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At Walker - Walker Loops

Friday, August 10     to Akeley     21mi     $10

Morning came without any encounters. Before breaking camp, I decided to ride the trail a bit farther to find the other end. I figured my tent site was at least 4 miles in, and it wouldn't be far. (I later figured my tent site was only a mile in.) The ride had its ups and downs (and vice versa, on the way back).

After just two miles, I found some fresh scat. It was on the path, and it had bone and fur in it.

It may not have been from a bear, but anything that can chew bone was something I was glad didn't visit me in the night.

Another two miles brought me to a place I initially thought was the east end of the trail. There was a gravel road and a parking lot, which I visited.

A sign documented it as a point on the The North Country National Scenic Trail that stretches approximately 4,600 miles, from Crown Point in eastern New York, thru Michigan, to Lake Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota. (I suppose one can hike it in the other direction, too.)

I made plans to get restocked in Walker, come in from the east, and spend at least 24 hours at the parking lot, hoping to encounter at least one hiker.

I returned to my tent site and sensed a diarrhea session about to happen. I had seen few other riders on many miles of the normal trails, and none on this one. Not wanting to soil the clothes I was wearing, nor the clean ones in my pack, I stripped down to nothing but my sandals, then split my time between packing and dumping. (no photos - sorry)

"Heal" is what I think I heard from a rider approaching my position. I was bent over, loading a pannier, with my back to him. Oops! A short time later, I was back at the bike when two other riders came over the hill from the other direction. I was still in Full Monty mode, hoping one of them didn't have a handlebar-mounted camera at the ready. They too passed.

Once I finished my dumping and my packing, I retrieved the Snickerdoodle package, got dressed and was on my way back down that first big hill.

For variety, rather than see the trail again, I took MN 34 to Walker, enjoying a 6' shoulder.

I went to the inviting Outdoorsman Cafe and ordered a roast beef sandwich, which seemed to me to have been made a week earlier and had since dried out.

As I sat there, all disappointed with my meal, a family of 4 came in and sat in the booth by the front window. With the mom, dad, and two pre-teen daughters, the Outdoorsman now had a total of 5 customers.

The mom connected me with my bike outside and came over to invite me to camp with them back in Akeley. They had a reservation and I did not. I decided to accept their offer and postpone my revisit to the hiking trail.

I joined Joe, Grace, Alia and Siri Carpenter on the Heartland Trail going back to Akeley. When we arrived at the campground, there was a bit of a problem with the young fellow minding the gate. He was OK with the Carpenters taking the site they had reserved, and would be OK with me joining them if I paid full price. Immediately, the mom pointed out that would be unfair to both me and them. I offered the young man a ten dollar bill to put in his pocket. The mom told him that when they got to camp that we would figure out what my share would be. He agreed to that.

When we got there, the mom made it clear to me that the talk of splitting the fee was for the benefit of the gatekeeper; she expected no money from me.

We set up our tents.

The two kids were playing on the dock and the youngest started screeming. She had a piece of the dock in her big toe. The parents tried to get it out with tweezers, but the splinter was too big, and too deep. They asked about a doctor in Akeley; there was none. They considered getting a taxi from Park Rapids (20 miles west) to take them to a Walker medical center (10 miles east) but thought a splinter would receive a low priority. How about an ambulance? For a splinter?

My daughter Jenny is an RN in California. When I called her, she said if the splinter wasn't removed within 24 hours, infection could set in, and their daughter might loose her big toe.

Amongst all this chaos, the people who would be our neighbors arrived. The lady driver of the pickup truck yelled:
"We're lesbians, and we like to party late."

The mom, keeping her focus, asked if any of them had any medical experience. One was a home care nurse, had a sterilized needle, and immediately went to the aid of the little girl. The others unloaded their humongus 8-man tent, but didn't have a clue how to set it up. I helped them figure it out. (I was thinking to myself what the rental store guy would say if he were asked to rent them an 8-lesbian-tent.) Once it was up, when they wanted to have it turned to face the lake, I excused myself. (In the photo above, it is the third tent over.)

The Carpenters invited me to share their rice dinner, and I contributed a can of vienna sausages to the meal.

During dinner, I told them I was a bicycle mechanic and asked if they had anything that needed attention. Joe said the bike one of the kids rode had a brake problem, and her sister's bike was dropping the chain. When I offered to fix them, Joe said only if I would show his daughters how to fix the problems. I had no problem with that, but the girls would rather play. Mom suggested if the girls would go to bike school, mom and dad would do their dish washing chore for them. They were easily convinced, and their bikes were easily adjusted.

Saturday, August 11     Over to the walking trail from the east     21mi     FREE

If there was any partying going on after I went to sleep, I didn't know about it. And sleep well, I did, not climbing out of my tent until after 9am. The nurse was fixing breakfast and, as a thank you for helping with their tent, invited me. There were bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns and orange juice.

In Walker, I picked up supplies and headed south on MN-371 to approach the walking trail from the east. The turnoff, Christmas Point road, went up. It wasn't particularly steep; it just seemed that way because I was almost to the crest of the hill on MN-371 when I reached the turn, and Christmas Point road was asking me to climb more than I had expected. Soon after that, I missed the place where the Shingabee Trail crossed, overshooting it by a mile and a half, including a wonderful downhill, then realizing I had to turn around and reclimb that hill.

The well-paved Shingabee Trail took me directly to the Paul Bunyan Trail. Two miles later it was dark, and I had to stop and make camp. I had not reached the walking trail. (Once home, I calculated I was only a mile away from it.)

I set up my tent where the trail crossed a gravel country road. My tent was on an incline and lumpy tufts of grass (sound familiar?) - but this time, was quite uncomfortable. As I lay there, I thought I heard some dogs nearby.

Sunday, August 12     A mile shy to Flat in Walker to Bemidji     49mi     $75

If I got any sleep, I didn't know it. There had been a bit of traffic, and that canine howling. I rode down the road to see how close the neighbors were, but there were NO neighbors. That begs the question - was the howling from domestic or wild animals?

There was one tuft directly under the middle of the tent floor that eliminated the possibility of my being comfortable.

This is the view of the tent placement in the morning light.

Had I thought of it, I could have set up the tent on the paved trail and gotten more sleep.

Tired and frustrated, I returned to Walker on the Shingabee Trail without a chance of meeting any hikers.

Back in Walker, I met a young couple who met while walking the Appalachian Trail. We went to the Village Square Cafe, a local coffee house, and sat outside at a patio table. They were in the middle of riding bikes from Yellowstone to Quebec where she lives. Once there, he would then continue on to his home in Virginia.

After they left, I noticed my front tire was flat. The rubber, the cord, and the Kevlar liner were worn through, allowing a small shard of glass to find a home in the tube. I decided to patch the tire with a folded dollar bill, wishing it would work until I could get a replacement tire. It was a 20" tire, but the rim size was special and not likely to be stocked in a bike shop. And it was a Sunday, to boot. The Northern Cycle in Park Rapids had no idea, and made an uninformed suggestion.

As I was calling a shop I thought was in Bemidji, a man came up behind me and laid down his business card. He was "Paul Nye, the Bike Guy". He could special order the tire I needed from Minneapolis on Monday and I would have it on Tuesday. But he also referred me to two bike shops in Bemidji that might have one in stock.

With a new tube and a dollar to boot (the tire), I was ready to ride. I took the 10' wide Paul Bunyan Trail north 30 miles to Bemidji to stay at the state park campground, and to check out these other two tire sources. If they were not helpful, I could call Paul with an order.

As I neared Bemidji, I noticed this unexpected hill on the trail. What train engine would tolerate it?

Once in Bemidji, I found the first bike shop, but it was closed. I headed for the state park, but couldn't find the trail to it. The battery of my cellphone was getting low, so using its map was not a good option. I was tired, and settled on the idea of staying at a motel, but the only one nearby I thought to be EXPENSIVE. Advise from locals had me riding to the other side of town, getting caught in a downpour in the process. Soaked and more tired, I settled for the nearest one - a Super 8.

I didn't even try to find the second bike shop. Instead, I called the "Bike Guy" and ordered a tire from him. That's when I learned he was located, not in Bemidji, but in Walker, about a block from where I got the flat.

My daughter surprised me with a call telling me that she and my grand daughter would have to be back in Michigan when I returned to get my car. She would be moving my car to another location about 7 miles closer.

Monday, August 13     Laundry in Bemidji     0mi     $75

I set up my tent outside my Super 8 motel room to dry, then walked to the laundromat.
   Good news: it was less than 600 yards away
   Bad news: I had a headwind
By the time I got back, the tent was dry, so I took it down, repacked it, and rested.

That evening, I met five Harley riders from Manitoba, Canada in the Super 8 snack room. They were headed to the Sturgis motorcycle rally. One was a cattle farmer with stories to tell.

He once saw a mother skunk and her babies walking across the farm yard. The babies were so cute he moved in and started talking baby talk to them. The last baby reacted by shooting the farmer in the face and mouth. The farmer confirmed that skunk smell does not get neutralized with tomato juice, or anything else. It took about a week to wear off.

He also took home an injured fawn and nursed it back to health. The Jasper became best of friends with the farmer's dog. The dog would chase Jasper around the house, and then Jasper would be chasing the dog. People came from miles around to see the tame deer.

Eventually, Jasper wandered off and time passed. Then someone told him his deer had been spotted, and was injured. He went to check it out. He couldn't say it wasn't his, so he took it home. They called the vet because it appeared to be blind. A few days later, Jasper showed up. Oops!

They put Jasper in the barn with the other deer, and Jasper didn't like the other deer invading his territory. Eventually, the other deer got his eyesight back, so they let it out and Jasper chased it away.

Tuesday, August 14     Bimidji to Woodland Resort     42mi     $20

Before I left the motel, Paul Nye called to tell me the tire was in, but he couldn't be there. He would leave it on his work bench and leave his back door open. I could install it myself, using his bench and tools, then leave the payment on the bench. His house is on the street behind the coffee house and has a purple front door.

As I left the motel, I bought a sandwich at the Subway across the street, and packed the rest for later.

In Minnesota, Paul Bunyan was in many places. Here he is with Babe in Bemidji.

Some wise guy said that when you come to a fork in the road, you should take it.

I didn't, but it caused me to pause long enough to check my position. I was looking for where the Paul Bunyan Trail crossed the road I was on. By studying my electronic map, I determined it wasn't an intersection, but an overpass that I had just passed under. (Remember the picture of the steep hill on the trail two days ago that seemed unnatural - that was it.) I chose another route to get onto the trail further south.

I met a lady in a DNR truck along the Paul Bunyan Trail. She said there was a mother fox and babies in a den along the trail just south of Guthrie, but I would see no evidence once I got there.

Just north of Nary, I had the 2nd half of my Subway sandwich.

On to Guthrie, where I visited the polls. The place had 6 buildings and 25 people, of which 17 had already shown up to vote.

I stopped at Paul Nye's home to pick up and install my new tire. Everything went as expected.

I rode into Walker to get more supplies, then retraced my ride to the Woodland Resort. I had a clifftop view of Kabakona Bay. It's on the trail about 5 miles north of Walker.

I went to the office to borrow an extension cord because I couldn't get my phone-charging adaptor to fit in the shielded outlet. They gave me a 25' heavy duty model.

As I was returning to my tent, a small dog wandered into my path. The apparent owner, an old lady, said to me "The dog is deaf", then said to the dog "Come here". Was she a liar, or was it that she just couldn't break an old habit?

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