Itasca State Park - June 2009

My Itasca State Park trip didn't start the way I wanted it to. I got up and cleaned the house as planned, took care of the cat box, recycling, got the garbage out to the alley and just needed to run a few errands in order to be out of town by 1 or 1:30.

I gassed up my car, took it in for an oil change, ran to the roastery to pick up a few essentials and then headed to the grocery store and liquor store to provision up for the trip. The last thing I bought was a 20 lb. bag of ice which I put it in my trunk, all ready to go home and pack up the cooler. I got into my car, turned the key and was met with a click.

"What the fuck?!" I wondered, and turned the key again. Click. "No fucking way!" My car wouldn't start.

I'd had a recent bout of forgetting to turn off my headlights and draining my battery -- twice in one week, so that was the first thing I checked. There was no way I could have been in the grocery store long enough to drain the battery, and sure enough it seemed just fine.

It was in the ensuing moment of panic that I was almost reduced to tears. This was supposed to be my vacation! I was going to see Kate and wanted to get there as soon as I could. Car trouble was not part of the plan!!

I ran down the list in my iPhone and tried calling several people to see if they might be able to help me, which wasn't easy because it was 1 pm on a Thursday afternoon and I had to think of people who probably wouldn't be at work. I talked to several answering machines and a couple of people who just couldn't get away to help. Finally I thought, "I have to at least get my perishables home and into suitable storage, then I can figure this out."

For some reason, my friend Bobbie popped into mind, she's retired and she doesn't live too far from the grocery store, maybe she could help me get my stuff home, so I called her. It turns out she was at the very same grocery store at a different entrance. She came around and helped me get my ice, butter, milk and beer home and asked if I'd like her to call AAA for help.

So it was back to the grocery store and she called the AAA number to get some help. Unfortunately, the people there assumed we were having battery trouble and sent out the "battery truck," a small-sized pickup truck that's ready to either give you a jump or sell you a battery out of the back. We needed a tow, not a jump. He ran a battery check and as suspected it was just fine, but he also noticed a wire hanging from where the starter attaches to the engine.

"That's probably your problem right there." he said.

He called a tow truck and we were soon at R&L repair. Sure enough, the only problem was that the ground wire that runs from the starter to the ground had fallen off.

"Did we do this job?" asked Matt, the mechanic, "Because if we did, someone is in trouble."

I assured him that R&L hadn't done the job and he stated that he'd never seen such a shoddy job in his life. Rather than using a wire connector to run the ground wire, the previous owner had used electrical tape, the engine's oil had eaten through the tape's adhesive and when I got the oil changed it got bumped and disconnected.

R&L properly reconnected the wire, and while they had the car on the lift quickly rotated my tires. The whole thing ran me $20 and I after stopping at home to pack the cooler and my things, I was finally on the road by 4:00 pm.

I arrived at Itasca several hours later than I had planned, but Kate and I got to take the wilderness drive and climb to the top of the 100 foot fire tower on the park's western end in time for sun set. What a view! And the music of the woods was quite a thing to hear with frogs croaking everywhere, loons calling in the distance and birds of all types singing their evening songs.

The next morning we headed to the U of M research station where Kate is doing her internship and grabbed a canoe. We took a trip around Schoolcraft Island, the far side of which Kate informed me had a loon's nest that was easily seen from a small bay on the far side. When we got there the wind caught the canoe and we wound up rowing into the bay backwards, because I couldn't see exactly where we were we suddenly found ourselves within only a few feet of the nest! The nesting mother was instantly in front of the canoe taking on a very aggressive posture and shrieking excitedly!!

"Let's get the hell out of here!" Kate yelled.

"I'm working on it," I replied, but briefly looked to see where the nest was and spied two leathery brown eggs about the size of a hand ball. We booked it out of there and apologized to Mama Loon, but I mark it as one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

We continued our canoe trip to the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River. I've seen it before, but that doesn't diminish the wonder of the spot. Every drop of water that falls over the rocks that children clamor over at that point travels over 2300 miles, and takes approximately 90 days to get to the Gulf of Mexico. Cool!

We canoed back, had lunch at camp and then hiked a couple of miles through the woods, saw the pioneer cemetery and returned to camp as the sky in the west grew darker and darker. There was an afternoon squall that took the heat out of the air and made for perfect napping weather. After dinner we drove down to Peace Pipe Vista and watched as the sun sank toward the western horizon. We had a nice evening watching flames dance in the fire pit, drinking tequila and laughing about the simplest things. We went to bed early and set an alarm for 4:30 AM in hopes of traveling to the fire tower again in time for sun rise.

Unfortunately, we were about 5 minutes late, but we enjoyed the view regardless (the photo above was taken at that time). We headed back to camp and slept for a couple more hours while an intermittent light rain pelted the tent, and the campgrounds awakened.

The on and off rain, coupled with our sore bodies made today a low key day. I broke my coffee maker brewing up some Camping Blend, but was able to salvage a couple of good cups and we stuck close to the "tourist-y" areas of the park, the swimming beach and the museum. Finally, it came time to say goodbye and Kate headed back to her life up there and I drove the three hours back to St. Cloud.

I really wish I could have gotten there as early as originally planned, but my car had other ideas. It's hard to pack a weekend into 1-1/2 days, but I think we did pretty well.

And I can't wait to see Kate again. Just a couple more weeks.

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Cari said…
Oh, how I love Itasca. I'm very jealous! Sounds like a good weekend despite the delayed start :)

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