though it was cooler yesterday, the heat came back today. We were quite warm while we were wandering around. At least there was a breeze, and in the shade, it was pleasant. We were done at Kabetogama around 3:30, and we hopped back in the car and headed north towards Rainy Lake.
Rainy Lake Visitor Center is about 12 miles outside of International Falls, and 38 miles from Lake Kabetogama. We arrived just after 4, and since it was open until 5, we made it in plenty of time. Ripley and I puttered around outside while everyone checked out the visitor center. Mark got an awesome picture of John and a moose, which I’ve posted so everyone can enjoy it. It’s terrifying how big those things are in person.
Mark and I wandered out to the docks while John and Vicki thumbed through the books inside. Some people were out fishing on the docks, and a park ranger ran them off and then chatted with Mark for a few minutes until the tour boat that had taken about 30 park visitors around the lake came back. According to the ranger, the boat takes a ten-mile trip around the park. We didn’t go, of course, but the boat was neat.
We left Rainy Lake and took another road out to a small island further out on the lake than the visitor center, but we didn’t get to see much there. It ended in a small resort, and there wasn’t really anywhere to stop and take photos. With that, we turned back and headed toward International Falls and our hotel.
International Falls is right on the border with Canada. I was joking that you could throw a rock and hit it, and John jokingly warned me they’d see it as an act of aggression and I’d be in big trouble. I’m not too concerned. For one, I don’t think I could throw a rock very far at all, and for another, nobody would even notice I’d done it unless they were standing within 15 feet of me. I hear the Canadians might even apologize to me for the misunderstanding.
On the way out of the park, we spotted a little doe alongside the road. She was just standing around quietly, looking at us as we drove up to here. She didn’t run away at all. It’s pretty obvious that someone has been feeding them, and I guess all of those “no hunting” signs have made for a deer population that isn’t concerned that humans might hurt them. She found us mildly interesting at best.
Our Days Inn is just outside the middle of town, and after we’d unloaded and played tug-of-war with Ripley and her rope toy for 10 or 15 minutes, we put her in her crate and went back into town for dinner. International Falls is right beside Fort Frances in Canada, and the town has all kinds of Duty Free shops and signs for visitors. It’s also full of souvenir shops. Unfortunately, we finished dinner at 7pm, and the town seems to shut down right then. Nothing was open.
Our restaurant had an arcade attached, and catered to parties. We just had pizza, but it was a local place, and it wasn’t too bad. I think Mark secretly wanted to play skee ball, but he must’ve lost interest after dinner. He was talking more about ice cream than arcade games when we left.
We did end up getting Dairy Queen about an hour later, when John and Vicki got back from their evening walk. They got ice cream while they were out walking, and Mark was jealous of the ice cream and I’d been craving chocolate, so we drove down to get some ice cream for us, too. I had a dipped cone, and Mark got plain. He was missing out, I thought, but I guess he isn’t a big fan of the chocolate coating.
Tomorrow we’ll be outside of Isle Royale, and we will have to drop Ripley off at a kennel for the night so we can take our boat trip into the park the following morning. I hate leaving my baby, and I’m no huge fan of boats. Sometimes I wonder how I end up in these situations. I guess this is the sacrifice I have to make if I want to see all of the national parks. I bet we don’t go back more than once, that’s for sure.
– Trip Total : 1,397 miles –