September 2018 – Our travels this past spring and summer were focused in the western states with many fabulous adventures in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota, but in early September we drove our RV out of the west in a hurry to catch the fall colors on Lake Superior in northern Michigan.
When I-94 took a turn to the southeast at Fargo, we got off onto secondary roads to make a beeline towards Lake Superior. Suddenly, we found ourselves immersed in Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 lakes. There were lakes of all sizes everywhere.
We hadn’t planned it this way, but we discovered we were driving on one of Minnesota’s designated scenic drives, the Lake Country Scenic Drive. How cool is that?
The views out our windows were certainly very pretty!
We saw a sign for the Paul Bunyan State Trail and just had to check it out. This is a fantastic rails-to-trails paved path that goes for miles and miles between the 10,000 lakes.
As we were riding we came to an intersection with another rails-to-trails system, the Heartland State Trail. We were floored to see destinations listed on a wooden sign for as far as 66 miles away. What an amazing place to ride a bike or stretch your legs (especially if you have four of them!).
The lakes have all kinds of names, but the name Leech Lake really caught our attention. “I wouldn’t want to go there,” Mark said dryly. “I’ve swum in lakes with leeches and had to pull them off me.” Yuck!
But it turns out that Leech Lake is a great spot for all kinds of recreation, and we were soon caught in its spell.
The small town of Walker overlooks the lake, and we strolled along the shore taking in the views and relaxing ambiance. What a pretty spot!
One of the most popular pastimes on this lake is fishing, and apparently it is the Muskie capital of the world. From kids to old folks we saw lots of fishermen patiently waiting for the big catch.
Even the dearly departed who left good fishing memories behind in this life took their rods with them to their next destination.
As we wandered towards town we realized that Leech Lake truly is the lifeblood and soul of this small community, and it had a real beach town vibe. Colorful kayaks were lined up against the wall of a building, ready to take people for a ride, and a huge pelican perched on the rooftop of a shop on the main street.
As we poked our heads in various nooks and crannies around the town of Walker, we discovered that the very next day there would be a special celebration: the Ethnic Festival. Well, we certainly had to stick around to see that!
We got into town the next morning just as the vendors were setting up their booths, and a lady suddenly called out to us. “Would your puppy be willing to be my mascot for the day?”
She went on to explain that she was selling hand sewn goodies, and one of her products was bandanas for dogs that slipped onto their collars.
Buddy loves attention, so he jumped at the chance to be a bandana mascot for the day, and he quickly set about choosing which one to wear.
Mark held out a few, and he sniffed each one.
He finally chose a patriotic bandana with American flags all over it. He looked very dapper in it.
As he was showing it off he noticed a stuffed dog at the lady’s booth that was wearing a bright red bandana. He had to check it out!
We found out later that Buddy did an excellent job as the puppy bandana mascot for the day. The lady sold dozens of bandanas during the festival!
The Ethnic Festival parade was about to begin and we found a place to watch along the curb.
The parade began with a flourish as the town’s dignitaries passed. Then came a line of bright and shiny Corvettes that were headed to the Corvette car show that would take place in the Walker City Park after the parade ended. Beautiful!
A group of motorcycles went by and we noticed that the backs of their jackets said “Descendants of Leech Lake,” “Descendants of Navajo” and descendants of other groups in the area.
Then a group of flags from many nations appeared.
Minnesota has a strong Scandinavian heritage but lots of other folks have made their mark too. From bagpipes to accordions to alphorns we heard music of all kinds and saw some fabulous floats and outfits.
Musicians of all kinds drifted by on floats, and dancers showed off their moves.
After Smoky the Bear wrapped up the parade atop a US Forest Service truck we made our way over to the vendor booths to look around.
A fantastic duo playing alphorns had appeared on a float in the parade, and we found them again playing in the streets among the vendors. These beautiful horns make a deep and mellow sound, and the prettily dressed women stood in the middle of the throng playing all kinds of sweet melodies.
In addition to a wide variety of ethnic foods being sold from carts all around the park, there were lots of arts and crafts for sale too. We knew we had hit the eastern side of the country when we saw baskets and miniature canoes made of birch bark!
As we admired the birch bark baskets, Mark and I chatted with each other about how we’d started seeing the white barked birch trees of the east rather than the white barked aspen trees of the west.
“Wait, did we cross the Mississippi?” Mark suddenly asked. I wasn’t sure, and we didn’t have a map handy. Ironically, within a few minutes we started talking to a local fellow, and when we asked him for suggestions of what to see and do in the area he said:
“You’ve gotta go see the headwaters of the Mississippi. It’s just 35 miles northwest of here at Itasca State Park. It’s just a tiny trickle of water, though!”
We ended up saving that adventure for another time, but it was very cool to have our question anwered like that.
Down at Walker City Park on the lake the Corvettes were gleaming in the sun.
One fellow brought his handcrafted woody car to show off as well. What a beauty! Built on a Chevy S-10 frame, he spent 18 years creating it. What a smile he had as he drove up!
The Ethnic Festival and Corvette Car Show in Walker made for a really fun day, and Buddy basked in the attention that he got all day long.
One family stopped to pet him early in the day and then sought him out a little later to get a second round of pats. “We needed another Buddy fix,” the mom told to me as her kids settled down in the grass to rub their hands on Buddy’s soft fur.
Aw heck, I love getting my Buddy fixes too!
We were totally tickled that we had thrown a dart at the map of Minnesota and randomly chosen the Walker area as a stopover on our way to Lake Superior. What luck that we not only found a cool small town but that they had a festival going on while we were there.
Then again, it seems that almost any weekend you arrive in Walker, Minnesota, there is something exciting going on. The calendar of events for Walker reveals something special happening every single weekend all year long.
This is a place we’ll return to for sure. What a great introduction it gave us to the state of Minnesota!!
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More info about this area:
- Heartland State Trail
- Paul Bunyan State Trail
- Leech Lake Festivals and Events
- Mississippi Headwaters at Itasca State Park – Check out the cool web cam!
- The Lake Country Scenic Drive
- RV camping options in and around Walker MN
- Our Route to Walker, Minnesota
Other fun small towns we’ve visited:
- Creede, CO – Mining History & Championships + 4th of July!
- Buena Vista Colorado – What a Place for an RV Breakdown!
- Pomeroy, Washington – An Impromptu Sunday Stroll!
- Finding Enchantment…in Encampment, Wyoming!
- Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!
- Picturesque Medieval Charm an Hour from Paris – Moret sur Loing
- Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire!
- Eastern Wyoming Small Towns – An RV Trip through Wyoming’s Quiet Side!
- Custer South Dakota Highlights on an RV Trip
- McCall, Idaho – Summer Beach Fun on Pretty Payette Lake
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall
- Sedona, Arizona – Great Beer, Coffee, Red Rocks & Psychics!
- Maysville, Kentucky – Come for the History, Stay for the People!
- Rockport, Massachusetts – Quaint Charm on Boston’s North Shore
- The Artsy Side of Sun Valley, ID
- Joseph, Oregon – At Heaven’s Door!
- On the road to Baker City, Oregon
- Costalegre: La Manzanilla – Exotic animals & RVing Copper Canyon!
- Pátzcuaro – A “Magical City” with a colorful outdoor market
- Huatulco Farewell – Fabulous Memories of a great stay
- Lake Michigan – Charming coastal towns
- North Lake Michigan – Alluring Coastal Towns
- Kanab & Alton, UT – Whoa!!!
- Parowan UT – Vermillion Castle and County Fair
- Chanute, KS – Tour of NuWa / Hitchhiker RV Factory
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