Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grand Portage National Memorial (MN),
July 23-24

Anishinabe or Ojibwe Tepees
 covered with birch bark
Now in Minnesota, I went to the Grand Portage National Memorial on Lake Superior, very close to the Canadian border.  This is a reconstructed depot used by the Northwest Trading Company.  Now, I think of the northwest as those areas around my home in Washington State.  But, early in our country's history, Minnesota was the far northwestern territory of the country.

A Voyageur Camp outside of the fort
Most of the staff and volunteers at this park dress in period clothes.  At the time I was there, in the middle of the week, there wasn't too much going on.  But, I did get a lesson on making birch baskets.  I learned that birch bark is naturally waterproof.  The Ojibwe made some of their baskets in such a way as to hold water so that they could cook in them.  Their tepees were also covered in birch bark.  Similarly, the Ojibwe and later, the Voyageurs made their canoes out of birch.

An office in the fort
Just outside of the fort were the reenacted camps of the Ojibwe and the Voyageurs.  Within the walls of the fort were gardens growing antique crops, a working kitchen, offices and a mess hall.  At this depot, the Ojibwe and the Voyageurs would sell their beaver furs to the NW Trading Company.  Often the price of a beaver pelt was paid in blankets, iron tools, or guns.  The furs were then packed tightly in 90 pound packages and canoed further up to Montreal where they were shipped to Europe.  Top hats made of beaver felt were all the rage.

Inside the fort
kitchen on the left, mess hall on the left
I love birch trees, and here the hill sides were covered with them.  At first I was concerned about how many dead trees I saw.  But, I learned that logging in the area stopped about 70 years ago and that birch have a lifespan of 60 to 70 years.  So, the dead trees that I saw were mostly the old trees that had reached the end of their natural life.

Baking ovens just outside the kitchen
While in the area, I decided to go 45 minutes north to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada for the afternoon.  It was a dry run to make sure I had everything in order for Canadian travel to future destinations.  Everything went pretty good, both coming and going ... I did find out, though, that you can't take pepper spray into Canada unless it's meant for an animal, e.g., bear spray.

originally posted 9/7/10

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