I had laugh as I made my first edit, still writing 2021. Maybe by mid January writing 2022 will be natural.
I started my New Year, after getting the first good New Year’s Eve sleep in years, with a nature hike.
I have enjoyed these trails on other summer visits to the Weerribben National Park so I was excited to see what I would experience in the winter. There is a fair number of wild animals that call the National Park home but mostly they remain hidden in the thick brush and reeds.
I was prepared for this hike with my new Muck boots. Thanks to my friend Janet in Canada who held onto these beautiful boots for a year and half. Finally, we realized this COVID thing wasn’t going to end anytime soon, she sent them to Minnesota. Yes, it would have been cheaper just to purchase them at a farm store in Minnesota but we didn’t know that a virus was going to delay her plans for coming to Europe. Anyway, thanks Janet, I love these boots for walking muddy Dutch trails.
This hiking trail goes through some marsh like woods. I was heading to a location I hadn’t explored before close to number 19 canoe site.
A small bridge goes over the canal and into the woods. I had never explored it much from the canoe site.
I started seeing signs of wildlife. Trails going across the landscape, feathers hanging on the grasses next to the trail.
Then my hike was halted by a gate. This trail was not a trail but a path to a private property. Disappointing!
Turning around and heading back to the main trail I continued for a few more kilometers. Hiking along the muddy trail in the isolated quiet of the National Park. The only other people I met were a couple who were trail running. They caught me hugging a tree. I had to laugh as I really thought I was alone in the woods.
That is the thing about the wilderness in The Netherlands you are almost never very far from people.
Hope that each of our readers gets out to your nearestwildernessin 2022.
With the COP26 starting yesterday in Glasgow, Scotland I think each of us that write about nature and our passions with it owe our readers how climate change is effecting our world.
WE SEE IT!
What will the next generations see?
Will they be able to enjoy the natural world, the healing properties of being outside, the variety of flora and fauna that currently exists?
Will the next generations only be able to read blogs like mine and others about how the natural world was before the great climate disaster?
I hope there is still time to stop the fast changes we are seeing and experiencing. We have made it a personal project here at The Cedar Journal to reduce our footprint. A difficult task since Hubby works and earns his living from the airlines.
How can we do better?
We struggle each day to limit our plastic consumption (mainly because I hate seeing the crap floating in our waters around the world!).
What more can we as individuals do to improve our own individual surroundings to help limit the bigger global climate changes?
This question I ask each of my readers to consider and make changes where you can.
We (the Hubby and I) came to the conclusion that governments and big business must be part of the answer! Consumers can do only so much. Large companies must find a profitable way to stop or limit the production of goods from fossil fuels.
I thought about climate this fall during my trip to Minnesota more than I ever have before. The signs of the Minnesota summer drought were everywhere. Dry grass, tree tops that were brown, rivers that were dry rock beds with puddles that trapped fish and lacked the flow that provides oxygen to those fish. Yes, dead fish floating in those puddles.
When I was on my last paddle of my vacation in the Portage River, one of the inlet rivers that feeds the Moosehead Lake at Moose Lake, Minnesota, I witnessed drought damage to conifer trees. Needles brown.
A friend (Kate) and I had decided to enjoy the last day on the water before my flight back to The Netherlands.
It was cool and windy but it wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying what little time we had left before I flew out of Duluth.
Kate is one of my oldest friends. She purchased my old Happy 4th blue 8 foot Otter kayak from me when I upgraded several years ago. I provided me many years of service and now recycled to a new owner, it has had many hours of enjoyment to Kate. This was the first time would kayak together. It made me happy seeing my two old friends (Kate and The Happy 4th) on the water paddling with me and my newer kayak.
We arrived at the Moose Lake boat launch and unloaded out kayaks. I mentally noted how nice it was to have help getting my 12 foot kayak down to the water. Mostly it is a challenge and each year that passes I find it more so. Since it has been two years since my Minnesota kayak has floated on the water I felt it also got heavier from being in storage… Is that possible?
We slid into the water and paddled across the slightly choppy lake to the Moose Horn River inlet. This is the river that feeds the Moosehead Lake from the North passing through Big Hanging Horn Lake on its journey towards the Kettle River and then into the St Croix River.
The inlet into the Moose Horn River was weedy and low but to our surprise there were hundreds of migrating geese hiding and feeding in the shallows. The water exploded with the flight of birds. Kate was able to capture the shot as they lifted off the water in a noisy fury. Two kayakers was two, too many, for these geese!
We paddled our way towards the Portage River inlet. This is one part of the Moosehead Lake I have never explored. New to Kate too. The wide inlet seemed still as glass as we paddled, protected from the wind blowing across the Moosehead, we now floated more than paddled along our route.
I always like floating or paddling on these sort of river routes. Most are rarely paddled and feel remote. The Portage River has this feel although we could hear the constant I35 traffic that speeds North and South, less than a mile away as we paddled.
As we paddled we took notice of the world along the river shoreline. A house here and there, a sawmill that neither of us knew about. Then a curve in the river, brought again isolation and natural surroundings.
Another curve brought a surprise beaver dam that extended the width of the river. I slowly paddled up to check out if we could just paddle over the top and continue up river. I suggested we not attempt. We turned our boats back the way we came.
My hope is that these special moments can continue to be shared with friends and family without the fear of extreme climate changes. That the generations that come after us will also find moments to share with friends in nature.
These moments are rare, when old friends can share a common experience. This was a priceless moment spent on a Northern Minnesota waterway.
The moment is now world leaders, big corporations, mining of fossil fuel companies, what future will you give humanity?
Hard to believe that it has been weeks since I was camping in Minnesota in September. Finally, I am back on stable ground here in my adopted home of The Netherlands.
I had planned on visiting and camping at Mille Lacs Kathio and Father Hennepin State Parks located on the southern edge of Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota in the Spring of 2020. Then COVID hit and those plans were ruined for 2020. My hope of getting to enjoy both those parks were also not realized in the Spring of 2021 and almost didn’t happen this fall due to international travel restrictions.
I scheduled my time at these two parks for the September 11th weekend so that I could relax in nature and be entirely away from the news. Something about reliving one of the worst days in American history is not something I celebrate or find it fun to relive each year. Nature is the answer to most things that are traumatizing and I intended on this escape to be my peaceful reminder that nature holds the key to wellness.
I reserved one of the cabins at Mille Lacs Kathio for two days and then planned on tent camping at Father Hennepin for September 11 (the Saturday night). I had heard that making reservations at Minnesota State Parks had gotten darn near impossible during the weekends due to everyone trying to escape “the cities”. When I booked most everything was full in most all the parks in the State of Minnesota for that weekend except for a tent site here and there. I felt pretty lucky that I was able to find a site.
I loaded my car from storage with all my gear for the weekend and headed out on this adventure.
I drove from Barnum, Minnesota to Mille Lacs on the dirt roads across country. These less travelled roads took me through the countryside where my Dad once travelled with his sheep shearing gear. Through an old turkey farm in Lawyer, large old dairy farms in Aitkin county that now sit like ghosts without dairy cows now only populated with hay ground and vacant buildings. Fall leaves and the damp earthy fall air gave me a feeling of freedom and a sense of a welcome homecoming.
I came along roadside farm stands, I stopped to see what was available. It was all part of the journey, taking time to enjoy what the day would bring. All the time wishing my Hubby was there to enjoy it with me.
I finally I ran out of dirt road and came out on State Highway 47 and started skirting the east side of Lake Mille Lac. The largest lake in Minnesota outside of Lake Superior. This lake has long been a destination throughout time for indiginous tribes and explorers. Now it is lined with small towns that cater to the tourist industry of fishing or the weekender escapees from city life.
Once I reached the town of Isle, the area started to feel more like the populated areas of the Twin Cities. Larger houses, newer cars, boats, and then suddenly the opposite… an Amish boy walking or an Amish family riding in horse driven wagons. Strange the contrasts of modern and simple living in this area.
Once I arrived at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, I was checked in by a very friendly employee who helped me with information about the park. I had wanted to kayak but didn’t want the trouble of loading and unloading my gear from my car. She told me that they had kayaks to rent and I quickly took her up on the offer of a rental. She did inform me that the river level was very low.
The gear was clean, well organized and reasonable at $15.00 for the afternoon rental. The kayak was at the launch and was not new or very clean but it was usable. Making this a great option to bringing my own gear from my storage unit.
The river that runs out of the South end of lake Mille Lacs is the Rum River. It continues across the middle of Minnesota running through four counties before dumping into the Mississippi River in Anoka, MN. I have fished part of the Rum River in Isanti county but I have never paddled this part of the river.
As I went and unpacked the car at my cabin I didn’t waste any time to get down to the river and load the rented kayak into the Rum River.
The summer drought in Minnesota was obvious instantly, the water level was well below normal, the launch point was crowded with weeds.
The levels in most of the river was about four to six inches and was filled with weeds. The water remained remarkably clear so it was easy to see the small fish swimming around the kayak. As I inched my way up river towards a larger lake like area, I got into the main river current flow. Even in the current the river was only at the most four feet deep as I tested the depth with my paddle. I could still clearly see the fish skirting (now much bigger fish) to get out of the way of the plastic boat intruder.
From the kayak I could see and hear trumpeter swans on the larger area just past the dam. There were also two eagles sitting on the shoreline of rocks surveying the water for food. Unfortunately my presence scared the wildlife into a frenzy of escape activity. Eagles and swans filled the sky as they headed in any direction that would deem them safe from the blue intruder.
I slowly turned and floated back downstream to the boat launch enjoying the stillness of the fall afternoon. I wasn’t alone as an Bald Eagle watched my every move from a perch high in a pine tree that overlooked the river.
I returned to my cabin ready for a cup of coffee. From my new coffee machine purchase. Yes, I was glamping this vacation!
It was a peaceful night at the State Park cabin. These are wonderful spots, located at this park, in a wooded semi secluded area. They have electricity, table, and beds but no toilet. The cost has increased to $90.00. I paid a few years ago $65.00 at another Minnesota State Park, but still a good value in my opinion.
Friday morning, I woke with a plan to hike before the weekend brought the crowds. I started with a hike up to the fire tower.
I love hiking these icons of Minnesota past timberland history. To think that men spent many lonely endless hours during fire season spotting for the puffs of smoke that could determine ruin for entire areas of forestland. But, the views from these vantage points are always breathtaking.
After hiking the tower and several other trails within the park I went to a local restaurant and had a wonderful walleye lunch.
The view of the lake from my inside seat was wonderful and the conversation with the local wait staff enlightening. Let’s just say I think that there seems to be either a lack of information in that rural area or maybe a lack of trust in government. With that in mind I read just yesterday that Mille Lacs area hospitals are now overwhelmed with COVID patients in their ICUs. I find that sad.
So let’s all be like the rock from Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Enjoy what we all can, when we can, with respect to each other and to nature.