22-Aug-2003 -- My friends (Doug Duchon and Rick Allen) and I learned of the Confluence Project about 5 weeks ago. We immediately decided that we would select a confluence and attempt a visit. Unfortunately, Minnesota (where we are from), both of the Dakotas, as well as Iowa and Wisconsin are complete. The nearest confluence not visited was located in southern Ontario, Canada, so we made plans for a visit to occur in late August.
We left Minneapolis, MN on Thursday afternoon and drove to Gilbert, MN where we spent the night in a very nice campground located just south of town. We woke up Friday morning and drove to Cook, MN where we had a hearty breakfast before driving on to International Falls (the Minnesota town bordering Ft. Francis, Ontario, Canada). The Canadian Customs Agent was a bit suspicious of our reason for visiting Canada until she read the "Letter to Landowners", which explained the project and justified our visit.
Another hour on the road put us north of Finland, Canada at the road (trail?) to Gohere Bay (part of Lake of the Woods). Rick's four wheel drive Ford F150 transported us about seven miles off of the main highway, to within about 1.7 miles of the confluence. Here the trail started to move away from the point of confluence. The terrain in this area is a combination of lowland bogs, dense wooded areas and outcroppings of bare rock.
It was about 12:30PM when we left the truck and started our hike toward the confluence. Our initial progress was through dense woods and areas of bare rock. Our thoughts at that point were that this would be a quick hike in and out. That was before we encountered the first bog. As we viewed the bog from a rocky cliff, it was obvious that we would have to cross it, as it extended for at least a mile in either direction. Our rubber boots were back at the truck, so we set off across the bog stepping on high spots of vegetation in a futile attempt to keep our feet dry. Trudging through this bog reminded all of us of walking through deep, heavy snow. We repeated the process through three more sections of dense woods and two more bogs before arriving at our destination. Once there, the next half hour was spent trying to get either of our two GPS's to stabilize at full zero's. Our photo shows the result of our efforts. This confluence is located in a heavily wooded area, so the photos of the four directions are very similar, as is the photo of the ground where the confluence is located.
The photo of the three of us has Doug in the center, Rick on the right and me on the left. By then it was nearly 3:00PM. We took a quick break for an apple and a drink of water and headed out. Our return trip was fairly uneventful and was completed by 4:30PM. After four hours of hiking through difficult terrain, we were ready for the drive back to Minnesota. At the border, the US Customs Agent was suspicious of our quick trip to and from Canada with no purchases. Even after explaining the project, she seemed unwilling to believe us until we showed her our digital photos. She waved us through and promised to look up the project web site.
After a great dinner at the Firehouse Spot (a restaurant in International Falls), we spent the night in a campground on Birch Point (on Rainy Lake). The drive south through the rain (contrasting the beautiful, sunny day we enjoyed on Friday) put us back in Minneapolis at about 4:00PM, almost exactly 48 hours after our departure. We had a great time and will all remember this adventure for years to come.