Well, we rented a pontoon boat and made a 50-mile round-trip from Kabetogama Lake to Kettle Falls. It was a beautiful day with nice scenery on the lake. But it wasn't without incident and we had to just go with the flow.
Today, we were going to take a long boat trip through Voyageurs National Park with our friends Therese & Ed.
As National Parks go, there really isn't much you can do at Voyageurs without a boat. It's primarily a boating and fishing and boat-in camping park. The hiking trails are few, and there are no campsites within the park that you can drive to - you can hike to a few, but most require a boat to get to them.
We called Arrowhead Lodge & Resort to see if their rental boat was available. It was, so we booked it.
We drove over to Arrowhead which was maybe ten minutes away. Arrowhead is owned by a couple and their daughter and son-in-law (Sally & Dave). Sally took care of the paperwork and Dave showed us the boat.
It was about 11:00 a.m. and we were looking forward to making the trip to Kettle Falls and the Ellsworth Rock Gardens.
There is a boat tour from the Kabetogama Visitors Center to Kettle Falls, and lots of folks visit Kettle Falls. From what I had read, it certainly wasn't a "must see" but the boat ride through Kabetogama Lake and then Namakan Lake would be worth the trip.
Kettle Falls is only accessible by boat and it sits in a section of Voyageurs National Park where we would be straddling the Canadian border on our route. In fact, the border loops around Kettle Falls, and Canada would be to our south on the last part of our journey.
Dave suggested we go to Kettle Falls first as it was about 25 miles each way. He also suggested we top off the fuel when we get there.
So, I took the wheel while Ed served as first mate. We pulled away from the dock leaving Arrowhead Lodge behind.
Ed & Therese navigated us past all the red and green channel markers using our waterproof map of the park.
Everything was going well, until we turned into a wind and my hat flew off. I made a sharp turn to retrieve it. We searched for a little while and then Linda spotted it just as we were giving up and moving on.
After fishing my hat out of the water, I noticed the motor on the boat had quit. Hmm.
We continued on and, suddenly, the motor quit again. It always started right back up, but then it would die again. I know nothing about these things, but it seemed like the engine wasn't getting fuel. We almost made it to Kettle Falls, but couldn't go any farther. We were dead in the water in the Squirrel Narrows.
Thankfully, we had cell service and called Dave back at Arrowhead. We explained the situation, and he said he would be out to get us.
So, we managed to move the boat away from the rocks on the Canadian side and dropped anchor right beside the red "4" marker where we were "legal".
It was a beautiful day, we had plenty of food and drink, and we were in no great hurry. So, we just sat back .....
and admired the scenery.
Since we were sitting near a narrow channel, we watched several boats go by.
A fishing guide pulled up with his guests and fished 25 yards away. We watched as they reeled in a few walleye. It turned out the fishing family was staying at Arrowhead Lodge and had the pontoon boat we were on reserved for tomorrow. I'm guessing they will have to make other arrangements.
At one point a law enforcement officer pulled up alongside. We let him know why we were sitting in that unusual spot. He was clearly out checking fishing licenses, and since we were not fishing, he was soon on his way.
By the way, that's Canada to the south behind the ranger.
We watched as he boarded the fishing guide's boat where he checked licenses and made sure the required safety equipment was present.
After about an hour, Dave & Sally pulled up in their old, beat up pontoon boat. He cleaned out the fuel filter which seemed to be clogged with sand, but it looked more like possible rust from the inside of the old, metal gas can.
After thoroughly cleaning the fuel filter, he gave us options. We could try to continue on to Kettle Falls in the rental boat, OR we could take the "work" boat and continue our trip while they headed back in our boat, OR we could just head back with Sally & Dave.
We didn't have much confidence in the newer boat, so we opted to take the work boat and proceeded to Kettle Falls. We were so close, we might as well finish that leg of the trip.
The work boat was a sight. The seats were ripped, panels were dented, pedestal seats were barely bolted in, etc.
But the engine was working, and that's pretty much all we needed. We moved our cooler and stuff onto the old pontoon boat, bid farewell to Sally & Dave, and headed toward our intended destination.
As we got closer to Kettle Falls, the navigational markers disappeared. At one spot where we weren't quite sure which way to go, some fishermen pointed us in the right direction. Shortly after that, we arrived.
We tied up at one of the docks ....
and then Therese noticed she had a voicemail on her cell phone. It was Dave.
They hadn't gotten far on the way back and were now dead in the water themselves. They told us to take our time, but look for them on the way back as they would need a tow back to Arrowhead.
So, we did a quick tour and took the obligatory photos.
We walked to the Kettle Falls Hotel which was built in 1910.
There is a dam at the falls, and we weren't particularly interested in seeing a non-natural waterfall, so we skipped the dam overlook.
We went into the Lumberjack Saloon which was somewhat interesting with its slanted floor and old photos.
But the hotel and the veranda just weren't appealing. There is no view, and the historical aspects weren't enough to make us say "Wow, what a really cool place".
I'm certainly glad we didn't spend money to take a tour boat out there and then have what many consider a way overpriced lunch. Linda & I just couldn't see the attraction and, though the trip on the lovely lakes was nice, we thought the stop at Kettle Falls was a waste of time. Just our opinion.
So, we made our way back to the "ugly" but reliable boat and headed back to look for Dave & Sally.
We found them anchored not far from marker "4". We maneuvered alongside, and Dave tied up the disabled boat. Soon, we were on our long, slow trip back.
My hopes for exploring some of the quiet coves of Namakan Lake were gone, but we got to know Dave & Sally and heard the story of how they ended up here from Illinois. The family bought Arrowhead back in 2001. Dave said he wanted to work at a resort on a lake since he was eight years old.
He said there wasn't much money in being a dock boy, so they had to become owners. Sally chimed in that there isn't much money in that either.
Arrowhead has 3 RV sites, 10 cabins, and 5 lodge rooms as well as a restaurant. They have no staff, so the family does everything. Sally's mom, Betsy, does most of the cooking, and she provides all the baked goods to the Pine Ridge Gift Shop. We've all had her delicious baked goods, but didn't know the connection until now.
Sally was very apologetic and thanked us multiple times for being good sports, although she had to admit she was happy to be out on the lake instead of cleaning cabins.
As we got closer to the resort, the skies clouded up. They told us we could continue our day on the water after we dropped them and the other boat at the dock, but we all decided we'd had enough for today.
When we arrived at the dock, we helped them tie up both boats and offered payment. They said "You don't owe us anything" and again thanked us for being good sports. But Ed & Therese weren't comfortable with that and insisted they take some money at least for the gas. Dave & Sally were uncomfortable accepting anything, so there was generosity and awkwardness all around.
Yep, once again, our saying rings true - "It's always an adventure with Howard & Linda".
So, our day on the water didn't turn out exactly how we had planned, but it was still an enjoyable day that turned out to be very inexpensive, and we got to know some local folks and hear their story.
We just never know how each day is going to unfold, and there is a certain peace in being able to accept that fact and go with the flow.
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