Lake Itasca, MN

June 22, 2010

My original plan yesterday was for us to go about 60 miles, so we could have a short ride into Lake Itasca (EYE-tas-ka) today. The people at Hitterdal told us that Itasca was 75-80 miles away, and that since we were in good shape, we should be able to make it. I was not so sure, but Elliot was on board for it.

There was a deer standing in the middle of the road ahead near a farmer’s field, as an oncoming car approached. It bounded away before I could take a picture It had a big, white butt, unlike any deer I’d seen, and I realized that it might have been the first antelope that I had ever seen in the wild. Later, we saw a gaggle of ten goslings waddle across the road before us. I thought they were full-size geese, because they were about 2 feet tall, but then the mother followed, who was 3 feet. This is common on the road – experiences captured only in memories, not on camera.

We stopped in Richwood, at the Burger Barn, for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised by the price, and found later that I had inadvertently ordered the Monday special, which was Cheeseburger and fries for $3.15. There was just one girl taking the orders and serving, and she was pretty, too. She later chatted with us and we found out she was 17 (Elliot’s age), and going into senior year. I tried to take her picture when she brought the food to our table, but mistakenly hit the power button on the camera instead of the shutter release. To Elliot’s friends: sorry, too bad.


As we rode on, I remarked to Elliot that I would rather have rain than the hot sun. Later in the day, the sky became overcast, which was a blessing. As we neared our destination, the terrain became more rolling and wooded, and the black flies came out. I watched a swarm following Elliot at speed on the bike. He got a bite.

Even after entering the South Gate of Lake Itasca State park, it was still several miles to camp headquarters. That’s when it started raining like crazy. I didn’t get a picture, because I didn’t want to open my front pack to get the camera. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started, and I quickly took a picture.


The rain seems to have driven turtles out. I rescued this one from the middle of the road. It peed on me.


I got a phone call from Merrianne while riding, but cell phone reception is spotty in the park. We got cut off in the middle.

A campsite was $20. I inquired about the AYH sign I had seen when entering the park. That was $27 per person. I was thinking to spend the whole tomorrow in the park, camp one day, but one day in the hostel to dry out, do laundry, and sync with the internet. The weather forecast was posted on the bulletin board. Tomorrow night, Occasional Thunderstorms. Tonight, Severe Thunderstorms. Which should we choose?


Mississippi Headwaters Hostel

There was wi-fi at this Hostel, and Elliot got on the internet last night. There was no laundry. The only people here were Jackie, who is from the Minneapolis area, and the host. The host left after checking us in, saying that we could call the number if we needed anything.

Rather than bike 3 miles to the park food service, we decided to stay in and eat our freeze-dried meals. Elliot said it was really good, as good as the restaurant would have been. I think Rat Testicle ala King would have tasted good after our time in the rain. We had ridden 82 miles.

This is the most deserted hostel I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s practically void of leftover food. We’ll head out to food service later, but this morning, I’m having a cup of hot water with a spoon of brown sugar in it.

4:00 pm. We ate at the Douglas Lodge (park food service) this morning, a huge breakfast for $5.50, and I ate every bite. The guy next to us couldn’t finish his.


People had suggested riding the Wilderness bike path all around the park. The loop is 10 miles, and Jackie told us it takes 2 hours.


It's actually not that steep


This is not a bridge, the boardwalk goes on for a quarter mile

We rode part of it, and at the rate we were going, we could have finished in one, but decided to jump off at the North Exit of the park, and head toward Bemidji. It was 30 miles, and though it would be a “short” day, the original plan was to stay at the park.

But before we left the park, though, we made a stop at the Mississippi Headwaters, the source of the Mississippi River. It reminded me of Jackass-Ginger Lake in Hawaii – fresh water and not too cold.


Just outside the north entrance to the park, there was a country store, and we refilled our water there. It smelled like sewage, Elliot said. He went inside and bought bottled water, instead. I decided to not be picky and keep the toilet flush for hydration. (By the way, I didn’t get sick later.)

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