8 Nov
2016
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on Take a Trip: Mississippi Headwaters, Voyageurs National Park

Take a Trip: Mississippi Headwaters, Voyageurs National Park

We’re in the middle of a crazy warm November in Wyoming. The temperature has been hovering in the mid-60s with sunny skies for weeks now. I’m not going to complain about beautiful, fall weather, but it makes me itch to travel. By this time most years, we’re settled into shorter days and cold, blustery weather. Dry, snow-free ground makes me want to plan a trip and hit the highways again.

School schedules and extracurricular activities have us staying at home. I’m already planning a short vacation for January and another epic road trip for summer 2017. While I bide my time until our next trip, I’m sharing some of our summer 2016 adventures I never took time to write about.

Beaver dam overlook at Voyageurs National Park

In July, we traveled to the state of Michigan. Leading up to our road trip we were asked quite a few times why we chose Michigan. The answer: why not? Most of our vacations are planned around the idea of exploring this country with no real direction except for curiosity. Naturally, we drove to Michigan, taking us through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin before heading into Michigan’s upper peninsula.

boys walking across the headwaters of the Mississippi River

While I’m a big user of Google Maps or Bing Maps to plot a destination, or most likely the number of hours to the destination, I don’t plan anything without a paper map. I like to see all the dots of a trip connected for the big picture. Looking at our ever-present atlas on a road trip has taken us to several places that were favorites, but we may have missed entirely without reading an atlas. Case in point: the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Sign at the beginning of the Mississippi River

I never gave one second of thought to the start of the Mississippi River before seeing it labeled on a map, but there is a starting point for the mighty river in northern Minnesota. We walked across the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. We were racing daylight and a rainstorm. We weren’t sure we would stop until we saw the sign, but I knew we’d regret not stopping. Even though the impromptu stop made for a very late night arriving at International Falls, MN (at the Canadian border), it’s one of my most memorable stops on our vacation.

family posing for photo at Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park is one of the most remote parks we’ve visited. It’s difficult to say how many people live at the U.S./Canada border near Voyageurs because all you can see if trees. The park has 655 miles of shoreline and more than 500 islands. There were few people visiting the day we were there and no other children that we saw. Our kids received junior ranger badges during our visit, and the rangers were some of the friendliest we’ve met. Our kids left with quite the knowledge on the history of Voyageurs.

boy picking blueberries

orange mushrooms at Voyageurs National Park

The highlight for our family was blueberry picking. We hiked the Blind Ash Bay hiking trail and found a jackpot wild berry patch at the overlook for the Kabetogama Lake and Blind Ash Bay. We had to force the children to leave the blueberries, so we could visit other areas of the park. Two of our children would have picked every last berry in the patch had we allowed it. The trail wound through dense forests of vibrant green and ground coverage with colorful mushrooms we’d never find in Wyoming or other areas of the west. No matter which way we looked, tree-covered islands dotted the water. Living in Wyoming means open prairie, mountains and not a lot of water. Voyageurs seemed the perfect opposite from our normal Wyoming surroundings.

Next up on our summer 2016 road trip: Apostle Islands and Keweenaw Pennisula

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