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History River

Day 39: Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Same old, same old, folks. I spent too much on cabs, shopping, and bloody cows, but it’s a nice change from the river. At least for a few days.

Tomorrow I meet with the Stearns History Museum staff. Time to charge the camera batteries.

Day 38: Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Showers, shopping, food, and no video. I spent the day paying a local cabbie to drive me to and fro to search out some replacement gear, groceries, steak and beer.

Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse, a rather upscale dining establishment, served up the best steak and beer I’ve had in a restaurant. Finally, a cook that knows that steak should be black on the outside, and red, but hot in the middle. My inner carnivore satisfied, I’d be back several times over the next few days.

Day 37: Monday, September 28, 2015

Sauk Rapids weren’t actually rapids. Well, maybe class one. It was fun to paddle thru after scouting the shore and I even braved the camera by putting it on a tripod right up front. Unfortunately, I must have fumble fingered the record button while positioning the camera because it didn’t record. So much for my “action” shot”…

Mary Ostby, from the Benton County Historical Society met with me and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours examining the small museum collection and discussing the local history. Despite having an extremely limited amount of space, the staff and crew have amassed an impressive collection of old time clothes, furnishings, military memorabilia, and sundry other exhibits for the public to enjoy.

The museum’s two firearms, both Winchester lever actions were in display cases. The original 1873 required little more than a touch of oil, and a small spot of rust removal. The second, a gold plated commemorative to honor the anniversary of Benton county required even less. Of course being gold plated, it’s not subject to the vagaries or dust, so I settled for wiping away a small finger print smudge on the stock, and simply admiring it. It’s a bit ghetto bling for my taste, but its still a Winchester.

Tour and interview over, Mary graciously drove me to St. Cloud, where I checked into a hotel for a few days. The Stearns History Museum will meet me in a few days and I need some time for cold recovery and gear repair.

On a side note, the cast iron canoe was left chained to a tree at the old bridge park, and after several days unattended, the canoe, and various bits of gear I left in it were untouched. This is either a commendation on the honesty and friendliness of the locals, or an insult to the quality of my gear. I’ll go with the more positive assessment.

Day 36: Sunday, September 27, 2015

Coming up on Sauk Rapids and should be there tomorrow. I’m going to camp early again tonight, not feeling so hot. The seasonal cold I get every year that lasts till spring has smacked me with a vengeance. Cuddling up to some audio books and Irish cocoa.

Day 35: Saturday, September 26, 2015

Late start today, with gusting winds. Made maybe a dozen miles and decided to camp. Hot fires, good food, and playing with some new bits of gear, I pretty much waste the day enjoying myself. I camp early, and stay up way too late.

Day 34: Friday, September 25, 2015

Having had enough fun for one town, I’m anxious to put some miles on. Leaving the useless green firewood next to the fire-ring, I’m hopeful they don’t recycle and re-sell it to another unsuspecting sucker. As you can tell, I’m still pretty sore about this topic.

Making few miles today, I just get back on the river and paddle downstream until I come to the first nice spot I can find and make camp. I haven’t even looked at the map. This spot has dry wood free for the taking.

Day 33: Thursday, September 24, 2015

After another breakfast cooked on my ill gotten firewood, I decide that some provisioning is in order. I called the number provided by the office ranger for a cab to travel the two plus miles to Little Falls proper.

With the friendly cabby’s directions to all things of interest in town he drops me off and I walk the town. Along the way, I visit the solemn veterans memorial located in a scenic overlook which celebrates and memorializes the lives and sacrifices of the men of Little Falls, through every war and conflict back to the civil war. Talk about your history lessons.

A few blocks further down, I stumble across a sign for the Minnesota Fishing Museum. Walking in and introducing myself to the charming lady behind the counter, she’s quick to offer a tour of their collection.

Brenda Perlowski, the assistant director of the museum, has her hands full. With an amazing collection of hand carved lures and antique outboard and trolling motors, the museum is well worth a trip for any fish friendly folks out there. Tell her I said hi.

After some shopping and a burger, I’m back at camp to square away my plunder. I do take the time to tour the park, with its impressive collection of period buildings, water tower, and sundry informative plaques. It’s a pretty place to visit, but the friendly staff really ain’t all that friendly. Exceptions for the young man who seems to run the office.

Dinner cooked over plundered wood again. I’m sooo bad.

Day 32: Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The hits just keep on coming here in Little Falls.

Spending a night primitive camping is my idea of a good time, so my mood had improved drastically with a little sleep, and a morning coffee. The good times didn’t last long though. A ranger arrived promptly after dawn to collect the next day’s camp fees and bluntly informed me that firewood could not be collected from the surrounding forest. It must be purchased at the office so conveniently located a mere ½ mile away. Feeling like I’m getting taken in the shorts, I grudgingly pass over money for the next few nights, and comment on the false advertised conveniences. The rangely tells me, I can leave at any time, but there are no refunds. Did I mention the friendly service?

Purchasing the firewood, for a whopping 6 bucks a bundle, gets me about about 24 spindly pieces of wood for about as many dollars. This was even more painful when I discovered that the wood had been a living tree less than 3 months ago, and was so green that even my considerably skill with fire-making had difficulty making it burn.

The redeeming quality to this stop was meeting Mary Warner, the museum manager of The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum. After a brief introduction and a quick self guided tour, she restored my faith in the community and regaled me with stories of the history of Little Falls and all things logging and timber related. As a published author of several books on these same subjects, she is a bona fide expert on the subject, and her passion and enthusiasm show.

With the video complete, I return to my campsite, which is conveniently located across the highway. Taking the time to stop in the office to try and exchange my very useless firewood, the park staff was partially restored to my good graces when the young man staffing the county proved to be both friendly and knowledgeable. We spent some time swapping stories and historical anectdotes before he regretfully informed me that the green firewood I had purchased was truly the best of the lot. Again, no refunds.

Back at camp I turn rebel, collecting a large supply of “gathered firewood”, rules be damned. After a good dinner and some schoolwork I’m out like a light.

Day 31: Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nice paddling today, with a north wind pushing me downriver for a change, and the scenery is spectacular. The abundance of Bald Eagles and other wildlife is amazing in this part of the river. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

Arriving in Little Falls, I find a slightly confusing and contradictory portage, but a worker from the power company helps me figure it out. The city’s portage is awful, but it’s only half the town’s fault. A 200 yard carry, with steps, along a sidewalk really isn’t so terrible, especially compared to some others I have endured. But I will never, never understand why they design them to put you wading thru the mud, and climbing over boulders to get in or out of the water. To be fair, the river level is low, but why the huge concrete steps guys? The water has been low before, will be low again, and a ramp is easier, and lower maintenance.

Of course, I’m in a bad mood because the Nemo Extremo portage wheels are still just as big a pile of junk as always. This time, during one of it’s many failures, it dumped the canoe and in doing so, managed to snag my prescription glasses. That was a $500 fail.

Arriving late to the campground at the Charles A. Lindbergh state park was another disappointment. Listed as having restrooms, electricity, an interpretive center, and sundry other modern niceties, I was looking forward to it. None of that was true however. The restrooms were closed. There was however, an outhouse located conveniently 800 yards away! Power and water were also available if one wanted to tramp an additional 300 yards to the one outlet and water spigot located behind the park office.

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