When I woke this morning, I knew I loved North Dakota even more than yesterday. The skies had partially cleared and the sun was illuminating the park in a sea of iridescent green like a vision from a long forgotten fairy tale. The park was still very nearly empty, with only four campers stretched out over the more than 100 sites on the east side campground. After morning tea we unhooked the bikes for a very windy but exhilarating ride through the park, along the whitecapped lake, and around the west campground.
Have I mentioned the battery problems with the Tracker? Sometimes, completely unexpectedly, the battery will be dead. Totally silent kind of dead. Since that first time back in Spokane, it has only happened when it is still hooked up, but is more of an annoyance than a really serious problem. This morning it was dead again, and Mo decided that maybe she wasn’t doing something wrong and she just needed a new battery. We were in luck. Checking the Road Atlas for a Wal-Mart showed one right in Devils Lake, just a block away from our already planned stop at the Exxon for propane. Details. However those details did slow down our travels a bit and after buying propane and a battery, we didn’t get out of Devils Lake until after 11am.
It was to be an easy day, though, with only 200 miles to Bemidji, our planned destination. The roads were clear and straight, with huge wide medians filled with green. Have I mentioned green? And blue? There is so much sky in this part of the world, and even when it is half covered by clouds there is so much blue. In fact, seeing sky that goes brilliant blue all the way to the horizon in all directions is a treat that I was looking forward to and could only imagine. I know the west is beautiful. Westerners always have to make comments about this part of the country, “but it’s so FLAT”. “I couldn’t live without the mountains.” Well, I do love the mountains, and I love the west, but with mountains in the west come fires and haze and murky skies during much of the summer when it should be blue. Today was blue. And green. And white. It was an amazing day of brilliant color and sky. Yesterday I fell in love with North Dakota, and today I fell in love with Minnesota.
Now my daughter will accuse me of being a soil nerd, but I also had a blast using the iPhone SoilWeb application developed by Toby O’Geen at UCDavis. You just hit the screen, and in a minute your gps location finds the soil that is mapped there and a screen pops up with the soil profile, the description, and the classification. The application is essentially using web soil survey, but it’s great fun to get it on the fly. So when the phone tells me I am crossing a fine smectitic frigid Aquertic Argiudoll, I know by this name that the climate is fairly cold but not in summer, that the soil has wetness issues, that is has cracks in it from the fine clays, that the surface is deep and dark, and that it gets summer rain. I am not sure if any other scientific classifications explain so much about the thing they are classifying.
We stopped in at a visitor center just inside the state of Minnesota and while I continued to drive, Mo reviewed some of the possibilities for the next few days. She started reading about the Itasca State Park, where you can walk across the Mississippi, and we couldn’t figure out just where it was, but she thought we needed to go there. A conversation ensued about timing, and how we were going to make it to Niagara Falls if we kept wandering off to do other things than what was originally planned. About that moment, a sign appeared, Itasca State Park, 21 miles south, and within a moment we made the decision to go there. For me this is the best part of a road trip, that spontaneous moment when you just take the turn down the road, unplanned.
Itasca State Park is where the headwaters of the Mississippi River emerge from the lake on their journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is the third largest in the world, and it drains more than a third of the entire United States. Here in the park, the river is just a riffle without a thought of what she will become. The interpretive center had excellent maps and posters describing the area, the river, the history, and so much more. There were campgrounds there, and initially we thought we might camp, but then decided that we could still get to the park in Bemidji by six or so and it would be a bit further down the road so we headed back north.
Garmin Girl has been silenced, but she still is giving directions that are usually very good. Yesterday she tried to take us across some very wet dirt roads on the way to Devils Lake, but today she navigated the way to Bemidji State Park without a hitch. This park is much more closed and shaded than Devils Lake, but still isn’t crowded at all at the moment. We were offered a pull through electric site and took it happily. After a simple setup and pizza for supper in the convection oven we took off walking the Homestead Trail to the Rocky Point Overlook on Bemidji Lake. The trails are extremely well maintained, wide and well planned, surrounded by deep, moist hardwood forest. I do love the hardwood forests, and I am sure that before this trip is over I will have many more photos of sunlight backlighting the leaves through the shadows.
Once back at camp, I discovered to my amazement that here, in the middle of the forest, in Bemidji Minnesota, I have free internet access compliments of the Minnesota State Park System. So while Mo built an evening campfire, I uploaded the last couple of days photos, and finished writing blog entries as well.
Who knows when I will have access again, but for now, this is great. The humidity is high, but not unbearable because it is cool. The mosquitoes aren’t as big or prolific as I thought they might be, although we did put on some DEET for the first time since we left on this trip. The night is quiet and still, with no rain in sight, no thunder to wake us. Maybe a really good night of sleep awaits!