Day Four: Destination Franz Jevne & Zipple Bay State Parks
Driving further north my expectations were again changed. As I continued north the bog gives way to the flatness of farmland. The Rainy River enriches this part of the state, offering some of the best soil for farming you could ask for along with stunning views of Canada. In some places it feels like you could just swing right over. To do that you’d better have your passport handy. This is one of the most patrolled U.S. borders due to its nearness and ease of passage via boat.
Couple the vast farmland with clear skies and you get a near perfect road trip day.
Franz Jevne State Park
#28hike of my 52 Hike Challenge
Driving northwest from Big Bog with the new understanding I’d have a few miles to cover before I was beyond it’s waterlogged wonderland, I was grateful for the morning that was indicating a bright, sunny day. The trails for today’s adventure would be short, allowing me time to slow down a bit to take in the journey.
Getting to Franz Jevne State Park is a 40 mile straight shot to Baudette. From there you head back east on Highway 11 through the aptly named towns of Border and Frontier. The Rainy River and Canada on its northern side for most of the way. It’s a beautiful way to start the day.
I was really looking forward to visiting this, the smallest of Minnesota’s State Parks. At 118 acres total, this park packs a punch despite it’s unassuming entrance. A boat launch, picnic area, campground and just over two total miles of trail make up the total of the park. The Hiking Club Trail runs along the Rainy River. In many places it looks to be a very short swim or canoe across the border. And to keep the fact that you ARE on the border front and center there are border markers throughout the park. While the trail wraps around the park, I elected to keep my hike to the river views so treated it as an “out and back” hike.
My plan was definitely rewarded. I’d been distracted by someone watching me hike by the campground in a way I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, almost missing out on seeing a clump of Lady Slipper blooming right at the edge of the trail. The first ones I ever remember seeing in the wild!
It was yet another reminder for me to slow down today so that I didn’t miss another first or delight lurking on the edges. Like my next stop…
Surprise on the Rapid River
As I was driving east toward Franz Jevne, I went past a wayside over the Rapid River that showed all the potential to have a surprise hidden behind the trees. So I made note to stop on my way back since I knew I would have the time with my next park less than an hour west. The wayside sits right next to the Highway 11 bridge with a teeny parking lot so it could be easily missed but for the view as you cross the bridge. I managed the turn, parked the car, put on more Ultrathon and hopped out of my car. What was waiting for me just a few hundred feet down the trail was totally unexpected.
Ahead of me was the calm of a bay on the Rainy River. To the right was the rapids where the Rapid River flows into the Rainy and no less than four pelicans fishing! It was simply beautiful. I had never realize how big pelicans can be. In the calmer waters there were an additional six or so hanging out in the bright mid-day sun. One of them even started posing, stretching its wings and providing me lots of photo opportunities. My only disappointment was that my camera on my phone didn’t begin to capture it as close as I’d have liked. I must have spent a half hour marveling at the sheer beauty of the place and the antics of the pelicans before I realized it had been that long. I was so glad I followed my instincts to stop.
Zipple Bay State Park
#29hike of my 52 Hike Challenge
Geographically Zipple Bay State Park is the second furthest north of the Minnesota State Parks. The first, Garden Isle, sits about 20 miles further north and is accessible only by boat from either Minnesota or Canada. The island doesn’t have any hiking trails and is, by all accounts a nice picnic ground on one end surrounded by plenty of poison ivy. So I decided that I’d forgo my hope to catch a ride at the park’s dock to set up camp and explore instead.
As it turned out, I had the entire Lady Slipper Campground to myself. An advantage of traveling mid-week is that campgrounds are usually pretty quiet. For the most part, I’m ok with that. I’m one of those campers that will wave at you and maybe say hello. Its rare that I’m going to come over and hang out.
Do I think about what critters might find me? Yes. But it’s rare they will bother you. In this case, after I got my tent set up, I headed toward Lake of the Woods turning at one point to see a curious doe watching me from the road before she headed toward my campsite.
Along the road, I found a grave marker for Ole J. Grovum and a grandchild, which would require additional research to discover its origins. Moving on I enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon hike along the beach on Lake of the Woods. The beach is covered with shells and was mostly empty. I took a leisurely approach to the hike, covering the 2.8 miles round trip in well over an hour. The trail ends at the rock jetties where Zipple Bay flows into Lake of the Woods. There is a picnic bench which offered me a wonderful spot to rest and watch the various boats coming in and out of the channel.
On my way back to camp I spent time picking garbage – mostly plastic bags – out of the sands. I’ll post more on that later, but suffice to say, it was disheartening to see that and cigarette butts littering the otherwise beautiful stretch of beach.
When I got back to camp I’d slowed down enough from my trail clean-up mode to notice a tiny red spot on the ground. Thinking it was micro-trash, I leaned in for a closer look only to discover it was a tiny mushroom. Once again, nature provided a moment of delight! I made doubly sure to walk around a tree to avoid it as it was just a few feet from the car. Then I settled in to make dinner, journal and read a bit before hiker midnight** came along.
**Hiker midnight is a hiker’s way of gracefully bowing out of things about 7 p.m. so they can be ready to hit the trail (or road in my case) early in the morning.
As I laid in my tent and reflected on the day, I realized that the effort to slow down, to be present in the moment, ebbs and flows in hiking as it does in our day-to-day lives. For me hiking is the regulator. For others it’s a bike ride, hanging out with friends or family or a myriad of other activities. The point is that we all take time to slow down. To focus on breathing in and out. Doing so allows for us to see the details. To revel in the beauty of simply being…
“I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
Around the waves I can’t control
If it’s working I don’t know
When I get done the thing may not flow
But I’m learning how to build a better boat“
Better Boat, Songwriters: Travis Meadows, Liz Rose © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
GEAR: Columbia Women’s Arcadia II Rain Jacket, Vasque Talus Mid UltraDry Hiking Boots, Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack, Marmot Kompressor Pack, ENO Double Nest Hammock/Guardian Bug Net/Profly Rainfly, Paria Thermodown 30 Down Quilt, MSR Pocket Rocket, MSR Dualist Cookware, Slumberjack Trial Tent, REI Co-op Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Lhasa Lite AS trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets.
Next Post Preview: A day filled with helpful park staff and my least favorite insect ever.
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