How our family won the best 1st place award ever

After years of hauling our camper all over to great spots, we parked it this summer. Perfect timing for one our best decisions ever. Proof: We won first place, and I’m more proud of this award than nearly everything else we’ve achieved–together or in our separate ventures.

Entrance to our beloved home at The Old Barn Resort.
Entrance to our beloved home at The Old Barn Resort.

Here’s the award: Highest electric bill of the entire campground! We love that were were there often enough to spin that meter fast.

It’s a cool award. Literally. It means our air ran while it was hot and humid, so we still slept smooth.

What else our award means…

  1. Our competitors are the best. When you’re at the same spot every weekend, you get to know the neighbors. And ours are the best! Iowans, farmers, parents, fellow campers…and people who truly care. Plus really care about having a great time. We made so many happy memories already.
  2. The golf cart was always charged.  Some days our boys golfed 27+ holes. And we had a sure-fire way to get around.

    Cara chauffeuring Grandma.
    Cara chauffeuring Grandma.
Even we non-golfers tagged along on rounds.
Even we non-golfers tagged along on rounds. Lookit this gorgeous cottonwood. (and gorgeous kid)

2. More time to watch stuff grow.

Rev and I watched the neighbor farmer’s calves grow and saw a mom and her twin fawns mature, week by week on our at-least-twice-daily hikes. If we left at just the right time, we ran into our golfing boys on #12.

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3.  More river trips.

Over, along, in, across and on our “waterfront,” the Root River. This river is crystal clear, fast-moving, ever-changing and cold (too cold and too fast for mosquitoes!).

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Ages 11 - 71 hitting the river.
Ages 11 – 71 hitting the river.

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4. Acting like locals.

We embraced the very best parts of all the little towns nearby, from Lanesboro pastries and Rhubarb Fest to the Amish, the butcher and of course the great small town bars. They embraced us right back.

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Exploring the caves under the river!
Exploring the caves under the river!

5. Staying put.

Rev's morning visit with a finch outside his (our?!) bedroom window.
Rev’s morning visit with a finch outside his (our?!) bedroom window.

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Starting now, we’ll do something else we’ve never done: camped after Labor Day. And since we also have heat, we hope to keep that electric meter running. After all, we have our #1 status to maintain.

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Campfires forge great bonds (no S’mores needed)

Our North Shore camping trip was with our largest group yet (19!), and included Elizabeth’s dad’s whole family! “Grandpa Jerry” had his sister, her whole family, plus all his kids and grandkids (-1, Julia, who opted for a week in Florida. Teenagers?!).

No need for s’mores

We were especially happy the Illinois clan made the trek, since for their meal, they brought (get this) Portillo’s Italian Beefs, sides and the most amazing chocolate cake you have ever eaten. Proof: No one had s’mores when that cake was around! And also the people were a lot of fun, ha:

Cousin Maggie and her Tye, native of South Africa. He was smitten with the North Shore, and helped us all see its wonders through his eyes!
Cousin Maggie and her Tye, native of South Africa. He was smitten with the North Shore, and helped us all see its wonders through his eyes!

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Hiking on the rocks, exploring Gooseberry, touring the Duluth harbor by foot and by boat, making meals, and especially around the campfire, we all realized that campfires together forge great bonds. Thanks for all the laughs and memories, fam.  Some of my favorite images of our precious time together…

Howie, Cara and their hors e'oeuvres.
Howie, Cara and their hors e’oeuvres.

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 Gooseberry Falls!

No mention of diving, however...
No mention of diving, however… 

dive justin

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Back at the campfire, we really raised the bar with the annual talent show. Poetry, songs, magic, comedy and of course the girls’ theatre production…

Eric and Dave as Abbott and Costello in "Who's On First." It was great, but the scriptwriting and performance by Allie and Cara won the grand prize!
Eric and Dave as Abbott and Costello in “Who’s On First.” It was great, but the scriptwriting and performance by Allie and Cara won the grand prize!

 

Little Lucy loved her first camping trip! (Well, it didn't start out that way, but she was a happy camper by Sunday.)
Little Lucy loved her first camping trip! (Well, it didn’t start out that way, but she was a happy camper by Sunday.)

 

Grandma got them started on embroidery! Way to go, girls.
Grandma got them started on embroidery! Way to go, girls.

 

Hats off, Davey, you organized another awesome reunion camping trip. Love you all.

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The most Superior campground amenity

We’ve camped at spots with golf courses, mini-golf, pools, rivers, tubing, boating, kayaking, waterslides, horses, wagon rides, theatre, live music and, yes, pet shows.

But our most Superior campground amenity (so far): the biggest, deepest, coldest, most dangerous of the Great Lakes. Lake Superior!

The Boys. Matty, Revi, Justy. (aka Matt, Rev, Justin)
The Boys. Matty, Revi, Justy. (aka Matt, Rev, Justin)

It was literally our back yard for 5 glorious days of our annual Kind family camping trip. Bonus: We had a bigger, deeper, warmer and more fun group than ever, when the Day clan from Illinois (some via South Africa) joined us!

More posts later on our other North Shore adventures, but for now, some images of this Superior amenity.

We waded in

jumped off cliffs in

the dogs and crazy Cara swam in

hiked in and around this lovely waterway

All just steps from our campsites at Burlington Bay Campground … Ahhh …

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Bro-in-law Eric. Nice form for a Packers fan.
Bro-in-law Eric. Nice form for a Packers fan.
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Our Cara, after her umpeenth jump in. Mermaids are not quite as affected by 61-degree water…
So fun! (Not bad form for a Vikings fan, eh?)
So fun! (Not bad form for a Vikings fan, eh?)

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Our last night there, as the campfire turned to coals and everyone tucked in, Greg and I took a hike to the point under the Super Moon. It was a little scary (okay, a lot), but so beautiful. Thanks, Lake Superior, for amazing memories…

 

 

Itasca, more beautiful than ever

Minnesota’s First State Park is still a blue-ribbon winner in our adventures-close-to-home book. Greg and I camped there as kids, and it was one of our first biking trips, then camping trips together.

We returned there last week with another great camping family and again soaked it all in! Bonus: Sue is an a.m.a.z.i.n.g. photographer, and she’s letting me share some of her shots here. Thanks, Sue. We’d camp anywhere with you guys. And thanks to you and your lens, Itasca is more beautiful than ever!

Here’s their clan:

Don't they look like Happy Campers?!
Don’t they look like Happy Campers?!

There’s so much more than the Mississippi Headwaters, but since that’s the origin of this gorgeous park, it’s a good place to start, too.

The Mississippi Headwaters

Photo cred: Matt!
Photo cred: Matt!

 

Our family, plus nephew Adam who joined us for part of our time there!
Our family, plus nephew Adam who joined us for part of our time there!
Just days before, the rocks were covered due to all the rain. We made it just fine!
Just days before, the rocks were covered due to all the rain. We made it just fine!
He does alright on melted ice, too.
He does alright on melted ice, too.
Way to go, Adam!
Way to go, Adam!
And she didn't even need her mobile to cross. No app for that, lovey!
And she didn’t even need her mobile to cross. No app for that, lovey!

 

rock on, babe (Loving his new collection of Life is Good Tshirts for camping)
rock on, babe
(Loving his new collection of Life is Good Tshirts for camping)
Our water bug.
Our water bug.
We all crossed the rocks. Cara, of course, went right in. We told her again this year we'd pick her up in New Orleans in a few weeks.
We all crossed the rocks. Cara, of course, went right in and started down the river. We told her again this year we’d pick her up in New Orleans in a few weeks.
And so it begins...
And so it begins…

Perfect harmony

Itasca has somehow managed to keep a balance of its natural beauty (incredible white and red pines, rare flowers, charming loons), with ways for us to enjoy it (pontoons, kayaks and other water toys, bike trails).

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A little less nature, please?

Our hike to the Fire Tower could have been without fewer mosquitos, but the views and experience was worth the itches!

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