Sunday, July 12, 2009

Drive Day 2: 06-11-09 Grand Rapids, MN to Red Lake, Ontario

When I looked at the clock when I woke up it said 4:39 am. Well, since I was planning to get up at 5 am I may as well get up now and take a shower. I slept pretty good last night.

Next I went up stairs to make breakfast. It wasn’t long before my step mother came out of their bedroom. We talked while I made my oatmeal and two pots of coffee. I usually bring two thermoses when I travel any long distances. It saves searching for some coffee shop looking for some GOOD coffee. There are many times its not even worth the time and effort in trying to find a place, so I just bring mine along. I refuse to buy gas station coffee.

My father got up shortly before I hit the road. I said my good-byes to them. I was ahead of my schedule by 40 minutes. When I pulled out of the driveway it was 5:50 am. The skies were partly sunny with the temperature of 47 degrees down by the lake, but it wasn’t long before the temperature dropped to 44 degrees.

My first stop was in Grand Rapids to fill up with gas at the Holiday Gas. Gas was 7 cents higher than when I filled up in Champlin. Gas in Champlin was $2.57 a gallon.

I took Hwy. 38 north out of Grand Rapids. One hour after I left my dads I saw a Timber wolf crossing the road up ahead of me north of Marcell. I noticed that all the lakes were smooth as glass since there was no or very little wind.

When I got to Big Falls at 7:35 am the temperature was one degree warmer at 45 degrees. I was 38 miles from International Falls where I would cross the border. I’ve never crossed into Canada from International Falls before.

The skies have been clouding up the further north I went. When I was 20 miles from the border I could see it was raining up in the distance.

It was time for more gas in International Falls. It was three cents higher here than in Grand Rapids. It has taken me 2 hours and 22 minutes to get this far. Very little traffic on the roads this morning.

It was only a few minutes before I got to the private bridge owned by Boise to cross into Canada, but not before handing over $6.00. Then I was given the ok to cross. Once on the Canadian side I pulled up to the booth with a young lady in uniform. She was very pleasant and she asked me the same routine questions that I’ve been asked before. I gave her my Minnesota driver license and passport. She looked at my canoe and asked my reason for coming to Canada and where I was going. After I answered those questions she wanted to know if I would be bringing back my canoe. That was a simple yes.

It started to sprinkle just as I left the customs lady. From here on in it would rain on and off all day long. I made my way to Provincial Route Highway 11 and headed east toward Highway 502. I stopped at the first rest area after I turned north onto Highway 502. There were two uncovered trash cans that had been knocked over by some type of animal. Trash from these cans was lying all around. Because there were very little leaves on the deciduous shrubs I could see a large amount of old trash out behind the latrine where the animals have taken the trash into the bush.

The first large animals I saw in Canada were two large bucks in velvet. The antlers were about 6 inches high, but very thick bases. The antlers were starting to spread out.

Thirty-eight miles up Highway 502 there was a big healthy moose off to my left, but I didn’t see him until I drove past and looked back. I saw him too late to stop to try and get a photo. Just a short ways from the moose I saw my first Black bear of the trip. It was a sow with her year old cub next to the roadway. I took a photo, but realized I didn’t adjust the exposure on my camera properly.

There was another bear 64 miles up on Highway 502. This bear was sitting to the right of the roadway where the road went through an area where the bedrock had been blasted away to build the road. I couldn’t get out of the Suburban to get a good photo.

Continuing on my journey I rounded a corner when two Turkey vultures came fairly close to flying into the Suburban, but they veered off at the last second. There must have been something good to eat.

My next encounter at mile 71 was a big Bull Moose. I was able to snap a couple quick shots of him. He checked me out as I slowed to take a photo of him.

The skies continue to cloud up, rain, break up and do it all over again.

Another black bear at mile 80.

I’m listening to Andrea James on 92.7 FM , CKDR, out of Dryden. Andrea has been calling for sun showers since I’ve been listening to her.

One more bear at mile 88.

It was 10:45 am when I arrived in Dryden. Mileage 116282. Five minutes later I was pulling into a Subway. For those who know me or have traveled with me to canoe races, canoe trips or for work know I frequent Subway quite often. Those who don’t know me say “what the hell” another Subway. I picked up a 12 inch chicken breast…toasted! I only planned to eat half of it and putting the other half in my cooler. Just before I left I asked the lady if there was a Subway in Red Lake. She said there was one and the owner of this Subway used to own the one in Red Lake. I never did make it to Subway in Red Lake, but I saw the sign for it. I even took a photo of it.

Out of Dryden I traveled Highway 17 to the west to get to Highway 105. Taking Highway 105 north would take me into Red Lake. I only saw two large bodied deer along this stretch of road.

When I arrived in Red Lake it was 1:35 pm. The temperature was 59 degrees and my mileage was 116417.

First thing I did was fill the Suburban up with gas. It was $1.11 per liter. I put in 57.205 in for $64.01 Canadian. This was a full service gas station or maybe I parked in the full service lane. Whatever, it probably cost me a little bit more.

When I spoke to Claire Quewezence earlier she told me to drive to the only stop lights in town, turn left and their building would be on the right side. That’s exactly what I did. First I parked on the street then walked inside and inquired where the Park office was located. I then walked over to the park office and asked for Claire. Kate whose name I recognized as the one who sent my park permit to me was behind the counter. Kate said Claire was on lunch, but she should be back shortly.

I introduced myself to Kate and the other park employee whose name I forgot. Sorry about that…Anyways I explained to them that I had spoken to Claire and she was going to let me to look at the office topo maps. They began pulling out topo maps and while they were doing that in walked Claire. Claire was very helpful and I’m glad to have stopped in.

After talking with Claire I decided to change up my option if I decided later to expand my route. My first option was to head from Welkin Lake to Beamish Lake, to Irregular and then back up to Mather. Now if I decided to expand the route I would go to Haggart Lake the way I planned ahead of time. Then I would head NW to Broken Arrow Lake, Haggart River back to Bulging. Claire told me this was a very scenic area of the park. Also, I would have a better chance to see the elusive Woodland Caribou. The caribou were still on the islands with their calves, but they should be moving off pretty soon. Claire told me they are going to start to evaluate some of the campsites on the islands that the caribou are known to give birth. Most likely these islands will be off limits to any camping due to the devastation of the vegetation that’s needed for the caribou.

Prior to leaving the park office Claire told me where Harlan Schwartz of worked in town and how to get there. After I spent about an hour and a half at the park office I drove to the business district of Red Lake. This part of town was to the right at the only stop lights in town when I came north.

I drove to the place where Harlan worked and parked on the street nearby. I walked upstairs and there wasn’t anyone behind the counter. There was an opening to the back storage area marked with "Employees only”. I waited about 5 minutes before I heard some noise coming from the back. I saw an employee in the back. When she looked up she finally saw that I was standing there. She told me she didn’t here the buzzer when I came up the stairs. I told her I wasn’t listening for one, but I didn’t hear it either.

She said her name was Angie and that Harlan was out helping customers. She didn’t know when he would be back, but she gave me his new work cell phone number. I used their business phone to call Harlan, but he didn’t answer and his v-mail box wasn’t set up. This was around 3:30 pm when I tried to call him.

Angie told me to come back in about a half hour and maybe he would be back. I left the business and drove around a bit. There really wasn’t too much to see when I drove around. I returned about 15 minutes later. Angie was on the phone, but when she was done she called another person who was with Harlan. She handed me the phone. Harlan told me he would be working until about 0530 pm.

I told Harlan that I would just going to drive to Leano Lake today. I told him I would try and stop by when I came out of the park.

Claire told me how to get to Leano Lake when I was at her office. I drove past the government building where I was earlier and continued driving to the west. After the second turn off to Madsen I made a right turn onto the Suffel Lake Road. This right turn is where the road sign that has the first part of it ripped off. This was a gravel road. Claire told me if I missed this turn and continued straight I would go to Starett Olsen. I would know I missed it because this road will dead end. I looked at my watch and it was now 4:00 pm. I was told it should take about 1 ½ hours to drive to Leano Lake.

Earlier, I was given some maps of the general area so I followed along on the map that showed the road accesses to the park. I followed along on the map and to the compass reading on my Suburban to give me a general idea where I was driving.

It started to rain at the 6.7 mile mark, but it would once again clear up. Another 3 miles down the road there was a black bear sitting on the side of the road eating something. It would amble off into the brush as I drove by. This would be the only bear I saw on the road to Leano Lake.

I continued driving when I looked over to my left and saw a small portion of a rainbow. I continued driving to see if I could get a better view of it other than what the surrounding terrain provided me. I decided to get a photograph of what was offered to me before the rainbow disappeared.

The Suffel Lake and Iriam Road were in fairly good shape considering the amount of rain they’ve had the last few days. There were washouts, areas where the water was completely running over the roadway and I can’t forget to mention the many ruts. The first area where the water over the road was a little nerve racking, but I didn’t see any ruts so the bottom must be pretty firm. At least I was hoping. Claire never told me about any standing water over the road when I was at her office so maybe this was in the last couple of weeks. I just dropped the Suburban into 4 wheel drive and off I went. I made it to Mile 51 Road without any incidences. The road was marked with a sign showing the way to turn to Leano Lake. The sign said it was 5 km to Leano Lake. There was a small section where water was over the Mile 51 Road but the bottom was firm. I didn’t have any problems driving this dirt road either.

I continued down the Mile 51 Road to some more signs showing that I needed to make a left turn onto a spur road. Later on, I walked straight from this junction on the Mile 51 Road where I saw some orange ribbon that had been originally been tied across the roadway, but now it was all bunched up on either side of the road. This used to be the way to the entry point of Leano Lake. The orange ribbon was the first sign showing not to enter. The second sign was a large dirt berm. If you made it past the berm then you would be checking out where the culvert used to be down below. The culvert had been removed so it wasn’t possible to continue any further.

It was 6 pm when I arrived at the new parking lot for Leano Lake. This parking lot was made last year along with a new longer portage cut to Leano Lake. My mileage was 116466. It was 423 total miles from the time I started from my home in Champlin, Minnesota to here. There were three trucks and a mini-van in the lot. The license plates showed one from Minnesota, Manitoba, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Once I parked I grabbed my camera and walked around the area. I continued on this spur road to the south where the new parking lot had been built in the middle of it. I walked a short distance when I came across some trash that contained mostly all beer cans. The beer cans have bear teeth marks. I’m not sure if the bear had grabbed someone’s trash or it was thrown there by someone. I continued to walk this road/trail for 500 meters. I’ve started bringing some Ranger pace-counting beads on my trips so I know how far I’ve walked. Or I should say it’s easier for me to remember when I’m counting.

I backtracked to the parking lot then I decided to walk the new portage to Leano Lake. The old portage was 60 meters long. This new one is 350 meters. I got 380 meters when I walked it. The portage isn’t marked, but when you drive into the parking lot it’s to the right and in the very corner.

The portage was in good shape. There were some wet areas early on, but you can expect just about any portage to have some water. What I found when you travel in Wabakimi or the Woodland Caribou you better be prepared with the proper footwear, because your feet are going to be wet all day from wet-footing. If you’re not prepared to wet foot it you may as well stay home.

When I came back up the trail it began to rain. I didn’t have my rain gear on and I didn’t have any protection for my Nikon camera. I quickly upped my pace. I got to my Suburban and jumped in the driver seat. I began writing in my journal while it rained.

Kate at the park office had printed out the 5 day weather forecast for me and it still looked like the weather will change for the better.

It’s only 7:50 pm and I’m ready to lie down, but it’s too early. When it stopped raining I got out and walked the Mile 51 road to where the culvert had been removed. When I was done looking over that area I walked the same road but to the east a distance before going back to the Suburban.

I was thinking of sleeping in the back seat of my Suburban, but I know from past experience that isn’t too comfortable. I decided to make room in the back. I rearranged the stuff in the back and made enough room for me to squeeze in.

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