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Enchanted HighwayTurtle River State Park, Grand Forks

Giant metal sculptures, Great state park washrooms, hiking, birds, beer, long-ish drive to Duluth

overcast 17 °C

Sep 7 to Sep 13 Days 108 to 114

Enchanted Highway, Bismarck, Turtle River State Park, the drive to Duluth

Distance traveled 1,000 km towing, 150 local travel, trip total 17,500 kilometers

Gas prices $3.599/gal, converts to $1.315/l in North Dakota and Minnesota

Sep 7

When the last blog was posted it was mid-afternoon on the 7th, the heat was climbing to 42 C and we were melting. It stayed hot over night. We endured it, slept with just a sheet covering us. It seems the last day of the heat wave was the hottest of them all.

For diversion, we watched a DVD: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. By the time that ended it was just cool enough to sleep.

Sep 8

By 7:30am the heat wave was at an end. A cold front blew in from the north and finally brought a change. Gusty wind threatened to break our awning and Jenny had to hold one end down while I cranked it in. Dust swirled about.

We both showered to get the sweat and grit off before breaking camp. By 10am we were on the road to Bismarck. We stopped in Dickinson for gas at the Family Fare Market, where we had grocery shopped a few days before. They have a gas station and the grocery store gives discount gas coupons when you buy food and we had one for $0.75 a gallon. The pump price was $3.599, but we paid just $2.849 for our fill-up. Family Fare has lots of locations on our route home…we will use them.

About 10 minutes down the I-94 we saw signs for the “Enchanted Highway”. Curious, we took the exit to check it out. The 30-mile section of Highway 12, down to Regent, is dotted with massive metal sculptures. Pictures are worth more than words:


According to the signs explaining things, a local farmer/welder decided to revitalize the town of Regent, by placing the sculptures along the highway. Other farms helped with the welding and erecting of these incredible monuments. When we finally got to Regent, it was far from revitalized, but at least we had an adventure checking out the highway.

Instead of returning to the I-94, we stayed on the rural highways across the state. It was lovely to travel through tiny towns and see all farms of rural North Dakota. We arrived at Sibley Campground, just south of Bismarck around 3pm. We did not have reservations…after all, it is past Labour Day and we did not expect to need one. Wrong! Bismarck is packed this weekend. In addition to the Food Truck Festival that we hoped to attend, there is a huge Pow-Wow taking place as well as a city-wide yard sale. We are able to get one night, so we unhook TaJ, and seek Wi-fi at a local mall to plan our next step.

I need a new pair of KEEN hikers…mine have had about all they can take. We get that purchase made and then settle in with our phones and a map to make some plans. We have 4 nights to figure out. We can do this as 2-two-night stops, or one 4-night stop. We had thought Fargo might be interesting, but we also thought Grand Forks might do the trick. Both are on our route towards Duluth and a 3-day reservation at the Boat Basin. Hmm! We decide to leave it overnight and see what we think in the morning.

Sep 9

After a night’s sleep we decide to do a 4-night stay, either in Fargo area or Grand Forks. I head out to gas-up and get Sully through a car wash. The dust from our stay in Medora is everywhere. We get on the internet on the phone and check out a number of spots. We finally decide on Turtle River State Park, near Grand Forks. We check the website, see that a number of sites are available. Since it will be a 5+ hour drive and it is already closing in on noon, we book and pay for a site. There are a number of hiking trails at Turtle River, as well, the park is on a bird migration route. It is close to Grand Forks. We should find lots to do for a 4-night/3-day stay.

Once again, we forgo expressways for back roads. We zig-zag across the state, checking out small towns like Carrington, home of the 2nd largest pasta factory in the country, and New Rockford, which, when we get there, does not seem to have much of anything to brag about. We gassed up there, at $3.599/gallon. North of New Rockford, we come upon 12 miles of highway being totally reconstructed. It is gravel. Argh! We push through, even though it will mean another car wash.

On our route, we came upon this flock of pelicans on their migration south.


Our route targeted Devil’s Lake, on Highway 2, the main northern route across the state. We arrived, with plans to stop at a liquor store to re-supply our cabinet. Lo and behold, next to the liquor store, is a truck wash, with bays big enough to fit our rig. $10 later, the road dust was off Sully and the TaJ-ma-Haul. Yay…we do not like a dirty rig.

We stocked up at the liquor store. By now it is late afternoon and we still have 90 minutes of driving to reach our destination. The last bit of the drive was on Highway 2, one of the nicest non-expressway highways in the country. Turtle River State Park is great. We got the TaJ set up just as dusk was settling in. Jenny worked the evening away getting our finances under control. We like to know where we stand and it had been a few days. I cooked supper, did the dishes and generally kept out of her way as she plugged number into our financial system. She eventually declared herself satisfied that control has been re-established.

It is finally cool enough to contemplate putting on long pants tomorrow. As we settle in to sleep ii is a lovely 15 C outside, heading down to 9 C overnight. The heat is gone.

Sep 10

Our hot morning coffee was a treat this morning. First cold morning in a long time. It got me to thinking I had better see to our propane tanks today. It has been over a month since we have used any propane at all in the trailer. I am still working on the 6-pound tank that goes with our Coleman Stove, but it has been feeling near empty as well of late.

The showers here at Turtle River as some of the best we have seen and we try them out this morning. Excellent! Once dressed and fed we head out for the first of a few walks here. We followed the road down to an old CCC constructed cabin. You remember the CCC, that core of workers that Roosevelt put to work during the depression. Well, Turtle River had quite a crew of them. Lots of infrastructure, hand built in the 1930’s by gangs of workers.

We headed down two different trails today, one called the Ravine Trail, that follows, well, a ravine, up and down along one of the creeks that flows into the Turtle River. This trail blended into the River Trail. In all we did 90 minutes and about 5 km of walking. Good to be out doors on a NOT hot day. Across the ravine, we caught a glimpse of the TaJ-ma-Haul.


We came upon this caterpillar on a milkweed...not a Monarch, but interesting nonetheless.


After lunchtime, I turned my attention to the propane issue. I removed the 20-pound tank from its perch at the front of the trailer and added the 6-pound tank from the Coleman stove and headed off to find propane. Not an easy task to find, it seems. I searched the local small towns without luck, finally giving up after about 40 km of driving. We will try to get these filled tomorrow when we head into Grand Forks for laundry and wi-fi time. We read for much of the afternoon. Supper tonight is a Caesar Salad and pan-fired shrimp. Yummy.

Sep 11

Chilly morning, with the propane heater on for the first time in weeks. The day promises to be warm, but dawn is a bit of a shocker. We bundle up, enjoy our coffee and a slow-start to the day. Jenny does Wordle. I’m plowing through the 1,045 page long “The Ink Black Heart” by J.K. Rowling.

We have plans today in Grand Forks. Laundry…all of it, bedding, clothes, towels, etc. We can make it two weeks before we have to haul it all out of TaJ and get it clean. Today’s the day. Jenny strips the bed; we gather stuff from all its hidey-holes and load it in to Sully.
Before we depart there is time for a very solid walk. I’m breaking in my new KEEN hikers and I just want to walk on pavement for a bit. We do a 40-minute, 3.5 km walk around the campground and park roads. Great cardio work!

Grand Forks is about 20 miles away, down highway 2. We boot into town and hit the propane dealer first. We get our 6-pound tank refilled, but the 20 pounder is past its best-before date, so we simply do a tank swap. Voila, done! We have enough propane to get most of the way home, depending on how cold it gets in the next 37 days.

Laundry at the Bubble Wash. Massive washers that take everything in one load. We plug $6.25 in quarters, one-by-one, into the machine. If there has ever been a good reason for the US to go to $1 coins, this might be it. The Bubble Wash has wi-fi, so like every other person in the place, we are face down in our devices until the wash is done. We have no wi-fi at the campground so it is nice to get caught up a bit. I research breweries for lunch, and we come up with Rhombus Guys, in downtown Grand Forks, and grocery stores, the town has a chain called Hugos.
We finish folding and sorting the now clean and dry laundry. Rhombus Guys is a pretty cool downtown brewery. We try a couple of samples, then order ‘brunch’. Jenny had a scrambled egg and cheese flatbread, and I had fried chicken and donuts. Surprisingly delicious Jenny had a Greenway IPA, and in honour of her majesty’s recent passing, I had a Queen’s Ale. Excellent choice.

We stocked up for the next couple of days at Hugos Grocery Store, picked up a 6-pack of Greenway for back at the trailer, and returned to Turtle River. Beds made, clothes put away in their various bins, etc. we had showers once again in these most-excellent shower rooms here at the State Park. Top drawer facilities...best of the trip so far.

We settled in for the night, reading…we are both now on “The Ink Black Heart” and making solid progress on a difficult read. A finger or two of Crown Royal Black to end the night and off to sleep. We realize that we have not had an outdoor fire in weeks. We will have to rectify this before long. We had been under a fire ban for so long that it became second nature to ignore the fire-pits in our campsites.

Sep 12

Oatmeal for breakfast today. Our day started with a 3.5 km, hour-long hike. The Eco Trail and the Cattail Trail kept us moving about. Wildlife pictures did not happen, at least not here.

We left Turtle River and headed for Kelly’s Slough Wildlife Refuge. After a 5-mile jaunt down gravel roads we arrived at this small lake…well, I guess a Slough. It was filled with shore birds on their migration south. Pretty cool place. A little farther along our travels we came to another Slough filled with blue herons, a half dozen pelicans, and lots of smaller birds. Jenny got some nice photos.


This area has hundreds of acres of sugar beets, and the harvest is just getting underway. Major crops here in North Dakota are wheat, corn, soybeans, beets, potatoes and sunflowers. Not to mention hay for livestock feed. By mid-afternoon we were back at Turtle River, taking it easy, reading, drinking a bit of beer. We have zero plans for the rest of today. Tomorrow, we hit the road for Duluth, Minnesota.

Sep 13

A day on the road. As we departed Turtle River, these three deer gave us a send off stare:


We left at 9:30am, drove 450 km, and, with stops for gas and groceries along the way, arrived at the Boat Basin, on Duluth’s harbour, about 4:30pm. We got the TaJ set-up in our site on the docks and took a walk through the shopping/eating district. There will be photos of this whole area in our next blog entry. Blustery winds in the evening and the promise of rain in the next couple of days.

We are parked right next to the lift bridge on the harbour.


Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 15:43 Archived in USA Tagged enchanted_highway turtle_river_state_park grand_forks kelly's_slough_wildlife_reserve

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