After spending a few days in Moorhead, MN with our friends Karla and Lucas, we took a quick hiatus from van life to head back to Seattle for a long weekend.
Leaving the van behind we flew back to Seattle and had a nice visit with family and friends and took care of some work and personal things. It was really great to see everyone and share some of our van stories thus far.
Once back to Moorhead we spent two more evenings there, mostly hanging out at EHP CrossFit (which Karla owns and is rad)!
After some nice long hard workout sessions (we were sore for like 3 days) we set off Wednesday afternoon towards Voyageurs National Park in Northern Minnesota.
That evening we drove about halfway to Bimidji where we crashed at the Wal-Mart.
Thursday was a busy work day so we posted up at a local coffee shop, Cabin Coffee and worked away.
We also got to see local attraction Paul and Babe, and finally purchased our first Monster Cookie! For those of you like us who do not know what a Monster Cookie is: it’s a peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip and m&m cookie that is all over the state of Minnesota. It was delicious!
The last leg of the drive from Bimidji to Woodenfrog Campground (near Voyageurs National Park) was fairly uneventful. We were both happy to be back in the land of trees and we were definitely getting far away from any sort of city.
Woodenfrog was a great little forest service campground near Lake Kabetogama. That night we rolled in fairly late and the campground had maybe 5 guests.
After much debating we picked our spot (number 29) and tucked ourselves away for the night.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the lake was all but empty.
We paddled for about 1.5 hours before arriving at the rock garden (long way!) where we hopped out of our boats and strolled around.
The rock garden is full of strange stacked rock sculptures that Mr. Ellsworth constructed all by hand and using levers, no machinery was used which was pretty cool.
Our paddle back went around Cutover Island and was incredibly peaceful. The water was calm and glassy, there were no other boats and the fall colors were starting to show on the shoreline. There were even a few looms hanging about and we were lucky enough to sit and listen to them call for a bit.
After a fairly long and winding paddle, we successfully made it back to our van around 5:30pm.
Our earlier chat with the ranger had brought up another suggestion of a larger boat tour out of the Rainy Lake Visitor Center (about a fifty minute drive north from us). After checking at the weather and the number of available spots left, we decided to just go for it.
So, the next morning (Saturday) we woke up relatively early and made the drive to Rainy Lake to catch our boat tour to Kettle Falls. It was a decent sized boat that was completely full with 50 passengers for the 6 hour adventure.
The boat ride was really cool, you travel about 54 miles through the park out to the old Kettle Falls Hotel. There is a ranger on-board who tells you about the history of the area, points out old mines and where logging towns used to be, and can answer any questions you have.
On the boat we met Marea and Joe, a couple about our age from Seattle! They have been cruising around in their fifth wheel and happened to be at the same campground as us! Small world.
Once at Kettle Falls you are able to get off the boat and check out the dam and eat lunch at the old hotel. The hotel is pretty entertaining with and incredibly uneven bar room floor and tiny little rooms that you can still stay in today!
After walking around and having lunch we boarded the boat for our return trip. Although the boat ride was not the most thrilling or active adventure we have done it was a great way to see a large portion of the park, so we were happy to have done it! But, if you have more time… renting a Rainy Lake houseboat looked pretty cool!
That evening we worked out at the campsite and hung out with Marea and Joe for a bit which was a nice change of pace! Normally evenings are just Joe and me!
On our walk back to our site we had a brief encounter with a skunk, narrowly escaping its spray as we headed to bed for our last night at the Woodenfrog.
We had decided, per the recommendation of several Minnesotans, to head to Ely and the Boundary waters for a few days. The drive was beautiful, winding through lakes and fall foliage before arriving at the Fall Lake Campground.
Now this campground was not by any means crowded, but compared to Woodenfrog it was packed! We picked a spot atop the hill that had a peak of lake view. There were some really cool spots that had full lake views, but they were all taken. Another perk, we had great cell reception so we were able to make this our office for the next few days.
We spent most of our days here working and working out, but we also rented a canoe from the campsite. Putting in just down from our site we paddled the afternoon around Fall Lake.
It was quiet, with smooth water, colorful leaves and more loons. Our short time here and brief paddling definitely made me want to come back for some more extensive back country trips.
Monday night we headed into town to watch the Seahawks game at a local brew pub. Not a great game, but we did have some tasty food! Tuesday was another work day and we got out in the canoe one more time for a quick afternoon paddle down the other end of Fall Lake.
The weather changed like crazy while we were in the Boundary Waters, 84 on Sunday and leveling out to high 50s the rest of our time. Both of us enjoyed our time in Nothern Minnesota, I love the fall and it definitely felt like it had arrived and Joe just loves being near fresh water lakes. I think we both felt grounded and refreshed being back in the van.
We set off Wednesday afternoon for a three hour drive to Grand Marais and our fifteenth park, Isle Royale! You can read about that adventure here.