Baptism River in Late November

Sometimes it takes a change of plans to get us to slow down. My recent trip to the Baptism River is as far back as I need to look for an example. The plan was to drive up on a Tuesday morning with my fishing gear, spend the day on the water, stay with some friends in Duluth, then spend Wednesday fishing, before driving back to Minneapolis after dark. But like any adventure, plans changed.

Winter came early in Minnesota this year. What should’ve been sweater weather and chilly water ended up being parka weather and shore-to-shore ice. Can’t chase trout without open water. This was my cue to slow down.


If you were to hand me a map of Minnesota and point out my favorite place, I’d select the Baptism River without hesitation. The boreal forest lines a river carved in billion-year-old volcanic rock, where moose and wolves roam freely and salmon run every fall. Of the handful of trips I make to this place every year, I spend as much time as possible fishing. Park the car, hustle up the trail, fish, hustle to another spot, fish more, then hustle back to the car to get back to camp before dark. Not much time is left to enjoy the place itself.

That’s where the change of plans comes in. I walked along the river on a snow-covered trail that had more animal tracks than bootprints. Foxes, deer, rabbits, birds, otters, and a variety of tiny rodents left tracks in the fresh snow. Because the river was frozen and rushing water covered in ice, I was able to actually hear the park–birds, wind, squirrels, snowflakes landing on my shoulders. I watched an otter slip around on the ice near the bottom of a small waterfall with open water and I got a bit of comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who’s clumsy when it’s slippery. On the drive up, I thought I needed to go fishing, when I really just needed a walk in the woods.