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This post highlights our family trip to Lake Bemidji State Park and its Hiking Club Trail, Itasca State Park, the iconic Paul & Babe Statue and some musings on glamping in a sweet little camper we rented through Outdoorsy. Hope you enjoy!
a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.”glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries”
We weren’t going to go camping over labor day and, as I have groused about in previous posts, it seems like every trip I’ve planned this year has gone down the tubes. BUT, on a last minute whim,
we (I) decided to squeeze in a surprise family trip for my husband’s birthday over the long weekend. This is probably where I should remind you that my husband doesn’t enjoy camping…and especially NOT on his birthday.
I, on the other hand, like all kinds of camping! So, we’ve been scheming and dreaming of getting a camper again. We’ve had two pop ups and a VW Bus over the years, all of them falling into the categories of musty, rusty or BOTH! We’re looking at being empty nesters in a few years, and can totally see ourselves enjoying the parks together in a sweet little camper. One of the most romantic things my husband said to me, after finishing the Superior Hiking Trail last year, was “You should hike the Appalachian Trail and I’ll drive from trailhead to trailhead in an RV…so we can do it together and you’ll have a nice bed and a shower.” Never mind that I don’t really have any interest in thru hiking the 2,190 mile AT, or that it would take months… my heart fluttered and I got all mushy at his sweet thought. The idea is growing on me.
It’s officially the last weekend of summer, our big family vacation out to the mountains to see Grandma and Grandpa was cancelled…school is starting in a few days…and we haven’t really done much outside of the house as a family. After a stressful week, my husband ended up getting the long weekend off unexpectedly, so I hit the internet on Tuesday night and started scouring the State Parks reservation page. I channeled my crabby energy into finding SOMETHING we could do to salvage the last weekend of summer and my husband’s birthday. Almost all campsites were full for the holiday weekend, but I obsessively hit refresh and remembered this place I’d heard about where you can rent campers. Have you ever heard of a site called Outdoorsy? It’s like an AirBNB for campers. Perfect! We hadn’t used them before, and it ended up being super easy, clean and cheaper than a hotel (which we didn’t really want to stay in during a pandemic). We lucked out and ended up being the first campers in this brand new Viking pop-up! The owners were super nice and walked through how to use everything in detail before we got on the road. Highly recommend! And we loved it so much, that Outdoorsy is now one of the Wandering Pine brand partners! So if you want to know more about renting a camper and help support this blog, check them out using the links in this post. You can find a list of other fantastic brand partners here. Your support means so much. Thank you!
Back to the trip: As if our camping options weren’t limited enough on a holiday weekend, I narrowed our State Park search to only show electric sites and bumped it up to a Thurs/Fri night stay… and BINGO! Out of the vast ether of the internet…LAKE BEMIDJI STATE PARK APPEARED!
I grabbed the only electric site left in the State! [insert angels singing the hallelujah chorus here]
Day 1: Getting to camp and forgetting how to build a fire
We got out of town a little later than planned, but made it to Bemidji just in time to order one of our college favorites for dinner. LITTLE CEASARS PIZZA! They even have a drive thru… Its not very good pizza, but it brought back memories of our college days and a chapter in our lives that we hadn’t thought about in years. We took turns pointing out how much the little college town had grown, and the “new” buildings that were actually a couple of decades old.
Re-learning how to tow and set up a camper was the most anxious part of our adventure, but we made it! I was glad we had 3 people to wrangle it and couldn’t imagine how anyone could set it up alone. We all pitched in getting the pop up backed in, set up and leveled before we got to eat that cold pizza, but it was still pretty good!
We tried making a fire…and you would think with one Boy Scout and two Scout Leaders, we’d get that baby going…but after about an hour of struggling with it and blaming various user techniques and meteorological conditions, we put what was left of it out and ended the evening with a game of UNO inside the cute little camper dinette.
Temps are in the 40’s up here tonight and Fall is in the air. This camper has propane heat and a magical feature that keeps the undersides of the mattress warm! No one, including the owner knows how it works, but it’s COMFY! Dear Big Agnes, I would like one of these magical heaters in my inflatable sleeping pad, maybe it could be ultralight and solar powered? Please and thank you.
Day 2: Bogs, Babes and Headwaters
Two bald eagles flew over me, shrieking and chortling at each other as I walked to the bathroom…I’ll take that as a good sign!
Mornings in the camper feel different than they do tent camping or at home. After a stressful week, it felt like the best of both worlds…like actual, honest to goodness self care. I was up with the sun, made coffee on the cute little stove and caught up on writing the Southern Minnesota trip report while my family slept. Hello State Park wifi.
I let the guys sleep in and was going to hit the hiking club trail solo before we made plans for the rest of the day. My husband decided to join me, yay! Off to the Big Bog Lake Trail we go!
LENGTH 2 mile Hiking Club Trail
DIFFICULTY Easy hiking, great navigation
DATE Sept 4, 2020
MAIN FEATURES The Hiking Club Trail leads to Big Bog Lake where you can walk along a 1/4 mile boardwalk and see bog life in action, including lady slippers and carnivorous plants! Other popular park activities include fishing, boating, biking, snowmobiling, birding and access to a large swimming beach on Lake Bemidji’s shore.
The waters of Lake Bemidji or “Bemiji-gau-maug” continue to be a life source for its original inhabitants, the Dakota and Ojibwe people, and later drew Fur Traders and Loggers during the peaks of their industries. The park was established in 1923 and, fun fact…the Missispippi River flows diagonally through it!
Lake Bemidji State Park Hiking Club Trail
The park has a few different hiking loops on the North end and a few of them lead into the Hiking Club trail. One of the great things about this park is that all of the trail intersections have very clear signs with letters so you know exactly where you are. Super helpful!
I was having such a great chat with the park staff when we checked in, that I completely forgot to grab a map last night. No worries…this park is heavily signed and it’s really easy to figure out where you are by the letters on each post.
The trail starts at the campground and continues through a forest of Pines, across the road, and picks back up with a winding boardwalk that leads to the bog.
I was really impressed with the way the ‘floating’ boardwalk was built to shift with the conditions of the seasons. We learned about many different kinds of bog plants on this little hike and took the time to stop and read every sign.
I remembered seeing magnificent alien-like pitcher plants and their blooms on the SHT this time last year, but many of the other plants were new to me. We looked and looked, but never saw the Tiny Sundew, which is another carnivorous plant and looks like its either from a Dr Seuss book or another planet…it must be really tiny.
We hiked the 1/4 mile out to the end of the boardwalk and spent a few minutes looking out, across the calm and clear water of Big Bog Lake lake before heading back.
Itasca State Park and the Mississippi Headwaters
Back at camp, we decided that our big outing for the day would be to Itasca State Park to see the headwaters of the Mississippi since our youngest had never seen it. My husband grew up in Minnesota, so he has childhood memories of field trips and walking down the river with his classmates as far as they could, until the water got too deep for their little legs.
The park was starting to get busy, so we wore masks for most of the little hike down to the headwaters. This is a very popular State Park, and we were thankful to be there early on a Friday during the beginning of a busy Labor Day weekend..
I rolled up my pant legs, waded around for a little bit, and then walked across the rocks that divide the baby Mississippi river from its source, Lake Itasca.
We stopped long enough to take a family photo at the headwaters sign…and got out of there quick. The growing crowd made for an efficient visit. Our long, winding drive through he park reminded me of how HUGE and expansive this State Park is, and made me want to come back in the winter to enjoy one of their their cabins!
Paul & Babe
On our way back to camp, we swung by Paul and Babe for a tourist photo, checked out how our our old college campus had changed and even made a stop at the church we got married in while we were still students! It was fun to tell our youngest son stories of what it was like to be college kids without cars, biking everywhere, struggling to pay rent and tuition and how many different ways you can eat ramen noodles. We also reflected on how different our interests were when we lived there and what a shame it was, that we never saw much of Bemidji’s natural beauty. We lived in this land of wonderful natural resources and I never enjoyed ANY of it…no hiking, no boating, no beach going….just working and going to school. If I could have a few words with my 20 year old self…I’d tell her to GO OUTSIDE!
Our final evening at camp was filled with our favorites: Campfire foil dinners made out of chunks of beef and garden veggies, and S’mores for dessert! A trip to the L&M Fleet supply for a big ol’ Axe made sure our fire was a success (no blaming ‘all of the things’ this time). The sunset over Lake Bemidji painted the lake with orange and blue dabs of light, and I was filled with both appreciation and regret as I looked into its beauty. I felt grateful to be able to share this beautiful place with my family now and regretted taking it for granted in my youth.
I had forgotten how big lake Bemidji is! I remember our college days, in the cold winter, when cars would pile onto the lake as an overflow parking lot and there would be a mad dash in the spring to get all of the student cars off the lake before ice out! Only in Minnesota. Hopefully, that is not done anymore…its probably terrible for the environment, but I don’t remember anyone worrying about that 30 years ago.
Enjoying our little ‘home away from home’ was a nice break from tent life. Even thought it took some effort to get it parked, popped up, leveled, etc, it was fun to do together as a family and I loved having some of the comforts of home along on the trip. Until we have another camper of our own, renting was a pretty great option.
Next time we visit Bemidji, I’d like to stay for a few more days and make up for some of that time I spent not noticing it’s beauty when I lived there. We could bring the kayaks and bikes! So many options for outdoor recreation, year round. I also want to learn more about the history of the area and the Paul Bunyan State Trail…I’ve wanted to try bikepacking for a while, and I think the trail was under construction when we lived here decades ago. This will give me something fun to dig into this winter…and maybe 2021 will be THE YEAR OF THE BIKE for ol’ Wandering Pine. Who knows?
I still have a couple more trips up my sleeve this Fall. Will they happen? I don’t know. Im rolling with it. If they don’t come to be, there will be the loving work of tucking a garden into bed for its long winter’s sleep.
Have you been to Lake Bemidji State Park? How about bikepacking? Tell me about it and if you like what you’ve read here, please feel free to share with a friend! And hey, I almost forgot! Have you pushed the orange button on the main page yet? Do it. Its fun… in all seriousness, its an interactive map that’s been up since this page began and one more way to find cool places to check out in the state. Have fun, and enjoy these cool Autumn days!