Guess where I am?
Guess where I am?
It’s close to midnight and we are almost asleep. George just nudged me saying, “Hon, can you hear them?” I knew immediately what he was talking about. We quietly got up and walked into the living room, listening.
We are parked along Fox Lake, ten miles north of Bemidji, MN. A perfect little RV park and we are facing the water. Loons. That is what we are listening to. If you have never heard them, you are missing one of Nature’s most beautiful sounds.
Now that I am fully awake and the loons are singing their midnight song, I will write a bit on what we have been up to this past week. A busy one for sure. Last winter, while in Mexico, we met Ken and Debbie Mandt. They are full time RVers from Minnesota and this summer they are work camping at Lake Kabetogama and loving it.
A stop to visit Ken and Debbie was in our plans, as we began our journey westward to Seattle. This beautiful lake is almost at the Canadian border just a few miles southeast of International Falls, MN. We arrived at the lake during the Mandt’s work day. Debbie was busy working with kids at making turtles out of stones. Ken was working with a young lad helping him make a fishing lure. He was also overseeing the dock activities. We were all delighted at seeing one another. Their big ol’ dog Buck greeted us with vigor as well.
We were camped a few miles away at Pokorny’s Resort; our coach just a few feet from the water’s edge. George loved it, and within the hour had his boat put together and in the water. He and Ken spent a couple of days fishing. Debbie and I went to town for lunch and enjoyed a good visit.
So much to see and do up here in the wilderness. There were two highlights that we most enjoyed. One was a pontoon ride on the lake, with Ken at the helm. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed that. The smell of the clean, clear lake and the pungent aroma of the pine trees that grow tall and proud on the islands, reminded us of our many trips to the area a long time ago.
We made our way over to a peninsula that has quite an interesting attraction. This little point is where the Ellsworth Rock Gardens are found. In 1944 Jack and Elsie Ellsworth began transforming the rock outcrop into an enchanting rock garden. Every summer their imagination transformed stone slabs and chunks into fascinating works of art. Small tables and chairs to mythical creatures, ponds and bridges, balancing rocks and so much more keeps one following the path throughout the garden. Today, the National Park Service is restoring the garden to its original state. One day visitors will see the same types of flowers that Jack and Elsie planted in their garden. We took several photographs and are pleased to share them, but the real enjoyment is to actually visit this garden. It is enchanting.
Our second highlight? Well that would have to be the encounter with the black bear that live throughout the area. George’s essay on the Black Bear of the North Woods follows.
Ken and Debbie, thanks for the fun week, the exciting tours and your great cooking. See you in November.
Here's the scoop on the bears. We were camped on the shores of Kabetogama Lake a short distance from Ken and Debbie Mandt and our purpose for being their was to visit with them. While out to dinner on the first night we were there Ken asked if we would like to visit a bear "sanctuary" near Orr Minnesota.
The American Bear Wildlife Sanctuary was the brain child of Mr. Vince Shute who operated a logging operation near Orr Minnesota. He and his employee's were having so much trouble with bears breaking in to cabins, destroying food stuff, breaking windows, destroying equipment that they began shooting and killing any bear that they saw in hopes of reducing the numbers and thus solving their problems with the bears. After killing hundreds the problem was not getting any better so a new approach was tried. They began feeding the bears on the back side of their logging property in hopes that the bears would hang out there and not interfere with their day to day operations. It worked. The bear were content and did no further damage.
Years later when his logging operation was discontinued Vince continued to feed the bears and he began to bond with them rather than despise them. After his death the American Bear Association decided to continue the feeding and establish a sanctuary where the public could come and observe the bear close up. Above ground walkways were built some 10 to 12 feet in the air and they ambled throughout the grounds. The bears are fed twice daily, once in the morning and again in the evening. There are no fences. The bears are free to come and go and that they do.
The bear activity on our visit was minimal but there was enough to hold our interest for a couple of hours. We had a great time and got some great pictures. Don't you agree?
After being spooked by us,
Mom runs all three kids up a tree to protect them. Question is, where is mom now? Did the two of us and the camera, end up in the tree?
Still cleaning out my shorts? More about this later!
Let’s see, it must have been 43 years ago that George and I took off for a long weekend of camping in the Boundry Waters Canoe Area, Ely, MN. We rented a canoe, loaded it high with our gear and began paddling north. At sunset we made camp on an island, lit a fire, ate hot dogs and beans and listened to Minnesota’s state bird, the Loon. Their lonely cry, at sunset, lulls you to a sound and restful sleep. We fell in love with the north woods and the lakes of this beautiful region. We traveled back to this area several times those first years of our life together. One of those trips took us over portages and down rapids until entering Knife Lake, close to the Canadian Border. We had heard of an elderly lady who lived all by herself on Pine Island in the middle of this lake.
On this particular day, we decided to find the island and stop and say hello to this intriguing woman. Dorothy Molter fell in love with the Boundry Waters as a young woman fresh out of nursing school. In the 1930s she moved to the Isle of Pines to help an aging friend with his resort business, thus allowing herself to enjoy the wilderness of Northern Minnesota. After the death of her friend, Dorothy took over the little business, renting the few cabins and canoes. Within a few years, she became well known, and hardy canoers found their way to her three small islands.
During this time, the government passed the Wilderness Act. Dorothy was offered $1.00 a shore line foot for the Isle of Pines. She said no. The government was consistent in their attempts to buy her out to the point of condemning her islands. She was heartbroken in fear of having to leave her beloved home. A friend of hers, who happened to be a reporter from Chicago, after discovering her plight, wrote an article about her misfortune.
Soon her fans from around the country began writing letters protesting the government’s intentions. After a battle between the “friends of Dorothy,” and Uncle Sam, a compromise was agreed upon. In 1975 Dorothy sold the islands, but was given the title of Overseer and Wilderness Nurse of Knife Lake. She was granted her wish to live on Pine Island for as long as she wished.
Dorothy, long ago, began brewing home made root beer. Her recipe was simple: pure lake water, root beer flavoring, sugar, and yeast. She bottled the brew herself, sold it to her visitors and they loved it. However, after the government took over, she was not allowed to sell anything. She began accepting donations and made more money and thus did not have to pay income tax.
She dutifully called in every evening to give a report on the lake’s visitors. She lived happily on her islands, greeting her visitors and offering root beer to all. People came from all over the United States and Canada to visit Dorothy. Signatures of thousands of visitors, such as George and Kathleen Brosius, June 11, 1969 to a 16 year old Julia Roberts in1984 were recorded in her books.
In December, 1986 Dorothy didn’t call in. She was found lying on her cabin floor clutching an arm full of firewood. She died in her home of 56 years, of a massive heart attack on the island that she loved at the age of 79. Her beloved friends lovingly disassembled her cabins and reassembled them in a wooded area on the edge of Ely, MN. Tours and her famous root beer are offered to visitors daily. She has not been forgotten.
George and I visited Ely and the Dorothy Molter Museum this past week. Fond memories of our visit with her on that day in June on our fourth wedding anniversary in1969 brought tears to our eyes. We are so very happy to have met such a remarkable woman. Visit www.rootbeerlady.com and read more of Dorothy.
George, Dorothy, and Kathleen 1969
Dorothys Island photoed by us in 1969
Kathleen at our camp on Knife lake a few miles from Dorothys Island June 11th 1969, our 4th wedding anniversary.
We do not plan any pictures with this blog and I think you will understand. We could show pictures of clouds about to open up in the sky to the rumble of thunder and lightening flashes and then the torrents of rain that just will not stop, but that would only remind us all of the damage that then comes from that severe weather.
We had lived in the mid-west area for virtually our entire life and have never experienced what our friends and family members are dealing with now. Because of our current life style we have been on the move and not in just one fixed spot and thus we seem to just be dodging the worst.
We continue to call those closest to us to be sure they are alright and feel terrible when we hear what they are having to deal with.
Yesterday, we with friends David and Patsy Kessler left to have dinner at Applebee's and it was raining lightly. By the time we finished dinner and needed to return to our coaches it was raining so hard that 30 mph was much to fast. We had 7 miles to go and a great deal of that was with water up to the floor boards of the jeep as we navigated the streets. Our coaches at the rally we are attending were parked on blacktop and fortunately there was enough of a slope to keep the water moving away from us but there were some parked in grass and areas where water puddled and formed lakes that would take a long time to disappear.
To reach this rally David and Patsy were given the option by the highway patrol to drive a short distance through 7" of water flowing over the road they were traveling or to detour around. Semi trucks were taking the option and proceeding but I think wisely David and Patsy chose to detour with the cars. On one road that we were traveling we too had to drive through standing water as a creek had come out of its banks and was covering the road. No one was there to give us any options, only a small yellow sign that said, "water over the road".
Our mail may not catch up with us here. We won't leave the coach with out the umbrella tucked under our arm or leave our windows open but believe me when I say that our little petty problems are minuscule in comparison to what many are having to deal with.
Our hearts especially go out to Jim and Sarah, cousins of Kathleen who have lost there home to the floods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and to Jamie and Leslie, Kathleen's nephew and his wife who have for multiple times this month dealt with high water and sewage back-up in the lower level of their beautiful home in Waterloo, Iowa.
To our friends who have been wondering about us, we are fine. We will be leaving this rally in a few days and one of our first stops will be to visit with Ken and Debbie Mandt, friends we made while in Mexico this past winter who are now work camping on Lake Kabetogama in Northern Minnesota.
Time is running short and soon we will be headed again for our visits with four very special grandkids and of course their parents too. There will be some 1400 to 1600 miles to travel before that visit and we will make the most of the sights as we travel west.
We have diligently tried to make the most of our visit in the Mid-West by at least trying to contact as many of our friends, former colleagues, and family members that we could. There just never seems to be enough time to spend with those near and dear to us.
We have experienced storms with rain and wind rumbling through our camp sites on nearly a daily basis. At times with the rain we have felt like we are already in Seattle.
The primary focus for us was to see that my mom is happily settled in her new apartment at the assisted care facility in Garnavillo Iowa. My sister, brother, nieces, nephew, and brother-in-law did a stellar job of relocating our mom and grandmother when it was recognized that she needed to give up her independent living. Mom has assured us on numerous occasions during our visit that she is happy with her new arrangement and enjoys the friendships she is establishing with fellow residents. It certainly makes leaving on our next travels easier to know that Mom is happy, healthy, and well cared for.
We have spent a great deal of our time camped out at Kathleen’s brother Jims country acre near Waukon Iowa. Of all our travels and camp sites this is high on our list of favorites. Not only do we get to share meals, visit, and relax but we can do so in a very pristine setting.