2010 MN State Park Adventure



Mon. 8/9

Start: Little Falls

End: Home

Miles: 104

Comments: We decided to take the scenic route home and avoid the construction.  It was a nice ride.  We stayed on 75 for some time which parallels 94 and stopped at some point to take a dirt road in toward the river and we saw a neat dam on the Mississippi.  A bike trail went right across the river for great viewing of the dam.  After much searching and googling I think it is the Wobegon Trail.

It was an uneventful ride home.  In general even though we hit a lot of rain over the entire length of the trip it was still fun.  It was also unusually hot this year.  Nevertheless, when you sleep in a tent it always cools down at night and evenings were perfect.  If we could get rid of the mosquitoes it would be even better; but still some parks had millions of mosquitoes and then the next park wouldn’t have any. 

My favorites were the North Shore parks and also the ones that we traveled to this time in the way north and west of MN., where you see few people and the parks are quiet and peaceful.  All in all it was a wonderful trip.


Sun. 8/8

Start: Thief River Falls

End: Little Falls

Miles: 209

Comments: Just a note here.  I have always wondered why they call this city “Thief River Falls”.  It’s because one of the rivers that runs through the city is the Thief River.  And so we got out on hwy 59, took that to hwy 2 and then 92 into Itasca.  It has been many years since we have been to Itasca.  It reminds me a lot of the National Parks in that it is so big, so many signs, so touristy.  We stopped at the Visitor Center and got our final patch and a pin, for completing all the parks.  But we had to drive down the road and talk to the people in the campground about getting our free camping certificate.  The ladies at the campground building were very nice and we talked awhile and they gave us our certificate.

We then decided to go on the one way, 16 mile tour around part of Lake Itasca.  It wouldn’t have been bad except for the *^^###& guy 3 cars in front of us who was traveling, literally at 12mph.  When he finally turned off to look at something we zoomed past him and just kept going.  It was a nice drive, the park is very beautiful, but it just seems so regulated.

We did also drive to the start of the Mississippi and holy cow!  That reminded me of when we went to Mt Rushmore; the new and improved Mt Rushmore.  It was just very touristy.

From that point we drove to the cabin of our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents. It was literally 10 miles from the park, going south on 71.  We had a great time there; it was nice and cool by the lake and we had some lunch and visited for a couple of hours and then we headed on out for Little Falls.

It was so hot and humid and looked like rain (again) so we spent one more night in a motel; a Super 8.  It was a good choice.  We had a snack at Burger King, drove downtown to see the movie “Salt”.  It was super action packed, suspenseful, but should not have received 4 stars like the paper said; it had a pretty dumb story line.  From there we went to snack again at a Mexican place and then back to the motel.


Sat. 8/7

Start: Zipple Bay

End:  Thief River Falls, MN

Miles: 207

Comments: We got up early and were on the road today by 8 and it was really chilly. We went up to Warroad, mainly to get gas and then traveled to Hayes Lake State Park.  It was a very nice park with a really neat dam and a nice beach and picnic area.  From there we traveled about 60 miles to Lake Bronson.  Another very nice park.  Plus it was their “Internat’l  Wood Carver’s Day”. So they had booths up with people selling stuff and they had a concession stand.  We had a good time.

And for the final park of the day we stopped at Old Mill.  Also a very unique and cool park.  They have a grinding mill there from earlier times (early 1900’s) that is still working.  There one big day is in August when they actually grind flour in that mill.  We got to see and walk across the suspension bridge that was built during the depression.  It was pretty neat and goes over the Middle River.  They also have a nice beach and picnic area.

We decided to travel further to Thief River Falls and are spending the night here in a motel.  Tomorrow we have 1 park left (Itasca) and then we will have hit all the MN state parks.  We did not get to Garden Island State Park because it is 19 miles out in Lake of the Woods, and it is not required to complete that park.  Once we have hit Itasca we will have done 70 out of 71 parks. And we get a certificate for a free night’s stay at any state park.


Fri. 8/6

Start: Big Bog SRA

End:  Zipple Bay

Miles: 147

Comments: We left Big Bog and headed up 72 for Baudette.  We got there before the library opened at 10am and so we went and got gas and wound up talking to someone for about 20 minutes.  He was interested in our scooters.  After that we went back to the library and then we left going east on highway 11 for Franz Jevne State Park.  They are redoing hwy 11 for a long ways. All the way from Frontier (city of) to Indus.  I think it’s about 20 miles. The detour they take you on goes south down 72, goes east on hwy 1, and then north on hwy 72.  Like about over 120 miles. 

So when we saw the road sign stating “road closed, use detour” we just went right past the sign and kept going straight.  The road was supposed to be closed after 18 miles, starting in Frontier.  When we got there a flagger (lady) stopped and asked us where we were going. We said to the park and she said that was ok.  That we would be going over small areas of gravel and one long stretch of gravel, but otherwise it would be ok.  We did go past an area where they were burning some of the brush away and there was a lot of smoke.  And near the end of our route there was quite a bit of sand and dirt on the road and quite a few big trucks zooming around.  But otherwise we were practically the only people on the road.  And 11 goes right alongside the Rainy River.  It is a beautiful big river. Oh, and our timing was perfect because starting on Monday (in 3 days) they are going to close the road completely.  Hopefully the people that live on that hwy will be able to get to their homes.

So we got to the park and I nearly wiped out on one of the park roads, but all was ok.  We drove back to Baudette and from there headed north for Zippel Bay State Park. Such a strange state park.  It is so big and there are 4 different campgrounds.  There are 3 main roads in the park.  The road to the left takes you to the Anglers Campground and then that road continues on to the boat ramp and the fishing pier and fish cleaning house.

The middle road takes you to the “Big Beach” and picnic area.  The road to the right takes you to the showers and then further on down to the 3 other campgrounds and still going further to the “Little Beach”. Each of these roads were probably about 2 miles long.  It just seemed like we drove around there for hours.  The beaches are very beautiful however; as is the park.  It is just big.  We stayed in the Birch Campground.


Thur. 8/5

Start: Bemidji State Park

End: Big Bog SRA

Miles: 152

Comments: We had a little rain shower last night but when I got up later to go to the bathroom I saw a beautiful moon and a couple of planets. We slept in a little because the plan was to go visiting today.

 We drove about 70 miles in and out of the Chippewa Forest (beautiful scenery) to Jerry and Cynthia Horton’s beautiful new house in Max, MN. They are on Little Sand Lake and the house is just awesome and it’s not even finished yet.  Can’t wait to see it next year.

From there we drove about 60+ miles to Big Bog State Recreation Area, and are camped in their campground on the Tamarack River.  We have seen lots of fishermen going up and down the river.

This is a quiet little area with maybe 30 some campsites.  But the place is divided up into 2 areas.  The part with the bog is 9 miles up the road, so we drove up there later in the afternoon.  It is quite impressive.  The entire bog is 1 million acres and the boardwalk goes out 1 full mile. Once we out distanced the mosquitoes, it was fine.  Unfortunately then you had to turn around and come back.

As we were going back to the campground, we decided to go right across the road to check out the beach.  It is on Upper Red Lake and that lake is huge.  We couldn’t even see all the way across.

It was another good day with John’s scooter starting everytime.  The forecast is for the temperature to get down to 45 tonight. Could be chilly.

 Wed. 8/4

Start: Home

End: Bemidji State Park

Miles: 235

Comments: How simple riding a scooter is when you can turn it off and know that it will start again.  It’s so much more enjoyable.  We left home around 8:30 for a leisurely drive to Bemidji.  We decided to take 169 to 10 since we had such good luck traveling on 10 yesterday.  And indeed, once we got a little way out of the city, the traffic was much less and we had a nice drive; stopping every now and then to snack or stretch.

When we got to Motley we took state hwy 64 north.  It was so nice.  There wasn’t anyone following us for the first 35 miles.  And we saw some big type bird, possibly a hawk and a bald eagle flew right over our heads.  We stopped in Aekley for a break and then shortly after that got on 71 into Bemidji.  There was more traffic now, but the road was straight and we would just pull over and slow down and everyone would pass us.  We ran into 1 detour which wasn’t bad, but then it started to rain. It actually poured and the water in the streets seemed like lakes. (We were in Bemidji by now).  After 15 min the rain stopped and we found our way to the park. 

This is really a nice park with very few people here.  We walked a mile down and did the Bog Walk.  It was great and then we went and sat at the beach.  It’s just getting dark now and it’s time for bed.  There appear to be very few mosquitoes!




Tue. 8/3

Start: East Grand Forks

End: Home

Miles: 325

Comments: This wasn’t exactly a fun vacation day.  We had to drive back home because John’s starter was on the fritz.  It almost wouldn’t start as we were leaving the motel.  But on about the 5th try, it finally started and we were on our way.  We figured we would have to stop once for gas, so if we did stop just for a stretch or a snack, John kept his bike running.  But then you had to be concerned about it overheating because it was sunny (of course, we were going home) and it go up to 91 this day.

We did stop to get gas and we ate lunch and after a couple of tries, his scooter did start.  We took hwy 10 back most of the way; even going through construction was not bad.  Except for construction it was double lane so we just stayed in the right lane and cruised at 55 and everyone passed us.  But then as we neared Monticello we decided to get onto 94 because it would be quicker to get to Marty’s. (The guy we bought the scooters from and the guy who fixes them).

But the traffic on 94 was horrible.  And there was construction everywhere and I freaked out.  So we turned off around Rogers and took Diamond Road or some such to Champlin and then over to Marty’s in Osseo.  We left the scooter there, drove my scooter home and after about 2 hrs Marty called and said the new starter was in and we could come and pick it up.



Mon. 8/2

Start: Fergus Falls

End: East Grand Forks

Miles: 220

Comments: After checking out John’s battery and mine we decided that the problem was not the battery.  His scooter started, but not with the first try.  We still left the motel around 9am and by then the fog finally lifted.  We took some beautiful roads to Maplewood State Park.  A large part of their park was closed because it was under water.  That area got so much rain on Sun. and there are lakes everywhere around here.  We were able to go to their picnic area and beach.  They had just finished building a memorial picnic shelter in memory of the son of the park director who was killed in Iraq.  It was just beautiful.


From there we drove to Buffalo River State Park.  That was about 50 miles away and as we were driving there we were on a road that had a lake on either side of the road and on the one side there were big white birds everywhere in the dead trees.  It was an egret rookery! It was unbelievable the number of birds we saw.  We had to look fast though because there was a big truck right behind us.  Further on we passed a dead fox in the road.


Buffalo River State Park had a lot of prairie and some woods.  They also had a very popular beach, with a lot of people there just for the day.  We ate lunch there and then decided to drive about 100 miles to Red River State Recreation Area. 


The longest stretch of road to Red River Rec Area was highway 9 going north and it got kind of tiring except for the many numbers of sunflower fields we passed.  So much yellow everywhere you looked.  It was so wonderful to see them.  As we got closer, we turned onto hwy 2 which had 2 lanes in each direction, so we just kept on truckin’.  When we got to East Grand Forks (where the park is), we stopped at the grocery store. When we came back to the scooters, John’s wouldn’t start.  So he took his battery out of his bike and switched mine with his, because we thought it must be the battery.  However my bike started easily with his battery and his bike wouldn’t start with my battery.  So I guess it’s the starter.  By this time however his bike did start.


So the plan is to drive back to Mpls. tomorrow and to get his scooter fixed and hopefully leave for our trip again on Thurs. There was a motel like 100 feet from where we were parked in the parking lot, so we’re moteling it again tonight.  We took my scooter and drove into E. Grand Forks to see the Red River Rec Area and to eat.  Tomorrow we’ll get up early and take hwy 9 to hwy 10 and and then take hwy 10 all the way to St. Cloud and then take our other route home from St. Cloud. (the route we took when we started our trip).


Sun. 8/1

Start: Home

End: Fergus Falls   

Miles: 245

Comments: We left home at 8:50 am and got to hwy 101 and took all kind of neat back roads with no traffic through scenic farmland, lots of trees and many many lakes.  We saw sand hill cranes, egrets, a hawk, a white pelican a pheasant and of course, a deer.  We stopped first at Lake Maria State Park and had a snack at their picnic area.  Then we took more backroads into St. Cloud.  We got on hwy 75 which paralleled 94 and that was great. We wound up going right through the city of St. Cloud and it is really a pretty place, right on the Mississippi.

Then it started to rain, hard enough that we put on our raingear and we drove into Charles Lindbergh State Park everything being quite wet.  We drove through the campground and then decided to just keep going since it just kept raining.  We drove to Lake Carlos State Park and went to their beach/picnic area for lunch.  It finally quit raining while we were eating but started up again as we got on the road.

We hit some excellent roads today; many backroads, all in great repair and many of them straight as an arrow.  The next park was Glendalough.  To get their we drove past Battle Lake, which is a very big lake and Battle Lake might also be the name of the city.  It’s a neat lake.  Shortly after that we got to Glendalough.  They have some restored prairie in their park which is very pretty and we also saw lots of bluestem (grass).  We drove down to their picnic/beach area, and went to their campground.  All their sites are cart in sites.

From there we drove to Fergus Falls and we found a motel for the night.  The rain has slowed up, but it’s supposed to rain tonight and we’re tired of being wet.  As we drove into the city there is a huge statue of an animal at one of their parks.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a chipmunk or a ground hog, but then I remembered that we were in Ottertail County, so it’s an otter!  John took a picture of us by the little (actually very big) guy.

So because of the rain and the fact that we just kept driving, we are 1 full day ahead.  John is having some trouble with his scooter so tomorrow we will determine if are going to continue onward or head back home.  However, the weather should be good tomorrow.



Fri. 7/16

Start: Wm. O’Brien

End: Home

Miles: 79

Comments: We left Wm. O’Brien and went down 95 and then took a little known shortcut on hwy 4 straight west, planning to get to hwy 61 and then to Ft. Snelling State Park; not historic Ft. Snelling.  However very shortly after we turned onto 4 we got lost and wound up in the weirdest development ever.  Every single house in this development was white.  Many were similar in design, others were designed totally differently but every house was white.  We drove around a couple of blocks looking for a way out and white, all you could see was white.  So then we turned around and went back the way we came.  Oddest thing we’ve ever seen, like some strange thing you’d see on TV.

So we found hwy 4 but after tons of construction and even more stop and go lights, we decided to hop onto 35E to 494 and following the GPS, we got to Fort Snelling.  We stopped at the beach, the picnic area, the fishing pier and the visitor center.  It is a very big park and there are so many parking lots in that park, that you can’t believe it.

From there we actually stopped at the MOA (Mall of America).  It had been about 10 years since we had been there and we needed to find a gift.  Now that is a big place.  It’ll probably be another 10 years before I go back. But we did stop at a restaurant called Crave for lunch.  It was pretty good.

From there we went home.

Thurs. 7/15

Start: home

End: Wm O’Brien

Miles: 150

Comments: We left home at 9AM and went down 169, avoiding all of the rush hour traffic.  When we got to Jordan we still didn’t see the sign for the campground so we went as far as Bell Plaine and then got out the GPS and went back about 10 mi.  The GPS took us to the Lawerence Group of the MN Valley State Park.  The Quarry Campground was located in that area.  The whole Lawerence Area turned out to be very well maintained.  We drove through the campground and maybe half of the sites had been reserved for Fri., although no one was camping when we went through. While driving along John spotted 2 fawns and we both saw a whole flock of turkeys in the field.

We stopped at their picnic area, horse picnic area and the trail center.  All were very nice.  From there we got on hwy 42 and planned to take that straight across to Hastings. However there were so many stop lights that we opted to get on I-35 East and then take 494 to hwy 61 where we eventually got on Military Rd and then into Afton. It was much quicker on the freeway.

We went down to the picnic area and the beach while we were at Afton.  Both were very nice.  It had been a long time since we were at Afton and the place is huge. While at the beach we found some really neat agates.

Then we got on 95 and stayed on it the whole way to Wm. O’Brien.  The only bad part was that 95 takes you right through Stillwater.  Mental note: if you are ever even vaguely in a hurry, avoid Stillwater.  It’s ridiculous; and this was on a Thursday.

So we did eventually make it to Wm. O’Brien and got a site in the savanna campground.   We drove down to the beach and looked to see if there were any agates at the beach, but it was mostly just sand.  John tried fishing off the pier, with no luck.

This appears to be a rather quiet campground.  We drove through the Riverview Campground and it seemed to be bustling with activity.  When we came back to our Savanna Campground it was pretty quiet with not as many sites filled up.  Well it was quiet until we got into our sleeping bags and then we heard this funny noise.  It sounded like an RV was driving through, but it kept stopping frequently and there continued to be this odd sound.  When it drove around our site, it stopped although the engine continued to run and we thought it would drive into a site near us.  But after quite a while he drove ahead and then John figured out the sound was the RV hitting against the trees.  It was huge; super long and also very high and one time  it almost sounded like he snapped off a big branch.  Then we heard people yelling “no, wait, no, not that way, hang on” and crack – he hit another tree.  John just couldn’t take it anymore and went out to see what was going on.  Some of the turns were fairly sharp and he just kept hitting the low hanging branches.  Plus he was towing a car so John said that he stopped and disconnected the car so it would be easier to maneuver.  When he got to the road leading out, he kind of sped up and left.  Some other person was with the car that he had been towing and the car followed the RV out.  Then we got some sleep.

Wed. 7/14

Start: Temperance River

End: home

Miles: 267

Comments: We woke up and it was cloudy.  As we continued taking down camp it kept getting more cloudy.  We left Temperance River and went south to the Caribou Falls Wayside.  This wayside has not been upgraded or anything and we almost missed it, hidden off in the corner.  They had a parking lot but no bathroom or picnic tables or beautiful grounds.  They did have a sign that said “waterfall - .5 miles”.  So John got out the GPS, we put on our rain jackets as it was just starting to rain and we took umbrellas and were on our way.  We got to the point where John said “this is point 5 miles” and we were in the middle of the forest with clearly no waterfall anywhere, but just then I saw some steps.  So we walked down the steps and down and down and at the bottom was the most beautiful waterfall, in fact a two tiered waterfall, that you could ever hope to see.  John did some rock hopping in the rain to get the best pictures and I just watched from the steps.  It was certainly worth the walk, even in the rain.

From there we took this little known shortcut that one of the MN. Information people told us about, to get to George Crosby Manitou State Park.  “Take hwy 6” he said.  Well the first 3 of the 6 miles was great but there was construction on the last 3 miles on a gravel road with some of the most consistent horrible washboard we have ever encountered.  Then we turned onto hwy 7 to get to the park and it started raining again. It was like a torrential deluge.  You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  We decided to forego the 2 mile hike to the cascades and just left the park after we stamped our passport book with their stamper.

Since it continued to rain on and off and then just more torrential rains, we also decided to cancel our reservation at Split Rock Lighthouse and come home.  We did stop at the Flood Bay Wayside to look for more rocks and of course the minute we got out of the car it started pouring so we didn’t stay there very long, but they had beautiful agates and rocks in general. 

We stopped at the Agate City store in Two Harbors to confirm the fact that what we have been picking up were agates and we did well.  It’s a neat store with gorgeous rocks.  I only bought one.

From there, we went through the Duluth construction, with little problems and back home, where we opened the car door to find out that it is excessively hotter here than up on the North Shore. 

Tomorrow we will leave the house and hit 2 more state parks and then spend the night at Wm. O’Brien.  We have stopped at O’Brien before but it seemed to be such a neat park that we will camp there tomorrow night.

Tue. 7/13

Start: Cascade River

End: Temperance River

Miles: 27

Comments: After we left the campground we stopped one more time in the Cascade Park area and walked along the Superior shore for a small ways, mostly looking for rocks.  We stopped in Tofte and got a few groceries, one of them being smoked fish (trout) – really good. We went a little further into Shroeder and stopped at the Cross River Wayside. The state of MN is doing a bang up job on these waysides.  They are beautiful.  The Cross River has a really cool waterfall that you can see from the bridge.  However they have fences up everywhere, so no one can get down there.  At all the other parks and waysides you can access the water as much as you want. Anyway John found a way to get down there, but you had to access it right by that waterfall and I was to scared to do it.  So John went and took pictures.

From there we went to Temperance River State Park.  First we had lunch in their picnic area (the people in our site hadn’t packed up and left yet).  Then we checked out their Lake Superior rocks and the shoreline.  Then we took a 2 mile roundtrip hike to see the Temperance River Gorge and the waterfalls.  The gorge was pretty spectacular and the waterfalls were neat too. After hiking awhile we were able to get down to the river where there were no rapids or falls and we rock hopped for about .3 miles down the middle of the river.  Saw some really neat big rocks doing that. When we got back on trail we saw a small garter snake.

We came back to our site, the people were gone so we settled in and I went to take a shower.  We had our car doors open, taking stuff out of the car and a chipmunk ran in the car. He didn’t want to leave. He was in the back and John shooed him out but instead he went in the front.  The chipmunk did finally leave, but it was a real battle.

After dinner we decided to walk down to the lake.  We walked out on some of the huge boulders and great expanses of rock and we had to do some rock climbing to get from one area to another, but I made it OK, with a little help from John.  He didn’t have any problem jumping from ledge to ledge.

Then we headed down the beach in the other direction and that rock expanse was easier for me to walk on and we did in fact go way down the beach and decided to turn around and come back at 8PM.  The waves were a couple of feet and I loved to watch them when they would crash against the rocks and splash way high.  The trick was to stand as close as you could without getting wet.

When we got back to the quiet campsite there were people everywhere.  Everyone either returned from their adventures of the day or they finally arrived at the park to claim their campsite.  By 10 PM everyone was still going strong.  They did get quiet after awhile, but the people right across from us had to have had a 10000 watt light and I swear it was shining right over our way.  When I got up to go to the bathroom and looked up into that light I was blinded.  It’s a miracle I found the bathroom.  They probably turned it off at midnight.

Mon. 7/12

Start: Judge Magney

End: Cascade River

Miles: 50

Comments: We woke up to sun!! We ate and then started south.  We stopped at 2 waysides, both of them beautiful.  One was Kadunce River Wayside and the other was Cut Face Creek Wayside.  We walked around the Lake Superior shoreline looking for agates and any other neat rocks.

We stopped at Grand Marais for gas and groceries and ice (we have a cooler since we’re taking the van). Then we went to Cascade River State Park.  We’re way in the back and we see very few people back here.  It’s a nice site.

We took the hike to see the falls and then also to see Lookout Mountain.  Lookout Mt. wasn’t that neat, but the falls sure were.  From there we walked across hwy 61 to hang out at the beach.  Cascade River Park has 1.5 miles of rugged Lake Superior shoreline. We walked for a ways on the rocks and boulders and went back to our site to set up the tent and rest. After dinner we went back to Lake Superior and hiked along the shore on the huge rocks. They have a path that runs along the lake, in the grassy area and a very nice picnic area right near the lake.  And we I got tired of hiking on the shore we looked up and not to far away they had erected a bench, for people to sit and look at the lake.  Sp we sat and looked at the lake and then took the grassy trail back to our site. Not counting our walk after dinner we hiked 4.9 miles today.


Sun. 7/11

Start: Home

End: Judge Magney

Miles: 335

Comment: We left at 8AM and went up to Duluth. On this trip we decided to take the van.  This trip should only be about 4-5 days and we figured it would be easier traveling on 61 and if it rained all the time we could stay dry.

We were lucky in that there were not many cars going to Duluth because as we neared the city (of Duluth) hwy 35 was down to 1 lane.  That continued all the way into the Mesaba exit (a long ways).  After that they were doing more construction in the city and all in all it was like there was construction starting south before Duluth and practically all the way north all the way through the city.  Nevertheless, we didn’t have any problems or big waits.

We got to Two Harbors and continued all the way up 61 to the very end; to the new Grand Portage State Park/and wayside.  It is truly beautiful.  There wayside building which also has a gift shop (I think) was not even open to the public yet.  But they have paved paths all completed and neat steps and boardwalks that take you to the Pigeon River Falls. It’s about a half a mile round trip.  The falls are quite impressive and we went down by the river and walked along there for awhile.  The bad part was it starting raining right when we got to the falls.  It poured, but not for too long because we just waited for it to stop and then continued our little hike.  As we were driving, we saw 2 little fawns on the side of the road.

From there we went to Judge CR Magney State Park for the night. The big draw here is the Brule River Falls and Devil’s Kettle.  It’s the place where the water from the waterfall splits into 2 forks.  One goes down into the river and the other branch goes into a big hole and nobody knows where it goes.  No one has ever been able to figure it out.

It was raining on and off again so we decide to sleep in the van. It was the first time we ever did that and it worked great. We stayed dry all night and didn’t have to take down a wet tent.



Thur. 6/24

Start: St. Croix

End: Home

Miles: ???

Comments:  When we left St. Croix it was not raining and the sun even came out.  From there we drove to Wild River and it was nice there.  They had an awesome deck overlooking the trees as part of their picnic area.  They also had a nice visitor center where the botanist lady told us everything we ever needed to know about spotting poison ivy.  We also hiked down to see the St. Croix River .  

 We drove to William O’Brien State Park and went to their beach and picnic area for lunch.  We walked around a little bit while we were there and it appears to be a nice park, with nice campsites.  They also had a nice visitor center with a “discovery room” that had lots of nice exhibits and all kinds of taxidermy animals that were way cool and just fun things to look at and play with.

The last park we stopped at was Interstate.  They were doing a lot of construction there, but they had most all of it done and we were able to get VIP parking in their parking lot because they had a place right in front  just for motorcycles.  We walked around the pothole area, which is always way cool and then called it a day and headed for home.  Even though it was rush hour, we wound up coming through Coon Rapids and Anoka via mostly some back roads, or at least not major thoroughfares and it was fine. 


Wed. 6/23

Start: Jay Cooke

End: St. Croix

Miles: 103

Comments: When we woke up it looked very much like rain so we got up and took the tent down dry.  We traveled to Carlton (3 miles away), got some groceries and then went another 5 miles to Cloquet to the Health Food Store for some rice noodles.  From there we went to Moose Lake. I mostly wanted to see their agate center which had some absolutely incredible agates.  Many are really big and they were all beautiful.

Then we drove to Banning and on the way my drive belt broke again. I realized exactly what had happened this time, and pulled over to the side of the road. Again, luckily we were on slight downhill so I just coasted down to where John had stopped.  Since he had made a special tool to take the drive pulley off, he got everything done in no time flat. And we were on our way.

We were on our way in the rain.  We got to Banning and went down to the picnic area, mainly to check out the Kettle River rapids.  It was really hard to see them because we were up above and we couldn’t get close to the edge, plus all the trees barred our site.  There were no kayakers that we saw, going down the river.

From there we drove to St. Croix. Now the rain was getting serious so we put on our rainsuits and when we got to the park I thought it would be a great idea to get a cabin.  So for slightly under $75 we have 1 bed, a kitchen with stove and small refrigerator, a bathroom with toilet and sink, no shower and a sort of easy chair and a kitchen table with 3 chairs.

Since we have been here it has rained on and off.  The mosquitoes are the worst you could possibly imagine and the store is not open (only Fri-Sat-Sun) and the interpretive center is not open.  We’re not coming back here again.

We have been out now for 12 days and we have had one 24 hour period when it hasn’t rained.  Tomorrow we plan to hit 3 more state parks but spend the night at our house.  We’ll call it quits for awhile and start again in about 2 weeks. 


Tues. 6/22

Start: Gooseberry

End: Jay Cooke


Comments: It rained lightly during the night, so everything was wet when John packed it up. We drove to Two Harbors and then took the mararthon route to Duluth.  The first construction we hit was near Duluth and unfortunately we hit major construction in the city at least 3 more times. It was getting to be ridiculous.  We did find the big Duluth library and spent over an hour there.  Then we were able to find the back roads to Jay Cooke and are camped there.

The weather from Gooseberry and all the way through Duluth was cold, damp, foggy, misting and freezing.  Here at Jay Cooke it is 81, sunny hot and sweltering, with hardly any breeze.  We just can’t win.  But we were able to get everything dried out, in anticipation of rain tonight.

We walked across the swinging bridge and then along side the St. Louis River, also looking for agates.  The river itself is very beautiful with lots of rapids, and waterfalls. There are huge areas of big rock (called graywracke) that are within the river itself and on either side of it.  Because of some shifting thousands or millions of years ago the rock is all slanted sideways.  It’s really neat and it’s easy to walk on.



Start: Tettegouche

End: Gooseberry

Miles: 33

Comments: And so we left Tettegouche and tried to find a library in Silver Bay but to no avail.  We went down to Split Rock Lighthouse and were there before 10 AM so we didn’t have to pay the fee to just walk around by the lighthouse.   Then we went to Gooseberry.  We found a very nice site and paid for it with our free coupon, for visiting 32 state parks.  We got all set up before noon, had some lunch and then went to the Falls.

They really have it set up extremely well.  The whole area is paved, or a boardwalk with steps everywhere, or a ramp if you have a wheelchair or strollers.  It is also very nice that you can still get out and walk on the rocks is you wish.  We did our part.  John went out and walked across this log (over a ferociously roaring [baby] waterfall) and I managed to get across it too. Going back I had a little problem, but made it without falling in.

We saw the main falls in that area and then went to the visitor center because it was starting to rain.  They had an ongoing movie about Gooseberry Falls and another about Lake Superior.  We saw each one at least 3 times because the light rain turned into a deluge and it rained at least a couple of hours.  When it finally let up we went back to our campsite and had a snack and decided it wasn’t going to rain anymore so we would go on the mile and a half hike to Fifth Falls.  We planned on taking the Superior Hiking Trail out there and then walking back on the opposite side of the river.  Someone probably stole the SHTrail sign and we missed that trail, but got there more quickly by a different path.

The Falls were great and we got to enjoy their beauty with about 50 teenagers that had been bused in from Bloomington. I can’t believe they could get that many kids on one bus. We walked back on the other side of the river (the kids were on the opposite side).  Since it had rained so much we were literally walking through little lakes right on the trail.  It was pretty gushy, but fun.

We went back to our site, ate dinner, took a shower (I found a tick on me) and went to bed.

I should mention here that we really were not impressed with Tettegouche. We basically did not like it there.  They are so spread out and they do not have things marked well.  Then after coming to Gooseberry and seeing how nice their campground is, we are sure that we’ll not be going back

To Tettegouche.


Sun. 6/20

Start: Bear Head Lake

End: Tettegouche

Miles: 96

Comments: We left Bear Head and it was sunny!  We traveled on hwy 1 to Ely and stopped at the North American Bear Center.  It cost $8.50 per person and they had neat gifts that were super spendy and much info about bears.  Probably anything you would ever want to know about bears.  They had an inside and outside viewing area, in which were housed 3 bears.  They had quite a bit of forest to roam in so we only saw 2 of them.

From there we stopped in Ely for gas and groceries and continued on 1 to hwy 61.  The road was a wonderful curvy road with very few cars.  We were both surprised at the small amount of traffic; it turned out to be a great ride.  After we turned onto 61 Tettegouche was within a mile.

The campground at this place is across 61 (you travel under the highway) and then 2 miles further.  Our site is nice, you can’t hardly see your neighbor.  It’s a long way to the bathroom, although we did find a shortcut.

We did quite a bit of hiking; walked down to the Baptism River and saw some neat waterfalls.  We then crossed the river and hiked till we got back to the visitor center.  Their maps don’t show much and contain very little information.  But we ended up walking on the hwy 61 bridge across the river (on the pedestrian walkway – very nice!).  Then we just got back down on the road that took us to our campsite, unfortunately it was 2 miles.

When we got back, we got on John’s scooter and drove down to the visitor center and then took a short hike down to where the river empties into Lake Superior and we found tons of neat rocks. Now we’re back and the sun is still out.  This is the first day in 8 days that it hasn’t rained.



Sat. 6/19

Start: McCarthy

End: Bear Head Lake

Miles: 67

Comments: Today we woke up to rain.  It would come and go and as we left the park, heading for Soudan, it was spritzing.  We were so excited that as we just turned onto hwy 22, off of 5, we saw a moose!!  It was standing on the side of the road and we stopped back a ways and just got the camera ready.  It slowly walked into the road and appeared to look at us and then walked across to the other side and into the brush. It looked like a juvenile moose because his body was big, but not all filled out and his legs were so long.  It was like his legs were way too long for his body.

We continued onward and had to drive on 169 for a short distance to get to Soudan.  We stopped at some museum and saw some old railway cars and then drove to the mine. We were there at just the right time for the tour.  This mine has been out of operation since 1962; the reason being that the steel mills changed the way they would take the iron ore. So this mine still has lots of really high grade iron ore, but it was sold/given (?) to the State Park when the mine was no longer profitable.

We were taken down in a sort of elevator (with our hard hats on) ½ mile into the ground at 10mph.  It seemed to me that it took forever, plus it was extremely noisy. When we reached the bottom we went on the train (that used to carry the ore).  We were taken to the place where they last produced the ore.  It’s so amazing.  This place is big.  They showed us how early in the beginning of the mine, the miners would have candles on their hard hats and 3 men would go together. Only 1 would use a candle at a time (because of the cost). One guy would hold a star drill bit that was 4 feet long and the 2 other guys would hammer at it and that is how they drilled early on.  It only got better after that. It’s incredible the stuff they did down there with very little lighting.  They couldn’t have regular light bulbs because of the blasting. Later on, when the miners were working they had individual battery operated headlights.

After the mine we stopped at the picnic ground, it started to rain and we drove to Bear Head Lake in the rain.  Bear Head is a big park. The campground we are at has big sites.  The map showed we would be traveling on gravel, but it was paved the whole way.  The sun comes out every now and then; and then it rains a little. 



Fri. 6/18

Start: McCarth

End: McCarthy

Miles: 60

Comments: We stayed an extra day at McCarthy.  Friday turned out to be super windy, but not much rain.  However it ALWAYS rains up here most all of the time, so we did see rain.

We drove into Chisolm and then into Hibbing to use their library and the laundramatte.  After we got that done, we drove to the huge, operating open pit mine in Hibbing.  We could look down and see the teeny little trucks hauling rocks.  This mine was 6 mi long by 2 miles wide so we could only see a mile and a half of it.  It was like looking into the Grand Canyon.

We went back to the campsite and then went over to the beach.  The wind was so windful that there were practically continuous whitecaps.  After awhile we left and decided to go out to eat for dinner and went to a nearby place for a fish fry. It was good, but we’re not used to that deep fried breaded stuff anymore.  And so I went all out and had a drumstick for dessert.  That was delicious!  On the way back we saw a bald eagle.

Leisa, from volleyball, was camping at McCarthy with her family so we went to their site and spent most of the evening with them. The campground appeared to be full; yet it was nice and quiet.  We were camped next to the campground host and talked with them quite a bit.  All in all we had a wonderful time at McCarthy. 



Thur 6/17

Start: Scenic

End: McCarthy Beach

Miles: 75

Comments: We left Scenic and had a nice drive to McCarthy.  The weather was good, but everyone was talking about storms in the afternoon.  Our reserved site was right on the lake and it was very windy, so we tried to change our site, but wound up staying where we were.

The weather turned pretty exciting in the afternoon; the wind continued, and the sky turned dark.  We could see the clouds moving to the east and other clouds moving to the west.  It was clear with a blue sky in front of us but behind us was the dark sky and then lightning started back by the dark sky.  When the dark clouds came and met the lighter colored clouds they sort of mixed and you could see where parts of them would drop down out of the sky; at 3 or 4 different areas, and you could see the circulation.  It would start raining and we would go back to our picnic table with the tarp over it.  We received very little rain, so then we would run out to the pier and observe the incredible clouds and the beauty of the ominous sky.

There were tornado watches, warnings, thunderstorm warnings, and threats of 70 mi/hr winds with penny size, then golf ball size and then finally baseball size hail.  We received none of that, only wind and a small amount of rain.  We went to bed around 8:15, hoping for the best (and our weather radio in the tent with the alert button turned on).  We woke up in the morning to sun and wind.

Wed 6/16

Start: Grand Rapids Budget Host Motel

End: Scenic State Park

Miles: 99

Comments: We had a continental breakfast at the motel and then left around 9AM to take the scenic route over to Hill Mine Annex.  We got about 6 mi along and there was a sign that said “road closed” but you can’t always believe those signs, so we went a little further and the road was closed.  There was a deep hole where the road used to be.  So we had to turn around and go all the way to where we started, so we just took 169 all the way to Hill Annex.  In fact the road was 2 lanes in each direction and in beautiful repair except for the last 6-8 miles where it was single lane and horrible.

But we got to the mine and our tour started at 12:30.  We were there at about 9:45 and the lady said that if no one showed up for the 10AM fossil dig, that they would use the 10AM slot for the mine tour.  Well at 9:57, 3 ladies showed up for the fossil tour, so we just walked over to the park and had a snack and took a nap until 12:30.

Our mine tour consisted of a bus ride to the open pit mine with the tour guide telling us everything you always wanted to know about mining.  It was very interesting and at times we got to get out of the bus to see some  machinery and even get inside like we were driving.  And we got to stand in this small metal building where the miners would stand right before they would set off the dynamite.  It was obviously to protect them from the rocks that flew all over the place.  Actually it was just the 4 little kids and their mother and me and one other lady who went in there and the guy threw a rock on the top of the building.  It was LOUD plus you could feel the vibration through your whole body.  That was enough for the adults but the kids wanted to do it again and again.


We also got to get out and just look down at the mine, that now has about 300 feet of water in it.  At that place there were some left over rocks, so we got to dig around and take home rocks if we wanted.  It was fun

From there we drove about 60 miles to Scenic State Park on some beautiful winding roads.  AND at one point a black bear ran in front of us as we were scootering along.  It was so exciting.  We also saw a deer and a vulture flew right over our heads.

The neatest thing here at Scenic is that they have a couple of different places where there are steps down to the lake, mostly for the fishermen and then for maybe 100 feet or so they have a boardwalk right along the lake (that you access after you go down the steps).  There are quite a few piers along this boardwalk for the fishermen to moor their boats. 

The sun came out today, later in the afternoon. We listened to the weather radio and they said a 60% chance of rain tomorrow afternoon.


Tues. 6/15

Start: Savana Portage

End: Grand Rapids Budget Host Motel

Miles: 106

Comments: It started raining last night at Savana Portage about 1 AM and rained most of the night.  We got up about 9 AM, it was just misting and we ate, broke up camp and headed out.  The plan was to get to Grand Rapids as the weather said it would rain most of the day and they were right.  We stopped at a Burger King and decided to stay at a motel as we’re getting tired of constantly having a wet tent.


We got our stuff all in the motel (the tent out to dry) and decided to go back out in the rain to Schoolcraft State Park, where we were supposed to camp.  It was about 20 miles to the park and it was a nice park, but quite small.  We drove through the campground (there was one guy out camping in the rain), and we went to check out the picnic ground and the boat launch.  The park is on the Mississippi.  Then we drove back to Grand Rapids and stopped at a grocery store.  Later in the evening we went out to eat.  Then we came home and watched TV.



Mon. 6/14

Start: Crow Wing

End: Savana Portage

Miles: 105

Comments:  We left Crow Wing and traveled about 10 miles To Brainerd and the library.  At 11 we met Lorraine and went to Grizzley’s for lunch.  We had a very nice time; it had been 2 yrs. since we had last seen Lorraine.


The weather station had said rain in the afternoon and so we really lucked out since it was only cloudy, but no rain!  We traveled on hwy 371 and then 169 for a while, but the roads are still very nice and the traffic is light.  We got to Savana Portage at 5 PM and the people at the office had left so we went back to find a site.  It’s a big beautiful park and the campground was a Shumway Lake.  Our site was by a big stand of red pines.


After we ate we decided to get on the scooters and drive over to the beach.  Everything is a couple miles away.  While crossing the little bridge to get to Loon Lake, we stopped to look at a 14 inch diameter snapping turtle on the edge of the road, laying eggs.  The beach was nice and they had a nice playground.


From there we went in the other direction to check out the continental divide overlook.  They said it was only about .2 of a mile.  It was only .2 of a mile to the sign that said the overlook was “thataway”.  So we kept walking and did finally get to the overlook.  It wasn’t that neat, but it was a nice walk.


Then we headed back to our campsite but stopped at the boat launch first.  While there we saw a sign that said bog walk “thataway”.  It was getting dark so we sprinted down the trail, that went right along the edge of the lake and got to another sign that said, indeed, there was a bog walk, keep walking.  But it was getting dark and they didn’t have a map to indicate how far it was, so we turned around and went back.


We got back to our site, still no rain and went to bed. 


Sun. 6/13

Start: Mil Lacs Kathio

End: Crow Wing

Miles: 52

Comments: We got up early and decided to go back to the casino and use their wifi, but you needed a password, so we left there and after stopping at the grocery store headed for Crow Wing State Park.  It was a wonderful drive.  We saw 2 hawks, many deer, many bluebirds, 2 heron.  One time this car passed us and as he was pulling back into the lane a deer ran right in front of him and almost got him.  On the drive over we also went through a couple of miles of riding in mist, which then turned to light rain and then stopped.


We have a nice site here at Crow Wing and after lunch went on a hike to see what’s all here.  From our campground we were able to hike down to the Mississippi.  Then we took some other trails that paralleled the river and then got to the Old City of Crow Wing.  It was pretty neat, right on the confluence of the Crow River and the Mississippi.  Then we found a self guiding trail and followed that and wound up at the park office.  Which meant still a ways to get back to our site.  When we got back about 95% of the campers had gone home and we now have the whole area to ourselves.  Did I mention we saw about 5 deer?  And that as I write this it is raining.  We’ve gone from mist to rain to cloudy to sunny to cloudy to sprinkles and now, after just noticing that ¾ of the sky was blue, it is raining. 


Sat. 6/12

Start: Home

End: Mil Lacs Kathio

Miles: 148

Comments: We left home about 7:30 because the weather station said it was going to rain around 10AM.  It was 57 degrees and after about 2 miles we both put on more clothes.  We took Broadway North and I forget what roads after that but they were not the main busy roads and they were perfect.  Very little traffic, scenic, (we saw a turkey, hawk, Bald Eagle, lots of dead possums and a stray cat), but it remained very chilly.


We took hwy 47 at some point and stopped at Father Hennepin State Park for a snack.  It was a very nice, spacious park, with nice sites.  Then we took hwy 27 (and then some local road with no traffic) to Kathio.  We got there around 11AM and no rain.  We got the tent set up and went to see the Rum River overlooks, the dam, the beach, and a fire tower. We climbed 133 steps to the top of the fire tower to see beautiful scenery and the Mille Lacs Casino. As we were coming down it started to rain.  While we were at the beach, there was an extremely tame deer that John took a picture of.

We are now sitting under a tarp at our picnic table thinking that if it stops raining we might go to the Casino for dinner.  The mosquitoes have picked up and we saw a chipmunk run through our site……………we did in fact go to the casino for dinner.  We each gambled away $1 and then went back to the campground.  It was still early so we went on a self guided tour.  The neat part was that at every turn we ran into deer.  They’re everywhere!  On the mile and a half drive back to our site we saw about 4 deer, a couple of which tried to run us over.




Wed. 5/26

Start: Sibley 

End:  Home

Miles: 130

Comments: We left Sibley at 9:30 and headed for Chuck Sand’s farm, which was about 7 miles away.  He has the most beautiful house that he continues to work on, and he took us around his farm, where he has a garden, and he is growing corn and sorghum, and prairie grasses.

After we left Chuck’s we tried to stay off of hwy 55 and stay off of hwy12, so it took us longer to get home.  We did stop at a Stearns and Meeker Regional Park called Lake Koronis.  It was a wonderful park with a playground, beach, campground, boat launch, nature trail and of course a picnic ground where we had some lunch.  There were also many miles of paved bike trails in that area.

Further on, we also stopped at another (county) park called Mud Lake.  I really had to go to the bathroom and this was right off the road, we only had to go about 20 feet out of our way.  However once we got on the narrow (although it was paved) road and started down the hill, there in front of us was a backhoe, a big dump truck full of dirt and some other machinery in front of the dump truck.  There never was a sign that the park was closed and this was on a narrow, relatively steep hill. (No way we would be able to turn around or push the scooters back up), so we just slowly kept going down the hill following the backhoe.  They were dumping dirt down there, to even things out??  Anyway they were sort of at a standstill so we decided to go over the side of the road on their 8 feet of nicely packed, smooth dirt and drive onto the grass.  And find the port a potty.  Which we did. Then the workers finally got everything figured out, got the dirt dumped and the truck and the backhoe went back up for more.  John checked out the situation for the easiest way to get back onto the road and up the hill.  It worked!  We had to drive through all that machinery again on the way out, but it was easier this time because the truck wasn’t loaded up with dirt yet and it wasn’t blocking the road.

After that it was fairly easy to get home.  We were riding at the time the school buses were taking everyone home, so we had to wait for each time the bus would stop to let a kid off.  And there was road work being done on Bass Lake Road and 694 so there was a big backup there, but we just decided to take 694 to Rockford Road.

Now we’re home and have a better idea of how this trip will all work.  Also a better idea of how to pack stuff, what we actually need (or don’t need) and we are positively sure that we don’t need a lot of the clothes that we took along.  It was a great trip except for when the belt on my scooter broke, and when the wind almost knocked me off the road.  Saw incredible scenery, enjoyed riding on the less traveled, and usually nicer roads and met great people.  After a little time off, we’ll start back again on phase 2.


Tues 5/25

Start: Glacial Lakes 

End:  Sibley

Miles: 84

Comments: We left Glacial Lakes and traveled on some very nice roads with fantastic scenery.  After reading the info about how moraines and eskers and drumlins were formed, you could see some of that stuff in the countryside as we drove along. While driving we also saw a small area where there were some cows by a small stream that had very little water in it. And still, along with the cows were about 4 pelicans, some geese, some ducks and 1 egret.  It was the most amusing thing to see.  And as we continued onward, John saw a peacock sitting on the roof of a shed; I never saw it but as we went past I heard the loud sharp shriek that a peacock makes.

From there we entered Monson Park.  This is a small park, with maybe 40 campsites.  It is a very compact park, but very nice.  We went to their picnic area for a snack and then continued on to Sibley State Park.  While driving, we saw our 2nd turtle trying to cross the road.  We didn’t hit either one, so hopefully they both made it. Sibley was practically a stone’s throw from Monson.  And Sibley is a huge park.  We stayed at the Lakeview campground and got the best site of all, #66.  It was a tent site and it was way up on hill so you could look down and see whatever was going on in the rest of the campground.  (Which was very little; of the 80 some campsites there were only about 5 other campers).

We set up the tent and then drove into New London, about 5 miles from the park.  We got some lunch, bought some groceries, got some gas and stopped at the library.  In fact, New London didn’t have a grocery store so we went 3 more miles into Spicer and did our shopping there.  When we returned to the park we decided to drive up to Mt. Tom (as opposed to hiking up there) and lucky we did.  We probably saw about 20 wild turkeys in the road.  They were fairly tame as you could get pretty close to them. But we saw some while we were drivng up and coming back down.  At the top of Mt. Tom was a 2 story observation deck and the scenery was spectacular.

After that we checked out their other campground, Oakridge (I think) and it too was very nice and very big and I don’t think anyone was camped there.  The lady at the office said that every one of their reserved sites were full for the Memorial Day weekend.  It is going to such a zoo there.

At Sibley and also for the last couple of days we have observed a zillion caterpillars.  They love to be on the picnic tables, and they literally drop out of the trees.  They produce a small strand of web, like a spider and they come out of the trees and then dangle until they decide where they want to drop.  We both had caterpillars all over us, the equipment, the tent, the scooters. They are friendly and pretty little creatures, but you’d put your arm down and smash one, or sit on one and kill it, so we have quite a few stains on our clothes where you would unknowingly crush them.  We also had many butterflies at our Sibley campsite. There were also a million dragonflies.  Just like the caterpillars, the dragonflies were everywhere.  John asked the park lady about the caterpillars and she said that it was normal to have that many; it happens every year and they turn into moths.

The weather channel had said there would be a 10% chance of rain that evening and it started raining about 8 PM.  Not much, but the computer was out and the GPS so we had to get everything in the tent and we worked in there till about 8:30 when it quit raining and the sun came out.  So we walked down to the lake and saw the most gorgeous rainbow.  A double rainbow in fact and it held its color until after the sun went down and you just couldn’t see it anymore.  Later that evening and last evening too we saw some lightning bugs.  And then later even we heard a couple of loons talking to each other.


Mon 5/24

Start: Lac Qui Parle  

End:  Glacial Lakes

Miles: 150

Comments: We left Lac qui Parle and stopped by the bridge where there is a dam.  The pelicans were all hanging out here, slightly aside from where the water comes rushing out, or else they were down a little further just floating in all the currents.  We headed for Big Stone State Park and went through the city of Ortonville and stopped at the health food store. Just as we were nearing the park, a deer ran down the hill right in front of John and crossed to the other side of the street.

The park is very big, and yet the campground is small, about 30 sites and they are all sort of jammed together and right through the opening in the brush was the picnic area with 2 picnic tables.  The lake was big and beautiful and very clear. We had lunch in their picnic area.

Then we worked our way to Glacial Lakes, noticing that the wind was picking up, but still nowhere as bad as it was on Sunday. We were early so we stopped at the library in Morris, MN. And got some gas and stopped at the grocery store. When we finally got back on the road, the wind was terrible.  The Weather Channel on the computer said gusts to 29mph.  Seriously, who are they trying to kid? It was worse than Sunday, plus we were forced to drive on some main roads, although still the traffic was not bad.

And we finally made it to the park – Glacial Lakes.  It’s us and the campground host .  And a million caterpillars.  They are everywhere.  It’s better than gnats.  It’s about 8:30 and the wind has slowed down a little bit.  It was a very hot day today.

Sun 5/23

Start: Lake Shetek

End:  Lac Qui Parle

Miles: 148

Today we left Shetek and headed for Camden.  Upon leaving the park we saw a blue heron, 2 hawks one each on 2 successive telephone poles, we saw pelicans and then more herons.

We got to Camden and it was indeed a nice park.  We had to go way down into the valley to get to the campground and we checked out the beach.  It was a spring fed beach and therefore pretty cold, but super clear and beautiful and then it drained to the river/stream, where all the trout fishermen were fishing.  The park has its own wind generator and as we were exiting the park, we went across their overpass and a train was going by that we could gaze down and see.  It was pretty neat.  Also Camden has a 2nd beach less than a mile down the road.

We traveled to Upper Sioux Agency State Park and went past the campground first so we stopped to check it out and then keep driving down to the Yellow Medicine River, still within the campground loop.  At the campground they had 2 tipis set up that you could camp in.  The structure was sitting on a raised (maybe 4” high) wooden floor.

From there we drove a little farther down the main road to their visitor center and checked that out and then headed for Lac qui Parle.  On the way we stopped at the Granite Falls Library which wasn’t open, but John set up his computer on the side of the building.  There was a plug outside and an air conditioner to sit on and another to put his computer on.

Lac qui Parle is a huge place; some of it the state park, some of it a wildlife refuge and maybe some other stuff; all owned by the State.  We were extremely fortunate that as we were traveling on the highway toward the park that our lane had just been newly paved and the opposite lane was still gravel.  (The lady at the park office said it took them 2 years to get that one lane done).

We got a site; There were 2 other campers in that campground.  So far this is my favorite park.  John liked Shetek the best, but I like Parle.  It was up on a hill overlooking the lake and it was a prairie setting; there were no trees.  Luckily the sun was behind clouds most of the time. While we were traveling today we had heard so many rooster pheasants and at the campground we heard them calling all over the place.  

We got our stuff set up, ate and then went for a short 1 mile hike through tick infested grass, and then a mile back on the road.  John only got 4 ticks, I discovered 4 while I was showering and then we both found at least 2 more in the morning that were still on our clothes (or crawling on John).

The reason for the hike was to see the State’s largest cottonwood, and indeed – I think it rivaled the gerth of some of the redwoods. (But it wasn’t a single trunk, there were 2 trunks).  This tree was only 100 feet tall and nothing is as beautiful as a redwood, but it was extremely impressive.


Sat 5/22

Start: Blue Mound

End:  Lake Shetek

Miles: 91

Comments:  This morning we decided to take a hike along the lower and the upper Quartzite cliffs.  The plan was to do it early.  We both woke up around 5:30 and looked outside to a beautiful red sunrise, to which John stated “a red sky in the morning, sailor take warning”.  We decided we’d sleep awhile til there was more light.  Well at 6:30 it started raining a little; then stopped so we jumped out of the tent to take it down while it was still dry.  And it did rain again and we still did our hike; just got pretty wet.

After that we got on the road and headed for Split Rock Creek State Park.  To get there we went on a gravel road, but it wasn’t too bad.  Plus it was SUPER windy out and the wind was at our backs so it worked out fine.  The park was nice and quiet and we sat at the beach/picnic area for our midmorning snack – but out of the wind.

From there we went on to Pipestone, the city, to do our laundry.  They had a very nice laundramat and while I was sitting there reading I looked down on my shirt and there was a tick!

After getting gas at Pipestone and stopping at the library, we headed on the backroads for Lake Shetek.  The direction we were going put the wind crossways to us and we went 40mph at the fastest, bent way sideways into the wind.  Whenever you would go past a clump of trees there would be no wind and you’d have to get arranged and back sitting straight upward again; only to be blown over again after the 4 seconds it took to get past the clump of trees.  It was pretty tiring.  Oh, but John managed to see a bobolink while we were out riding.  And we passed many areas of wind generators, probably for a total of a couple hundred.  They sure put them in a good spot.  We got to see some right up close but most of them were at a distance and they just went for as far as you could see.

We got to Shetek and this is such a nice park.  They are only a quarter full this weekend and we’re pretty much alone in our area.  We went for a little hike and saw 2 deer.  It remains super windy but quite warm.  Should be great for sleeping.  


Fri 5/21

Start: Fort Ridgley     

End:  Blue Mound

Miles: 155

Friday we got up, looked up at the sky and thought "it might rain".  And it did.  Maybe for 50-60 miles.  The roads have been incredibly wonderful, so the rain wasn't too bad.  We did observe 2 pheasants and some more wind turbines.  It stopped raining when we got to Windom and there was a hair cutting place there so I got my hair cut.  It was driving me crazy.

We traveled a little ways past Windom, turned on some highway and immediately saw a sign that said “Kilen Woods – 11mi”.  We figured this could be a tricky park to find, but all we had to do was follow the signs.  That campground doesn’t open until Memorial Day, so there was no one there.  It was a nice park, lots of woods, and there was an enclosed chalet (building was not locked) so we ate lunch in there to avoid the bugs.

We continued on, on the perfectly fantastic backroads with almost no traffic and here we are at Luverne around 2:30 in the afternoon.  We made reservations at Blue Mound and are now at the library……………………We have arrived at Blue Mound and there are not that many people here, so we took a different site than we had reserved.  It’s very nice here.  We bought some hamburger from the store and made dinner and then worked on our route for the rest of our time out.  It is so much nicer to travel on the (paved) backroads than to get out on the busy highways with everyone traveling at 70mph.


Thu 5/20

Start: Flandrau   

End:  Fort Ridgley

Miles: 46

I am writing this on Friday so mostly what remember is that the roads were quite good, little traffic, but lots of wind.

We got to the park with little trouble, received a package of (2) drive belts from Marty and went to the campsite.  Our campsite had tons of ants in it, so instead we went across the way to the other site.  Since we were the only people in that campground, it was OK.

Right down from our campground was the picnic area and a really fast moving stream with lots of rocks to look for.  So we went down there and found a few rocks. 

Fort Ridgely is also a Nat'l Historic site and so we went up to the Fort and looked around there.  We have been inundated with gnats and the Fort was up on a high hill with the wind blowing ferociously (read NO GNATS) so we spent a large part of the afternoon sitting around there, planning our route for the next day.

After going to the nearby city to get groceries, then returning to our site to eat them, we decided to go take a shower.  The way this place is set up, is that there is a golf course basically around the outside of the state park.  And the thing is that the campers can use the showers in the golf chalet.  At 6:30 at night, we went up there and were alone in the chalet so we showered and sat in the building (away from the bugs) and read and observed the scenery.

When we got back to our site we were quite surprised to find out that there was a busload of kids (6th graders?) who were camped in the picnic area.  They were very loud.  But at 9:55 we heard some adult say "5 minutes!"  And at 10 0'clock we never heard a word out of them.


Wed 5/19

Start: Nerstrand Big Woods           

End:  Flandrau

Miles: 97

Today we started at 8AM!  We got onto a pretty crummy road (hwy 60 I think) and wound up having to go about 60mph with all the other traffic while trying to avoid potholes. After we changed counties the road got better and took us to Sakatah Lake State Park.  We went to the picnic/lake area and went out onto the pier to get away from the bugs.  There were 3 pelicans that flew right over our heads.  We also saw some loon-type looking birds.

We left Sakatah and headed for Mankato to find Minneopa State Park.  While in Mankato we stopped at the Blue Earth County Library which must have been built quite recently and was very attractive.  John got website stuff done there and just goofed around on the computer. We stopped at a grocery store and drove another 5 miles or so to the park.  We tried to get to the park.

After following the signs we wound up only at the campground with no office to check in at.  John talked to a lady mowing the lawn who told him the office was on a different highway.  With new directions we finally found the office and talked to the lady who said people frequently get confused. No wonder the signs weren't up.  But we did drive a teeeny bit further and got to see Minneopa Falls.  It is beautiful and worth the effort to get there.  John and I both thought it looked a lot like Minnehaha Falls; with a 5 foot falls on the top followed by a 20 foot falls right after that.

Since we were still early in the day we decided to go onto Flandrau another state park right in the city of New Ulm.  This park was unusually easy to find with great signage.  But there were no people at the office. Usually when that happens you self register except there no no envelopes to pay with.  Actually there was absolutely nothing there except one pen. So we just went and got a site and set up the tent.  John went back to use the phone book and there was someone at the office so we got to pay for the campsite.

And now we are at the New Ulm library where I am actually typing on one of their terminals.  We are on the MN state park Passport Plan whereby you get a stamp for each state park you attend.  I think we're up to 12. We should in fact do that for every library we go to as they are all quite interesting too.

It's getting hot out.  Tomorrow we're going to Fort Ridgely.


Tue 5/18

Start: Big Myre Island 

End: Nerstrand Big Woods 

Miles: 109

Comments: Today we started at 8:45AM.  We left the park and had a very enjoyable ride on the back roads to Rice Lake.  Rice Lake is another quiet place with lots of woods.  We headed back to the picnic grounds for a snack and it was situated so that we could look at the lake.  The thing we will remember about it the most is that as we were sitting there eating the frogs were so incredibly loud that it about drove us crazy.  And then, every once in a while they would all stop---just for 3 or 4 seconds---and we would breathe a sigh of relief.  And then they would start up again.

On the way to Nerstrand Woods we spotted 2 deer out in the field.  We also saw a couple of farms that had some little burros.  And there are many farms in this area that have horses.  In fact one of the campgrounds (Forestville) probably had as many sites for people with cars as it did people on horseback.  We have also seen about 2-3 dead skunks in the road.

It has just been very nice riding because there are so few cars so we can  go at our leisure, at 45mph or so and just look at whatever there is to see. (We did see an egret in a small pond).

When we got to the park turnoff, we decided to instead go into the small town to get gas.  But they didn’t have 92 octane so they gave us easy directions to Northfield where we ate lunch at a park, got some gas, went grocery shopping and stopped at the neatest old library ever.  They were celebrating their 100th year anniversary.  We then turned around and went back to Nerstrand Park.  Nat had shipped a package to the park for us (a drive belt) and it was waiting for us.

While in our site we saw a couple of Baltimore Orioles and some kind of woodpecker.  Then after dinner we hiked down to their hidden waterfall which was very picturesque.  It was a nice little hike.

Also we had a visitor tonight.  It was this guy we had met in the town of Nerstrand.  He had walked over and asked about our scooters.  John asked him if he had ever heard of a Honda Helix.  To which he replied “I’ve got one”.  So he stopped over tonight so we could compare scooters.  His had some 30,000 miles on it and it was like a 1986.   A Chinese firm I(CF Moto) is now selling Helix clones under the name of “Fashion”.  But they were so much alike; it was just fun talking to him.


Mon 5/17

Start: Forestville State Park 

End:  Big Myre Island

Miles: 100

Comments: We left right  around 9AM again.  And I forgot to mention yesterday and also last night – that when we got up in the morning there were muddy raccoon prints on my bike.  Like it was sitting on the seat.  John determined that since I carry the majority of the food, that it was trying to figure how to get to it.

From Forestville we traveled some 25ish miles to Lake Louise.  Enroute we stopped to take a picture of 2 Texas Longhorns.  They both sat there and looked at us.  When we got to Lake Louise, no one was there in the line of employees so we just drove back to the picnic area.  They had bluebird houses out and John saw quite a few bluebirds that I missed seeing.  We looked at the lake which is a dammed up part of the DesMoines River and then left the park.

We got on Hwy 6 which was a straight shot going west and it turned out to be a great road.  Very little traffic and generally in good repair.  Plus on either side of the road, off in the distance we saw Windmill Farms for miles and miles.  It was just neat to watch them.  We turned off that road finally and stopped to have a snack at a cemetery.

We got to Albert Lea and easily found Myre-Big Island.  There were also no attendants at this park so we signed up for a campsite.  These are all big beautiful parks.  And on the weekdays there are very few people.  So far we are the only people in this campground.  We left to go back into town to a library and this library had wifi with areas set up in the hallways for people to use their own computers.  I went in and got my own computer to use and it was all good.  From there we drove down their Main St and found a grocery store and a place to eat, for later on tonight.

It was another good day.  The weather has been great, 70’s today and sunny and windy.  It gets fairly chilly at night, but we have lots of clothes.


Sun 5/16

Start: Whitewater State Park 

End:  Forestville State Park

Miles: 129

Comments:  We left at 9AM and traveled  on a pretty crummy road on our way to Harmony.  While in the city we found the public library and John was able to use their wifi even though it was not open.  He just walked around the building to find the best spot and then rested the computer on a window air conditioner.  After he was done computing, we headed for Forestville/Mystery Cave; and this time on a beautiful road, with not a single pothole.

It was after 11AM and as we turned on the road to the campground, we saw the sign that showed Mystery Cave pointing back the way we came.  So we turned around and noted that the road to the cave was on a gravel road.  We are really not too fond of riding on gravel, especially me.  But we did it anyway and got there on time for the 12 o’clock tour with half an hour to spare.  There were 5 of us in the group.  The hour tour lasted over an hour an a half.  It was fun and educational.  I’m thinking I want to sign up for the 4 hour spelunking tour.

We returned to Forestville, easily got a site and it is now looking cloudy at 5 in the afternoon.  This was a nice restful day.


Sat 5/15

Start: Whitewater State Park 

End:  Beaver Creek Park

Miles: 129

Comments:  We left at 9AM and headed toward John Latsch State Park.  It no longer allows camping, but is a day use park.   While there we climbed 592 steps to an overlook.  We could see up and down the Mississippi and the Lock and Dam (#5 I think).  It was neat because you could actually look down in spots and see the bottom of the river.

From there we went to Great River Bluffs, a park we have never been to before.  It is quite out of the way and we got to travel on gravel roads to get there.  The park is a habitat for the Timbler Rattlesnake and they are afraid that if the roads were paved, the rattlesnake would not be able to cross (the proverbial) road.  It is a quiet and beautiful park from which you are able to see many vistas of the Mississippi.  We had lunch here.

From there we traveled to Beaver Creek Valley.  We went on some incredibly scenic and beautiful roads; many very windy and twisty-turny.  Fun to ride on.  For the most part we encountered little traffic this day.  The tricky part was that the GPS didn’t have a clue as to how to get us to the park and in particular across the Root River.  We probably went about 10 miles out of our way.

This park is way back in the middle of nowhere and the road dead-ends into the park.  It too is a quiet park with tent sites that are quite a ways apart.  The bathroom too is quite a ways down the road.  And to get to the majority of sites you have to drive through a stream.  To get to the tent sites you have to drive through at least one more stream, two if there had been more water.


 Fri 5/14

Start: New Hope  

End:  Whitewater State Park

Miles: 174

Comments: Started around 9:20AM on a very nice sunny, windy day.  Went down Broadway all the way to Hennepin/Larpenteur and onto Maryland, then Earl to hookup to hwy 61. We made really good time through the cities.  We went into Wisc, then back to MN and we were 3 miles from our first stopping point – Frontenac, when something happened to my bike.  There was like a lurch, or a pulling back and it essentially stopped working.  I thought I had a flat back tire, but the belt broke.  Actually it was demolished.  As luck would have it, John just happened to be carrying a belt, so with a few problems he got it on and we were on our way.

We continued on to Frontenac for a snack, then we headed to Whitewater to set up camp.  From there we went to the historic fire tower at the city of Elba (2-3 miles from the park).  We climbed 640 steps up the hill and then 135 steps to the top of the windiest fire tower in the west.  Scenery was spectacular.  From there we traveled to another state park – Carley to eat dinner at their picnic area.  And now we’re back at Whitewater.

Traffic wasn’t too bad today, roads were generally good, it was a good temperature for driving, but when the wind hit us crossways, it would almost knock us off the road.  Tomorrow we plan to camp at Beaver Creek Valley.  Apparently trout season just opened and so these parks down south here that have small streams running through them have a lot of campers over this weekend who are trout fishing.  Hopefully we’ll find a site.

 Thurs 5/13

Start: New Hope MN


Miles: ??

Comments:  Since they (the weather people) said it would rain today, we decided to wait until Friday to start our trip.