Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tomah WI to Lake Itsaca MN
Wednesday September 28, 2011

We left Tomah about 8:30 and asked Mr. Brit to find Warrens MN and the Cranberry Discovery Center.  I had read about the cranberry industry in Wisconsin but had determined it was too far from the Great River Road for us to take the side trip…and here we were 7 miles from the center!  The fog was to lift by 9:00 but no such luck as the fog was thick when we went in the Discovery Center and still thick when we left about an hour later. We saw the process of planting and harvesting on a video; and saw actual cranberry plants they had brought into the center for their festival this past weekend.  The small town of Warrens must have been covered up in people for the festival.  They had had over 100 vendors and lots of entertainment. The population was around 1,500. One remnant was these  huge jack-o-lanterns that someone had carved.

 Cranberry plant in the Discovery Center

60% of the US Cranberry crop comes from Wisconsin. We drove down to one of the farms and observed the huge cranberry bogs.  The center usually knew when various growers nearby would be harvesting but they did not know of anyone today so we photographed the bogs and headed west as we had lot's of miles to cover to reach Lake Itsaca State Park  tonight.  

 Ben surveys a cranberry bog ready for harvest

We had heard weather reports indicating the rain was to stop and clear skies would follow.  Heavy rain followed the fog so we were not very hopeful but just before we reached the Minnesota state line the sun and blue skies broke through!  We crossed the St. Croix River and drove about 10 miles to the Welcome Center to stop for a picnic lunch.  We were anxious to open our bread and cheese from the Wisconsin Cheese Shop – Carr’s Cheese was great !

The trees continue to be beautiful in all the fall colors. They are interspersed with deep green pine which made for a very pleasant palate.  Mr. Brit took us around St. Paul and Minneapolis with no problems – traffic was not bad at all and we were on Rt 94 headed northwest towards our destination.  We were pleased to discover we would be taking a different route today than we would follow south from the Headwaters of the Mississippi. Today was probably the most direct route.  The farms in MN seem to be smaller than the ones we saw throughout IN, IL, and WI,  As we headed further north we noticed the trees seemed to be primarily yellow birch and something that looked like aspen but will take a little investigation to be sure.  There continued to be oranges and reds but in fewer numbers than yesterday.

We went from an interstate to a 4 lane state road to a two lane state road to finally a 2 lane park road for the last 5 miles. It is beautiful with leaves underfoot as well as on the trees. We did not arrive until 5:30 so did not have time to explore the park today.  We will stay here two nights so tomorrow will be a down day for exploring the park. We have a nice level campsite with electricity and the bathhouse and water nearby. We are happy to be camping again – our first trip since October 2010.

Ben relaxes at our campsite
After dinner we discovered we had 3G on the i-phone!  This was a surprise since we only had 3G around Minneapolis since we left the Madison area in Wisconsin yesterday.   Who am I to complain!
I just made it down to the lake to get a photo of a beautiful sunset…so here we are in the middle of the MN wilderness – me typing the blog I will probably not get to post for a few days and Ben is watching some TV show he had recorded on his computer before we left home….

 Sunset over Lake Itsaca
Tomorrow we explore the headwaters of the Mississippi and prepare to begin our adventure down the Great River Road!

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