Wednesday, August 8, 2018

MN State Parks: Itasca

Itasca: The headwaters of the Mississippi. Having traveled down river it is hard to imagine such a humble beginning for the Mighty Mississippi. 

We ventured to this state park on 4th of July Weekend. Unlike Mystery Cave, I don't think I'd recommend such a busy weekend for this park. The walking paths and water were teaming with people. The campsites filled up fast and there wasn't much left to choose from by the time we decided to head here.

This quiet looking photo of my 2 girls wading in the Mississippi, belies the scene right behind us.

Am I the only one who looks at the image and wonders how long it takes for this water to get to the Gulf of Mexico? 3 months. Yep any leaf, grass, hair, etc that enters here, floats down river for 3 months joining with stuff others drop, resulting in water that I do NOT want to wade in.

The head waters were a bit dull. I don't really know what I expected, but this gentle stream does not fit the image most of us have of the Might Mississippi. Not far down river, by Crow Wing State Park the river's power is on display as I had expected.

It was still a fantastic park visit though. We spotted our first Lady Slipper. This wild growing orchid is the MN state flower and is protected. (Apparently you can dig them up over in WI, but don't try that here!) We actually saw a few of them growing amongst the trees. Our family was more excited by this elusive find than we were the trickle of water over some rocks.

After the obligatory visit to the headwaters, we headed to the swimming beach at Lake Itasca. It was on the busier side, but had plenty of space so didn't feel cramped. The nearby restroom had changing rooms and shower areas to clean up before heading out. They also had a variety of watercraft available for rent, and this nearby playground.

After a full day, we found a pet friendly restaurant in Walker to refresh before heading back home.

** I may get paid for links that you click on this blog. Any posts that include free or discounted services or product in exchange for reviewing are plainly stated within the post.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

MN State Parks: Interstate

Interstate Park is close to home so we've gotten to visit during different times of the year. Straddling the St. Croix River, this park is in both MN and WI. You can camp on both sides. Because we have a MN sticker, we park on the MN side and hike over to WI. (not a hard walk.)

View from the MN side

Fall is a beautiful time to visit when the leaves are changing. Just remember if you are going to camp that trees only change colors when the nights get cold. Plan accordingly. 

It's not just about the leaves though. Every time we've visited, the rangers station has had an activity for the kids. Expect to learn about vegetation, animals, and even glacier potholes that are in the park.

View from the WI side.
A day trip to hike with friends is a fun way to enjoy the colors on a beautiful fall day. (That tip is true for any state park that is close to you. Pack a picnic and head out for the afternoon.)

Interstate Park is located near Taylors Falls. In addition to the typical cafes, and local ice cream joints you'll find a place called Fawn Doe Rosa. We picked up tickets during a silent auction, benefit dinner and were in for an unexpected treat! It's essentially a large petting zoo. We got there when it opened and for some reason most people went to the left so we went to the right. We were basically by ourselves for a while and the dear bounded over to us. We looked through the gift shop on the way out, and picked up a couple of postcards.

Have you ever been this close to a deer?

This guy doesn't seem to know what Thanksgiving is all about.

None of the animals were afraid of humans.
The Campground on the MN side offers access to the St. Croix. (WI may too, but we didn't check out their campground.) It is pretty shallow there so we waded out a ways to throw our line into the current. It was hot that day and we lost some bait, but didn't real anything in.

If you have been following along on this MN State Park blog series I hope that you are being inspired to get out and enjoy nature with your family. We've been intentional about spending less time on our screens and more time engaging with each other. Sitting around a camp site encourages deep conversations and vision casting for the future. Enjoying new experiences doesn't have to cost a ton, or take loads of planning. You and your kids will just remember the laughs and the sweet moments caught on camera.

** I may get paid for links that you click on this blog. Any posts that include free or discounted services or product in exchange for reviewing are plainly stated within the post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

National Parks: Voyageurs

Voyageurs National Park was the 2nd time I ever camped. We didn't have much of a system down yet, but we had a tent and a government provided bear locker. What more do you need? Well to camp Lake Kabetogama in Voyagers you also need a boat.

Some National Parks are starting to implement a reservation system, but the vast majority of sites in all the parks are first come first serve. We got to the lake, checked in at the rangers station, loaded the boat with all our gear and launched. We spent a good deal of time on the water enjoying the ride and looking for an open spot. Even though many of the sites were already full, the lake is big and you will feel pretty isolated.

After several attempts we found an island that was unoccupied by human or bear. Yes, we did see a black bear at one open site, but I was too slow with the camera and we decided to let him/her have it.

We eventually found a rocky site with a tent pad that over looked the lake. The sun was shining so we left the rain fly off. We did have a bit of dew in the morning, but looking up at the stars every time I rolled over was worth it! We didn't get to see any Northern Lights, but if you are planning a visit here be sure to check the Aurora Forecast since it's common to see them this far North.

Having already seen a bear we gladly stowed all our food in the bear locker. Did you know that you should also put your toothpaste, soap and other toiletries that have an odor in there as well?

This trip we got a lot of "I'm bored" from the kids. so we taught them how to skip rocks, and to look for small animals along the shore. Look at this cute little guy.

I now have a well stocked camping equipment tote, and the kids have learned how to have fun exploring nature. I'm glad I didn't give up after the first few times. 

There are plenty of busy commercial campgrounds with tons of fun kid activities. Those book fast and usually cost a bit more, learning to enjoy nature has many benefits beyond the obvious cost savings.

** I may get paid for links that you click on this blog. Any posts that include free or discounted services or product in exchange for reviewing are plainly stated within the post.