June 16:  Pine River to Lake Itasca State Park, MN  86 miles

Our last day of riding -- the sky is absolutely clear -- the air is warm -- no wind to speak of -- breakfast served gourmet style in the parking lot!!

With a long distance to travel the start to the day came as the sun peeked over the horizon.  It is back on the yesterday's Paul Bunyan Trail for the first twenty miles.  Being a Rails to Trails roadway the traffic was none, the incline zero and the only obstacle an occasional stop sign.

In the town of Hackensack old Paul stood at attention as we rode pass the visitors' center.  Peeking around behind him but in front of a beautiful lake was his girl friend, Lucentte.  Old Babe, his blue ox was no where to be found.  Guess it is either the girl friend or the best friend, but not the two together!!

Shortly after paying our respects to the namesake of the trail, we ventured out on to the highway and to the town of Akeley.  Skirting the main drag put us out on a newly paved highway 64 that didn't have a crack in it!!  The shoulder drop-off was a couple of dangerous inches high, but as long as one stayed to the left of it a foot or two away, it was smooth sailing.  Now when riding in a vehicle, one does not necessarily notice any cracks or small dips in the road surface -- but a biker will!  Each crack sends not only the front tire rattling, but does a nice number on the seat cushion too!!  Smooth surfaces are "Bicyclists' Gifts" from heaven!!

The countryside has now changed to the northern look.  Forests thick with pine trees cover both sides of the road with occasional meadows of yellow, white and purple flowers giving the appearance of a Monet painting when first sighted from afar.  The area is less domesticated with only a few farm buildings in the distance.  A great deal of the land is preserve property either owned by the local or state governments.

Beautiful landscapes abound!  This is for sure God's Country!  Loons, bald-headed eagles, deer -- all live in this paradise.

The ride from the town of Lake George (a crossroads in the middle of nowhere with makeshift "picnic" facilities in the front of a gas station) to the headwaters was beyond description.  Each turn, each rise or fall of the road, each new vista was more beautiful and spectacular than the one before it.  The smell of the pine, the sight of forests and meadows, the sense of gliding through paradise overtook each rider as we pushed farther and farther north.  

Lake Itasca State Park sits in the middle of all this splendor.  Entering through the North Entrance we followed the roadway to the Mississippi River Headwater Visitor Center.  After dismounting and collecting our thoughts, each walked the remaining 600 feet into the woods to the actual headwater of the great river we had been following for so many days.  A small stream tucked away in a corner of Lake Itasca is the "birthing" spot of the Great Mighty Mississippi River.  

With the ceremonial dipping into the water each rider completed her mission.  Now to just relax and spend a day absorbing all that has been accomplished.

Welcome to Backus!!

Pat and Jan Reassuring Paul that We are Friendly!!

Paul's Beautiful Girl Friend!


Judy and Holly Not Letting Paul Get Away!

Lois Going for a Talk with Paul's Girlfriend

Jenna, Joann, and Sue - Picnic in the Gas Station

Carol. Lois and Holly Enjoying the Picnic Spot!

Park Entrance

Frankie with Chief Caretaker!

Sue and "Caretaker"!

Lake Itasca

Jenna in the Headwater!

Holly, Judy, Joann, Carol in the Headwater

Carol, Joann, Judy, Patti

Group Celebration

Sue, Marilyn, Vicki, Lois, & Jenna at Headwater

Judy and Joann "Jumping" In!

Dunking Kathy's Scarf in the Mississippi!