Q: How do you keep kids out of the water? A: You call the place “Leech Lake.”
I mean, we’ve been here for about three days now, and have waded the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca, dipped our feet into LaSalle and Bemidji. But in spite of the glorious sunswept vista, and inviting shoreline just outside our door, I haven’t quite been ready to expose my toes to a body of water called “Leech Lake.” Not that I’m squeamish; I just grew up with the understanding that names tend to have meanings, you know?
Devon and I are up here in northern Minnesota visiting Antarctica friends, walking lake shores, sampling farmers markets, and just lying on the dock, watching the world go by. Leech Lake has proven itself a remarkably good place for all of that.
Paul founded the Polar Geospatial Center and pretty much single handedly drove the creation and public availability of high-definition maps for the entire southern continent. I got introduced to him during my South Pole stint and I feel we immediately recognized each other as kindred “instigator at large” spirits. We’ve been crossing paths and visiting each other since, but this is the first time we’ve managed to visit him and his wife up at their new hideaway.
We’re headed east from here, making an overnight stop in Duluth – because, Duluth, you know? – then on to Appleton, Wisconsin to catch up with more friends from way, way back. Last time I was in Duluth they had an autumn storm that dropped a foot of snow on the town, with wind and waves that flooded the city and threw the lakefront boardwalk two blocks into the downtown streets. Our conference host wryly noted that this was exactly the weather in which the Edmund Fitzgerald went down.
The weather forecast is staggeringly mild and beautiful this time, but I expect we’ll still manage to pick up a story or two on the way through. Before then, I still need to convince myself to get out on that lake here.