Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Cliffs of Less

  Steve's wife Jackie told us about a road through the wild country south of Lake of the Woods. She said the road followed the Rapid River and for part of the route there were cliffs above the road and below it too, down to the river. Northwest Minnesota is mostly flat and boggy. There are incidental hills in these parts but I've never seen a Rocky Mountain style cliff around here. Rationally I knew Jackie's memories were improbable, but my imagination wanted the cliffs to be real.
  We were due for a sketching party. Many years ago Steve, our friend Marion Solom, and I took drawing classes from Marv Espe at Roseau High School on winter nights. In the past few years the three of us plus Jackie have started going on annual sketching parties. We'll pack a lunch and our art supplies and head for a scenic overlook within a 100 mile radius of home.  Jackie's cliffs sounded like the perfect venue.
  Last Wednesday was a great day for sketching: blue sky, 70 degrees, and most importantly, the mosquitoes were not yet out. We drove south to Grygla. I filled the tank (thanks Steve) and we headed east to Fourtown before turning north on the gravel. The Rapid River has it's source around here. The rest of our trip was in an easterly and northerly direction, our goal being the tiny town of Clementson on the Rainy River which forms the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. The gravel road grew narrow and bumpy befitting a trip into the outback. This was state forest land with occasional parcels of the Red Lake Indian Reservation larded in. The country kept switching from marshes of willow and tamarack to dark forests of aspen and black spruce. My phone switched from AT&T to No Service. We picked up the Rapid River. It was no more than waist deep and 20 feet across. Lethargic River would be a better name. The road turned into a grassy one lane track as it twisted and turned with the river. We were well on our way when I regretted not bringing my bow saw. A bow saw would be handy for removing any blowdowns across the road.  I consoled myself with the thought that there had not been any recent windstorms. A good blowdown would force our retreat to Grygla and disappointment. I was also happy it hadn't rained lately. Judging by the deep ruts, the road could get snotty when wet.
  Since I like to worry, I began to consider the age of my vehicle (11 years). In it's near two hundred thousand miles, my Corolla has never let me down. But if one of its crucial systems chanced to fail today, I'd have a long hike back to civilization. Traffic had been extremely light this morning.
  Jackie meanwhile was racking her brains wondering where her cliffs had gotten to. Any of us who has reached the age of seventy has had a number of personas. One of Jackie's was as owner of a supper club in Goodridge MN of all places. "Gooddidge," the locals call it. Her friends used to take her out along the Rapid to hunt. She'd be left alone with a gun and instructions to shoot any deer and pay no mind to the panic attacks. On nice days, these friends and she would continue on to the lodge at Waskish on Upper Red Lake. Jackie had four young kids at the time and she remembered how scared they were at the sight of those cliffs.  "Maybe the cliffs were along some other road to the river," she reasoned.  We stopped along the river for coffee and the muffins Teresa made before she kissed me good by. I hated to turn off the engine, but figured we could jump start the car if the starter failed. And there was plenty of water in the river should the engine overheat. We'd survive one way or the other. Jackie put a souvenir boulder in the trunk.
  The road left the river and straightened out, then found it again and turned curvy. Top speed was 25 for several miles. The sun rose towards it's zenith. Marion in the back seat said she was enjoying her holiday. After thirty-four miles of this we emerged into farm country south of Clementson. We hadn't seen a single vehicle along the river. A few miles later we were at the picnic area by Clementson, one of the prettiest spots in northwest Minnesota. And here at last were cliffs. Not Jackie's cliffs, but the spot where  the Rapid drops twenty feet into the Rainy. In thousands of years the river has cut  through the black rock of the Canadian Shield, tumbling boulders into the pools below. Several white pelicans sat in the pools and on the rocks catching fish.
Yellow part is Terra Canada
  After a quick lunch we settled down to sketch. A strong wind blew up from the gorge. The sun beat down. I drew rocks and pelicans and after awhile just watched. I think everyone else did the same. Steve wandered around taking pictures. I checked off another successful sketching party.
Total mileage on the day: 210 miles.
My sketch


Joe said...

Please post drawings from this marvelous day.

Chairman Joe said...

Having copyright issues but will do my best.

harada57 said...
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