The Northland

The murders and mayhem in Minnesota from the tragedies that inspired the movie and television series Fargo has always held my captivation. Not so much for the legitimacy of the stories being told, but for the people and locations that could garner such actions and subsequent reactions.
So why not head up to Minnesota’s Northland for a couple of days and see what this area is all about?
Although the snow, for the most part, had retreated from the ground, the 4,000 lakes of this region were still under the frozen grip of Winter. Nineteen degrees Fahrenheit as I wake up in Bemidji.
The friendliness of the locals is contagious. You find their mannerisms and local dialect infectious, a heart warming contrast to the cold outside. Yet my time finds itself better spent in among the forests of the Chippewa. Bemidji is translated from the Native American language to mean “lake that traverses another body of water“.
I set out to traverse the landscape on a day that is tipping the scales between Winter and Spring. Who knows what I will find in this land that is dominated by two cultures, the Native Chippewa Indians and the Scandinavian Vikings of old.
The woods open to the Tower Lakes trail. I hear woodpeckers and the occasional beaver as I hike along. Everything is lying in wait for the ground to soften so that new life can emerge.
As the day becomes warmer I leave this trail to a series of connected paths in the Itasca State Park, headwaters to the mighty Mississippi river. The clouds move quickly in the sky above as a northwesterly wind is blowing in a night time snowstorm.
Until then, the Ozawindib trail is all mine. You can imagine the activity of the animals that will be forthcoming, but for now, the only sounds are the ice cracking and the rubbing of tree branches in the wind as they stretch after a long and cold winter.
With a few hours more until sunset, I drive to the Canadian border, if only to say I have done so. More remote the land becomes, as well as the people that live on it. Stacks of endless firewood, abandoned trailer homes and rusty fishing shacks dot the landscape.
I get lost on a muddy road that leads nowhere. I find a horse that reminds me of what I may find in Iceland. The eyes in his face seem distant yet acutely aware of the solitude and cold.
He looks at me with curiosity as I wonder about the life he must lead out here in the Northland.
The sun is spreading it’s golden glow across the endless trees and open, rolling hills. A few deer gallop off as I approach, their white tails bobbing up and down as they head towards the treeline.
I stop on the road, and take it all in.
Home to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, first establishment on the Mississippi, the great Bemidji was a place full of beauty, in the landscape and the people.
Not a place that would be the cause of such murder and tragedy as was portrayed in Fargo.
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Wench, bring my ale, what say you?