Land of 10,000 Lakes

Again, the traveling is easier as we move north into North Dakota and then east into Minnesota toward the Detroit Lake.  This area is near Fargo and touts 400 lakes in the surrounding area.  Are you kidding me? This is a fisherman’s dream!  I can’t wait to explore.

A quick trip to the local tackle store for information effectively narrows the number of lakes that fit my requirements.  The number one lake was named Little Cormorant Lake.  It is even close to our parking space at Forest Hills Golf & RV Resort, a Coast to Coast resort. My first visit was an early morning excursion.  As I quietly paddle up a shoreline, I hear the call of Loons.

These calls are the epitome of wilderness.  Their haunting Tremolo and Yodel calls take me back to my fishing days with my dear friend Paul Bruun.  These birds, although rarer in our Wyoming home than here where it is the Minnesota state bird, were our accepted good fishing charm.  We always said that where the loons are, that is where the fish are and that is where we should fish. These calls this morning take me to a pleasant place with a forever friend.  I am grateful!

Staying in our Coast to Coast RV site is a perk for our purchased membership in the Colorado River Resorts.  That membership allows us to stay in Coast to Coast resorts for free. Well not technically as we had to put out the original purchase price for the membership.  There are restrictions and Jude is getting to be a master at their navigation.  Jude’s skills greatly help reduce our nomad traveling cost.

That leaves more funds to go on adventures and see the surrounding countryside.   Our first adventure is Itasca Park.  The lake that the park surrounds is the headwaters for the Mississippi River. It is cool that a mere wading stream becomes the major American river.  It drains over 51 percent of the country and it travels nearly 2600 miles before it drains into the Gulf of Mexico; it takes a drop of water 90 days to travel that distance.

I am reminded that I have stood at the headwaters of Green River, the Snake and the Yellowstone River all within my home state of Wyoming.  Wyoming is like an island in the United States and all rivers originated there and flow out.  No rivers flow into the state.

The Yellowstone is the major tributary of the Missouri and it is the major tributary to the Mississippi.  The Snake River is the major tributary to the Columbia and the Green River is the main tributary to the Colorado River.  Thus, Wyoming is a major contributor to four important river systems.  The only system originating in Wyoming that I have not been to is the Platte.  It is the major tributary to the Rio Grande.

I am blessed with such an acquired list.  I can honestly say that every headwater originates in very beautiful places. Itasca is no different just a little more accessible than the Wyoming River starts.

It is a very different experience driving here in Minnesota.  It is hard to imagine all this water especially after years in sunbaked Arizona where the mere trickle of water is a novelty.  Here it is the common almost at every bend in the road.

I realized that I am haunted by water.  I cannot pass the myriad of lakes and ponds without wondering what angling opportunities exist there, what monsters live there and how I would catch them.  With all these bodies of water, my mind is very busy. Whew!

Other ventures into the Minnesota countryside included a beautiful state park, called Maplewood.  It was adorned with beautiful tree lined driving paths, groomed picnic areas and vistas of seven lakes within its borders.  It has a history of being one of Minnesota’s first ski areas with multiple rope tows.

We see Minnesota with all of its summer greenness and it is not apparent that these beautiful lakes and surrounding country are very snow bound and frozen most of the winter!  I learned that living in Wyoming if you did not find something to do outside in the winter, you would not endure. I am sure it is the same here.

We pack tonight, July 27th, and tomorrow make the longest drive we have had this summer season, pushing towards Lake Michigan.  In Milwaukie, we will send our 13-year old traveling companion, Mia, home to California.  We have enjoyed having her share our adventures and have already started making plans for our time with her next summer.

Wisconsin hints at a total adventure with travels up towards Sturgeon Bay and through the northern limits of both Wisconsin and Minnesota.  This area is called the boundary waters. I think I hear the Loon calling!

The Black Hills

We found South Dakota and especially the Black Hills so very green and lush.  The cows grazing in the fields were fat and slick, a testimony to the plentiful grass available to them, but again you could see the tremendous presence of those dead and dying red bug trees.  We were relieved when the fire danger was rated as low basically based on the ample moisture that fell during the winter and spring!

South Dakota is our intended place of residency as the state has a very attractive program for full-time RVers. We jumped right into getting insurance for me, driver’s licenses for both of us, and voter registrations. All things were simple and easily done as the processes were streamlined and painless to accomplish. We were officially residents of South Dakota after a single day!

We were free to explore the plentiful sites of interest in the Black Hills.  I was astounded at not only the variety but the sheer number of things to do.  It was kind of a RV wonderland with the granite carving of Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse nestled near to Custer State Park and all its pristine lakes, tunnels and rock spires.

The Wind Cave was one of the largest caves in the U.S.  It was made a National Park in 1903 and even today has not been fully explored but guesstimates of it being 140 miles long. It is a dry cave meaning there was little moisture still coming into the caverns, so that was different as we were used to younger caves that still had aquifers feeding them. The caverns were large but the passages were narrow and I spent a lot of time bent over as the ceiling was not set for anybody over 5’10” plus the tour we chose had 450 up and down steps.  It was like exercising at 53 degrees Fahrenheit while being at half-mast! It was fun to walk along exploring its limestone caverns. Caves are cool! LOL

That large cave wetted our curiosity, so we went to another Cave that held the largest Dog Tooth crystals in the world. They were indeed large at 18” long and this cave was a wet cave with the occasional cave kiss coming down on us.

Practically next door to our RV resort was a drive through safari like park called Bear Country,  The two mile auto trek was full of wolves, Elk, Deer, Caribou, Mountain Lions and tons of Bears. They kept the Grizzlies separate. I wonder why? NOT!  This made for some really good close up pictures of animals without the usual wire separation between the animal and visitors.  I usually would shy away from these types of displays, but this was so tastefully done, it was really enjoyable.  I got some really good photos of animals not normally available.

The icing on the South Dakota stay was a helicopter trip around Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monuments.  It was a special treat to honor Mia’s near perfect report card! It was really grand to see the carved faces with their brilliant white granite looking straight at us.  It was quite the feat to take photos as the vibration and plexus-glass of the helicopter made long efforts to get a perfect focus near impossible.  I relied on pulling the trigger the instant the landscape came into focus  It worked as I got some incredible shots of the monuments and surrounding area.

The Fourth of July burst on to the Black Hills with a brilliant clear day and our thoughts turned to the planned events around Rapid City, but within hours a solid line of thunderstorms descended on area. They lingered for hours with a steady drenching downpour of two-pound raindrops.  I can imagine the concern of all those pyro-technicians around the area hustling and covering their fireworks against that kind of moisture onslaught.

We settled in and laughed all day at America’s Funniest Videos, ate cookies and chocolate and had a blast!! Fireworks or not we had a great 4th of July just doing nothing but being together. Sometimes it is just fun doing nothing but chilling out.

We were coming to the end of our stay in the Black Hills.  We are headed to the adventure of the Great areas of U.S… the northern Great Plains and the Great Lakes! Our next stop was near the border of South Dakota and Minnesota to gather ourselves for a final push towards the Great Lakes.