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
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.
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.
And of course we crossed the Mighty Mississippi and ate wild rice pancakes with fresh blueberries at Douglas Lodge!
Best part of a Minnesota state of mind? It sticks with you.
That’s from the American Academy of Pediatrics (!). So I guess the Kind family is normal after all. Dictatorship, socialist, a few moments of outright oppression: We had a wonderful family reunion in Hayward.
All 14 of us joined the fun. Of course we have an elder statesman, chairwoman, hero, scapegoat, maverick and plenty of junior members. Somehow, we all filled various roles throughout the weekend.
See? Don’t we look normal?
A new member
Since last summer, we’ve added a new delegate. Little Howie delighted us all!
Various subgroups broke into various committees to work on different projects.
Diplomacy (and dictatorship) on the River
It’s become a tradition to spend some time on the nearby Namekagon River. Last year, we all tubed down. This year, sensing the lukewarm tone on that activity, Bro Dave leapt into action. “How about canoeing?” he said, plopping down a pile of brochures from his quick research. He got enough “yeah, sure”‘s to make the plan.
Hindsight is 20/20.
So, the outfitter told us two things:
1. We won’t let you go out after 3:00; even that can be pushing it on daylight.
2. The rafts are heavy to pull
We got on the river at 3:15. We had one map, 3 fishing poles, bait, coolers full of beverages and of course life jackets. And we had that #1 survival tool: PMA. (Positive Mental Attitude)
It was a GLORIOUS day on this treasure of a river.
A mild crisis
After about 3 hours, we hadn’t yet seen the landing where we were to exit. My arms were sore from paddling. We pulled over and I looked at our load: Cara had decided to ride on one of the rafts, tied to our canoe. That’s cool. But then I saw the raft was FULL OF WATER. It must’ve added 100 lbs! Good grief. One look at my brother’s face, and I knew he was nervous about making it in before nightfall, too. We’re 21 months apart. Heck, I’ve seen that “am I going to get home before <________>” many times, especially during our high school years. Truth be told, he had good reason to be nervous most of those times. So, while keeping panic at bay and glancing at the map:
We called John, the outfitter.
It was an indelible conversation:
Me: “Hey, so we’re at campsite #728. Are we close to the landing where you’re picking us up?”
John: laughing, “Hell, you’ve got about 6 hours left.” laughing
Me: “So are we close?”
John: laughing “Yeah, so I’ve already started drinking.” laughing “‘Guess I’m gonna have my wife pick you up.” laughing
John: “I told you not to leave so late. I told you those rafts would be heavy.” laughing “Yeah, so just call her when you get to that landing.” laughing
Dave the Dictator
Dave must’ve read my face (hey, I sometimes needed him to cover for me during our teenage years). He strided back to the river and assigned the strongest paddlers and made a few more edicts. No voting here.
We did make it to the landing and John’s wife was there. It was still a little light (!), and we all laughed about our adventures, fishing, paddling, heavy rafts and (yep, Allie) leeches.
Nothing a little campfire won’t cure!
Back at the campground…
Blue-ribbon partisan showing
Last year, our dogs came in 2nd in the Pet Show. The eldest child (that would be me) gets a little fired up at competition. So we came prepared this year. And planning does pay. Allie and Cara commandeered the dogs to a tie for 1st place! (Thanks heavens they tied or it would have been a year of bragging ’round the house…)
As we watched the kids sing Happy Birthday to each other: dirty, hungry, smelling of chlorine and mini golf greens and truck ride hay, my very wise brother said it best. I’ll never forget his face lit by campfire and birthday cake candles, his words glowing with pride and love, “THIS is why you do it.”
Greg and I both grew up camping, and we started camping our first summer together. Part of the beauty of camping is that many things remain the same — and many change. Thirty years ago, the Kind family camped at the Hayward KOA Kampground. All 5 of us went back this past weekend — along with our expanded (and expanding!) families.
Kamping does not = camping
As we discovered in our South Dakota vacation last summer, KOA Kampgrounds are more like resorts. The Hayward KOA has many more offerings than the pool we enjoyed there 30 years ago, including kabins, so we could all enjoy more time together. Other offerings:
So, what began decades ago with the Kind family…
…will continue on more frequently: we all booked our spots for next August!
Thanks for organizing it all, Davey! (and thanks for the Fri evening entertainment ~ ha) We love you. And that will never change.
Little Caroline, our third child, blazes her own path. She’s tried many things the other kids did not: cutting her own hair, cutting the dog’s hair, collecting gum wrappers, playing softball–and Girl Scouts. This week, she is spending three days at Girl Scout Camp. So of course mom chaperoned day one. Highlights:
Camp songs haven’t changed (much)
There are a few new verses to Princess Pat, but all the words come right back when the bus singing begins!
Learning a new “Do as I Do” ditty
Record-heat in a day away from a/c
This may be the time to share that this was not an ordinary day at Girl Scout Day Camp. The temperature hit 96 degrees F, the heat index 115 and we were not near a lake or any air conditioning. In fact, the temps, heat index and humidity levels hit record levels all over the state.
Of course we were outside all day. I can honestly say I have never been that hot in my life. And I’m an outdoorsy girl. I lived and worked at a camp for 4 summers. I grew up without air conditioning. But this was debilitating. The staff members did a great job improvising to keep the girls safe and (relatively) cool.
Our #1 activity
We drank water, we re-filled our water bottles, we turned on the hose to play in water and every activity included the instructions every few minutes: “Take a drink of water.”
On this day, the girls learned they can handle heat. Won’t that serve them well as students, professionals, spouses, friends and moms themselves someday?! Just don’t show your sweat, ladies.
I’ll always remember a very cool day with our neat little girl. Thanks for the experience, Caroline honey.