A Minnesota State of Mind: Camping at Itasca

Two years ago, we had the +perfect+ Itasca camping trip planned. Then, the State of MN shut down. Including the state parks.

I was heartbroken. See, Itasca has always been a special place for me and Greg. When we lived in North Dakota, it was an easy day trip to bike, hike, canoe, eat at Douglas Lodge and enjoy this amazing gem of red and white pines, gorgeous lake, wildlife, Pink Lady Slippers and of course the very start of the Mighty Mississippi. We’d camped there when our eldest two kids were younger.

Just before this year’s Independence Day, we returned!

Itasca is even more magical than I remembered, and in true MN style, offers something for everyone’s state of mind, from water to history, wildlife to wild flowers. Most of all, this is a place to experience our great state as God created it. High-five, Lord, you made yet another corner of unmatched beauty! Thank you.

Pines, flowers, wild friends

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Our state flower, the showy pink lady slipper.
Our state flower, the showy pink lady slipper.

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Loon family. As spotted by our loony family.
Loon family. As spotted by our loony family.
Julia finds a friend.
Julia finds a friend.
Our home. One of the most gorgeous camping sites we've had (and we've had lots!).
Our home. One of the most gorgeous camping sites we’ve had (and we’ve had lots!).
Pretty nice kitchen/dining room, huh? Love the lighting.
Pretty nice kitchen/dining room, huh? Love the lighting.

Water bugs

We spent much of each day in and on Lake Itasca, diving in for a swim in the middle of the lake (love the smell of wet dogs!), fishing, watching loons, reading, making sandwiches and…did I mention fishing?! Cara was her typical Mermaid. See a whole post on that here.

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Ah, Mollie.
Ah, Mollie.

double catch

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Take a hike

Amidst genetically modified mosquitoes (seriously, I’m STILL itching), hidden lakes and beautiful MN trees, we had the trail to Aiken Fire Tower completely to ourselves one evening. It was a great hike, and I was so proud of the kids for climbing the tower. That takes nerve. I made it further than before, but the top perch still awaits my shaky tennies. It’s so wonderful to see our kids conquer their hesitations. Hiking is a great way to do that.

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Cheers! to conquering fears.
Cheers! to conquering fears.
The hidden lake Greg and I visited long ago, which inspired the name of our beloved first "baby," yellow lab Kasey.
The hidden lake Greg and I visited long ago, which inspired the name of our beloved first “baby,” yellow lab Kasey.

And of course we crossed the Mighty Mississippi and ate wild rice pancakes with fresh blueberries at Douglas Lodge!

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Best part of a Minnesota state of mind? It sticks with you.

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How to Raise a Mermaid (when you live 2,000 miles from an ocean).

We really should have known. Our youngest, Caroline, isn’t a normal child, thank goodness! She’s a free-spirited, always smiling, smart, clever kid who loves riddles, pets, friends, her family, sports, “organizing things”, arts and crafts, biking, math and more than anything else….

Water.

Most summers, we simply buy her an assortment of swimsuits to wear. There’s always someone with a sprinkler, backyard pool or trip to a pool or beach around. And she finds ’em. When we check into a hotel or campground, she finds the pool or beach first. Forget the joy of seeing a room or camping site. It’s all about the water for our Care Bears.

On our recent camping trip to Itasca State Park, this was most evident. More about that trip in this post.

Happily perched at the front of the pontoon.
Happily perched at the front of the pontoon.
Always the first one to dive into the deep.
Always the first one to dive into the deep.
Pure joy.
Pure joy (just like her!).

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Most people walk across the Headwaters of the Mississippi.

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Cara dove right in and literally started swimming down the river! Greg nervously pointed out the rocks. I just smiled and said we’d pick her up in New Orleans in August. Rocks, pah. She could handle the locks, dams and rapids, too. What a mermaid.

The Itasca beach was a short bike ride from our campsite. She shut down the place every night. She was the absolute last one out of the water, even after the sun had slipped behind the beautiful H2O horizon.

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Clean lil sis, all wrapped up in a towel before swims.
Clean lil sis, all wrapped up in a towel between swims.

Addendum

The day after our Itasca trip, we headed to North Dakota for a week. Our Cara’s first request? The Water Park.

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Raising a mermaid isn’t so hard. You just need to be near water at all times. Which isn’t a bad way to live life for us land-lubbers either, huh?