Winter Camping at Sibley State Park

>> Monday, February 18, 2019

Henry is wrapping up a 5-day weekend today, so we started that weekend by spending 3 days in a camper cabin 2 hours west of the Cities at Sibley State Park. I taught class Thursday morning, had conferences with Henry and his teacher just after noon, and then loaded the boys up and we hit the road. It had started snowing (THE NORM FOR THIS DAMN WINTER), so it took 30 mins to get to the Lowry Tunnel (6 miles away), and our exit near St. Cloud that was about an hour away took us 1:50 to get there. So our 2 hour drive was more like 3.

Heading out!

Blowing snow in western MN as we got closer.

Our home for the next 2 nights.

With all the snow, it was easy to haul in our stuff!

And yes, we needed a cooler. Daytime temps were around 4 degrees, nighttime temps were -10, and our cabin was a comfy whatever-we-set-it-at (usually around 68), so if we didn't want to freeze our eggs, cheese, and meat, we needed a cooler. Never needed to refill it with ice though!

I had to shovel a path to and around the fire pit to make supper. And shovel OUT the pit.

Some porch windows and the porch door were boarded up to keep the wind out.

Twerking themselves to sleep.

Supper fire on top of snow.

Ham steak, raspberries, tangerines, apples, and pear cups.

These guys were goofy all weekend.

A tradition: we oil and salt naan, and it tastes like a hot soft pretzel.


I called the park before we showed up because I knew the office would be closed when we got there. There were supposed to be 3 other cabins with people in them, but NONE OF THEM SHOWED UP! So it was just me and my boys in this ENTIRE state park from around 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning! I was told ahead of time that the "interpretive center" had a basement door that was open 24/7 so we'd have access to running water and indoor bathrooms. And I was told to start a fire in the wood stove if I wanted to. The boys wanted to check it out after supper, so we spent 90 mins there playing games by the hot wood stove:

These were old.

Battleship by a hot fire.

Ready for bedtime stories back in our cabin. Bedtime was LATE: 9:50 or so.

7:10 the next morning (looking over cabins #1 and #2).

STEAMY bacon over the fire (it was -7).

I forgot a flipper, but this fork worked just fine to flip 4 eggs!

Breakfast: bacon, eggs, oatmeal, and english muffins toasted over the fire.

A breakfast sandwich and berry oatmeal. I EAT BETTER CAMPING THAN I DO AT HOME!

Getting ready to rinse dishes in the interpretive center basement.

Showing how big the room was that we played in the night before.

Heading out of Sibley to explore.

Monson Lake State Park was our first stop. We were told that it wouldn't be plowed, so we were going to see if we could make it in.

Some drifting in the open country.

It wasn't plowed! But we just geared up and hiked in.

Heading across the snow to a visitor's center that hadn't been "visited" in months.
(With a drift up to its front door.)

We found the stamp for our "state park's passport." Someone had really stamped up the box. NOT US.

The boys resting in the snow after our hike in.

Heading back out. See my car on the road in the distance?

Henry thought it was pretty cool that there were NO other tracks near the park office, and that we were the first ones up there in a long time. That idea wasn't lost on him.

We watched a Jeep go in the ditch (which Charlie called "a short but really exciting movie") after hitting a snow drift too fast. I pulled over, but he got out without my help after 60 seconds. After that, the boys were just balls of energy for our 40 min drive to Glacial Lakes. Turn it up and enjoy Charlie practicing the "Interrupting Cow" knock-knock joke:

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Our 3rd and final state park visit on this trip.

Glacial Lakes seemed quite nice! We couldn't see the campground because it wasn't plowed, but there were pretty rolling hills all over. We came across 2 deer (one standing in the middle of the road, and one BOUNDING over the road 2 seconds later). We got out and explored for 30 minutes:

Henry stamping his passport.

More deep snow to hike through.

Charlie "resting" once we got to the lake. (The campgrounds are up the bluff on the far side.)

Charlie wanted to walk across the lake. Henry wanted to stay back and play with cattails.

I was in front of him, and then he just turned around and headed back without telling me. Thanks bud.

Henry had built an "igloo" in a snowdrift.

More deep snow.

15 mins later, we were at a Pizza Ranch! (Somehow became a winter camping tradition.)
Thanks Grandma Mon for the gift card at Christmas! Lunch was on you!

The back of our booth. Charlie said "Look Dad! A Canadian!" Ummm, no son.

The boys napped like this on our way back to Sibley.

Saw LOTS of these "scenic byway" signs on different highways in this area.

We drove out onto Lake Andrew! The boys thought this was cool! Henry was a little wary.

Charlie got a REAL early nap in the car (he usually naps around 3:00 p.m. until maybe 4:30 or 5, and we were UP by 2:15) so we could get back to Sibley and go sledding. There was a big sledding hill just 2-3 blocks from our cabin (with the interpretive center at the base of the hill):

The bottom half was groomed.

We climbed that hill dozens of times.

The hill starts way back in a "tunnel" in those trees. It was pretty fun.

Charlie zipping down.

From a little higher up: you can see it curves to the left once you're out of the trees.

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I took turns with the boys a lot too: someone would take the saucer, and someone would go with Dad.

Sledding was great. We were out there for nearly 2 hours, and there wasn't a SINGLE whine or complaint. The boys tired of sledding at times, so they just played in the snow. Henry had never seen "crust" on snow before (when the top melts a bit so you can lift up plate-sized pieces of a half inch of snow), so he was amazed with that. It was really a fun 2 hours.

Hot cocoa in our mini mugs back in our cabin after LOTS of sledding.


Paninis for supper, using leftover ham steak from the night before.

We had vault toilets nearby. See Henry coming back?
(He's standing in front of the right side of the building.)

A nearly perfect panini.

Sweet Mother Mary. It was good.

Marshmallows afterwards.

Charlie wanted to stay in the cabin, but Henry wanted to hang out by the fire with me.

More marshmallows. (The ravine right behind Henry was snowmobile trail, and 3 sets of
3 snowmobilers came through that evening. My city boys thought that was cool!)

I asked what they wanted to do that night, and they wanted to build
another fire and play games in the interpretive center. So we did! Henry and
I played Battleship, and Charlie played with little figurines from another game.

Henry LEGIT beat me! He's pointing to the Destroyer
that I could NOT find in the corner of his board!

Our evening worth of stuff outside the bathroom.

In that photo above (left-to-right), there's our rags and overnight bag to get ready for bed, water bottle and hot pot to fill up (hot pot for oatmeal in the morning), and then all the washed dishes and dishtowel. It was a bit of work getting all that back to the cabin both evenings.

A story-time selfie for Mama.

That was the last pic I took. The next morning, we just made oatmeal and slowly packed up. The boys played. We went back to the interpretive center for one last time. Then we loaded up and headed home. It was really a fun trip! These 3 state parks were #36, #37, and #38 for us since July of 2017.

I have more short videos I'd like to edit together (and I still need to do that with videos from last month's Mexico trip as well), so look for that hopefully soon. Back with some training updates in a day or two.


shinianen 9:15 AM, February 18, 2019  

I don't know what I love more - the twerking or Canadian comment. LOL! Looks like a blast. I'm going to have to figure out how to get one of these passports for when my son gets a little older.

Steve Stenzel 2:32 PM, February 18, 2019  

Shinianen, you can get them at any MN State Park! They are like $11 or $14, and after you get 25 stamps, you get a free night of camping at a MN State Park (so it pays for itself). And then after you get all the stamps (well, 72 out of the 76 or so state parks and recreation areas), you get a plaque. The boys love it! (But really, they just love hanging out in ANY camper cabin as well.) :)

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