Saturday, October 15, 2016

ND finally!!

(Matthew did not succeed in blowing us away we finally got our phone and power back on and we have about 1/2 the debris removed so far!  We head to NC tomorrow and I hope we don't get any flood water in our path)

I was excited to be on my way to ND mainly because I had planned some cool places to see and because I felt bad that I claimed to have been to ND but all I really did was make a quick cross over the line and turn around...NOW I can say I've traveled across, up, down, and diagonally,  thru North Dakota.  The Dakotas share something like the Carolina's where I live North and South!...I do believe most people only think of the movie Fargo when they think of ND, like they think Myrtle Beach when they hear SC. The movie did make most North Dakotan's out to seem like total idiots. One thing I do say is the lingo was pretty right on, You betcha!
(9/16/2016)  If you have never seen the movie Fargo it's a classic and you really must see it. It is not the kind of movie to watch with with  your grandkids. 

ND is vast prairie and farmland.  Now it also has the horrid job of being an oil boom state and the dreaded Halliburton has soiled her beauty with the zillion oil rigs, trucks, haulers, dirt and mud associated with that industry, scoundrels from all over, oh and pollution! I hope ND can reclaim her dignity at some point in history.  


The very first thing I did was find lodging for the night at Turtle River State Park.

They had only one loop open and it was kinda tight, but not crowded as this was Thursday...It is a very pretty park with a river running through, a big amphitheater, nice bath house, and some trails for hiking, group camps, picnic area all the good stuff!  All pull through sites too with electric and water. Kinda steep at $25 plus the Day Use fee of $5. 

The reason I chose this campground was its proximity to Kellys Slough NWR. 

Somewhere along my travels I had picked up this brochure of the Prairie Birding Routes in the Red River Valley.  It had very good directions to 15 or so areas to look for Prairie birds as well as Migrating waterfowl.  The Slough was #1 on the trail and consists of several wetlands, and mudflats and it was chock full of  gulls, ducks, and waders. The first day I had heavy clouds and some rain...

each stop gave directions to the next stop...but I spent a lot of time at the wetlands..

of course as is the rule, birds want to fly as far away from people as possible so it was a game of trying to figure out what I was are many Franklin's Gulls in various stages of life. I don't know if y'all are aware of how gulls mature.  At each stage of life say 1 yr they look totally different than they do say at 3 that's why gulls are so darn hard to figure out! The Franklin Gull has 2 complete molts each yr so that makes it even harder to ID...but it is a Prairie species and a new life bird for me! CaChing!

Once mature this gull will have a black head.  Along with the Franklin's Gulls many Northern Shovelers were around as well as American Avocets.  These I have seen before but I've yet to see one in his really pink breeding color..maybe one day I will have that privilege. 

this one has just a wee bit of pink

Other wading bird present were Greater Yellow Legs, Pectoral Sandpiper..and Least Sandpiper, I was told by some other birders on Facebook that all 3 species are in this combo shot!  (there's a Facebook page called Bird ID Please) 

2 greater Yellowlegs, on the left the Pectoral Sandpiper, and the small one in front the Least Sandpiper.
( I had these as a Gr Yellow Legs, Lesser Yellow legs and a don't know!!)

Another shot of only the Greater Yellowlegs...

and some Dunlin as best I can make out..

and some-- Im calling-- Short Billed Dowitchers.  I still can't tell them apart from long billed. 

these colorful bushes looked like candy sitting in the mud along the edge of the water...

The slough was just beautiful...


I drove some of the fields looking for sparrow and grouse also...

I did see both but the grouse eluded a this one of  Savannah Sparrow.  Kind of backlit--

and check out this huge flock of Yellow Headed Blackbirds! My first sighting of these fun to watch birds!! 

with the white wing patches and the yellow/orange head they are very colorful in motion...and when sitting!

saw many large flocks in the corn and the fields of sunflowers..

this field was ready for harvest.  I spent 2 days exploring this area and spent 2 nights at Turtle's more of the scenery in the area..most of the farms are now more like corporations and all that is left of the old ways are these decaying buildings...

My Take on corporate farming:  agriculture has been the main stay of the area for many decades so there is a lot of by gone buildings around I enjoy seeing them...the huge mechanized grain farming is mostly done to support the huge beef/chicken/pork industry in this country so I'm not a fan of it! I would much rather see small community gardens as the way we feed ourselves.

... nature was busy with her own seeds...
the milkweed was dispersing seed and there's plenty of it around too!

After leaving Turtle Rock behind I tried to see the Prairie Chicken Lek in a nearby area...but was driven back by MUD! So....I left the area headed West to Rugby, ND.  They lay claim to being the ....

yep the geographical center of North America!!  

It was a fun stop for a couple photos and then I headed North on Hwy 3, there was a special Place I wanted to see...I found lodging at Lake Metigoshe State Park right back up by the Canadian Border! 


A wedding was in progress when I arrived.  They partied till midnight..but it was never too loud to bother me, I could still hear a Great Horned Owl somewhere ....out there...
In the morning I headed a little East and North to the special place I mentioned. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Minnesota's Jewel, Voyageurs National Park

Of course I am back home arrived on my birthday the 29th of Sept.  I wish I had been able to share all my trip memories in real time but the entire week in Canada I had only one day with WiFi service when I stopped in Terrance Bay. So that's why I fell so far behind and the fact that I was so tired at night I didn't have the steam to update!

(9/13/2016) I traveled south on Hwy 53 and then east to spent the night in Woodenfrog Campground, one of the 2 drive to Campgrounds connected with Voyageurs National Park.  In all honesty this is a boaters paradise but for land lovers like me, it offers only some great views and some nice short hikes! In the heat of summer is the best time to visit, as the water temp was quite cold so even getting in a kayak without a wet suit would be a silly thing to do! 

Voyageurs is made up of 3 main bodies of water....Rainy Lake, Kabetogoma Lake, and Namakan Lake and surrounded by the Boreal Forest.   In the past trappers and fur traders paddled through these waters to bring furs between the Canadian Northwest  to Montreal where it was shipped to markets in Europe.  Parts of Voyageur can be accessed from Canada.  

There's 3 visitors centers.  Kabetgoma is the closest to Woodenfrog. 

I arrived here early just as the Ranger was raising the flag, and found out there had been a mass exit of help! She told me 4 people quit in one week so she was not scheduled to be at this VC and she was not familiar with the system.  I got my passport stamp, bought my souvenir medallion and picked up a hikes brochure...and a couple postcards then headed up to Ash River.  

... back onto Hwy 53 and  Hwy 129 to the was closed! They were repaving the parking lot...BUT the ranger was nice enough to let me in to stamp my passport!

On the way to the VC is where I took 2 hikes.  
I didn't make it to the Crane Lake area due to the time constraints BUT in hindsight wish I had! There is another campground there.  There's thousands of islands with many primitive campgrounds and backcountry camping is prime here if you want to spend time on a primitive island this is the place for you! I hiked the Kabetogama Lake overlook trail and this was one of the views along that trail.  It shows the rugged coastline  and some of the many islands of the lake.  
from the lake overlook trail

AND one treat for me was up in the trees that lined the trail.  I saw another new bird!! The Black Backed Woodpecker!  Here's a grainy shot of his yellow spot on the head.

and his name details he has a solid black back! 

This is a 3 toed woodpecker but not THE 3 toed woodpecker who is just like the black backed except its back has white barring on it. The Rangers at Rainy VC were excited to put this bird on the list of recent sightings!  And the second hike was to the beaver pond overlook.

I finally spotted the lodge over to the right of the pond..

Beavers play an important role in shaping our landscapes...if not for the ponds that flood the area and provide the beaver with a means for clearing it of trees we wouldnt have these open areas in the Boreal  Forest!

Just look at this SAP covered Red Squirrel as he gathers pine nuts for winter.

On this hike I also saw Red Breasted Nuthatch, Yellow Rumped Warbler, American Robin, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker and White Throated Sparrows. After the hikes Casey and I had lunch and then got in the van and headed back north again on Hwy 53 this time to Rainy. The reason I did not visit Rainy the day before when I was close to it was there is no campground there. 

Here is the Rainy Lake VC. 

Inside there is a museum, theater, and gift shop. I browsed the museum, I don't like when its full of stuffed animals...and this one was...this beautiful Gray Wolf was hit by a car is the story I was told he was so huge, tall as me in sitting position! (Im 5'5") 

Outside at Rainy VC is a nice seating area...

And a marina where I saw this really cool birch bark canoe, IN season you can get a ride in this baby..

Much like the one in the museum inside the VC...

Upon leaving I spotted this guy high up in the blue sky! 

There is a very nice bike trail that follows the road coming into Rainy VC.  From here I headed south again stopped and spent the night in a Forest Service Camp for Free on Hwy 6. 

I was the only camper...sometimes I'm not too keen on these secluded areas of camping but I ended up staying here...

and the next day headed west on Hwy 2 toward Grand Forks ND.  The following are some road side oddities I spotted along the way...

this huge statue of Edward C Woods Sr, I couldn't find out a thing about him on the Net! Obviously he was a frontiersman by the looks of this attire...and a huge tribute to Smokey the Bear...

this rural bar had a cool sign and name! 

and one more Eagle to see me on my way...

AND the headwaters of the Mississippi River start here.  I was not able to find the very start but it crossed the highway here so I snapped this shot of the not so Mighty Mississippi as she runs through Minnesota!

I headed for ND! Finally now I feel good about saying I've visited ND!

Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.