Birtchdale, MN on the Rainy River – June 18, 2012
The park was empty until the border patrol truck rolled to a stop in gravel fifteen feet from me as I packed equipment into my kayak.
“You headed to Rainy Lake?” the officer asked.
His eyes went from me to the boat and back again.
“Yea,” I said.
The Rainy River goes right down the border, so I’d been paddling along his line all day. Even if you don’t see it on a map, you’d know the border was there by the maple leafs and stars and stripes hanging from flagpoles outside every house on the river.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Florida,” I said.
I could see him looking at the boat and me trying to decide what to do about me. It feels like a low-level grudge match is going on across the border over minor slights like which fish you can catch and what bait to use. No one is going to war over a few walleye, but a bit of harassment is just payback for some perceived injustice from the other side.
“I’m hoping to get back to Florida before winter so I don’t freeze solid,” I said.
“I used to be stationed in New Mexico, so I got spoiled too,” he said.
“You ever been to Hachita?” I asked.
“Yea,” he said. “I worked out of Demming.”
“You ever heard of the Continental Divide Trail?” I said. “I was down there hiking that three years ago.”
“Oh yea,” he said.
“You all stopped me three times between Crazy Cook and Lordsberg,” I said, grinning at him.
He laughed again, shook his head, and waved me back to my boat.
“Have a good one,” he said.