Wednesday, June 13, 2018

MN State Parks: Maplewood

We don't usually camp with a group, but this time we did. We were invited to join 4 other families in Maplewood State Park near Pelican Rapids, MN. We stayed at the Grass Lake Campground in addition to campsites they also had a couple of rentable camper cabins.There are other more rustic campgrounds in the park, that were less busy. 

Enjoying the water in grass lake.
Maplewood has several lakes. Fishing, renting boats and paddleboards are an option at Grass Lake, but there is no swim area. We drove to the otherside of the park to put in our kayaks. Lake Lida has a boat launch and a swim beach as well as a rustic campground. Weirdly there is no water filling station at the swim beach even though there was a bathroom and picnic shelter.  We also learned that Minnesota residents can fish without a fishing license in most MN state parks!

Most MN state parks have drinking water stations throughout their campgrounds and on or near any building with running water. I have a history of heat stroke so tend to be very careful about my water intake on hot days. I didn't pack extra assuming I could fill up at the swimming area before heading back. Lucky for me some of our friends had brought a cooler to the beach and shared water they had brought over.

The drinking water quality at Maplewood was poor. I don't know if it was just because it was early in the season, but the water was very rusty. The lemonade packets did not cover the taste, so we ended up getting some water in town. We did drink a little, if our water bottles drained before we could get back to camp and fill up, but we tried to avoid drinking it.

Jug of rusty "drinking" water waiting to be used to put out the camp fire.

We don't always opt for electricity, but in order to be near the bathrooms it was the only option. We got lucky again. The unseasonably hot weather was bearable thanks to the large fan we were able to run in the tent. This trip we brought a few extras than we normally pack.  The girls brought bikes that they rode all weekend, and we brought a movie projector and a sheet for an outdoor evening movie.

Swiss Family Robinson was a camping hit.

Something else different this time, was the group we were with planned themed potluck dinners. Everyone signed up ahead of time via email to make sure that all the bases were covered. Initially I was not looking forward to it, since it would disrupt our honed camping routine. It went well though and was a nice way of bringing us all together in the evening. We all ate really well and it wasn't super difficult for anyone. If you are camping with a group it made sense to plan together some of the aspects.

Even though our group had 5 kids, we had more dogs than kids! All had been well socialized and the few that were still learning were constantly on leash (MN state parks require all pets to be on leash at all times) and actively being trained by their people. If you do not have a well trained dog, or are unsure about your ability to control/train them, do not bring them to a busy camp ground. Read here to learn more about enjoying summer with pets.

Stuffed sugar cones warming in the fire.
This trip we learned about the Hiking and Passport club at MN State Parks. You can earn 2 free nights just by visiting. Find out more here. It costs $7 a day to drive into a MN State Park, or for $35 you can buy an annual pass. The annual pass is unlimited admission and can be used all over the state for day trips, camping, hiking etc. If you don't like stickers in your windshield the DNR also has a special license plate that admits you as well. If you live in the metro, some of the libraries allow you to check out a 7 day pass for free!

We love the time spent in nature and exploring, but don't forget the small towns nearby that are fun to explore. We had one rainy morning and decided to grab breakfast at a cafe instead of cooking in the rain. the kids had fun spotting pelicans all over town. While in town we picked up more ice and drinking water.

One of the 27 pelicans we spotted during our quick trip.

We visited over Memorial Day, but Maplewood is known for it's maple trees. In early spring they have a sugar shack that is used for maple syrup demonstrations! Maybe not the best time to camp, but worth a day trip.

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