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Campsite Photo Trip - 2013

My Blue Heaven

More Minnesota Campgrounds and one Big Fish!

Not only was that a silly Steve Martin movie, but it has been my world for the past four days. Blue lakes, blue rivers, and, finally, blue sky!

I left Wild River State Park on Saturday and headed 65 miles north to St. Croix State Park for three nights.


I have been told that if you don't like the weather in Minnesota just wait 10 minutes. True. Here are two pictures of my campsite 10 minutes apart.

St-Croix-Campsite-1 St-Croix-Campsite-2

That would be a shadow in the foreground of the second photo. But the sun only lasted 10 more minutes. And then it rained again. All night.

St. Croix is the largest State Park in Minnesota in terms of area at over 33,000 acres and it's 217 campsites trail only Itasca State Park by a handful for the most in that category.

It also had a lot of mosquitos.

Sunday morning was rather dreary. I didn't bother setting up my tent on Saturday so once again I was in the 'cute' trailer. And I had friends waiting for me to emerge.

At least 100 mosquitos were just hanging out on the trailer's window screens. I stared at them but they didn't flinch. I popped open the trailer door, clicked the car door remote, and jumped in. Several went in the trailer and most of the rest into my car.

I learned that you can never find all the mosquitos that enter your tent, trailer, or RV. They will find you at night. And feast. Monday morning I had several bites on my bald dome. Oh, and don't smash them the next morning. They are filled with your own blood and leave a nasty stain.

Anyway, back to Sunday. I decided to do a hundred mile loop and visit two more State Parks. I lowered the windows to suck the skeeters out.

First stop was Moose Lake.


There was some kind of mutant dog on the wet road leading into the park drinking from the puddles.


Could have been a deer.

Both Moose Lake and Banning, my next stop, are small parks. 35 sites at Moose, 34 at Banning.

There is no Moose Lake, however. There is a Moosehead Lake a few miles away and the campground is on Echo Lake. Go figure.

Moose-Lake-View Moose-Lake_006

Nice sites but wet.

Banning, as well as Moose Lake are just off interstate 35. Banning being about 20 miles south of Moose.. I drove to the furthest one first in hopes that the rain would stop. Nope. But soon.


The park is situated along the Kettle River which has some rapids and attracts kayakers. Made me think of potato chips.

Looking left from the launch area gives you this view.


To the right you see this.


Not so good for canoes but there are portages around the five rapids.


The sites are a mix of open and treed.

Banning_002 Banning_018

Yes, the sun finally came out and brought shadows with it. Yippee!

I headed back to St. Croix. And made tacos to celebrate.


Monday morning after asking the fat blood filled mosquitos to leave the trailer I walked the campground.

In 2011 St. Croix State Park was hit by a huge gust of wind that knocked down hundreds of trees. There was no loss of life and the politicians take ironic credit for that. Why? Because two days earlier they closed the park down due to budget constraints. Yep, even a blind squirrel will find the occasional acorn. The host told me that his RV was flattened while he was in town.

So sites that used to look like this,


Now look like this.


But they made improvements in the process of rebuilding. They added more electrical sites and now have free wifi in the lodge.


Cool. In fact, I even got a good signal at my campsite and watched the last 8 episodes of Weeds in the trailer. Life is good. And sunny.

I left Tuesday morning for a three night stay at Father Hennepin State Park on Mille Lacs Lake, the walleye capital of the world.


It was named after Father Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan priest who was the first recorded European explorer to visit the territory that would become Minnesota.

But I digress. It's all about the walleye here. In the winter they build cities on the lake with plowed roads to the ice house villages. I like the concept. You have a trailer with a hole cut in the floor. You cut a matching hole in the ice and place your trailer on top of it. You turn on the heater, crack a beer, sit on your couch and fish. With tiny two foot rods. They even have strike indicators on them to let you know you have a bite so you can pause the TV show you are watching on satellite tv.

In addition to your rods, reels, and tackle, you need to bring along a tape measure. There is a tiny two inch slot size to be able to keep the fish that interrupts your show. They have to be longer than 17.99 inches and shorter than 20.01 inches. Except you can keep one over 28 inches. And no using scissors or trying to stretch them. If you think that is confusing try reading the tax code.

My neighbor caught an anorexic walleye that taped out just over 28 inches.


Looks, umm, yummy.

I found a much larger one in the town of Isle, about 2 miles away.


Now that's a fish. Probably put up one heck of a battle.

Wednesday I went right back to work, like I ever stop. I drove 15 miles west to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park for a quick visit.


Mille Lacs and Father Hennepin are the only two State Parks on the lake. But there are at least 20 resorts and countless cabin rentals here in the most popular summer destination within 100 miles of the Twin Cities. The 'best named resort' prize I give to Walleye Dundee's on the lake between the two parks. The sign was a takeoff of the poster for the 'Crocodile Dundee' movies with the guy holding a fish instead of a croc.

Woops, I digressed again.

Mille Lacs means 1000 lakes so Mille Lacs Lake means 1000 Lakes Lake.


Kathio is even more confusing. French explorer Daniel Greysolon (also known by the name Duluth) referred to the settlements here as 'Izatys' in 1679. Some rocket scientist, when transcribing his journal for publication, thought the 'Iz' was a 'K' and 'ys' was 'hio'. Hence Kathio.

Anyway, it is the oldest village name preserved in the history of the state of Minnesota. So there you go. Remember that for Jeopardy.

The park has 70 campsites and also contains the headwaters of the Rum River, a popular rafting and tubing destination. I tasted it and was disappointed. It's just water.

The sites are good.


And next to the Rum River is an good old fashioned swimming hole.


Back to Father Hennepin. I have the best site here as long as you don't need electricity. Site number one. Right next to the lake.


Let me put it in perspective.

Campsite-View My-Campsite-1 My-Campsite-2

The boat ramp and docks are right there next to me. Here are some photos from this morning.

Father-Hennepin-Boat-Dock Father-Hennepin-Sunrise

After taking those images I hopped on my bike after breakfast to see the sights. Don't worry. No more pictures of the bike.

I rode a lakeside trail down to the fishing pier.

Father-Hennepin-Trail Father-Hennepin-Fishing-Pier

Came across the picnic shelter, picnic area, and a volleyball court.

Father-Hennepin-Picnic-Shelter Father-Hennepin-Picnic-Area Father-Hennepin-Volleyball

And the swimming beach.


How did that bike get in the photo?

My next door neighbors on Tuesday night were a couple named Steve and Sherrie. They showed up on bicycles. They are in their 70's.

We talked quite a bit and I ended up making them a taco for breakfast on Wednesday morning. Only one because they still had a long way to go and my tacos are slightly hot.

By long way I mean they started in Seattle and will end up in Bar Harbor, Maine. Yeah.


I wish you a safe journey my friends. Hope the taco didn't slow you down.


Regards, Park Ranger


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