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Itasca is a remedy for the blues

This past week has not been one to cultivate happy feelings among the people of Minnesota. With the Twins blowing their chance at the playoffs, the economy being the way it is, and the Vikings being, well, themselves, it's sometimes hard to see the bright side. Most of us can survive, even happily, with the shortcomings of our state's professional sports teams. But America's economic situation as of late has been dragging a lot of us into the "bluest of blue funks." As it turned out, my family had caught the highly contagious blues bug, so last Sunday we went with a few members of our church to ride the bicycle trails of Itasca State Park for the afternoon. It had been a while since I'd witnessed the God-given beauty and grandeur of Itasca during autumn, and, upon turning onto the winding road leading to the heart of the park, my mind could come up with no better word to describe the scene which unfolded before me than gorgeous. The fact that I couldn't think of anything manlier and less flowery than gorgeous to describe the picture-perfect scenery chagrined me a little. But saying that the eclectic mix of many-colored leaves and trees that seemed to touch the sun --which shone brilliantly upon the park --was simply eye-catching, or even pretty, though it may have been more masculine to do so, would have gravely understated the pristine panorama of perfection that unfolded before me. Truly, it was gorgeous.

After a picnic of hotdogs cooked over an open fire, and some beans and bars, we rode the paved trails on rented bicycles for most of the afternoon. We visited the Headwaters (an old standby), a gift shop, and two "visitor centers" along the way. Though those three stops were certainly interesting, they did not constitute the highlight of my trip. Rather, I felt the most contented on the seemingly endless (but in a good way) miles where I could neither see nor hear any traces of civilization, but only the endless procession of brightly-colored autumn leaves and sturdy pines.

That is when I truly realized why people come from all corners of the globe to spend time at Itasca State Park. I know they do, by the way, because during a camping trip last summer, I could hear people speaking in a myriad of languages while standing at the headwaters. It's humbling to think that people come from all around the world to experience what's practically in our backyard!

Itasca State Park is world-renowned, and for good reason. It is home to the state's record white pine and red pine, both reportedly over 300 years old, and the source of the Mississippi river. But even more importantly, Itasca hosts thousands of acres of unadulterated Minnesota wilderness, which is considered to be some of the most diverse and beautiful in the world. That being said, it would be shameless for anyone living as close to this oasis of trees and wildlife as we do, to not experience it often. The combination of fresh air, breathtaking scenery, and generally calming atmosphere that a park such as Itasca offers will quickly help even the most uptight to forget the realities of everyday life. And right now, people need nothing more.