I arrived at Voyageurs National Park after driving through some glorious Minnesota countryside. The Park contains 84,000 acres of water, 655 miles of undeveloped shoreline, and more than 500 islands. Water-based travel is the predominant way to get around. When I told people I was going to run a marathon at Voyagers the response was inevitably, “you know this is a water focused park”. Yes, I know.
But that didn’t dissuade me. From the trail maps it looked like there was enough of the Kab-Ash Trail near the visitor center to make a decent run. When I suggested this to the ranger at Ash River Vistor Center she said well, the trail is on the map but much of it is underwater. Between the recent rains and the beavers building dams you really can’t walk it much less run. OK. Let’s develop plan two.
She did say you could run the Cruiser Lake trail which out and back would be around 18 miles. However, she said, but you need to rent a water taxi to get you there. See points in first paragraph.
Through the Sunset Hills Campground where I was staying I was directed to the Ash River Lodge to rent a boat. Anyone operating a boat in the park providing services to the public needs to be Coast Guard certified. Yes, the boat owner and operator Dominic, is actually a captain. He took me out 35 minutes one way across Kabetogama Lake to the trailhead and we agreed he would come back to get me in seven hours.
It rained like crazy the night before and there was the chance it would continue the next day. I packed everything I would need including a change of clothes, dry socks and shoes. This is also black fly, mosquito and tick country so I slathered down in Ben’s 30% Wilderness Formula deet-based insect repellant. I am afraid of getting Lyme Disease.
To say the course was muddy would be an understatement. My feet were wet from the second step. There is also a lot of exposed rock on the trail. It was very slippery. I only fell twice - not bad considering. In addition, there has been some violent weather in the park and there were many freshly downed trees on the trail. It made for a slow go crawling under, over or around these trees.
But, that slow go made for a glorious run. I was able to really feel the wetness all around me. The trees, the ground, the air – all seemed to breathe in and exhale out, water. It was humid but felt fresh not sticky.
As I came around into a clearing around mile eight I saw a six hundred pound brown bear. I think he/she saw me first and went crashing into the forest. I watched it run off and then I made lots of noise the rest of the run. I sang, shouted random things, called for moose and deer, talked to the downed trees, and swore at the insects. Not sure if any of that made a difference but I didn’t see any bears after that. It was an impressive sight to see that large animal make trail through dense forest.
I wasn’t too bothered by the insects. Thank you Ben. I saw one other person on the trail and it randomly happened to be a guy I talked to at the Ash River Visitor Center the day before. And the chances of that are?
I turned around just short of Anderson Bay and retraced my steps. I got disoriented a couple of times but not really lost. The trail intersections are very well marked. I added on a little extra spur at the end because when I got back to the pickup point I was still a few miles short.
Voyageurs National Park is a must location for any boater, fisherman, or nature lover. Having your own boat is key to thoroughly enjoying the park. I am not sure I would have visited Voyageurs if it wasn’t for my Project but I am glad I did. It gave me a new appreciation that type of environment.