|Campsite No. 1, Zippel Bay, morning of Day 2|
The other thing about coming in late to your campsite is that you don’t really have a chance to explore it until the next morning when you’re getting ready to head out. But because this was the first morning on the road, we didn’t really feel any urgency to get going too quickly, and so the kids were able to swim in the (very cold) Lake of the Woods, which is the big lake up in the “chimney” of Minnesota.
John’s technique of acclimating to cold water involves holding his nose and then leaping around in a silly way in the water, trying to trip himself up. Maia walks in slowly, then slides in, bravely putting
|I feel like this looks like a movie still.|
As we sat there watching the kids, someone came up behind and said, “Excuss pliss” in a way instantly familiar to anyone who has spent any time in Russia. “Not so good English.” This was startling, as no one else had been at the campground all night. The man had driven up in a mud-spattered Jeep Cherokee (of course!) held up his camera apologetically. I said, “Well, I speak Russian” rather grandly and he switched to Russian and told us he was touring national parks in the United States and he wanted me to take a picture of him with the blah-blahs.
|Lady slippers, as discovered by Pavel the Muscovite|
I got all Minnesotan here and said that of course he wasn’t going to take the flowers themselves, because that wasn’t allowed, and he said of course he wasn’t going to do that. I took the picture, he thanked me and drove off to International Falls and "the big lake." That wrapped up our dose of random for the day.
|Maia searches in vain for the exit to the Big Bog.|
We had lunch on the shores of Red Lake.
Back to the van again for another couple hours of driving. The next stop, the Lost 40, was a fun place to go because we all had completely different expectations about. The Lost 40 is 40 acres that was in the middle of an area plotted by a lumber company more than 100 years ago, but it was never logged because of a map-making error. So it’s untouched, which is highly unusual in this state.
|A tree the lumber company forgot.|
In any case, these were some seriously large trees, and it made for a beautiful walk.
Back to the van, the map and the (out of range) iPhone to find Camp Rabideau. Many years ago, before Matt and I met, he and a friend drove out near Blackduck to do some work on some CCC buildings at Camp Rabideau. Like all CCC buildings, they were not meant to be permanent but had found a second life in the 1960s as a university research station, but since 1967 had been abandoned and were very close to unsalvageable. Matt and his friend did what work they could to shore up one of the buildings by reroofing it.
|The roof is still there!|
As you can imagine, by now we were hot, tired, hungry and owly. We had seen four significant state sites, walked more than five miles and driven what felt like 500 miles in less than eight hours. Time for a real supper in a real restaurant, instead of crackers and cheese out of the cooler.
St. Bridget’s Cross in Bemidji came to our rescue. It prides itself on featuring local produce when possible, pours a good Guinness and is family-friendly. One is reminded, however, that it’s in Bemidji, as Matt had this conversation with our waiter.
Matt: I’d like the fish’n’chips, please.
Waiter: OK, now. I just want to make sure, because we’ve had some confusion.
|John, thinking in the Lost 40|
Waiter: Yes. I’m going to ask you if you want chips, or --
Waiter: Or if you want fries.
Matt: I want what I would get when I order fish’n’chips.
Waiter: Well, sometimes people expect something. What you will be getting is actually fries, not potato chips.
Matt: I understand what you are saying and I’m ordering the fish’n’chips. Some people really are surprised?
Waiter: Well...I don’t think Bemidji was really ready for us.
Marilyn Hagerty had a review up on the wall, too, which was awesome.
Fortified with good humor, we made it to Itasca, which was packed (we reserved every site on this trip, because we were never sure when we’d be coming in to the campsite). Another quick tent-staking and notes-in-journal-making, and then the day was over. We fell asleep to the sound of loons on the lake and geese flying overhead.