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TRAVELING JACK

Posted 8/22/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

If national parks are places for peace and solitude, then it’s ironic my worst experience with campground neighbors happened where it did.
Picture it: 3 a.m. on a chilled August morning. The loons are quiet on Lake Kabetogama where the sun has yet to rise over Voyageurs National Park.
But one campsite over, all hell has broken loose.
After a very late night indeed, fueled by whiskey, burnt hotdogs and at least one federally illegal substance, our neighbors now faced the consequences: law enforcement.
“Noah,” a 35-year-old unemployed chef, was bundled off to the police station at International Falls, Minn., as his 48-year-old girlfriend “Vicki” was told to leave.
With a stream of vulgarity potent enough to peel paint, Vicki protested her lover’s arrest as her son wailed behind her.
It was heartbreaking, given the kid’s family vacation was broken up by Mom’s boyfriend’s arrest.
But still, it’s 3 a.m., and she’s screaming lewd threats to whoever called the cops.
It wasn’t me, Vicki.
It really wasn’t. In fact, before she and Noah barged over to our campsite four hours earlier, we were content to ignore the odd couple.
Instead, we were treated to stories of how they met, how they were fired and how Noah’s 7-year-old chocolate Lab is a “Navy search and rescue dog.”
Judging by Cocoa’s condition, some time had passed since her last mission.
But I digress.
My companions and I wanted nothing to do with these kibitzers.
We’re here for the loons, the woods and water. Where’s that canoe? Let’s go. Right now.
Fortunately, we did get around to that.
I hadn’t canoed in seven years, not since puttering around with my sister and cousin on Bloody Lake in southwestern Minnesota.
And I must say, lakes and pines are a sharp departure from the badlands and grass of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Voyageurs and Theodore Roosevelt. Two very different national parks.
We didn’t let “Noah and Vicki” ruin our trip. I saw a spectacular sunrise, picturesque pine islands and a snapping turtle that looked like John McCain.
We hiked two miles over roots and rocks to a scenic vista over Lake Kabetogama.
I even wowed my companions with a gourmet dinner of fried shrimp, boiled potatoes and peas. Camping doesn’t have to be miserable.
The only thing missing was the northern lights, but meh. As I write this I’m headed for a total solar eclipse in western Nebraska.
Noah and Vicki aren’t invited.