Updated: Oct 10
Friday, 15 September 2023, Voyageurs NP
Such a struggle. Do I push to fit in as much touristing as possible during my fleeting visits to the parks, or reject a frenzied pace in favor of indulging in indolence? I hear the siren song of 21st century society urging, "More! More!" - but must I listen?
Isle Royale encouraged me to slow my pace, Voyageurs has demanded it.
When I planned this trip, convenient lodging was in short supply in northern Minnesota, but I found that the Kettle Falls Hotel (in the park, no less) had a room for two nights at only $70/night. Now it's 2:30, and I've ambled along every trail (and blazed a few of my own) in this neck of Voyageurs' woods.
The boat ride to Kettle Falls (since the park is 40% water)
from the Ash River Visitor Center left at 11:00, racing over the water for 25 minutes, past inlets and islets too numerous to count.
The boat took a dozen passengers over; the last two on board had to stand.
Once he docked the boat, the captain got our luggage loaded in the trailer attached to the golf cart. He then zipped me up the road (less than half a mile - this is a small, cozy nook) to the hotel. The view of it at the end of the tree-lined lane put me in mind of the hotel from The Shining.
The century-old hotel - built in the 1910s - exudes a peaceful charm. The rooms are efficient, with multiple restrooms down the hall. Outside, a volleyball net stands, waiting for players to arrive. Plastic chairs dot the grounds, and a full-length screened verandah has many more wicker chairs to relax on.
After a quick lunch, I took a map and ambled around our acres.
On the east side, docks provided an anchorage for boats on Rainy Lake.
In the middle lies the Kettle Falls dam -
not built for electricity (hard to generate power when the water level in Namakan Lake is only 8' higher than that in Rainy) but to make it easier for lumber to travel down the Voyageurs route. [Fun fact - from the deck overlooking the dam, you can look due south into Canada.] On the west end you'll find the docks for the boats from Ash River. All put, trail mileage here totals under a mile.
Now I'm sitting on the verandah, looking at a sky of clouds sprinkled with shards of blue. The fall colors have barely started,
with accents of yellow and red mixed in with the dark shades of evergreens. The do have WiFi here, but I'm in no hurry to expose myself to the depressing news continually coming out of the surReal World. (On my meanderings, I saw an interesting warning sign:
Seems like that sign should be installed on the entrance to any city! I asked around, though, and one of the staff said that sign was in the area where the hotel's sewage processing is handled.)
Amusing note - over many years, the hotel's foundation settled. By the time it became part of a new National Park in 1995, people called it the Tiltin' Hilton: floors rolled, door frames skewed out of true, windows angled. The NPS renovated and repaired it, straightening it out, reducing the number of rooms from 18 to 12. However, they left the rolling floors in the bar unchanged (but shored up). Heaven forbid you drink a few too many here!
Time to read. Time to write. Time to waste without feeling guilty about it.
Time to explore the nature within.
Tomorrow I've rented a kayak, and will see the park from a shoreline point-of-view. The time off my legs will hopefully help - the uneven footing of the Isle Royale trails worked the muscles hard, and the staircases both wooden and dirt at Apostle Island really taxed them. Or maybe I'm just getting too old for this gallivanting.
I had worried heading into this trip that after the immensity and grandeur of Alaska last month, any other park would pale in comparison. Instead, Isle Royale and Voyageurs turned out as the perfect follow-ons to Alaska. They don't need peaks or glaciers or bears to deliver a more intimate exposure to nature - a more human-size exposure to nature. Not as grand, perhaps, but just as essential.
Later. I wandered out at 6:40, hoping for sunset pics, but only got a few steps down the lane before I felt the light raindrops. Scratch that! I returned inside, and tried again four hours later, hoping the clouds had wrung themselves out and vanished. I had finally bought a cable remote for my camera, and looked forward to finally getting star pictures. It took me a bit to set it up, remembering the tricks I'd learned earlier, but I actually got a shot - not of stars, but of the clouds that still hovered overhead. Maybe tomorrow it will clear.
A comfy chair in the lobby enticed me, so I settled in with my book. Before long, two men wandered in from the tipsy bar. One man served as the Designated Walker, trying to steer his buddy toward the stairs. Buddy made a beeline for the couch, though, diving into it. I watched as the scene unfolded, DW cajoling his friend, dragging each foot off the couch (and Buddy moving them back) for 2-3 minutes befoe he finally got Buddy upright and to the staircase. I'm glad I never got enticed by alcohol...