Wednesday, August 15, 2018

MN State Parks: Crow Wing

We visited Crow Wing State Park in early fall. The weather hadn't turned yet so the trees still had their leaves. We decided to put in our kayaks. Others were just getting of the river and the sun was shining.  

We tend to be pretty conservative and I have to admit we were pretty nervous. The Crow flows into the Mississippi here and the water in the river was high and running fast. We gave strict instructions to our girls about staying focused and being extra careful not to tip. It was a beautiful float, but I think we will keep to calmer waters in the future.

Enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

There are plenty of other things to do off the water. Pretty trails take advantage of the river's beauty. The campground is like many of the other State Parks of MN. Drinking water throughout the grounds, warnings about raccoons, an amphitheater for educational presentations during peak seasons.

In the park there is a Historical Land Mark the "Old Crow Wing Village". There is a modernly build board walk with historical plaques, and an old building to view. 

The Park's best feature are the gently sloping, easy to walk, paths that crisscross throughout. 

 We had one day of beautiful weather. Then we were reminded it was October in MN and it got cool. No problem, that's what a campfire is for and we like to sleep in the crisp fall air.  We used the fire to roast marshmallows and to keep a pot of water hot for cocoa, tea, and coffee. We prefer a crackling fire when it's cool not when it's hot and you just want to get away!

Sometime during our planned final night of camping it started to rain. We checked the radar and the best was going to be a short window when it slowed, no stopping for the day. 

Womp, Womp, Womp.

We enjoy tent camping, but we don't attempt to make it fun when it's not. So we quickly loaded up. Here is where it comes in handy to camp frequently and each person always helps with set up and tear down. We all quickly did our parts, and everything was quickly and securely stored for transport home. We then dashed to the bathroom to brush our hair and teeth so we could head into Brainerd.

MN State Parks provide fire rings with grates.

Yelp helped us find a cafe where we got hot coffee and breakfast before heading home to unpack and dry everything thoroughly before storing for the season. (We do this step every time we get rained on, no one wants to sleep in a moldy tent.)

Camping will always have it's ups and downs, but so does everything else. Choose to have fun and roll with it. Our best memories are usually when something went wrong. So smile, snap a photo and show your kids how to handle bumps with grace.

Late night visit from a lock smith and we are back in the car!

**I do want to note that when we visited there was signage stating that the bathrooms were going to be replaced in 2018. They even had a suggestion box! I really hope they use my suggestion of a dish washing station like they have at Baker Park Reserve. If you plan on visiting Crow Wing in 2018 you might want to call ahead.

** 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, 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.