Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lake Itasca

Lake Itasca - Headwaters of The Mississippi
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Falling and blowing leaves hit the roof of the Sprinter all night – at least the time or two I woke up- then toward morning the rain began. Nice to hear on the metal roof but we had hoped to leave the rain behind for a few days!  But this was a restful day so we just slept in – ate breakfast – turned on the heater to take the chill off and read. I am trying out a Nook from our library to see if I am going to like electronic reading…so far it is OK – I am not in love with it but sure does save space! 

Breakfast was great – toast with the bread cheese from Carr’s. Instructions said to heat cubes in the microwave for 30 seconds and spread on bread with honey or jam. Strawberry jam it was – very tasty.

Late morning the rain stopped but not the wind – we bundled up and took off on a walk along the lake. The woods is beautiful with the fall color and the trail follows along the lake shore for miles.  We walked about a mile and then returned to camp. Biking is very popular here as is canoeing. Both can be rented a ways down the trail.  

 Trail along lake
Trail continues

After lunch – hot soup – the sun came out and we gott our second wind. While the sun was out we wanted to see the headwaters area and get a few photos!  You could drive to about ½ mile from the headwaters. The short hike led to the outlet from Lake Itasca. Much controversy and a variety of explorers finally selected this location as the true beginning of the Mississippi.  It is Lake Itasca one minute and the Mississippi River the next. The beginning is about 30 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Rocks are placed strategically so you can walk across the river.  The rocks were somewhat slippery but we managed to make it across with 1 wet shoe (Ben) and one skinned ankle (Jane) as the only casualties.  Photos taken we chose to walk back across the 12” wide flat log the park officials had placed for those not wishing to try the rocks.  The flow of the water was rapid probably due to all the rain in this area the past week. 

 We made it across the headwaters
Headwaters rock crossing in back, other bridge in foreground

This park is the first in the Minnesota Park System – organized in 1891. There was as might have been expected friction between the officials who were preserving the land around the headwaters and the businessmen who were out to make lots of money logging the land.  As almost always happened; there were a few “champions” who made the park happen.  This park had the first woman park commissioner in North America. Only in her 20’s when her father died as park commissioner, Mary Gibbs became the commissioner. Holding the position for less than a year, she and the MN government had a significant confrontation with loggers who were building an illegal dam at the headwaters to enable their logging operations. 

We visited the Visitor Center for a post card for Daniel and a couple other remembrances.  We then took a 10 mile one-way scenic drive through the wilderness sanctuary. The red and white pine trees were huge and the maples, aspen, oak and birch were beautiful. The colors are at their peak and the skies clear and brilliant blue.   
 Beaver Lodge along scenic drive
Beautiful fall foliage

The drive ended near the over 100 year old Douglas Lodge that continues to house visitors. While not nearly as large as the lodges built around that same era at the parks in the west.The lobby was small but very welcoming. 
 Lobby of Douglas Lodge

Back at camp we continued our restful day by discovering we had internet so I posted the blog and read some emails.  Photos of the bathrooms is not something I normally post but the bathhouse here was quite remarkable. First knotty pine bathhouse I have ever seen. Most of the buildings here were built by the CCC and these have been very nicely maintained. 

Knotty Pine Bath House
I cooked supper and awaited the sunset – alas no great colors tonight. We have met several interesting folks here at the campground. None seem to be starting on the adventure to the gulf. One couple had been as far south on the Great River Road (GRR) as Hannibal MO.   

The weather prediction is for 36 tonight so we will turn the heater on the lowest setting…last night we did not turn it on and were very comfortable. The cooler weather means few if any mosquitoes – so if I have to choose I choose the cooler temperature! Tomorrow we start down the GRR and plan to go as far as the Charles Lindburg State Park.

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