International Falls, Minnesota

We arrived in International Falls this afternoon around 4:00 p.m. (We are on Central Time now, if anyone cares.)

We spent two nights in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, which was lovely. It was a nice campground, nice people, and beautiful weather. Even the mosquitoes were mostly polite, and stayed away. Yesterday afternoon, we walked out to the lake that borders the campground. There's a nice board walkway out over the water with huge cattails on both sides.

It's not a huge lake, as is Detroit Lake, the lake for which the city is named, but it's nice enough. There were paddle boats for rent, but we didn't seriously entertain that idea. 

There are so many lakes in Minnesota, it's truly unbelievable. They all seem to have names too. The campground lake is called Glawe Lake.

It was late in the day when we explored the lake, and we had planned to just enjoy the evening. The moon is nearly full. Mike built a fire, and we just sat and relaxed for hours.

On the way out of town we drove along the lake shore of the much larger Detroit Lake. (You Oregon people probably thought Detroit Lake was in Oregon, didn't you? And you non-Oregon people should know that there actually is a Detroit Lake in Oregon.)

Our drive today was characterized by lots of lakes, marshy areas, and trees. That's my reflection you see there in the window. I'm getting less willing to stick my head out the window for pictures as we go down the road.

We made our way to International Falls via two way points: Itasca State Park and Bemidji. Our thanks go to Diane for letting us know we could see the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park. The drive to the park was lovely, as was the park. This was how the road looked along the way: 

It was a $5 fee for day use of the park, and it was well worth it. It's a very nice park with camping available and good signage directing us to the headwaters. Here's a little blurb about the park itself.

We were parked at a visitor center with a nice gift shop. They were selling fudge there too. Of course, we bought some. We are tourists. From there it was an 800 foot walk out to the headwaters. Along the way we saw these interesting wildflowers. I'm betting someone can tell me what they are. They were rather large. About as big in diameter as a tennis ball.

That's my hand holding the stem below. I've learned from experience that the quickest way to make the wind blow is to try to take a close up shot of a flower.

And here's a little blurb about the search for the Mississippi headwaters. Sounds like the Ojibwe knew where it was all along, even if the explorers decided to take credit for discovering it.

And here it is! Lake Bemidji extends off to the left, and the Mississippi River begins to flow off to the right. Interestingly, the river's headwaters flow north out of the lake as far as Bemidji before heading east and then more than 2,500 winding miles south to the Gulf of Mexico.

There was a family reunion of sorts there at the headwaters and the entire rock crossing was loaded with kids. After watching one of them fall in, we decided against crossing right there. By the way, falling in while crossing is supposed to bring one good luck. But really, how much luck does any one person need?

Here's the accompanying sign.

Of course, we took the requisite selfie:

Mike opted to cross at the split log just a few feet away. The lack of squealing children made it a much more appealing choice.

So in the process of reading all about the lake, etc., I happened to read the section of the tour book about Bemidji and discovered that Bemidji is the mythical home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. We also learned that massive statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe were created in the late 1930s and stand near the shore of Lake Bemidji. Holy Logging Boots! Count us in!

We had planned to fill up with diesel when we reached Bemidji anyway, and so we set a way point in the navigation unit for the address listed. We knew we were on the right track when we saw this sign:

Lake Bemidji is huge and beautiful. I took a panorama

and then surprised Mike while he enjoyed the view. Lovely city, Bemidji.

Aside from being the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe, Bemidji likes to boast that it is the first city on the Mississippi River.

And obviously, we needed the requisite selfie in front of Paul and Babe, now didn't we?

So here's the deal: I was reading about International Falls when I read this interesting tidbit:

There are several man-made landmarks nearby including Willie Walleye in the town of Baudette. The gaping-mouthed fish statue is 40 feet long and 21 feet, 4 inches in girth. Also, in the town of Rainier, 2 miles away, is Big Vic, a 30-foot tall likeness of a voyageur, the brawny French-Canadian fur traders who once navigated rivers and lakes in this rugged region. While we were in Detroit Lakes, we went to the tiny town of Vergas where the welcoming sign for the town advertised that it was home to the world's largest loon, a man-made statue standing 21 feet tall.

And let's not forget "Salem Sue", the giant Holstein cow we saw as we passed through New Salem, North Dakota. 

So, Midwesterners, this begs the question: What's up with all the giant statues? 

Actually, we did read one explanation for this. Many of these statues were built about the time that travel by automobile was taking off in popularity. I suppose it gave folks something to see. And, honestly, it's so American, isn't it? Ya' gotta love Americana.

After such an exciting day, what was left but for us to continue on to International Falls. If you pay attention to such things, then you might recognize International Falls as the place within the United States that often wins the prize for the coldest temperature in the nation. International Falls is actually proud of this distinction, promoting itself as "Icebox of the Nation" or "Frostbite Falls". The average high temperature during the month of January is 15.4 degrees Farenheit with the average low at -6.6 degrees. Burr. Record low temperature is -55 degrees. That is some burr-ass cold weather, if you ask me.

Here's how the road looked for about three hours. There is nothing here...very few houses, little towns that amount to one building...usually a bar...and it is lovely just the same.

We are just about as close to the Canadian border here as we can be without actually crossing over. As we drove the main drag through town, we could see a water tower on the Canadian side.

As we got closer to the turnoff for our campground, we could see the flags of the border crossing at the end of the road.

We're in a nice quiet park tonight and tomorrow night. I'm estimating the train track is a full three blocks away!

When I opened the slides on the trailer, I found these two, ready to be done driving for the day.

Smitty can hardly wait for Mike to hang the Catio on the side of the trailer,

He claps his paws together and starts up with the chant: Cat-ti-oh! Cat-ti-oh! Cat-ti-oh!

Finally, it's up, and he can get outside for a good long sniff of fresh air.

This afternoon, he actually wanted to go outside right away. No woofies in sight, and so we went for a good long walk. He rolled in the dust, ate some grass, sniffed everything, and generally enjoyed himself for a good hour or more.

So that's about it for the day. We're going to head over to the visitor's center at Voyageur's National Park tomorrow. We're kind of hoping we can find a place to rent a boat since the park is mostly seen by water. More about that later. I had hoped to find a quilt shop in International Falls, but when I tried calling the number, I found it to be disconnected. No quilt shops in town...not any more, anyway. 

And with that I'm off to veg in front of the TV. We've been watching Homeland on Netflix when we can't get satellite access. Good show. I can recommend it.

13 comments from clever and witty friends:

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I don't get all those enormous statues either - did you call that Americana? Ah, Smitty and Gracie - traveling in such cramped, horrible conditions - LOL!! But I can relate to the escape of fresh air.

WoolenSails said...

You have been busy and what a wonderful place to visit. I just got my blog lovin mail and saw your name at the top, seem to have missed a few posts, my brain has been on hold lately.


Vicki H said...

I am so glad you enjoyed your time at Itasca and Bemidji. I have family there and always spent 2-3 weeks visiting in the summers when I was young. Am now in Kansas so usually only make it to the Minneapolis area when visiting Mom. Enjoy the trip to Thunder Bay. We went once when the girls were 3 & 5 and had to have the furnace on in the camper in the middle of July, but the temps were very nice during the day. I think you are traveling at a great time. Have fun.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

I'm not sure I totally comprehended much after the reference to my absolute favorite sweet treat. Yummy fudge. Good for you.

Minnesota is gorgeous, isn't it? I was born in St Paul and my Dad's family lived in Lake City until 1974. Grandpa drove an excursion boat on Lake Pepin every summer for decades. Memories of Christmases in snowy conditions live on.

Lovely pictures, thanks so much for sharing.

Ann Bassett said...

Blue skies and blue lakes. So pretty. I can just hear Smitty chanting. LOL. Stay safe.

Diane Wild said...

Too bad you missed seeing Paul Bunyon's sweetheart Lucette in Hackensack, another gigantic statue. As for The Falls, I was on a bicycle tour in the 80s in that area. We'll talk more about that when I see you. Enjoy.

Dana Gaffney said...

I love things like the giant statues, I would have had to see everyone of them.

Barb H said...

So glad you were able to make it to Bemidji, home of my alma mater. I was a student at BSC, graduating in 1969, the prettiest campus in the MN state university (college back then) system. It's right on the shores of Lake Bemidji and even has a park and beach on campus! Memories of having classes on the lawn and studying while sunbathing at the beach--in summer school only! In the winter, we appreciated that all the campus buildings were connected by underground tunnels so you didn't have to go outside in -50 degree weather.

liniecat said...

It all looks so fresh and invigorating and I love that you take the felines along with you. Although Id be forever worried Id lose one of them!
But you seem to have it all very well organised for them and they obviously enjoy the adventuring!

quiltzyx said...

That's a LOT of cattails! I noticed there are chains on the wooden walkway. I wonder if they hold it in place if/when the lake level rises.
Love all the water pictures, especially now, down here in drought country!
Thanks for showing us the info signs, it's nice to learn about all these different places!
I wonder if that purple flower is a sort of thistle? There seems to be a lot of those in MN.
I just don't understand why you didn't want to get wet in the Mississippi head waters. Hmph. (When I typed "Mississippi" I could hear the rhythm I learned it in!)
Love all the giant statues! There are a few not far from me - a giant metal elephant, for one. They make me smile.

As always, continued safe journeys!

Lyndsey said...

Fudge and giant statues, now that is my kind of day. Sorry but you can't have giant statues as American as we have quite a lot here in the UK.

Kirsty said...

I think your purple flowers may be a type of knapweed, according to Mr Google. Both Zorro and Lil'Fluff would roll about with laughter at the thought that I would be able to identify it any other way. Loved hearing about Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. We have bizarre giant statues here in NZ too - carrots, fruit, salmon, kiwi. I think an RV tour of NZ should be on your bucket list! Happy trails.

Colleen said...

Aw Bemidji! And you took a picture with my boyfriend! You are having such a great trip!