International Falls, MN Friday Oct. 25
Tonight is our last night at the Thunderbird Lodge and in International Falls. Our administrative tasks for the headquarters at Voyageurs National Park have been completed. A little wrapup seemed in order to summarize the almost 4 weeks we have spent here.
We would definitely stay at the Thunderbird Lodge again. Our room was spacious with a great view out onto the lake. The staff was friendly, informative, and helpful. The food in the restaurant was delicious whether that was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There had been recent renovations at least to our room and we believe others and we could see renovations being made to several of the cabins outside the main lodge building. Boat and fishing guides were available had the weather been cooperative.
Our car gave us some difficulties which have been resolved with a new battery. Nothing too dramatic, however. The difficulties provided an opportunity to meet people and enjoy small town connections. We have managed to dodge the almost constant presence of deer foraging along the roadside, particularly at this eastern area away from International Falls and closer to the National Park.
For plant and animal viewing, we were able to observe our first experience with tamarack trees turning yellow and dropping their needles. Fall colors were good enough to be enjoyable. Our first observations of a male deer with antlers, a family of river otters, and grouse occurred on this trip.
Our four weeks of volunteering with Voyageurs National Park was both a positive learning adventure and a rewarding experience helping visitors to the park. Our knowledge of the north woods, the history of northern Minnesota and the voyageurs’ experience has been enhanced immensely. Our time here at the park meant that numerous visitors were able to be assisted since the interpretive staff was shorthanded and would not have been able to staff the Rainy Lake Visitor Center without us. The visitors at Voyageurs have always expressed their thanks that we were here for them.
The experience for us has been so positive that we are considering the possibility of returning next fall. We are not sure we would want to commit for three months like many parks request of their summer volunteers. In most parks, volunteers only get housing if they stay for three months and work 32 hours per week. We decided this volunteering experience at Voyageurs might be valuable enough that we would pay for our own housing while volunteering in lieu of a fall travel experience. For 2020, we might stretch our time to six weeks and see what housing options can be arranged.
When we have driven around the country, Chris has frequently stated she would not like to live in a small town. That may still be true but the small-town experience here in International Falls has been fun for the time in which we have stayed here. People have been constantly friendly and reaching out to us before we could reach out to them. One observes the constant interaction of friends and neighbors in the stores. I am sure there are difficulties and stressors which we did not observe but still, all in all, the small-town atmosphere was welcoming.
We had not previously reported that yesterday we had a 90 minute tour of the library and museum located in the headquarters building of Voyageurs National Park. Most of us think of grandiose open spaces when the idea of U.S. National Parks comes up. Yet a major component of the park system is to preserve and educate about historical and cultural treasures in the country. Sometimes that occurs at a park site devoted to history, such as Gettysburg National Battlefield. Yet most parks have that obligation as part of their mission.
Here at Voyageurs, the museum and library house oral histories of early settlers; artifacts from the Ojibwe culture and its predecessors, lumbering tools, mining machinery, etc. One item that was particularly notable to me was the drawer of 25 or so lumber company markers used to brand the company logo to the end of a felled log. Like cattle brands, the logos indicated which lumber company would receive payment when the log was sawed at one of several saw mills in Minnesota. There was also a cut piece from the end of a log with the logo clearly visible. I talk about this concept when volunteering with Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.
Our grandiose plans to visit Winnipeg and to hike in numerous state parks had to be revised, primarily due to the weather on our off days. In its place, we found out about entirely new experiences with the NOvA Laboratory and the Koochiching County museum. Our museum tour at the headquarters of the Voyageurs National Park and the presentation about the hybrid invasive cattails in the park were unexpected treasures.
Over the years, Chris and I said we make a great married couple but really did not think we could work together. These last four weeks have disapproved that concern. We backed each other up, helped cover gaps in knowledge, and supported each other when one was uncertain of the task or procedures to be followed. And we co-existed for four weeks in a space 1/3 the size of our condo.
Ed and Chris. International Falls MN 8:15 PM