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Showing posts from August, 2010

The Dreaded "S"-word

We drove a little over 300 miles today, Tuesday.  Ended up in a Walmart parking lot for the night in Havre, MT. Being the tightwad I am, it's just so hard for me to have to pay someone $20 or $30 bucks for camping when all we need is a place to park and sleep for the night. And we sleep very well in our self-contained camper... even in the middle of a big parking lot.

Tomorrow we'd like to make it to the west side of Glacier National Park. We've been really looking forward to seeing Glacier again... it's been 30 years or so.  But... lookout... here's the latest from the Weather Service for Montana....

=================== Winter Weather AdvisoryURGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MISSOULA MT 241 PM MDT TUE AUG 31 2010 ...COLD AND MOIST SYSTEM MOVING INTO NORTHWEST MONTANA TONIGHT... .A STRONG JET WILL BRING PLENTY OF MOISTURE STREAMING INTO NORTHWEST MONTANA TONIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING. SNOW LEVELS ARE EXPECTED TO DROP TO AROUND 6500 FEET …

Tough Night for an IAD Sufferer

I'm back to civilization and everything is OK. Wasn't sure it would end that way though.

During the past few months we've had fairly reliable and consistent Verizon internet access. We (yes, both of us) have come to take it for granted since we use it almost every day. The difference between Dar and me, however, is that she can take it or leave it. If it's working and we have internet, great. If it's not, well, that's OK too. She'll just upload pictures when she finds a connection... read e-mail when she gets around to it. Later this week? Super! Not till next week? That's fine too. She actually relishes being without all this "connectivity".

But me, on the other hand... well most of you know I have IAD -- Internet Addiction Disorder. Despite eating right, drinking orange juice every morning, taking my vitamins... I still have it and I don't think it's possible to ever get rid of it. It may very well be like alcoholism in this regard.…

International Peace Garden

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8/29/2010  As the Devils Lake area fades in our rear-view mirror, we continued west on US-2. At Rugby, which bills itself as the geographic center of North America, we stopped for a few minutes for pictures at the monument the community erected to mark the spot. Oh boy!

It turns out Rugby is only approximately the center of the continent... at best, perhaps within 15 miles or so. And even the U.S. Geological Survey doesn't care enough to give any point near here offical status. But any time you can pose around a notable monument for a travelogue photo... well, you're doing alright.


North out of Rugby about 45 miles is the Canadian border and the International Peace Garden. Since we're driving almost right by we wanted to check it out.

The IPG straddles the U.S./Canada border on US-281 north of Dunseith, ND. In fact, the entrance to the facility sits precisely on the border between the U.S. Customs station and the Canadian Customs station -- the entrance road actually lie…

Historic Fort Totten

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During our drive around Devils Lake the other day, we stopped and explored the Fort Totten State Historical Site.

Fort Totten was built in 1867 - 1868 on the southern side of Devils Lake North Dakota. It is one of three forts (the others are in New York and Washington DC) named for Joseph Gilbert Totten, head of the US Army Corps of Engineers during the middle 1800s. The fort served as a military presence to maintain peace among the Native Indians and a growing number of settlers. Because the Indians in this part of the country were peaceful there were very few problems and the fort never figured in any significant battle or uprising. It also patroled the international border with Canada and attempted to control the flow of liquor traffic... a job they reportedly accomplished by drinking most of it themselves.



Used continuously as a fort until 1890, and then as a boarding school for Indian children and for other Bureau of Indian Affairs purposes, it was cared for and well…

The Devil's Lake?

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As I wrote in my last post, Devils Lake is in a basin. Water flows in but not out. It's a big tub that catches and holds everything that flows in... rain, snow-melt, minerals, pollution, fertilizer and agricultural runoff... everything. The only process removing water from the lake is evaporation. Because of this situation, during extended dry periods, the level of the lake falls. In fact, during the extended dry period from about 1900 to 1950 when the level of the lake fell by almost 25 feet, there were proposals and projects started to "stabilize" the level of Devils Lake by bringing in water from the Missouri River, about 100 miles to the west. None of these projects were ever completed.

 During extended wet periods, the level of the lake rises. From the low in 1950 until 1993, an apparently wetter period, the lake recovered from it's low-water condition, gaining back the 25 feet lost during the dry spell, to about where it was in 1900 when regular measurements beg…

A Sinking Feeling

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Yesterday, Thursday, we moved from East Grand Forks to Devils Lake, ND. It's a drive of just over 100 miles and a bright sunny day made it enjoyable. I hadn't realized it when planning for our westward trek this fall, but US-2 through North Dakota is almost all 4 lane roadway... all but the last 10 miles at the border with Montana. Because it's not Interstate Highway, it's less busy and much more enjoyable. I believe most people just default to the I-roads when traveling long distance, and don't take the time to consider "lesser roads", which is OK with me. I'll continue to enjoy the uncongested and better taken care of "lesser roads" while everyone else battles the Interstates.


As we neared the community of Devils Lake, the lake started showing itself here, there, and then everywhere. We've learned that the area has been battling with rising water for over the past 17 years. You see, the lake sits in a basin with no outlet. Water flows …

Westward Ho!

By the time you read this Thursday morning we'll probably be moving west again. The route is US Hwy 2 and the destination is the Devils Lake area, about 100 miles up the road. And if you thought we might be through with high-water and flooding stories... you might be wrong. But you'll have to tune in during the next few days to see. How's that for a hook?

The laundry is done, tanks are ready for travel, and we're antsy to continue the journey. We did get the bikes out this afternoon for a 12 mile ride on the awesome Greenway trail system along the Red River. During our stop here we've walked and biked all the way from Minnesota to North Dakota a number of times. How's that for another bucket list item... now checked off. It's been a good stop... really became attached to the Grand Forks area.

More later...
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The Flood... Before and After

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We've been enjoying our stay in East Grand Forks, especially the nearby greenway along the river and the nice collection of restaurants... all within walking distance. The car hasn't moved since we've been here.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Sherlock Campground in the Red River State Recreation Area was a residential neighborhood prior to the big flood of 1997. When the water receded and plans for higher levees were drawn up it was determined that this part of town was just too low to be adequately protected from future flooding. The owners of these properties were bought out, the homes, which had been severely damaged by the record flood, were removed, and the land became part of the new State Recreation Area.


The streets through the campground are the very same ones that carried traffic through the neighborhood. In many areas, the sidewalks also remain. Between our camp and the downtown commercial/entertainment district, only two or three blocks away, is a new leve…

Blown to East Grand Forks

Just a quick note to let you know we moved today. Both today and tomorrow looked "iffy" weather-wise (high winds mostly) but decided that today was probably the better of the two. Winds would be 25 to 30 mph from the southwest today (mostly a cross-wind for our northwest travel)... and 25 to 30 mph from the west tomorrow (the dreaded, but all too common, headwind).

We left Leech Lake COE a little before 9am. Despite the gusty winds we made good time and arrived at the Sherlock Park Campground which is part of the Red River State Recreation area in East Grand Forks, MN. a bit after Noon.  Even though we're still in Minnesota, we can see North Dakota from here... right over there... across the Red River. En route we took a break at a very nice rest area, made a little coffee, and had a late breakfast.

By the time we arrived in the Grand Forks area the predicted rain was only minutes away. We checked in, found our site, and set up before anyone got too wet.

We're planni…

Northwoods Humor

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During the past few days we inadvertently collected a few photos that provide a little glimpse into life here in the North Country. I may be the only one that finds humor in these, but I thought I'd share them with you anyway.

Now do you think that maybe this guy has a destiny?  I mean, who else would you vote for but a guy named Scherf for sheriff.

There's not much science that goes into advertising up here. No sir, it's really basic. You gotta read this one out loud a few times, fast, to understand what it's advertising.

Rules are pretty basic up here too. Launching a boat at our campground isn't too difficult for most people. Only three simple rules.

Interestingly when we loaded Jim and Sue's boat the other day, I forgot rule number 3.

And business establishments in the North get creative with their names and advertising tag lines. Who can resist "The Home of the Big WinnieBurger and the Gosh Dam Breakfast"?? And who could drive past the Bigwinnie Bar …

The Skeeters of Lost Forty

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In 1882, a survey mistakenly designated this particular plot of the far north Minnesota forest as under water... part of a lake... too wet to log off. As a result, the little area was never included in logging tracts that were sold off to timber companies. Loggers worked through the forest, on all sides of the little tract, never touching it with axes or saws. Years later that tract became known as the "Lost Forty"... a reference to the number of acres thought to be included. In actuality, the size of the plot is more than 100 acres.

Today, contained within the Chippewa National Forest and managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Lost Forty is one of the last stands or virgin white and red pine in the Northland. It really is something to see. There's a walking trail loop that winds through the tall 300 and 400 year old trees. I'm told that a slow walk through the plot provides perspective, a good place for quiet contemplation, and a glimpse into …

Wading across the Mississippi River

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Friday morning we helped our good friends Sue & Jim break camp and load up before they headed for home. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Campfires, food, good conversation -- it all made for a fun time. Most of Thursday was spent out exploring Leech Lake in their boat and they topped off the day by making an anniversary dinner for us... a scrumptious feast of walleye fillets with all the trimmings. Thanks Sue & Jim for a wonderful time.

Leech Lake is the third largest lake in Minnesota, about 112,000 acres of water. Back in the early 1800's some thought it was the source of the Mississippi River. But while it's waters do flow into the Mississippi, the actual source has since been determined to be Lake Itasca, some 45 miles or so to the west. Leech has been dammed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is used as a reservoir today. We're camped near the dam.

After Sue & Jim departed, we drove over to Itasca State Park to check out the headwaters of the Mississ…

Short Update

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Just a short (and I mean "short") update, as it's been 5 full days since my last. We've had a full day today and I'm tired and I'm going to bed and I'm going to get some good sleep in just a few moments.

We're currently at Federal Dam, MN. at a Corps of Engineers campground on Leech Lake. After leaving Camp Soldner on Tuesday,  and spending a quick overnight at the Bad River Casino in Odanah, WI., we rendezvoused with a couple of good friends and ex-neighbors from Burnsville, MN., Jim and Sue, on Wednesday, yesterday. While Jim and Sue are only here at the campground for two nights, Dar and I have decided to extend our stay at least through the weekend.

Everything is running fine and we're getting along fine. We have had spotty cell phone and internet service as we trudged our way across the northland, and a little rainy weather to deal with too. But I'll write more in the next day or two and get the Journal completely up-to-date.

Here's a …

Slow Week

Well, it's been a slow week here at Camp Soldner, far out in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Early in the week we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed the solitude. Tuesday night Dar's Mom and  Dad came up to spend a few days and we enjoyed that too. Looks like the weekend will be even busier as Dennis and Laura have a small party planned.

I've been getting in daily sessions with the kayak. Warm days with very little wind have made for perfect paddling conditions. Even though this lake isn't very big, any brisk wind can make the middle of the lake a tough place to be for a light kayak. Fighting both the wind and rough water isn't fun... at least for me. So I've tried to take advantage of the ideal weather during the past few days.

The sauna has been getting a pretty good workout too. In this part of the world saunas are common. They come in handy during the winter as a device that can warm a body all the way to the core. But even during the…

Dam Busters

Yesterday, Monday, we enjoyed a quiet day at the Camp. We had the place to ourselves. The day started out foggy but quickly cleared to a sunny and warm one.

About noon Dar and I took the canoe out on the lake with a mission in mind. The lake we're on is fed through a small stream from another lake higher in the chain. At times in the past, small dams, the result of debris or beaver activity, would plug up the stream and the level of our lake would go down. In the past week or so, our neighbor Bill has noticed this very thing. He thought we might have a dam again. So we headed out on a mission to find the plug and, if we found one, to remove it.

And, just as predicted, we found one... a small debris dam in a shallow area of the stream. After 20 minutes of dam hard work the stream was flowing strong again. The residents of our lake will be happy when the water level creeps back up a couple inches in the next few days.

We kept canoeing into that next higher lake and along the shorel…

The Galloping Geezer Show

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It wasn't supposed to happen this way; it certainly wasn't part of the plan. But there I was, laying on the ground, writhing in intense pain... wondering what happened. Am I loosing consciousness? Why can't I see clearly?... all I see are stars... and I can't seem to catch my breath. What's going on? Ahhh!

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Here at Camp Soldner we're close to nature. Deer are regular visiters. Once in a while moose wander through. Beavers regularly plug up nearby rivers and streams. Our neighbor Bill reports that he found a black bear in his open garage one morning. Many have seen wolves, which were re-introduced to the UP some years ago. Then there are the birds... mostly waterfowl. Ducks, loons, cormorants, and, of course, the ubiquitous Canada goose.

I've had a long-standing grudge against the Canada goose (see previous blog entry on this filthy fowl) which, years ago, would migrate through the upper Midwest and impress us for a few …

Michigan State Capitol Building

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A couple weeks ago, on July 23rd, Dar and I made a visit to Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol Building. We've been making it a point to visit capitols when we're camped close by, and this visit will make Michigan our 15th. I reported this exploration in the Journal for that day, but said I'd do a more thorough post at a later date. This is that post.

Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory established by the US Congress in 1787 and was made it's own territory, the Michigan Territory, in 1805. Michigan began applying for statehood as early as 1832 but was rebuffed due to a dispute with Ohio (already a State) over a strip of land called the Toledo Strip, a sliver of land that ran just south of the current border and included the City of Toledo, an important shipping port on Lake Erie. By 1835 Michigan formed a State Government without authorization by Congress and included the Toledo Strip in it's jurisdiction. A bloodless conflict, called the Toledo War, e…

Yooper Busy

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We haven't just been busy. We've been Yooper Busy!

Unusual small mushroom in the grass at Camp Soldner
So, what's "Yooper Busy"?  This is the condition in which those of us in the U.P. ("Yoopers") are preoccupied with trying to pack as much warm-weather activity and fun as you can into a very short summer... struggling mightily to take advantage of every day without ice, snow, and sub-freezing temperatures. I've said it before... for many Yoopers the only good use they have for summer is to prepare for the next winter. They're a hearty bunch with one thing in common. They ALL love living up here.  They'll do almost anything to stay here.


Besides hanging out and enjoying the amenities of Camp Soldner, we've done a couple area explorations that I'd like to note. The first was with fellow explorers Bill and Nancy, our next door neighbors here at the camp. The four of us headed into the Keweenaw Peninsula (that big finger of land that jut…