Random thoughts, rants, raves and photo opportunities

2011 - Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely, MN

Our family camped at Bear Head Lake State Park this weekend.  Located in the great north woods of Minnesota, Bear Head Lake is approximately half way between Tower and Ely.  While the area is known for vast populations of wolves and bears, the only critters we ran into were the three bears at the North American Bear Center, located just south of Ely.

Believe it or not, this was our family's first solo camping trip without the presense of other beloved friends and family members.  The weather was absolutely perfect, there were no troublesome insects, and the food was plentiful.  With the exception of a dead battery in the truck and having run out of beer, every one of us seemed to have a great time.  Things we enjoyed?  Relaxation, swimming at the beach, kayaking the lakes, hiking the trails, geocaching, enjoying the campfire, and stargazing at night.  There are many other gorgeous state parks we'd like to camp but Bear Head Lake has certainly made it to our short-list of places to return.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2010 - St. Croix State Park, Hinckley, MN

We spent Independence Day weekend at St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, MN.  While this is a gorgeous park with many things to do such as biking and canoeing, it still tops my list of the most mosquito infested state parks I've ever visited.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2010 - Minnesota State Parks Geocaching Wildlife Safari Completed

With my visit to Gooseberry Falls State Park, I've officially completed the Minnesota State Parks Geocaching Wildlife Safari.  The adventure, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is a three year program to help introduce park visitors to geocaching.  Each of Minnesota's 72 state parks has its own collectible trading card depicting a critter that is significant to the area each park resides.  Trading cards are collected by finding and logging the geocache within each state park.  Collect all 72 cards and you are among a very distinct group that has had the privilege to visit every corner of Minnesota.  The program is scheduled to run from May 2nd, 2009 through May 2nd, 2012.

My adventure started on opening day of the program, May 2nd, 2009 when the state park system held an event at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park to introduce the new three year program.  Since I had completed the 2008 Minnesota State Parks Geocaching History Challenge the year before, I had no interest in visiting all of Minnesota's 72 state parks a second time.  It did not take long for me to get absorbed into the program and within one year's time, I had completed the challenge.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2010 - Beaver Creek Valley State Park

I was down in the Caledonia, MN area while turkey hunting and decided to explore Beaver Creek Valley State Park.  This gorgeous state park is located within the Root River Watershed which over time has created a geological wonder.  The area is surrounded by steep bluffs, outcroppings, ravines, underground springs, and in some places, open caverns.  I managed to hike the entire Hiking Club route today and it was the perfect spring day for it.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2009 - On the Banks of the St. Croix, Afton, MN

During a visit to Afton State Park, Bart, Molly, Anna, Laura and Teddy stopped for a quick photograph on the bank of the St. Croix River. What a perfect way to celebrate Bart's birthday.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2008 - MN State Park Geocaching History Challenge Completed

This year the state of Minnesota is celebrating its susquicentennial, 150 years of statehood.  Beginning on May 11th, 2008, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is sponsoring the Minnesota State Park Geocaching History Challenge.  Using geocaching as a way to attract attention and visitors to the state park system, the DNR has hidden at least one geocache in each of the 72 state parks.  In addition, the state has been broken up into four regions, Metro, Southern, Northwestern, and Northeastern.  If you locate all of the geocaches in a particular region, you win a medallion for that region.  If you find the geocaches in all 72 of the state parks and complete each of the four regions, you win golden medallion to celebrate your accomplishment (pictured at left).  While geocaching is expected to be a new mainstay in the state parks, the geocaching challenge officially ends on December 31st, 2008.  Allegedly, it was originally predicted that only 25 individuals would accomplish visiting all 72 state parks from May 15th, 2008 to December 31st, 2008.  As of September 13th, there has been 21 of the golden medallions handed out.

Click here to see the history cards placed in each geocache

Together with fellow geocacher Norvina, sometimes KBayNPapaBear and various groupings of my children, I have been participating in this challenge.  Our original goal was to just complete the metro region and then possibly visit a few of the state parks in the southern region.  With the adventure to Garden Island organized by Paklid, one thing led to another, and we found ourselves on the path to completing the entire state.  Our obsession started on 05-17-2008 with our first find at Fort Snelling.  By 09-13-2008, we had travelled to every corner of Minnesota and visited each of the 72 state parks.  Tetteguche was the last unique state park that we visited.  But the challenge officially ended for us at Mille Lacs Kathio, after a three mile hike, in the dark while raining, which included crossing two different fens, up to our waists in muck.

While the five medallions we each earned are very beautiful and nicely designed, it will never be possible to justify this challenge in terms of cost, impact to relationships, and heaven forbid, impact to the environment.  I thought it'd be fun to compile as much information as I could from our follies.

Total trips:  13
Autorouting miles:  5200
Actual miles travelled:  5750
Fuel consumed:  316.83 gallons
Fuel economy:  26MPG when driving 2007 Chev Malibu
                       16MPG when driving 2002 Chev Tahoe
Average price of fuel:  $3.77 per gallon
Total price of fuel:  $1,176.05
Total state park caches found:  77
Total caches found:  153

Speeding ticket in Roseau County:  $140.00
Overnight at Warroad Super8:  $89.99
Overnight at Beudette Americinn:  $99.99
Food and beverages (estimated):  $160.00
Charter service from Young's Marina to Garden Island:  $25.00

Cost per state park cache:  $21.96
Cost per cache:  $11.05

Click here to see the finalists of the 2008 Geocaching History Challenge

2008 - Hill Annex State Park, Calumet, MN

Located in Calumet, MN, Hill Annex Mine State Park is another gorgeous Minnesota park rich in beauty and history.  If you visit Hill Annex, be sure to take the guided tour.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2008 - Swirly Rock, Soudan, MN

Located on the grounds of Soudan Underground Mine State Park, in Soudan, MN, an unbelievably gorgeous geological formation that local geocachers have dubbed Swirly Rock.  I would love to hear from anyone that can explain the layering of stone in this rock formation.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..