Saturday, Lee and I decided to go down and see the visitors center at Ash River Trail. Mike, at the Lake Kabetogama visitors center had recommended seeing the beaver pond overlook so we decided to drive down and take a look. Plus, we like just driving around a bit when we get to an area. You never know what you will get to see and it gives you a good feel for what living in a place would be like. The thing that strikes us the most about this part of the country is the lack of people. Even in high tourism season, the roads are largely empty and the stores don’t feel packed. The largest group we have seen since coming here was at the Bear Sanctuary and that was only about 30 or so people. So we were a bit surprised by how full the parking lot was at the visitors center. Mostly it was tons of trucks with boats in varying stages of getting on the lake, and there were no people in the visitor center itself, so that was good. Actually, I am jumping ahead, so let me go back a bit.
On the way to the visitor’s center we stopped at the Voyageur National Forest Overlook trail. This .5 mile loop is categorized as easy…well not so much. The trail was very narrow, lots of roots, and there is a pretty steep climb halfway in. Plus the “overlook” is a rock where you can stand and see a little bit of forest. Not the grand vista I was picturing. Luckily when we started we bug sprayed because we needed it and brought a bottle of water, because it was hot in there. I’m not sorry we did it, but it definitely occurred to me before we jump into these hikes I probably should do some research. The sign on the trail gave minimal information and we really weren’t prepared if something had gone wrong.
The next stop was the Beaver Pond Overlook, which they state is moderate but I found way easier than the first hike. It’s short and although there is another steep climb there are hand rails and nice stairs going up to the observation deck. Here was the view I was looking for. Absolutely beautiful and we met a nice older couple on the trail who kindly pointed out some blueberries and a cool tree that woodpeckers had been working on. I love how people share their knowledge in these places. It’s a great way for newbies like us to learn.
Then we moved on to the Ash River Visitors Center. It was very nice, but I have to say I like the Lake Kabetogama center better. It did have a cool table though with a beaver pelt, moose antlers and a deer antler that people could touch, which I appreciated. Plus when you walked out back it had a nice view of the lake. We didn’t spend much time there but touching the moose antlers made the stop worth it. I get excited about all kinds of things…OK, I am picturing what Greg would say to that, but you know what I mean. It doesn’t take much to make me happy which is a pretty terrific way to live, I recommend trying it!
On the way back to the campground we saw a sign for NOvA, a physics laboratory sponsored by the University of Minnesota. In the spirit of our new lifestyle we made the turn and drove several miles down an isolated road until it reached a dead end at a large secured compound. It felt like we stumbled upon a secret lab (OK, not so secret; they do tours on Thursdays) but still it was cool. According to The University of Minnesota website, “The completed section of the detector is about 12 feet long, 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It catches cosmic rays – particles produced by a constant rain of atomic nuclei falling on the Earth’s atmosphere from space – at a rate of 3,000 rays per second. When cosmic rays pass through the NOvA detector, they leave straight tracks and deposit well-known amounts of energy” I have absolutely no idea what it is all about but “the $283 million NOvA experiment involves 169 scientists and engineers from 34 global universities and laboratories” and “when the detector…is completed, physicists will use it to explore the mysterious behavior of neutrinos, fundamental building blocks of matter that are thought to have originated in the Big Bang. Way cool. So in order to celebrate this discovery what else can you do but stop and take a picture with a big fish? We have passed this sign numerous times but never stopped and I couldn’t pass an opportunity to ride on the fish and get my picture taken. Plus, it’s across the road from my favorite little convenient store Gateway General . I really like this store because it has a little bit of everything, and yes, the prices are high, but not so high that you feel guilty for not driving the 30 minutes into Littlefork, Orr, or International Falls. Plus the people who work their are super nice.
That evening we went over to Linda and Howard’s for dinner. Linda had invited us earlier in the day and in true Full-Timer fashion we cobbled together a meal from what we each had available. What made this one especially good was the addition of fresh vegetables from the farm H&L are working on. We had marinaded chicken, quick pickle ribbons, green beans, and zucchini fries. It was all very good and healthy and I included the recipe for the Quick Pickle Ribbons below. Neither Howard nor I care for cucumbers but this recipe makes them taste a bit like sweet jerkin pickles and we both liked it. After dinner we played Qwerkle (Howard and Lee won and I came in second again, twice) and then we had a large beautiful bonfire and watched the moon rise. It was another 6 hour evening and I am amazed by myself and Howard’s capacity to hang in so late in the evening. It’s a testament to how good the conversation is and how easy the four of us have become with each other that neither Howard or I need to call it a night early as we are both kind of known for with our friends. Tomorrow it’s International Falls and maybe a pop over to Canada. Looking forward to it.
Quick Pickle Ribbons
- 4 medium size cucumbers; scrubbed but skin on
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
- 2 TBL dill weed
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 TBL kosher salt (sea salt can be substituted)
- Using a vegetable peeler peel the cucumber lengthwise into long thin ribbons. Stop when you reach the seeds and discard remainder
- Using same technique turn peeled carrot into long thin strips stopping when you reach core of carrot and discard
- In a large bowl combine cucumber, carrot, onion, dill weed, and pepper
- In a small saucepan bring vinegar, sugar, and salt just to boiling over medium-high heat
- Pour immediately over vegetables, stir to combine
- Cover and chill for 1 hour
- Ready to serve will last for up to 3 days
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