no trip to the northwoods is complete without a pilgrimage to lake itasca, the headwaters of the mississippi river.  no  matter how many times i've been there before, i still love to wade across the ankle-deep stream within its first few recognizable meters, and wade downstream until it's nearly hip-deep.  it's humbling to contemplate where the low, quiet water flowing through the woods will eventually wind up.  the river actually flows north for its first few dozen miles and is a beautiful, several-day canoe trip (as illustrated in this beautiful children's book).  i paddled it with a friend in 2003 and seldom have i spent a more peaceful four days, or seen fewer people – we stayed in several campsites that were river-access only and no one else was anywhere nearby.  we did see snapping turtles, eagles, herons, and wild otters.

even in itasca state park, which on any beautiful summer day will be crawling with tourists from near and far, there are good flora and fauna to be seen if you take the time.

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