Winter "Camping" at Lake Shetek

>> Wednesday, January 03, 2018

You know how it's been COLD here in Minnesota over the last few days? Well, when that cold hit last week, the boys and I went "camping" in a camper cabin in far south-western Minnesota. Here are a few pics:

Every camping trip starts with this photo...

... and this photo.

It was getting a little blustery as we stopped in Mankato for lunch, so I was very aware that I might be turning around and heading home - no need to risk it. But it was just a light snow that blew across the roads. After Mankato, I had 60+ miles of highway that just looked like this:


3+ hours later, here's our cabin along Lake Shetek! The snow was over,
our parking spot and deck had been cleared, and the sun was out.

The boys playing as I unloaded.

4 deer in the woods. We saw 10 different deer that night!

Hiking to the nearby vault toilets (structure near the left).

Lake Shetek had 4 camper cabins, and this one was the oldest one I've seen.
(Also, the picnic table shows the 2-3" of fresh snow that just fell.)

Pretty park.

Driving deeper into the park to get to the swimming beach. (Not to swim. Obviously.)

The worker at the park left at 4:30, and there was 1 other couple (maybe around 30 years old) who was in another camper cabin, so for the next 16 hours, the 5 of us had the entire state park to ourselves.

A deer just off the road. We sat and watched her nibble for a minute.

Heading down to the lake.

Out on the ice. The boys were AMAZED to be *ON* the frozen lake.

Sledding across the lake. Good workout for Daddy.

Rosy-cheeked back at the beach after a bit on the lake. It was just
below 0 at this point. We had toe warmers and hand warmers in our clothes.

Warming up with hot cocoa in our cabin.

Pizza Ranch in nearby Slayton for supper.

Starting a fire back at our site to roast marshmallows.
These are 2 homemade fire starters taking off NICELY.

SIDENOTE: we used shredded paper and sawdust packed in egg cartons as a fire starer...

... then we dumped wax on top. Both worked well.
I will continue to make shredded paper starters because they are easier.
Just cut apart each section with a knife for 12 fire starters.

The hatchet my Mother-in-Law got me for Christmas was already put to use!

Waiting to roast marshmallows.

Our cabin in a middle of a QUIET park. Note the shadows on the roof: nearly a full moon.

The boys playing catch from bunk-to-bunk. Just after I took this photo,
I made a "stay on your knees" rule, because that was slightly terrifying to watch.

Selfie during story time. Yes, Charlie refused to wear a shirt.

View from my bed. The warm glow on the right is a solar-powered "candle" that Santa
brought me (from REI). It had a great warm light, and lasted all night. (It lasted all
morning too, and I had to turn it off before leaving. Held a nice charge!)

It dropped down to 15 below air temp over night, and the temps were STILL dropping. But the cabin stayed nice and toasty. It had 2 baseboard heaters, and I had the thermostat set near the middle but slightly on the low side. We could have cranked it up 15 more degrees in there, but we were comfortably warm. The boys only slept with thin fleecy blankets, even though I brought along some super heavy quilts if we needed them.

The boys at 7:01 a.m. Henry's still tired, but Charlie was zippy!

A pre-sunrise fire to cook breakfast. I struck 2 matches all trip: 1 for
marshmallows the night before, and 1 for breakfast. The fire starters worked great!

Eggs on the fire with 40 below wind chill.

Cooking as the boys played inside.

Ham in the pan, and english muffins toasting on the fire.

Breakfast was hearty: ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, oatmeal, and fruit.

Breakfast. Still topless for Charlie.

I had told the park employee (I didn't get her name) the afternoon before that the only thing I was worried about in the cold was my car not starting in the morning. When I woke up at 6:30 or so, I tried remote starting it, and it fired right up. So when I was out on the deck brushing my teeth at 8:25 when she drove through the park (before opening the office at 8:30), I waved and gave a "thumbs up" to let her know all was well! She smiled, waved back, and kept driving.

Playing on the deck as Henry films. Direct link:

Air temp driving up to the park office. -40 with wind chill.

A pheasant on the edge of the park! The boys loved the noise it made when it flew off.

Some sweet sun dogs!

Charlie watched Minions and Henry watched classic
Looney Toons as we drove an hour to another state park.

Being the boys are doing the "passport program" trying to hit every state park,
we figured we'd hit these 3 being we made the trek way out here.
So we were driving from Lake Shetek to Split Rock Creek.

Charlie's crabby selfie at Split Rock Creek.

I knew the 2 parks we were headed to weren't major attractions, and Split Rock Creek wasn't staffed when we were there, and it hadn't been plowed (I didn't want to venture too far in and get stuck). So we got our passport stamps from outside the main office, and then Charlie got cold right away (note the crabby selfie). We took off right away. We joked that this one now beats Lake Louise as our quickest stop. (We got scared off by SWARMS of mosquitos at Lake Louise this past summer.)

We TRIED to eat at 2 local places in Luverne: first a place called "Vinnie's Dang Fine Dining" (which had been sold and was closed), and then at a Chinese restaurant (which obviously didn't exist anymore as I drove past). I jokingly said "well, there's another Pizza Ranch here," and both boys jumped on that. So we ate at a Pizza Ranch buffet for the 2nd time in 18 hours. #winning

Chocolate pudding for dessert.

My perfect dessert: biscuits and gravy, and dessert pizza.

The boys "won" a few pieces of candy.

A tiny church between Luverne and Blue Mounds State Park.

The boys were excited to find it was open! It sat 6 people total:
2 each in the 2 pews on the left, and 1 each in the 2 on the right.

Selfie in J.C.'s house. (I'm usually a stickler about hats being off, but it wasn't heated.)

Just 4 minutes down the road.

Selfie at the park office (after stamping our passports). You can't see it
in this photo, but there are bison on the far side of that grove of trees behind us.

Selfie in the campgrounds after seeing more deer and
a little dam/waterfall. We had this park TOTALLY to ourselves.

At the bison viewing platform. (Where we couldn't spot any bison.)

Around a little ridge, we spotted some in the distance.

Our 2nd pheasant of the day.

Blue Mounds is known for the bison, and for the Sioux Quartzite ridge that runs
through the park (that cuts through an otherwise flat prairie). It's 90-100 feet high in spots.

It was still -13 air temp, but we all decided to bundle up and try to get close to the ridge.

We hiked like this.

The boys at the ridge! (See them?)

In the Quarry! We tried to "echo," but it didn't come across well on video.
Direct link:

Back in the car, ready for a 3.5 hour drive back home.

Literally 9 minutes later.

The Bricelyn bridge on I90! I grew up 5 miles STRAIGHT north of here.

The boys slept part way, then looked for Waldo. They did great for 3.5 hours straight in the car!

We NEARLY stayed for another night because there were 2 things we could have done around Currie MN (visit a small dam and see the train museum [which was closed, but we could explore some of their outdoor things]). I asked at the park office, and there were no reservations after us, so we could have stayed. But we didn't. Then later, when I looked at a state park map again, I realized we could have hit ONE more state park had we spent an extra night: Camden is just a bit north of Lake Shetek. Oh well. We had a good time during our night at Lake Shetek while visiting 2 other state parks.

That makes 15 parks in the last 6-7 months! We have a summer trip already booked where we'll be staying at a few parks while visiting about 10 total. So that will put the boys over 25 stamps in their passports, which will earn us 2 free nights of camping in a state park!


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