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Published: July 14th 2018
Rainy Lake Visitor Center, Voyageurs National Park, International Falls, Minnesota
When we get near the end of a trip, I admit that we get really tired. It becomes increasingly difficult to sustain the same level of energy and excitement as we get further and further into the trip. As exciting as each of these parks might be, there is a certain amount of shell shock that sets in and there is a definite risk of shortchanging a park and not giving it as much attention as it deserves.
We are definitely facing that problem here at Voyageurs partly because we are so tired. But also because this is a very difficult park to explore if you don’t have a boat. The park literature is very clear about that as they tell you that there are no in-park campgrounds accessible by car and that nearly all of the hiking trails start in remote locations that require a small boat of some kind to get you there. (It is also not exactly pet friendly, either, as there is just one hike, on asphalt, where pets are allowed.).
So if you don’t own a boat, what are your options? You can
rent one - there are outfitters in all the nearby towns that will get you set up with the gear that you need. You can even hire guides to take you into the wilderness areas. Those options will either cost you some money, or assume that you already know something about paddling a canoe or kayak. If you have these resources, this would definitely be the way to explore Voyageurs National Park.
For the rest of us, the park offers a few ranger-led programs that will get you in the water. A couple of them are cruises which take you on two or four hour excursions through the lakes, highlighting some of the popular points in the park. They cost a little bit, but with the senior pass you get a 50% discount, so they end up being a pretty good bargain.
But the problem is they are so popular that they book up fast. We went to the Rainy Lake Visitor Center yesterday and spent some time with Park Volunteer Scott who was really more than happy to help us out, sometimes getting ahead of himself with helpfulness. But he did a great job of suggesting a
set of boat rides that would help us appreciate the park. One of the cruises he recommended leaves from Rainy Lake on the largest boat the park has and we found openings tomorrow, Sunday and so booked the cruise.
We weren’t so fortunate with the second one he suggested, which, he insisted, was actually the better one. It leaves from a different visitor center, about a half-hour down the road, and uses a smaller boat. We checked the dates it was offered this week and everything was booked solid up until this coming Friday! He said we could wait for a cancellation, but confided that cancellations are rare. (What is more likely is that people just don’t show up, which, although highly rude and unethical, can’t be prevented!). Anyway, we were planning on leaving the area on Wednesday, so a Friday tour was not really possible.
In addition to the cruises, we have also booked two canoe trips where you get on a canoe with a few other people and a ranger and paddle around for a couple of hours. (We are a little uncertain about these, especially with Joan’s shoulder, but we’re hoping they will work out
OK.). We’d like to have a little bit of the canoe experience.
After wrestling with all these arrangements with Scott, we toured the exhibits and watched the movie, and then retired to a brewery right on the lake to finish planning our visit over a couple of fresh brews.
Yes, we are tired, but since we are not likely to ever get back up here to Northern Minnesota, we also feel like we need to do the best job we can of seeing this park while we are here. But the good thing about getting near the end of the trip is that you have a lot more flexibility - we aren’t bound as much by future campground or excursion reservations. We can make changes because the ripple effect down the chain isn’t as big.
So, after a beer, we decided we should book the Friday boat ride, extend our stay three days here at Arnold’s Fishing Village, and adjust our schedule for the rest of Minnesota. We looked at what else we had planned here in the state and simply extracted the St. Cloud portion of the trip altogether. Mostly, St. Cloud was supposed to be
a couple of down days before we begin our trip home. Joan had a rebellion item, the Munsinger Gardens, on the itinerary, but it wasn’t a high priority item, so it could go. We may have a very long driving day when we leave here down to Marshall, Minnesota, but we think we can manage it, and we will just take our down days up here in International Falls.
So we have downshifted a bit in order to adjust to circumstances. We probably could have avoided the problem if we had made boat reservations weeks ago, but there is just so much advance planning we can do! Arnold had space availability, so he welcomed our additional days, and we’ll be canceling the St. Cloud reservations later today. The decision has been made and we will be getting our boat rides in at Voyageurs.
And I’m glad we will be seeing more of Voyageurs. I like it when parks connect with each other and this park is very nicely tying together with several of the other parks. It isn’t on Lake Superior, like the last five parks, but it is definitely connected with the lake, and especially Grand Portage
as Rainy Lake is one of the main passageways used by the Voyageurs before they did the Grand Portage. And as I read about the geology of the area, I’m finding it very interesting that some of the oldest rocks in the world (2.7 billion years old) are found right here in Voyageurs. That extends the geology of Isle Royale and Keweenaw Peninsula back another billion years. These rocks are some of the original core of the North American continent.
Anyway, today is a downday as we rest up for our cruise tomorrow. I’m going to work on finishing the book about Voyageurs geology so I might appreciate a bit more what we see tomorrow. And we can also begin resting up for the trip home.
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