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Deer River Northern Pike

Deer River, Minnesota

A Roadside Attraction Edition:

Not to be outdone by the town of Garrison, Deer River has its own aquatic idol: the lean, mean, northern pike. Although the general consensus of our little band of hunters was that the fish looked more Muskie-like.

Photos were taken of a thirteen year old caught in the jaws of this magnificent carnivore, but they are too gruesome to share here.


Quebec City

Citadel wall around Quebec

The Algonquian people called the area Kébec, meaning “Where the river narrows”. Jacques Cartier, the French explorer, built a fort here in 1535.

Samuel de Champlain founded the city on the bank of the Saint Lawrence River in 1608. Champlain adopted the Algonquin name, calling the new settlement Quebec.

The old city, Vieux-Québec, is still surrounded by ramparts. The fortified city walls are the last ones remaining in the Americas north of Mexico.

The Saint Lawrence River from the citadel walls

Lucas and I spent the day exploring Vieux-Québec. From the Plains of Abraham to the citadel walls and down to the railway station and the river port, we walked the historic streets of this fascinating city.

Monument to Samuel de Champlain

I brought the old Kodak 66 along just for this part of the journey. It offered a good excuse to pop into a pub for a pint to reload the camera with its 120 film. Since I’m traveling light on this trip, no laptop, just the smartphone and two film cameras, if anything interesting comes out of the film, I’ll post it upon my return to Alaska.

The Chateau Frontenac

I really enjoyed Quebec City, especially Old Quebec. I loved the history and character of the city, and found it so much easier than Montreal to get around. I would love to go back: spend a week wandering the city, then a week or more wandering the National Park to the north.

The city was not void of crowds, however. I found the tourist volume to ebb & flow. One moment we would have a street to ourselves, then a moment later we would be surrounded by madness. Luckily, both Lucas and I found a certain amount of amusement in that.

In many places, stairs link the lower and upper part of the town. The Escalier « casse-cou, literally means: “neck breaking” steps. Lucas insisted on getting the full experience, so we ventured both down, and then up this series of steps.

Gare du Palais, “The Palace Station”

The train Depot in Quebec is a work of art. Called the Palace Station, the Via-Rail station is the eastern terminus of the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor.

The Palace Station ceiling

Wandering the streets of Quebec City


1932 Olympic Arena

The 1932 Olympic Winter Games were also held in Lake Placid. Clarkson Doug & I did a quick tour of that arena prior to the ECAC Championship game.

The old arena is still being used today. In fact a Can/Am Tournament was being held that week.

The arena is now dedicated to Jack Shea, the first American to win two gold medals at a Winter Olympics. He won twice for speed skating in 1932.


During the ’32 Olympics; Photo credit: Team USA Hockey

Canada, represented by the Winnipeg Hockey Club would win gold in ’32. The USA took home silver, and Germany won the bronze.


Jerome, AZ


Cleopatra Hill

The United Verde Copper Company was started on Cleopatra Hill in 1883. The town of Jerome was incorporated 6 years later. By 1900, Jerome was a bustling mining community, and by 1903, the New York Sun described the town as “the wickedest town in the west”.

We decided to see just how wicked, when we made the loop to Prescott.


Remains of a grocery store front

Today, the narrow, winding streets of Jerome contain no obvious red light district. With the closing of the UVCC, the town turned to artists and retail to stay alive. Tourism and outdoor recreation are the main economic drivers.


Jerome’s “Sliding Jail” has moved 200′ downhill since originally being built

A subsidence problem developed in the 1920’s when 10 buildings were damage beyond repair by 1928. Dozens of buildings were damaged as the earth sank beneath them. The jail “slid” downhill 200 feet. Faulting in the area, as well as blasts from the mines were contributing factors. The smoke from the smelter killed off vegetation, which dramatically increased erosion. The mine was eventually shut down in 1953.

Jerome is a neat, little, mountain town. The 2010 census tells us that 444 people call Jerome home, and I can understand why they live here.


Deep Hole

Trail to Deep Hole
The trail out to Deep Hole

One of gems of Myakka River State Park is Deep Hole. A 140′ deep sinkhole that draws alligators like a white trash bag draws ravens. The volunteer at Oscar Scherer was the first to put Deep Hole on my radar.

Deep Hole

It’s a 2 mile hike out to Deep Hole, and you need one of the thirty permits issued each day to venture out there. The hike is a relatively easy one, a bit sandy in spots, but flat terrain. I was at the ranger station by 8:15am to get the permit, then drove to the trailhead.

Alligators at Deep Hole

As many as 200 alligators can be seen out at Deep Hole, at any one time. I have no idea how many were there for my visit. There were a dozen sunning themselves on shore, and another 50 or so in the water. The number in the water was tough to estimate, as they kept submersing and rising again.

Alligators
Every black bump on the water is an alligator

At first, I had one bank of the ‘Gator Hole to myself, but eventually other hikers clambered through the hammock to join me. Still, the entire time I was out there, the gators far outnumbered the dozen or so hikers.

Alligators at Myakka

One can also kayak or canoe out to Deep Hole, although I’m not sure if actually kayaking into the Hole would be a great idea, or even if it is allowed. I talked to a father/son team that morning who were planning on canoeing out there later that day. There is a nice beach to land at on the lake which Deep Hole connects to.

I don’t know what time of year, or even what time of day, is best to hike out there to catch a glimpse of the most alligators. I was there, so I went, and I was glad that I did. Deep Hole for gators is like McNeil River for brown bears, and a place well worth the trek out to visit.


River of Grass

The grassy waters of Shark River Slough:

Bald Cypress
Bald cypress

“Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the last receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country.”
—President Harry S. Truman
Dedicating Everglades National Park
December 6, 1947

Grassy Waters

Everglades truly is a special place, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. I admit, I am intrigued by the 99 mile Wilderness Waterway. A canoe trip between Everglades City and Flamingo. Even the shorter Canoe Trails would be a blast. Although in winter.

Shark River Slough
Looking out onto a sea of sawgrass

At one time, water would overflow from Lake Okeechobee, and slowly flow south, through a much larger Shark River Slough and the Everglades, finally entering the Gulf of Mexico. Today, approximately 1/5 remains of what the Everglades once were.

Everglades: Then & Now
The Everglades: Then & Now


Of Bears & Buzzards

Ochlockonee River
A very high Ochlockonee River

I camped in the Apalachicola National Forest along the Ochlockonee River. Driving in, I had seen a small black bear that couldn’t decide if he wanted to cross the road or not.

I hadn’t planned on staying in one of the official campsites, but thought I’d drive into one to check it out. I was surprised to find a camp host, although there were no other campers. The hosts were a local couple, he was 75 and she was 59; they had met 6 years ago and had been spending much of their time camping and fishing Florida’s panhandle together.
It turns out that their camper had no electricity, and of course, I was put to work. After a quick rewire of a circuit breaker and the elimination of a section of bare wire, they had power again.
And I had a campsite.

A beautiful night, if a bit muggy for this Alaskan. I had been invited down to share a campfire with the hosts, and we enjoyed a nice conversation around the fire comparing life in Florida and Alaska. It was going to be just one night of camping in the forest, since some severe weather was heading in and three inches of rain was called for. As it was, the hosts told me I had just missed the same in southern Georgia.

Black vulture
One of many black vultures

Black vultures have been everywhere. A string of them were dining on a roadkill carcass when I came along. They had no intention at all of moving for the Nissan, and I really didn’t want to hit any with it either. I’ve had to wind my way through herds of moose, bison and caribou, but this was the first time I’ve had to do it for buzzards.
I spotted another black bear, this one quite large. Right after that, I came around a sharp corner and startled a vulture. The vulturus, Latin for “tearer”, almost flew right through the open passenger window. It’s wingspan was wider than the window, and it rose just enough that I could catch the sight of its wing through the glass t-top. What an event that would have been. Grabbing a buzzard head with one hand, opening the driver’s window with the other, and steering with my knees.
Next time, I need to remember the Go-Pro.

Ochlockonee River 2