A Weekend of Camping With the Boys: Lac qui Parle, Camden, and Upper Sioux Agency State Park

>> Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This past weekend was Mother’s Day (HOPEFULLY YOU DIDN’T SCREW THAT UP!), and my wife had to work. So on the 1 year anniversary of our first stay in a MN State Park “camper cabin,” the boys and I stayed in our 6th at Lac qui Parle State Park about 2.5 hours straight west of the Twin Cities. I’ve become efficient at packing:

1 tub with cooking supplies, 1 tub with food, 1 suitcase/person, and a laundry
basket of sheets, towels, and blankets. (With a cooler in the front seat
and the boys bedtime stuff in the back seat.)

The traditional start to these trips.

2.5 hours of farmland: 121 miles of the trip was straight west on Hwy 212.
I counted 17 small towns that we went through between Chaska and the park.

MN state law: every county needs a “Jake’s Pizza.”

Pulled into our camper cabin site.

The view of the rest of the campgrounds across the road from our cabin.

Our 2 cabin neighbors, and the vault toilets a block away.

After being there for 15 minutes, I realized the perfect analogy. Jay Cooke and other “older” state parks are like “the city:” they feel old and historic, and everything is tightly packed. The camper cabins at Forestville and William O’Brien are like older “first ring” suburbs. And this campground at Lac qui Parle felt like NEW suburban sprawl: everything was super open, everyone had lots of space, no tree (except for the old growth grove behind our cabin) was over 15’ tall, and this was the first site where EVERYTHING was paved, including our “painted with a line to denote 2 spaces” parking spot for our cabin. And this was the first cabin that had AC as well. (Because, the suburbs.) This isn’t a good or bad thing; just an apt analogy based on our State Park experiences so far.

Lac qui Parle had more "nature preserves" than any State Park that I've been to: there were lots of areas where people weren't allowed to go. And that led to lots of wild animals: we ALWAYS heard geese. Always. I saw more pelicans than I've ever seen before in my life. We saw deer on 3 different occasions (and nearly hit one of them). And I was always happy to hear squawks of pheasants nearby (which reminded me of my Grandpa) - seriously, we probably heard 50-100 pheasant calls while we were there!

Cooking supper during a light drizzle.

Ham steak!

Ham, apples, carrots, tangerines, and chocolate milk for supper.

Getting ready to try out my new campfire panini maker with ham steak and cheese.

Another favorite treat: naan flatbread over the fire with oil and salt.

A dang-near-perfect fire roasted panini!

This was REALLY good.

Charlie eating flatbread, Henry eating panini.

Running back from an island that was a nature preserve.

Looking out over Lac qui Parle Lake. Our campsite is a mile away a bit farther to the right.

Overlooking an historic fort site along the lake.

Pelicans in the MN River near the dam that helps create Lac qui Parle Lake.

Final trip back from the toilets to our glowing cabin.

Bedtime story selfie.

The boys actually wore PJs this time. When we were winter camping when it was -15 at Lake Shetek, our cabin was toasty warm. This past weekend, we didn’t turn on the heat, and it was 60 during the day and 50 at night outside: perfect cozy sleeping weather! (It stayed a bit warmer in the cabin.)

6:24 a.m. and ready to roll.

Eggs on the fire (with a small log to help level the crooked grill).

English muffin breakfast sandwiches with oatmeal.

A cool (but dry) breakfast.

Our cabin porch: wood, hatchet, cooler, tub for doing dishes, and panini press.

The office at Lac qui Parle had a TON of taxidermy. And pelts to pet. The boys loved it.

Turkey, fox, otter, beaver logs, and badger pelt. (Charlie kept calling the badger
a “flying squirrel” because it kinda looks like one all sprawled out like that.)

We had 2 more state parks to visit as we were out there, so we hopped in the car and drove 40 minutes to Upper Sioux Agency. As maybe the name implies, there was a lot of Native American history here.

Charlie wanted to play with this skull.

Lots of rolling prairie here.

Headed down a trail past the dead tree on the right...

... then down a hill through a freshly burned prairie to the Yellow Medicine River.

The boys spotted some swings. So we swung.

After a short drive into Marshall MN, we ate lunch at a Pizza Ranch. This is Henry’s “dessert plate.”

After lunch, it was just a 10-15 minute drive to Camden State Park:

Some bridges were closed so we couldn’t explore the “coolest” parts
of Camden (like the swimming area), but the boys loved this footbridge.
See them peeking out in the middle?

Camden had lots of creeks cutting through it, which the boys LOVED.

A small creek had recently flooded. THIS IS THE HIKING TRAIL that
it ran down, and it totally washed it out. Henry thought this was neat.

I've never seen such bad washouts. The boys tried to help move branches.

Henry waist-deep in a washed out area.

Making a "bow and arrow" with 2 sticks.

The dark line in the distance is more washed out riverbank.

Back to the washed out trail.

Across the bridge.

They fell asleep HARD while we were STILL IN THE PARK.

Pelicans, not geese.

Heading to a beach back at Lac qui Parle.

Big flat rocks jutting out from the sand.

Charlie refused to open his eyes.

More pelicans (maybe the same ones?) at the dam.

Playground stop by the dam.

Running up to explore one of the oldest churches and schools in the state!

On another trail...

... on our way to discover the biggest cottonwood tree in the state of MN.

Pictures don't do it justice, but this was amazing! (As Henry kept repeating!)

Selfie for Mama by the flowering bushes because "the little flowers remind us of Mama!"

Bait shop. The boys were amused.

Turkey kielbasa and green beans.

Supper for the boys.

THIS WAS JUST AFTER THE MOST TRAUMATIC EVENTS OF THE TRIP. Charlie was running around the outside of the cabin, and he SMACKED his hands against a busted part of the old wire screen. He got about 11 or 12 metal slivers in his wrist and hands that I had to pull out. In that photo above, you can see my bright headlight and needle nose tweezers sitting on the deck behind Charlie's head from where we performed our "operation." SIDENOTE: get yourself a pair of needle nose tweezers! They are amazing.

The screen where Charlie got his slivers.

Turkey kielbasa and 2 slices of cheese in the panini press. SO GOOD.

Decent campground showers.

Sunset from the far side of the campground (over the lake).

Park of the nature preserve island in the middle.

One of the 4 ticks we found. Henry and I both had 1 on our legs.

Our cabin at sunset on day 2.

Henry woke me up at 1 a.m. to go pee. I told him to look up. He'd never seen stars like that before!

6:46 the next morning. The boys slept later this day!

Still passed out.

Cozy under lots of blankets.

Cleaned up and packed out a few hours later.

The bathroom at the park office had tick info and a "tick check bag"
with a hand-held mirror, tweezers, bandaids, and antiseptic.

Stopped at Granite Falls to take in the view of the MN River valley.


Double piggie-back selfie.

Say this with the right inflection and you're breaking the 3rd Commandment.

A 2 ton corn cob. Because.

After 10 months, the boys have 19 stamps in their MN State Parks passport!

Here's a few minutes of video from each of these 3 state parks, including a bit about the largest cottonwood tree, Charlie barking like a neighbor's dog at 0:25, and some Christmas songs (for some reason) around the campfire. Also, we got to be right over a train as it went through Camden, and it was SO loud:


SteveQ 10:50 AM, May 16, 2018  

The giant cottonwood reminds me that the tallest red pine is at Itasca State Park. I have a picture of the sign, not the tree, because there's no way to take a picture of a 400 ft. tree!

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