Summer Travels Redux

The alpha and omega of the Mississippi River

Click  images for a larger view.

Image at right was shot somewhere on the long, slender finger that juts out into the Gulf — at about the five o’clock position on the Louisiana silhouette map, right. At left you see the origin of the river and urchins… doing what urchins do.



Toddlers with good balance… and adults step across the Mississippi. Fun after two glasses of wine.  Lake Itasca in the background.

The Great Mississippi River run from Louisiana to Minnesota died in the storms of late spring and early summer this year. However, the Mighty Muddy will probably hang around long enough for a retry at some point. In the meantime, we did visit both extremes.

The Mississippi River begins a 2,500 plus mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico as it flows out of Lake Itasca in Minnesota. There, a toddler with good balance can march across in a few carefully placed steps. At almost any time during the day, one can find the small rivulet filled with wading tourists, and the aforementioned urchins, gleefully adding the very first pollution to the 1-IMG_4359river.

Land of Sky Blue Waters and… Urchins. Urchins. Urchins. At right a stele, located just to the left of the spindly tree at left, carved from a tree,  marks the spot where lake ends and river begins.








So the question then became, where to next? This is our modus operandi most of the time anyway. If we like a place… we hang around for a while, fascinated by interesting scenery, a museum/interpretive center of almost any kind, or good neighbors. A hamper full of dirty clothes, a flat tire or some other  RV problem can also glue us into a spot for an extra day or two. But mostly this question about what’s next comes up the day before we’re about to leave.

Neither of us were anxious to hang around Lake Itasca for any longer than it might take to tiptoe across the river and then boogie. Too many people, too many bugs, too many trees, too much brush, too many low hanging branches – all those things conspire to make a wide-open-spaces couple from out West, downright claustrophobic. So we lit out, always with the idea of moving eastward.

Old History

Much of the country through which we traveled contains history that dates back into the 18th Century – old by American standards. The demand for fur and a desire for a Northwest Passage brought intrepid souls from England, France and other countries to explore and search.

The Verendryes expedition buried a lead plate here in 1743, claiming all the land for France.  Louis XV was king of France and America was a British Colony. Monument can be found on the west side of the Missouri across from Pierre, SD.

In Pierre, South Dakota you can see the Verenderey plate, a sheet of lead buried by a French expedition in 1743.  No one knows if they explored deeper into the country that would later be purchased by the United States from Napoleon Bonaparte – a result of Thomas Jefferson’s insatiable curiosity and his compulsion to move the United States westward. But Europeans had noodled around the territory for a long time, here and there leaving a mark.

Looking from Verenderey Hill down onto the Missouri at Old Fort Pierre. The Mad River and near battle with the Teton Sioux occurred on the bank of the two river’s junction. In the background, the far shore is actually an island, where Lewis and Clark tied their boats.

Just below the monument, the Bad River empties into the Missouri and it was here in September 1804, that Lewis and Clark met the Teton Sioux for the first time. The Sioux were not impressed. Insufficient gifts, they claimed. Here’s Clarke’s rendition…

“These are the vilest miscreants of the savage race, and must ever remain the pirates of the Missouri, until such measures are pursued, by our government, as will make them feel a dependence on its will for their supply of merchandise.”
William Clark, 1804

The expedition named the river the Teton River in honor of the Sioux, but at some point in the past 200 years, the name was changed to Bad. The island where the Captains landed is still there — but much has changed from the wide open days of 1804.

International Peace Gardens

This park, in northern North Dakota straddles the line between Canada and the U.S. The idea was to commemorate and perpetuate the good relations between the two nations.

Above. Near the center of the park. There are several loops to drive or bike, and trails to walk. Numerous parking areas look out over lakes or beautiful meadows — good places to have lunch. Below. Lynda standing on the 49th parallel which forms the border for a good portion of the boundary. A joint commission maintains the border line, clearing brush and trees so that it’s visible for miles.
Below. A nice place to stop.
Below. Looking along the 49th parallel.


The Great Lakes… pics

The Great Lakes:  deep blue, clear, fresh water oceans in the middle of the country. I was never able to get over the vastness of any of these lakes and the grandeur of the countryside surrounding them. And there is plenty for shore-bound travelers to see; almost 11,000 miles of shoreline. Throw on your buckskins and wool cap, grab your musket, powder and shot and walk around them — that’s what the early explorers like LaSalle, Verenderey, Champlain and Cook did.

Lake Superior north shore at Grand Marais, Minnesota. The setting sun spotlights the lighthouse and buildings across the water of the harbor.
Camp at Red Cliff Wisconsin, near Bayfield — Lake Superior in background.
Michigan Upper Peninsula, near Marquette. Lake Superior, deep blue and clear.
Editor, critic, navigator, best buddy and tourist in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula keeps lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan from being one big lake.  A Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, so to speak. Superior is about 20 feet higher in elevation than Huron, and at the time of the explorers, the cascades there were occasion for a long portage. It wasn’t long before someone got the bright idea to bypass the falls and install locks.  These massive marine elevators — Soo Locks as they are known today — continue to lift and drop everything from dinghies to ore carriers of 1000 feet in length.

Sun… comin’ up like thunder over Lake Huron near Mackinaw city, Michigan.
Hotel at ferry landing, Mackinac Island, Lake Huron. No cars allowed. Too bad they couldn’t limit tourists too — crowds of them make connection with the past impossible. Shown at right is the light at the harbor entrance. Rough day! Clear water.



Foreground a Coastguard boat exits  the oldest and  narrowest lock, while a massive ore carrier lines up to move into the wider Davis Lock, one of the three Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Canada lurks across the bridge to the right, -eh.
Lake Michigan, below Point Betsie Lighthouse, near Frankfort, Michigan. The weather service had issued high surf and rip current warnings that day. Just like the ocean, without the salt.
Point Betsie Lighthouse and howling winds.




Wandering soul on the beach at Lake Michigan, near Frankfort.

Erie, Ontario and Covered Bridges in Ohio

Michigan, Ohio , parts of Pennsylvania and northwestern New York anchor the central and east part of the Rust Belt. Driving through Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo will turn just about anyone into a bridge jumper. And there are plenty of bridges — most, not surprisingly, rusty.

1-IMG_5144In Astabula County Ohio, there are some bridges — quite a number in fact —  that are aged, but not rusted. Below are a few pictures taken on one of the  road tours available if you have the time or care to  linger in Ohio.




1-IMG_5098Most of these bridges have been restored and reinforced to handle everyday traffic. The surrounding farm country is gorgeous. Some of the towns date back to 1799.



State Road bridge — not much traffic. A few Amish buggies clopping by make a nice echo on the bridge as it was in the 19th century.


On to New York.