Day 9: Holy crap! It’s the Aurora Borealis!

IMG_6735Well, my plan worked.  Two beers at the Rock Nook restaurant in Ely, Minnesota before bedtime and I was up at 12:30 AM looking for the bathroom (or rather level ground in the woods next to my campsite).  I had known the chances of seeing the Northern Lights was pretty good since I religiously look at the Aurora Forecast websites whenever I am up north.  So, my timing was good and my bladder did it’s job and woke me up from a deep sleep.

I was also fortunate to have chanced into the BEST campsite ever.  Site #29 at the Fall Lake Campground outside of Ely, MN, has complete privacy and a even a little trail that leads down to a private beach on the lake.  I stumbled down the path, half asleep to “my” beach and found my camp chair that I had arranged earlier in the evening for choice northern exposure.

At first, the lights were vague and faded.  It looked like the sky right after sunset where residual light still lingers in the sky.  But as my eyes adjusted, I could make out the colors, green and pink, and then spot the moving columns of light that slowly danced about like a curtain in the breeze.

It was slow.  It was subtle.  And thankfully, my camera had a wide angled lens that could capture the light better than my aging eyes.  All I had to do was try to manage to keep my camera steady for approximately 30 seconds per exposure and there it was:  magic.

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So, this is how I started Day 9.  Not bad, eh?  And after about an hour of sitting out on the lake’s edge, I went back to sleep in my little tent until the sun started to rise a few hours later.

At 6 AM, I made my way back down to the lake with my cup of tea and my camera and here I turned my attention to the rising sun and the how the landscape reflected the changes.  The trees became electric with their changing leaves and the still lake began to ripple blues and pinks.  Let me tell ya, this place was hard to leave this morning.

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But, leave I did.  And after a quick stop in Ely for a goodbye breakfast of buttermilk biscuit egg sandwich at Gator’s, I was off again on a long day’s drive.

The landscape changed from thick forests of birch and hemlocks, to rolling hills to farmland, to strip mined mountains, to corn fields and grain silos.  I drove through Minnesota and across the Mississippi into the small town of Bemidji, where tourists stop for photos of Paul Bunyan and Babe.  And yeah, I stopped for the same reason.  That and some really fine ramen.

More images of Bemidji:

Back on the road for another two hours until I finally reached Fargo.  About 30 miles from Fargo, the corn and sunflower fields started and I realized I was coming out of the forest and into the prairie.

As I rode along these county roads, I spotted long trains and grain silos that rose like skyscrapers.  I am excited to see what comes next.  But for now, I am grateful to be in Fargo for the night, resting in a basement apartment Airbnb where I have Hulu and a washer and dryer.  Clean clothes and a shower are the best when you are on the road for extended periods of time.

My brief trip into downtown Fargo was nice but I a weary, so here are a few photos of Fargo before I hit the pillow.  Tomorrow:  Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

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