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THURSDAY - Today's route took us through 100-miles of Northern Minnesota along the backroads and passed several dozen of the 10,000 lakes this state is known for.

I had no surprises planned for Tricia along the route, but when we arrived in the town of International Falls, MN on the Canadian border, we each were surprised by not one, but two "larger than life" statues.

Ten minutes later we had arrived at our campsite.

FRIDAY - Yesterday we were so surprised by the larger than life statues that we passed by towing THE POD without getting very good pictures. So this morning we had to go back to take the photos you see below.

One is a fairly well known character and the other a lesser known guy, unless you grew up in this area in the 1980s.

This 26' tall "Smokey the Bear" is the largest of it's kind in the country (erected 1953).

The 25' tall "Big Vic" statue was commissioned by a wealthy local named Vic Davis.
He used it as a symbol of protest against the U.S. government using eminent domain
to seize private land for the creation of nearby Voyageurs National Park in the 1980s.

When we made our reservations here in International Falls 6-months ago to visit Voyageurs National Park, I didn't realize their boat tours inside of the park didn't begin until mid-June. Coming to the Voyageurs National Park and not getting out on the water wouldn't really qualify as an official visit to the park in my mind.

I called the RV park owner a few days ago and asked if we might be able to change our reservation from five days down to just three. When they asked why, I mentioned because we couldn't get a boat tour of the park for another 2½-weeks.

That's when we were told about several "private" companies that offer boat tours of the park.

The National Park's Grand Tour is a 2½-hour tour aboard a larger and slower 49-passenger boat. The tour we booked covers the same distance in just 2-hours aboard a smaller 6-passenger boat.

The PROS about those numbers are that we should experience a more "personalized" tour of Voyageurs National Park on the smaller and faster boat.

The CONS of course, are that the NPS tour was only $75 ($50 for Tricia and $25 for me) and the "private" tour is $240 ($120 each).

Our thoughts were, pay the extra money, it's the only way we're getting out on the water with a guided tour this weekend and who knows if we'll ever be back in International Falls again!

We'll let you know if we made the right decision after we get back from our 4PM tour.



The trees looked a little thinned out on this small island.

That's because the beavers have been hard at work building their lodge.

This eagle's nest high up in the trees looked empty...

..., but in a nearby tree we spotted this guy keeping watch over the nest.

This little bridge was dislodged from it's foundation during the 2022 flood.
Captain Tim showed us where the bridge was supposed to be over two miles away.

Tricia and I joked that maybe we could afford this little island if it was for sale.

This is one of the Historic Fish Camps that the National Park Service now owns.

This hidden cabin is also now owned by the National Park Service.

These islands are mostly rock with very little topsoil for trees to grown in.

Captain Tim shared how he and some high school friends
would "explore" this and other abandoned gold mine shafts found in the islands.

Inside of this little protected bay are three homesteads still owned by the original families.

Here's one of the primitive campsites that you can rent from the National Park Service.
Of course you'll have to make your own arrangements to get to it and back.

One of the nicer shoreline cabins owned by a muti-millionaire from the area.

These lakeside properties are only accessible by boat, float plane or helicopter.

Now to go back and answer the question I put forth before we boarded the boat for our tour. Was it worth the extra money for the smaller private boat tour? The short answer is YES!

Turns out we did indeed get a private tour because no one else had signed up for the 4:00PM time slot. It was just the two of us and the very knowledgeable Captain Tim.

Captain Tim not only shared the history of this area that is now Voyageurs National Park, but also shared some personal history of what it was like growing up in International Falls.

He also shared some stories about the political atmosphere around the creation of the National Park back in the late 1970s. No one was "on the fence" about the new National Park that was being created, you were either all for it, or completely against it.

The people for it were glad the land would be protected from further development. There was already a "resort" or "fish camp" on the shoreline everywhere vehicle access existed. They also hoped it would bring more tourism dollars to the area.

The people against it were the landowners who would be displaced by the creation of the park. There were also those that enjoyed the lifestyle that they had here and didn't want anything to change. Then there were those that just opposed it because they didn't like anything the government did to impose new regulations upon them, it was the 1970s afterall!

If you only consider the 51 National Parks in the Lower 48 States, Voyageurs National Park ranks as the seventh lowest in annual visitors, so I don't think the "tourism dollars" they were hoping for ever materialized.

SATURDAY - So far we've only explored the Rainy Lake Region in the northwest corner of the park.

Today we're going to drive about 45-minutes down to the Ash River and Kabetogama Lake Visitor Centers in the southeast corner of the park and explore that area.

First up is the Ash River Visitor Center where we watched a short and humorous 20-minute video made by the Canadian version of the National Park Service back in 1964.

It depicted the life of a Voyageur back in the 19th century. The physical hardship it was to transport furs and other goods through the region between Montreal and the Pacific Coast.

By infusing a little humor into the storyline it held our full attention, without it we may have otherwise tuned out.

While visiting the Ash River area we checked out a short ¼-mile hiking trail that lead to an overlook of a large pond, oddly enough the trail name was the Beaver Pond Overlook Trail, how clever of them. But the beavers were even more clever, because they were nowhere to be found in the entire pond.

Up, up, up, always heading upwards.

Not quite there yet!

There it is, the Beaver Pond Overlook at the end of the trail.

While there were no beavers, there was other wildlife to see.
See that white speck in the middle of the photo?

If you didn't bring your binoculars or Tricia's "big camera" you might have missed this scene!

Papa swan was taking his bath! This video was shot from 100+ yards away.

We thought we were finished with the Ash River area of the park and were preparing to travel back to the Kabetogama Lake area when we spotted this from the edge of the road.

Apparently the beavers have changed their address and moved their lodge to another pond.

They also constructed a rather large and impressive dam on their new pond.

It is so well constructed that it appeared to be man-made, but it's not!

The Kabetogama Visitor Center doesn't appear to be inside of the National Park at all, instead it's located inside of the Woodenfrog State Forest. There is no RV camping inside of the National Park, but here in the State Forest you'll find a First-Come-First-Serve 60+ primitive (no hookups) campsite campground. I should also mention there was a small eight primitive (no hookups) campsite campground over by the Ash River Visitor Center, also in the State Forest and First-Come-First-Serve.

Each of the three National Park Visitor Centers offer a boat tour, but remember they don't start until mid-June each year and end sometime shortly after Labor Day.

MONDAY - We've throughly enjoyed our weekend here, in and around, Voyageurs National Park. In order to "keep it real" though I want to talk about a couple of things we haven't been enjoying.

Sadly there's not to much we can do about either situation.

That's the sunrise and sunset time for International Falls, MN today. It's just a fact that the days are longer the further north you go during the summer. We are just south of the 49th Parallel, which since 1846 has been the border between Canada and the United States for anything west of Minnesota.

Compared to South Florida, where we both grew up, that's a big difference. We are losing 72-minutes of sleep in the morning and 59-minutes of darkness in the evening. We can mitigate a lot of the light inside of THE POD by pulling our blackout curtains closed, but not all of it.

We both find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep while it's light out. The good news is everything after this stop will be further south and east of our present location for the rest of the year. So the daylight hours should gradually get back to normal from here.

The 2nd situation that's been interrupting our sleep I can explain in one word, MOSQUITOES!

Again, we both grew up in South Florida, so we're more than familiar with these pesky insects. But I'm also here to tell you the Florida Everglades, called the "River of Grass", comes in second place when it's compared to the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" of Minnesota for being the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Our only hope of relief is if the temperature drops to below 50°F and stays there. Right now it's a comfortable 75°F which unfortunately is perfect for the mosquitoes too!

I don't know how they do it, but every night we are battling another wave of mosquitoes inside of THE POD. We've resorted to using our mini-vacuum to "suck them in" and keep them jailed until no movement is visible inside the clear chamber. It's working rather well too!

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