Saturday, November 18, 2023

Voyaguers National Park

Harper and Sophie on a Hike

Sunday September 24

Saturday night it rained, long and hard. We desperately needed the rain. We got over 3 inches, a month’s worth of rain in a single night.

We had the RV mostly packed and the rain stopped, letting us finish packing and get on the road by 10.

It’s a long drive to Voyageur's, way up north on the Iron Range, up by the Canadian border and International Falls, the “icebox of the lower 48”. It was overcast and drizzly, but the rain had stopped, mostly.

It took us about 6 hours with stops to get to our RV campground. Cathy and JA arrived at almost the same time. We are right on the shore of Lake Kabetagama, but not actually in the park. I took the dogs on a walk while Lee got things set up. It was wet but not too muddy. We walked up to an overlook and back down and then sat outside with Cathy and JA. 

We put the dogs in the RV while we sat outside for dinner, but Sophie was really on a tear, getting into everything she shouldn’t, chewing up a rug and one of Lee’s eyeglass cases. Too much time in a car for a puppy going through another teething phase!

Cathy made Italian wedding soup for dinner, with my homemade bread and Lee’s fruit crisp for dessert. Delish, but I was so tired. The dogs went out one more time and then to bed.

The dogs get a treat and their meds before bed, but I mixed up Harper and Heather’s bowls, so Harper got Heather’s Rimadyl and Heather got Harper’s Pepcid. I give the dogs another treat when I get up to pee (so Harper’s acid stomach won’t act up) and I couldn’t wake her up! That’s when I realized I’d mixed up my dogs. And it was confirmed when Harper woke us up by throwing up at 4:45 am. Oh well. I’m focusing better now!

Views Along the Rainy Lake Bike Trail

Monday Sept 25

In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast. Then I went for a short run while Lee took the dogs for a walk. This resort has its one hiking trail so I ran on that, two loops. That’s where Lee and JA walked the dogs as well.

We drove over to the Rainy Lake Visitors Center, explored the Center and then took the dogs on a hike on the paved bike trail. They’re not allowed on any of the other trails in the National Park. Lee took Heather back to the truck after a 1/2 mile; Cathy and I walked Harper and Sophie about 3 miles total. The bike trail is nice. I’m hoping to go back and ride the entire thing one day on this trip. 

After lunch at the nearby Thunderbird Lodge, we headed back to the RV to relax. We are figuring out what else there is to do. We could rent a boat, check out other trails, go biking, go to International Falls. No more rain, and it’s supposed to clear up too. Stars and an outside chance of seeing the northern lights.

Tuesday September 26

It was a little chilly last night so we ate dinner inside Cathy and JA’s RV. It’s a Scamp, smaller than ours but the dinette is pretty roomy. Lee made chicken satay with an Asian salad, rice, and watermelon. It was good! I was very tired so I didn’t stay up long. And I slept great, didn’t wake up until almost 6!

Lee was still asleep so I drew the curtain that separates the sleeping area from the rest of the RV, got some coffee, and started my breakfast. He was up by 6:20 and he’s back to taking the dogs out first thing, for which I am grateful.

Today Cathy and I took our bikes and drove back to the park headquarters in International Falls to ride the Rainy trail to the visitors center and back. It was a great morning for a bike ride! I started out wearing a windbreaker but I got rid of it halfway through the ride. 

It’s an interesting trail. Sometimes it was on the shoulder of the highway and sometimes it meandered off into the woods. I don’t know why it wasn’t a completely separate trail, but it probably has something to do with money. At about 6 miles Cathy decided to turn back. Her bike seat was bothering her. She wanted to explore the little town of Rainy and told me to go ahead.

Without Cathy I speeded up some. There was a headwind all the way to the visitors center, about 12 miles. I stopped at the visitor's center to use the restroom and eat the rest of my energy bar. Once I got going on the way back I really flew! I ended up averaging 12.2 mph for the entire ride, and a lot of the time on the way back I was going around 16 mph or more!

Now it’s sunny and relatively warm. Time to relax!

On Our Boating Adventure on Lake Kabetagama

Wednesday September 27

We had smoked pork chops from Green Machine Farm for dinner. Boy were they good! Once the sun started to go down it got chilly quickly. It’s been kind of hazy so not much in the way of stars, but the moon was beautiful last night, big, yellow and bright!

I went for another 3 mile run around the hiking trails at the RV park. Now Cathy and I are lazing around while Lee and JA go fishing. We have rented a boat for the day and when they get back, after lunch, we will all go out exploring.

Ellsworth Rock Garden

Thursday Sept 28

Around 2:30 we all headed out in the boat. It was cloudy and grey, and pretty choppy. It was a small fishing boat with 3 seats, so I sat on the front. It was chilly and the chop made the ride pretty rough. We were trying to go across the lake to Ellsworth Rock Garden, but first we went the wrong way so it took awhile to get there. There are lots of islands and rocky outcroppings we needed to get around too.

Finally we were on the right track. When we got close to the shore we could see the campgrounds on the lake in the National Park. They are only accessible by boat and they looked pretty cool. There were a few people camping but not a lot, it’s almost the end of the season.

The rocks gardens were really strange. From 1947-1965, Jack Ellsworth made this sculpture garden at their vacation cabin, with lots of flowers and weird little sculptures. When he died the property became part of the National Park. It fell into disrepair and was swallowed up by the forest. Gradually they are trying to restore it. It’s just really odd looking now, the sculptures are crumbling, and many of the flowers are gone. 

The return trip in the boat was much better. We went the right direction right away, and the chop was gone. I swear, I should just get a prescription for Xanax for any time I’m on a small boat. I’m terrible.

We had gumbo for dinner, pretty wonderful. We were all hungry. Lee thought we would have leftovers but there was hardly any left.

Again the moon was bright and beautiful but hardly any stars and no northern lights. This morning we are heading home. Time to winterize the RV and put it away. We’re not taking it anywhere this winter.

This was a nice trip. It’s a beautiful area, but unless you have a boat you can’t really get to most of the national park and any camping in the park itself is strictly primitive. My days of doing that are long gone. There are houseboats you can rent however. Maybe!

We Travel Well Together!

Monday, November 6, 2023

The Big Woods of Nerstrand State Park

This was back in mid September.

 We are hanging out in the RV for a few days at this state park. It’s very pretty. We drove down yesterday afternoon, only an hour and 20 minutes from our house. Parking the RV was a challenge but Lee got it done. The spots are narrow and there are a lot of trees. Once we were set up we took the dogs on a short walk to the Hidden Falls. Because of the drought there was only a trickle of water in the falls but it was still pretty. There were lots of steps to get to the falls and Heather struggled. We had to carry her down a few of them. We went back a different way, rocky and hilly but no steps. She was pooped by the end.
In the morning we went on a hike after a very nice breakfast. Scrambled eggs with bacon, green onions and corn. Yummy! First we did a shorter loop, then came back and left Heather at the RV. Then we took the other two dogs and hiked a bigger loop through the woods. It’s really beautiful. The leaves are just starting to turn. We hiked about 4 miles total and even Sophie was tired by the end.
The rest of the afternoon we just hung out. Lee did some mushroom hunting, while the dogs and I relaxed. The next day I needed to do a longish run. It was supposed to be 8 miles but I figured about 7 on trails was probably equivalent. I’m much slower on trails, the grass and rocks and roots slow me down even if it’s not very hilly. I did part of the outer loop of trails, through woods and a prairie restoration which was very pretty.
Then home we went. It’s so close, we were home before lunch. It was a nice little trip. Next up, Voyageurs National Park, up by the Canadian border, wayyyy north.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Oh Sophie!

A couple of days ago the dogs wanted to go out. It was around 5 pm, not dark yet, but approaching dusk. I usually go out with them because Sophie is an escape artist. She can still fit through the posts on our cast iron fence, and under them too. We put up netting, but she jumps on it and pushes it down, and then can get over it. We’ve staked the netting to the ground, but it tears, and then she gets through. We put up border fencing around the bottom of the fence and that keeps her from getting under it, mostly.

And recently she started eyeing the fireplace, wondering if she could jump on top of it , and then out to freedom. So we put a couple of chairs on top. That has thwarted that route, for now.

Fireplace Booby Trap

So, the dogs want to go out. But I’m tired, and busy, so I let them out without me. My rule for myself if I do this is to check on them every two minutes, without fail, because if she DOES get out, she can’t get far. Well, at least that has been the case, up until now.

I go out to check on them. Harper and Heather are nosing around. Sophie is nowhere to be found. I start calling. I look in the usual places, the field, the space between our house and the neighbors, our neighbor’s front yard, our front yard. No Sophie.

I run inside and tell Lee I can’t find her. “Come help me. NOW.” 

My eyesight isn’t great. I’m having cataract surgery in January and at times like this it can’t come soon enough. I’m peering down the street in front of our house, trying not to think about Eureka Road, the busy street on the side of our house, the reason we have a fenced in yard for the dogs, instead of an invisible fence.

Lee yells, “I see her!” “Where?”  I scream! “Behind the neighbor’s pool!” This is farther than she has ever gone before. I look over there and I see this little white speck, disappearing into the woods behind their house. Into the swamp.

She was way back in those woods. Scary!

I take off at a run, but not a very fast one, since I’m wearing rubber clogs. I don’t give a shit that it’s been raining a lot and there are large puddles between me and Sophie. Into the swamp I go.

It’s more than a swamp, really. It’s a large wetland, and it covers acres of land between us and the new subdivision. There are lots of places for a little dog to get thoroughly lost, especially if it gets dark before I can get her.

I can still see her though. She’s no longer running in hot pursuit of something, but she’s not coming either. I briefly wish I had some treats, or cheese, or meat, or something. I start crooning sweetly to her, “Good girl Sophie, come on Sophie, come Sophie, come.” Never yell at a dog if you want them to come! She’s stopped now, sniffing. Pees, and then looks at me with her little smile. I scoop her up. Thank God! I pick my way out of the swamp, suddenly aware that my feet are rather wet.

I’m still pretty freaked out about this. I’m a little ashamed that we have let this get so out of hand. Lee has ordered some fencing that looks okay that we can put around the cast iron fence. It’s taller than the netting and it has a pattern that will prevent her from being able to get out. 

For now I’ve taken the dog fencing from around the gardens in the backyard and put it around the fenced in yard again. I had wanted to wait until the ground was frozen so the dogs wouldn’t dig in the plant beds but at this point I don’t care. I just want Sophie to be safe.

This scared me pretty bad. What if Lee hadn’t been home? Would I have seen her disappearing into the woods? If she had gotten a little farther before he came outside she would have been gone. When we practice “come!” she’s really good, but that’s in an enclosed space, and with treats. We obviously need to work on this more.

I love little Sophie, desperately, hopelessly, the way you fall head over heels for a dog. But with this love comes fear too. She’s a smallish Westie, and she’s probably not going to get a lot bigger. She fits into little spaces, and she’s very very curious. She’s interested in the world outside in a way that Harper and Heather no longer are. 

I think I’ve learned my lesson, at least for now. No more going out in the backyard without a person, at least until the new fence is up, especially when it’s getting dark. We need to work on “come!” some more. And we need to stay alert. She’s a mischievous, funny little dog. Who knows what she’ll try next? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough!

Dog Fencing is Back Up Around the Yard

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A Cabin in Wisconsin

Monday, August 28

We are in a very nice cabin somewhere in Wisconsin on a lake called Peterenwell. We are out in the wilds, hardly any towns, cranberry bogs. There are plenty of houses but I think they are all seasonal cabins and almost nobody is home. Unusual for this part of the world this is not a natural lake; there’s a dam at one end. 

We left yesterday (Sunday, August 27th). It took us about 3 and a half hours to get here. We brought the pontoon boat but didn’t put it in the water until this morning. We got here around 4, with Suzanne and Kris not far behind. Sarah and Erik and the boys went to a Loons game (soccer) so they didn’t get here until late.


This cabin is big! 6 bedrooms, 3 full baths. We have 5 dogs with us, our 3, plus Mika and Kris’s dog Otis. All the dogs are small and old except Sophie, who is small and young. It didn’t take long for Sophie and Otis to become new best friends. Kris hadn’t seen Otis play like that in a long time. She was a little worried that it was too much for him, but he did ok. And he sure was happy wrestling around with Sophie, playing doggie tag and hide and seek. I think Harper was glad to have another dog entertain Sophie for awhile, although sometimes she jumped in too.


Lee made dinner last night, mushrooms and Swiss chard and polenta. We are not going to run out of food, that’s for sure. Everyone brought enough food to feed an army.

The moon over the lake was beautiful last night.

In the morning I went for a short run. Initially I was a little apprehensive since it’s so remote, but I didn’t see anything, only two cars, and one man walking his dog. No bears I’ve decided since there are just regular trash cans. Lots of deer, however!

Then Lee and I launched the boat. There’s a boat ramp really close to the house but it’s really narrow; we barely fit. We are not at all sure we can get the boat back out there. There’s another ramp across the lake. A farther drive but maybe it will be better.

Here’s a funny story for you. Kirby still wears a diaper at night but is getting really good at putting on his clothes. He can also take off his nighttime diaper by himself because they are pull-ups, and put on his underpants. This morning he and Leo got up before their parents, and Lee made them breakfast. When Sarah got up she asked Kirby what he did with his diaper. He didn’t know. Parents and grand parents looked around; no diaper. After breakfast Kirby had to go potty. When he pulled down his underpants he came running out of the bathroom. “I found my diaper!”

Well Kirby where was it?

“It was in my underpants!” He had put his underpants on over his diaper! I’m still laughing about this.

August 29, Tuesday

Sarah made ribs for dinner and they were delicious. We ate outside on the screened porch.

Then we had a fire. Suzanne had these cool packets that you toss in the fire and it makes the flames turn different colors. Then the boys played with their new airplanes that have flashing lights. Lots of neat things to do if you can stay awake until it turns dark!

This morning Lee, Suzanne and the boys took the pontoon and went fishing. They didn’t catch anything, and Lee said it was pretty windy. I didn’t run this morning, just did a little stretching. I’ll probably take Sophie on a walk later this afternoon.

This place is making me appreciate having a fenced in backyard. The first day I was putting everyone on a leash to go potty; with 5 dogs that was making me crazy. Then I realized that Heather and Mika don’t need to be on a leash; they’re not going anywhere! Sophie and Otis definitely do; even though Otis is old now he still has a strong streak of wanderlust. Sophie is not to be trusted, and Harper might be ok, but she can’t hear and  she might see a squirrel or something so I don’t want to find out.

Wednesday August 30

Yesterday afternoon I took Sophie and Harper for a walk. Nowadays when I walk both of them Sophie is charging ahead and Harper is lagging behind. Such a change from only a few years ago. I love my old dogs, but they make me kind of sad too.

At one point Sarah and Kris and the boys took out the kayaks and went paddling. They had a good time but getting back out of the kayaks onto the dock was a challenge. There’s no appropriate shoreline, just piled up rocks, so that was what we had to do. It took an extra person (me) to get the boys out and then steady the kayaks while the adults gingerly clambered out without tipping the kayaks over. We did it too!

One time when I took the dogs out to go potty Sophie grabbed something she found under a bush. It was a dead bird! Ewww! It was a warbler, just the right size for her to get almost entirely into her mouth but too big to swallow. Without thinking I wrenched her mouth open, grabbed the poor bird, and flung it into the lake! I was so disgusted! We really have to watch her every minute, she’ll put anything in her mouth.

Yesterday was Taco Tuesday; Kris and Suzanne made wonderful vegan tacos with lots and lots of fixings, including fajita peppers and onions, guacamole, vegan taco meat, fried sweet potatoes and lots more. They also had two types of Mexican cookies, which of course I loved. AND margaritas, and strawberry lemonade for the boys. Then later we had another fire, this time with s’mores. The moon gets more beautiful every night. Tonight, our last night, we’re going on a moonlight cruise.

Thursday August 31

This morning It was chilly, 45F! I went for a good run. The lower temps really helped. I ran a warmup mile and then did 8 400 meter repeats at 5k pace, recovered for a half mile and then did 4 200 meter repeats at mile pace. Every single repeat was on target, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Then I came back to the house and ate the last of the French toast that Sarah had made.

Lee and Suzanne and the boys tried fishing again but no luck. There’s a lot of algae in this lake. Maybe it killed the fish.

We’ve had a nice relaxing day. We sat outside for awhile, until it warmed up and the flies started biting again. Since then we’ve been hanging out inside. 

Our moonlight cruise on the last night was great. It was a full super duper blue moon, very pretty. On one side of the lake the sun set then shortly after that the moon rose on the other side. We putt-putted around admiring the moon and then went back. 

This was a nice, relaxing vacation. I think everyone had a good time. Kirby was tired, though. He’s right in-between needing a nap and giving them up. If he takes a nap he stays up too late at night so when he’s not at daycare he doesn’t take one. Sarah said he slept until 9:30 this morning! That’s late for a little boy!


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