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Campsite Photo Trip - 2013

Croix Me A River

Our 2013 Photo Tour continues as we visit some great campgrounds in the Twin Cities area.

Before I left Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park last Sunday I went and found a spot to do laundry. I wanted to wash my sleeping bags so I needed some big equipment. I found them.

A giant washer.


And a giant dryer.


Good deal. My next stop was about 80 miles northeast at William O'Brien State Park.

The maps on my GPS are from 2006 and sometimes it takes me on strange roads.


But I eventually arrived.


The weather was decent so I set up my tent for the first time since I left Arizona.


I was really lucky to get this spot, site 47. I arrived at 2:00pm on Sunday, Father's Day, and the folks camping here were just leaving. The host came by and told me this is the most popular spot in the campground. It's also not reservable and has no electricity.

The most popular site that can be reserved is number 50 just across the road from me. And it has power. And more. For details on that I will send you to the campsitephotos news desk.

*Breaking News from William O'Brien State Park*

"I'm Fred Michaels from the CSP Network. We have heard reports that site 48 will not, repeat, NOT be restored to a camping site. That means site 50 will gain additional space. Here is how it looks now."


"You can see the fencing around site 48."


"We have a reporter live on the scene, Tracy Nunn."

"Tracy, this is Fred in the studio. Can you sum up this newest development at the park. What do you see?"

"Well, I see trees Fred. Tall ones."

"No, I am asking about site 50 and the proposed annexation of site 48."

"Ooo, a squirrel. So pretty."

"Um, well, thanks Tracy. You heard it here first on CSP Network."

I cooked up some big worms and settled around the fire to read for a while.

Fried-Worms Campfire

Early next morning I hopped on the bike to explore.

I wasn't always a early riser. When I was wee lad my parents and grandparents frequently tossed that famous quote at me,

"The early bird gets the worm."

I had two responses to that.

  1. "Yeah, but the early worm gets eaten."
  2. "Yeah, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese."

Anyway, this park gets a lot of use. It's less than an hour from the Twin Cites area and is on the St. Croix River, one of the best canoeing rivers in the nation. The three parks I visit after this are on the river as well, which was one of the first 8 rivers in the country to be designated a Wild and Scenic River.

The camping area is broken up into two sections. Riverway Campground, sites 1-60, is located between the river and Lake Alice while Savanna Campground, sites 61-125 is about a mile away.

The sun was just coming up as I stopped by the boat launch.


There was mist on the river.


Neat. I rode to Lake Alice and out to the fishing pier.

Lake-Alice-Beach Lake-Alice-Fishing-Pier

I was startled by a splash and then several more. The sun had not hit the water yet and the smallmouth bass were chasing minnows on the surface.

Bass-4 Bass-3

It was fun to watch. But I was getting hungry so I headed back along the river trail.

St-Croix-River-4 St-Croix-River-5 River-Trail

The reason site 47 is so popular is because it is the only one with direct river access. If I turned to my left from the spot in the photo above, this is what I would see.


That's my site. And my breakfast.


Love them pancakes! The forecast was for thunderstorms so I put the fly on my tent and set up the screen house.


I was spread out all over the campsite. Even my bike had a garage.


The storm missed me on Monday night and I went down to the lake the next morning to see the fish again.

They were there along with some other stuff.

A beautiful sunrise.


A Blue Heron looking for minnows. Hadn't seen one of the those since camping in Florida.


A deer having breakfast.


And a beaver.


Yep. I like beavers. They are the architects of nature and the ponds they create sustain quite a few other critters.


I left Wednesday morning, destination Wild River State Park, with a stop first at Interstate State Park.


Interstate is 12 road miles and 17 river miles north of William O'Brien. There are several riverfront sites here like #21.


Pretty sweet. The name of the game here is canoeing.


A group was getting ready to launch when I arrived.


It costs about $50 to float the 17 river miles to O'Brien. That includes a ride back. But Interstate only has 37 sites so on weekends they offer a shuttle that will pick you up at O'Brien and let you paddle back. Sounds like fun.

I continued on another 12 miles to Wild River State Park, following the St. Croix Scenic Byway.

St-Croix-Byway-Sign Wild-River-Sign

Like at O'Brien I did not have a reservation, but there was no problem on a Wednesday finding a spot. There are 94 of them here in 5 loops, A-E, with C and D having electricity.

Most of the sites are in the trees like #50.


But some are in the transition zone to the prairie grass and are more open, meaning less mosquitos and more sun. I chose #38.


It also meant flies. Big flies. Pesky flies.

They would land on my e-reader causing pages to be turned. They lapped up the bug spray on my legs and asked for more. This meant war.

I had found a plastic army guy in the grass so I enlisted his service. Between my towel and his weapon, we removed about 35 from existence.


But they were relentless so I surrendered and put on long pants and a long sleeve shirt.

Thursday was nice and sunny so I walked the campground in the morning and then went for a ride in the afternoon.

Wild-River-Meadow Wild-River-Bike-Trail-1

OK, OK, no more bike in the photos.



Back at camp it was time to make some tacos. I picked up some fresh meat to cook. It was called "ground chuck". I am not quite sure what that is. I'm thinking wood chuck. Probably one that didn't chuck as much wood as he or she should.


Don't forget to add cumin when making taco meat. About one heaping tablespoon per pound.


Very tasty!

In the photo above, my chair is just to the left of the clear container.

I was sitting in it after dinner when I heard and then saw the strangest thing.


The grass is about 2-3 feet tall. Something was moving through it. Slowly. The stalks would bend and then spring back up. I was intrigued. I grabbed my camera and went to investigate.


It was a turtle. About 18 inches from head to tail.

I used my turtle herding skills to aim him towards shorter grass.

Blandings-Turtle-2 Blandings-Turtle-4

I learned that it was a Blandings Turtle. The ranger was excited when I showed her the picture. She said she will let the state biologists know of the sighting.


A massive thunderstorm hit early Friday morning around 3:00am.

That's all I have to say about it. Check it out online.

During brief respite from the rain I went down to the river for a couple of photos Friday afternoon.

Wild-River-View-2 Wild-River-View-1

Oh, I also learned my first bike tip. If you are the first one to hit the bike paths in the morning let a friend ride ahead of you. If you have kids along, let them lead the way. Tell them that they are leading an expedition.

The reason for this is simple. Spider webs. Let others clear the trail for you. If you are by yourself make sure to wear eyeglasses. And do not sing. Trust me on that one.

Regards, Park Ranger


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