Week 14 – Bismarck to Voyageurs National Park

Day 92 – Bismarck to Fargo

We made Sunday a travel day since there wasn’t much more for us to do in Bismarck, so we packed up and headed east. The drive across the North Dakota plains wasn’t the most exciting drive we’ve done, but we did get to stop to see the World’s Largest Buffalo before continuing on into Fargo for food and a little shopping before settling in at our hotel.

Days 93 & 94 – Fargo

Monday and Tuesday were work days from the hotel. We did get an oil change at Red River Motorwerks, where they also fixed an issue where we kept blowing a fuse every time we used the brakes. It turned out that the wires leading to the trailer hitch (which we never use) had melted on the hot exhaust, causing a short.

Day 95 – Fargo to Itasca State Park

Wednesday we were excited to leave North Dakota and head into Minnesota, so after a morning of a quick run, work, laundry and grocery shopping, we continued east across the border to Itasca State Park. The name Itasca from the Latin words for “truth” and “head” by linking adjoining syllables: verITAS CAput, meaning “true head”, because it is considered the true headwaters of the Mississippi River. After years of searching for the source of the river, a Native American guide led explorer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft to them in 1832.

Day 96 – Itasca State Park

Thursday morning we took advantage of the cool weather and went for a walk to explore the park. We happened to be there on the same day as the National Guard Best Warrior Competition, and we kind of stumbled onto the finish line by accident since they were using the same trail as we were to reach the Headwaters of Mississippi. It was neat to see the humble beginning of such a long, mighty river. You could even walk across the exact point where the river begins at the edge of Lake Itasca. After our walk, we returned to camp to work and relax for the afternoon.

Day 97 – Itasca State Park to Voyageurs National Park

Friday we left Itasca to head towards our 13th national park, Voyageurs, located near Minnesota’s northern border with Canada. The park is mainly for boaters; in fact, we couldn’t camp in the park, since all the campgrounds were only accessible by boat. We stayed about 30 miles south of the park at the Myrtle Lake Resort. After driving for almost an hour through a large and pretty strong thunderstorm, we finally arrived. We had already gotten the impression that the word “resort” means something a little different in Minnesota than it does elsewhere, and Myrtle Lake confirmed our impression. It was an odd place, but our site was just a few feet from the lake and our neighbors were very friendly once we broke the ice.

Day 98 – Voyageurs National Park

Saturday we made the drive north to visit Voyageurs National Park. There weren’t a lot of trails on the mainland, since the park is really oriented towards water recreation, but we did a hike on the Blind Ash Trail. While the weather was fairly cool, the humidity was incredibly high, as was the number of bugs. It was a nice hike, but nothing spectacular, so we decided to skip the other hike we planned for Voyageurs and instead drive to Vermillion Falls, which was about 15 miles east of our campsite back at Myrtle Lake. Our neighbor there told us about it and we became very grateful when we saw how much better it was than Voyageurs.

The trail to Vermillion Falls was less than a quarter of a mile long, so no hiking involved, but it was a pretty incredible sight. The falls aren’t tall or steep, but a large volume of water comprising the Vermillion River rushes through a crack in the granite about 10-feet wide, so they are extremely rough and powerful.

After the falls, we still hadn’t gotten in as much hiking as we hoped, so we continued on to a longer hike on the Vermillion Gorge Trail. There, the Vermillion River carves a 100-foot deep path through solid granite. It was still humid and buggy, but also more scenic with a few nice overlooks of the gorge.

We were finally worn out and tired of being eaten by bugs, so we headed back to the resort to relax. Instead, we had a visit by the “resort kid”, probably about five years old, who just walked right into our van and started talking to us. He kept hinting at wanting one of our bananas, so Michael told him he’d ask his parents (who he assumed were our neighbors in the trailer next to us). As Michael was finding out that he actually lived at the resort with family and those weren’t his parents, Tracey was back at the van finding out the same thing from the kid. Finally he left, so we hid in the van the rest of the evening until venturing out to have a good laugh about it with the couple we thought were his parents. We ended up joining them around the campfire and spending an enjoyable evening hearing about Minnesota from some very nice locals.

 

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