Baker Lake to Kelly Lake: Passing the Torch in the BWCA

It had been more than 30 years since my dad last paddled into Baker lake. Things had changed a bit since then with many trips made in between. Instead of the company of his brothers, he had his bowman for life (my mom), his daughter (me), son in-law (Scott), and two grandchildren (Sandy and Killian). Three generations in a single BWCA camping party. My dad has always been the group leader on these trips. Even though he was the youngest of his brothers, he’s always been the one to take the reins. This year, however, he put the map in my canoe. I asked why I had it, I guess he was confident in the skills he has taught me. Cue the lump in my throat.

Last year we asked my folks to accompany us on our BWCA trip in June. We had a very successful excursion and made great memories on our journey down Hog Creek. We decided to make it an annual thing as it had been when I was growing up. After getting our reservations made in January (yes, January) for this June, my mom suffered an injury to her shoulder. Mom worked hard with physical therapy to regain strength and use, but to little effect. After an MRI, surgery was immanent. Paddling was not an option.

Thankfully, the Baker Lake entry point is not difficult to traverse. Offering plenty of adventure with minimal effort. If you are catering to an injury (or a toddler), this is a great little jaunt into the B.W.C.A..

Ranger Station

We used the Tofte Ranger Station for Entry Point #39 Baker Lake. The Tofte Ranger Station is off of Hwy 61 on the left just before you enter Tofte.

Tofte Ranger Station
Address: 7355 W. Hwy 61
Tofte, MN 55615
Hours: May 1st- Sept. 30th: Sun-Sat 8am-4:30pm
Oct. 1st-April 30th: Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm
Phone:218-663-8060

Entry Point Details

Entry Point #39
Permits Issued Daily2
Permit TypeOvernight Paddle
Ranger Station Tofte

Getting There and Parking

Getting to this entry point is pretty simple. Yet, somehow, we missed two turns. Too enthralled with in our moose watch. When finished at the ranger station, follow Hwy 61 north to the Sawbill Trail. Take a left onto Sawbill, follow it for 17 miles, it’ll turn to gravel after some time. You’ll approach an intersection with way too many options, take the right most turn onto The Grade (also reads Nat. Forest 170). After 5 miles, turn left onto Forest Route 1272. There is a split for either the Baker Lake campground or the Baker Lake entry point, stay left for the entry point. Don’t worry, there are signs along the way, just don’t get too into your moose hunt that you miss them.

This entry point has ample parking and drive right up to the lake for loading and unloading with room enough to turn around with a small trailer. It also has a vaulted toilet. That is luxury! At our last entry point to Bower Trout, I had to use a tree, so this was a real treat.

As we load our canoes with gear butterflies swarm the kids. Killian was quite entertained! It’s an amazing loading spot and the kids were so happy to be out of the truck.

Baker Lake & 1st Portage

Baker Lake is a petite puddle in terms of BWCA lakes. We paddled just long enough for Sandy’s hat to blow off in the wind. Don’t worry, we picked it up. Leave no trace! The portage into Peterson is to the left of the rapids, it’s rather plain to see. This smooth, flat jaunt is just 12 rods. We encountered other campers making their way to the entry point, they had mentioned good fishing on the north end of Kelly, where they had camped. Yay! That’s where we were headed.

On the other end of the portage, the loading area is a convenient one for a Kevlar canoe. It has space for the canoe to be in the water and rocks to place your feet. After reloading and shoving off, paddle hard. The rapids are strong and the water was high, they might try to suck you in to the rapids that you just portaged around.

**Tip: On your way out, be sure to stick to the right side of the river. Be ready to pull into the portage “bay” just before the rapids. Don’t let your canoe turn broadside!

Peterson Lake & 2nd Portage

Peterson Lake is larger than Baker, but it’s a simple paddle. There is just one intriguing campsite that would have been an awesome option if we hadn’t already had a destination in mind.

At the north end of Peterson waits an itty bitty portage that we didn’t have to take. It was just 3 rods, but with the water as high as it was we paddle right through. Watch for the rocks if you’re taking that chance.

Arriving at Kelly Lake

Kelly Lake is a long skinny lake loaded with beaver lodges along it’s shores. Our destination was on the far north end of Kelly. That means a wonderfully scenic paddle upstream. These lakes are part of the Temperance River system that reaches far up into North Temperance Lake and Brule Lake and flows all the way out to Lake Superior.

Basecamp

As usual with a toddler in tow, we base camped. As we approached the camp, we were pleased to see that it had indeed been vacated. The rapids is just to the west with another little inlet to the east. It’s a beautiful little spot.

The shore has a convenient spot for loading and unloading canoes. We were camping with a party of 6 with a fairly large tent to accommodate an air mattress. The tent pad area is not the largest, we were able to squeeze our monster tent into the space. It did require us to be creative with the rainfly ties but it was worth it for this site.

Our ‘front porch’ was a great space for the kids to explore in the water, watch a baby turtle, and play with sticks. It wasn’t a beach by any means, but it was too cold to swim anyway. Not to mention the current right at this spot would not have been ideal for a toddler to be jumping in anyhow.

This site has trails leading along the shore on either side of camp. To the east, a good spot to hang the food pack. To the west, a nice fishing and peaceful spot to view the rapids. Our toddler, Killian, used the little trails for his ‘Bear Hunts.’ We all took turns taking him on his hunt. He’d say, “Going on a bear hunt… gonna catch a big one… I’m not scared!” Just like the song.

Pests

Bugs. Enough said, right? Spring and fall are great times to avoid the bugs. Our trip was in June. The park rangers informed us of a recent black fly hatch. Lovely. Not only did we have swarms of mosquitoes, but we also had black flies to swat as well. The hammock with bug netting was the safety zone while at camp. We were all very thankful for this piece of equipment. Bug spray helped but it didn’t keep them at bay long. Actually, the greatest escape was being out on the water. They didn’t bother much in the canoes.

Day Trip

The weather forecast looked ominous during our planning stage, but luck graced us with near perfect conditions during the daylight hours. On our second day, we loaded the daypack for a long day away from camp. The loose goal was to make it to Weird Lake and fish our way back to camp.

**Tip: Loose goals are ideal when traveling with toddlers. Having hard set plans and itineraries adds pressure to a trip, taking the fun out of the whole experience when that toddler decides they are done.

Jack Lake Entry: The 69 rod portage at the north end of Kelly leads to Jack Lake. Watch for moose tracks along the portage, and moose poop! We were greeted with a section of lake separated from the rest in it’s own sheltered paradise. The guys spent some time fishing in this area before continuing. There were bass resting on the beds in this area, but we didn’t have any luck until the following day. Still, it was a great place to paddle around and relax as the area is shielded from the wind.

First Stop: Jack Lake Mine. It seems that not too many folks know about this historic gem in the midst of the wilderness. A short trail, just 50 feet long, off the portage on the south side of Jack Lake will take you to this neat step back in time. This is a great day trip whether you are staying in the BWCA or not. For more info on the Jack Lake Mine, read on here.

Sharing the Experience: After visiting the mine we returned to the portage to launch the canoes at the lake. We were greeted by some fellow campers. They were amazed that we had a 10 year old and a 2 year old in our group, stating that they too had a child at home. They claimed it would be too difficult to bring their 8 year old son along, they’d consider it when he could carry his own pack. Don’t let this stop you! I am so proud of my family for tackling the challenges together that are brought on by the BWCA. I hope that after seeing our youngsters that couple will reconsider getting their son out there.

Second Stop: Berry Hill. Being early in the growing season, there were no berries to be had just yet. If you find yourself on Jack Lake late-July to mid-August, an abundance of blueberries will be waiting for you on this rocky slope. This hill is on the second point on the southeast side of the lake.

**Tip: Bring plenty of snacks on daytrips with kids. Be a courteous guest by leaving majority of the berries for the animals that live there.

Third Stop: Day trips with kids means having a lot of stops. We stopped at an empty campsite to use the latrine. This site had some storm damage from the wicked storms we had earlier in the spring. Damage aside, the view from this site was great, it had a set of step leading up to the site for a dramatic overlook. This would have been a splendid alternative had our site been occupied, though the tent pad was quite small.

Last Stop: Our final stop on our day adventure brought us to the Weird Lake portage. Just a 12 rod stint around some rapids and falls. Weird things happen on Weird Lake. Scott sent a cast off into Weird Lake and the lure flew right off! We weren’t actually planning to paddle Weird Lake, but the lure had to be retrieved. The fellows grabbled a canoe and found the lure. The journey to this set of rapids was worth it, lure mishap and all.

Fishing Back: As planned, the rods came out and lures went to work. Fishing the way back was a breeze, we were flowing with the current. Too bad the fishing wasn’t the best. Only a few hits.

Evening at on the Water

The best time to fish it seems on this trip was in the evening hours. After our day trip and a camp dinner, the group had split up. My dad and Scott took Sandy out to fish near the rapids. My mom and I tried to get little Killian to bed. This proved to be a futile attempt. I gave up and launched a canoe instead. My mom stayed at camp to rest while I took Killian on a sunset paddle near camp. It was such a great experience.

The fishing crew was catching fish near the rapids. Killian and I paddled around the area near the rapids and camp. He was so happy to be out on the water by the big boys and Sandy. That really made me think about the experience. I was so concerned about him getting his rest for the next day, I almost cost him a precious memory on the water with his family. That’s what it’s all about. Being together in the wilderness making memories. I am so glad that I gave up on getting him to sleep.

Passing the Torch

As I looked at my boy out in that canoe smiling up at the stars starting to appear, I wondered if that is how my dad felt watching me grow up exploring the wilderness. I have so many childhood memories in the BWCA. I know that my childhood is not my children’s childhood, but I sincerely pray that they will come to know and love the wilderness like I do and cherish the memories made here. I look forward to the day that I can hand my kids the map and know that they will successfully lead us through our journey into the wilderness.

November Hiking Tips in Minnesota

The leaves have changed and dropped, leaf peepers have gone home causing crowds to dwindle. It’s the perfect time to get on trail and watch the animals prepare for the winter months. November is hunting season here in Minnesota. Deer hunters have done their work creating game trails, working food plots, setting up stands and blinds. They’ve been waiting all year to get out in the stand, they are ready! And you should be too. Check out these November hiking tips to keep your hiking season going strong in a safe and considerate manner.

Know Before You Go

Deer hunting is all about conservation… and filling the freezer. With the conservation aspect in mind, there will be hunting permitted in some state parks around MN. Check out your destination prior to hitting the trail. Some parks have scheduled closures or limitations in the coming weeks for hunters to harvest the excess deer population.

MN State Park Hunting Seasons

Blaze Orange

Blaze orange is a hikers (and hunters) best friend in November. At a minimum, wear an orange hat, hot pink works too. Even better would be an orange vest. Obviously you don’t look like a deer walking in the woods, but safety first! Wearing orange will keep you visible to hunters and others in the park. If you’re trying to watch wildlife and are concerned about missing out by being too visible; don’t worry, deer can’t see this color. They can, however, see blue. Don’t wear blue if you’re trying to catch a glimpse of deer activity.

Dog Safety

I am very pro “Never Hike Alone” and try to take my dog along whenever and wherever I hike. But dog’s have been mistaken for small deer in the past. It is obvious in the picture below that my Xena looks like a deer, especially when she frolics through the woods. Her color is accurately named “fawn.” Whether your dog resembles a deer or not, be sure your furry hiking companion is wearing a vest or jacket of orange or pink.

Follow Signs

With the hunting seasons going on at the state parks, some parks are not closed but limiting areas to the public. Be sure to watch for signs and follow them to ensure the safety of both hunters and hikers. Check in at the park office before hitting the trails, they may have additional/updated information to make your hike a success.

Layers

This time of year we can have some pretty drastic temperature swings. It can be 65 degrees and sunny at the beginning of a hike and drop down to 30 degrees by sundown. Bring layers along and make sure to keep that orange hat on, even if it’s hot.

Sunset

Autumn is the time of year when our sunlight hours diminish and eventually lead to the darkest day of the year, the first day of winter. Check the sunset time on the day you plan to hike. On a clear night, expect visibility for about half an hour after the sun sets. Ensure you’ve planned ample time to complete your hike before sundown. Shooting time also ends 30 minutes after sunset, with the limited visibility exit the woods before dark.

Be Considerate of Hunters

Even if you’re not a hunter, keep in mind that the whole point of hunting in the parks is to promote a healthy population. When deer become overpopulated it can have a devastating effect on the overall health of the deer population, native plant life, and other animals in the area.

Bucks in Rut

If a deer spots you in the woods, it will likely take off. That being said, if a buck does not leave in your presence, Do Not approach it. It could be injured, nevertheless, the velvet is off the antlers and they are in rut. A buck, even a young buck, can be quite dangerous. Give them space and let them go about their natural business. Nobody needs to be gored in the name of curiosity.

Wounded or Down Deer

Spotted a wounded or down deer? If you come across hunters looking for their deer, point them in the direction that you saw the deer. The goal of a hunter is to harvest their animal as quickly and painlessly as they can. Being unable find a wounded deer and end it’s suffering is a real blow to a hunter. Likewise, being unable to find a deer that is down is a waste. Be helpful and point them in the right direction.

Reporting a wounded animal to the DNR is another option. Keep in mind that this is a very busy time of year for the DNR as well and they do not have the manpower to respond to every wounded animal.

Reporting to DNR

See hunters in a No Hunting Zone or outside of the hunting season?

  • Check the dates of the Zone you are in.
  • Some parks in MN have different dates for their designated hunting season; those parks will be closed or limited to the public on those dates.
  • Check with land owners to ensure they didn’t have hunters with permission.
  • Remember that bow hunters can hunt until the end of the year and muzzle loader season starts after shotgun season.
  • Do not approach poachers, this can be dangerous. Leave it to authorities.

If you are sure that you have a poacher on you hands: Report poachers to the DNR.

Enjoy the late autumn hiking season. The animals feel the change and pressure of the incoming cold. It’s the best time to catch wildlife preparing for winter. The deer are on the move, the squirrels are collecting nuts and seeds, some of the birds are heading south. It’s a much more active time of year in the woods than one would think. Simply sitting in the woods this time of year is great entertainment.

Minneopa State Park: Hiking, Waterfalls, and Bison

A sure-fire way to see Bison in Minnesota is visiting Minneopa State Park near Mankato, Minnesota. With a bison herd, waterfalls, hiking trails and overlooks, this park is a gem in the southern part of Minnesota. This small park is the 3rd oldest state park in Minnesota.

Quick Review: 8/10 While lacking miles for hiking this park makes up for it with it’s amazing bison herd and double waterfall with a quiet river to explore.

Side Note: The bathrooms were really nice, so nice that I took a picture of one.

Location

Minneopa is located just west of Mankato off Hwy 169. The unique thing about this parks location is that it’s split in two. A smaller section consists of the visitors center, picnic area and waterfall trail. The larger section, just a short drive away, contains the bison drive, hiking trail surrounding the bison range, historic windmill, and the campground.

Getting from one park to the other: After a quick stop to the visitor’s center, exit the park and go right. It’ll be the first left hand turn onto 547th Street, then another left onto MN-68. The bison filled side of the park will be on the right. It’s a short 1 mile drive with signs to follow.

Waterfalls

Our first stop at this park (after the visitors center to purchase firewood) was the water falls. The trail begins right at the parking area with a concrete sidewalk and bridge going over the first falls. There is a great area just up the river to play in the water and hunt for crayfish. The kids did not catch any, but they sure had fun finding them. Xena loved dipping her paws in as it was quite warm on our visit.

After splashing around in the water we continued out hike to the lower falls. The lower falls is visible from the concrete path that leads around to the other side. To access the lower area, follow the stairs and cross a bridge at the bottom. The path becomes dirt at the bottom of the stairs. The trail leads along the side of the river, but of course, my kids can’t take the trail like normal kids. They ditched the shoes and walk in the river instead. It was a great little “hike”, with a beautiful reward at the end.

Tip: Wear a swim suit under your clothes. At the end of this short hike, if the water levels are right, you may get a chance to swim in the waterfall!

Trails

This park only has 4.5 miles of hiking trails. That’s significantly less than other parks in the state. But really, with all of the things to see, an abundance of milage isn’t necessary. You’ll end up spending more time observing the area rather than hiking anyhow.

The water falls trail is less than a quarter mile long one way but that trail took us the most time to traverse. When water is involved, my kids can spend all day playing in it.

The bison loop that leads around the bison encloser is about 4 miles in length. Along this trail you’ll encounter the Seppmann Mill site and an overlook of the bison area. There is also a parking area near the overlook and mill if you’re not up for the full hike. We were running low on daylight and took advantage of this feature. The parking area is on the other end of the bison drive, a convenient place to view the bison after the drive.

Tip: Bringing a pair of binoculars is helpful in seeing the herd from above. And watch for poop on the drive. There is so much poop! Of course the two-year-old was excited about it.

With a sufficiently high fence and cattle grates at the entrance, the bison are contained to a 331 acre enclosure. They may be contained but they should still be considered a large and dangerous animal. Stay in your vehicle at all times. We did see someone exit their vehicle to get a better photograph with a tripod while the bison were at a greater distance. Don’t do that.

Bison Drive Hours: The drive is open from Thursday-Tuesday 9am to 7pm, closed Wednesdays for maintenance. Be watchful of time changes with the season changes.

Best Viewing Times: In the evening the bison were farther away from the road. We could see them from a distance enjoying the fading sunlight. The range is large and the bison are not always easy to spot. In the morning as soon as the Bison Drive opened up they were right at the gate and road. We got a very up close look at the herd, the calves were adorable! Be courteous of the bison and other drivers. We had someone get frustrated with us stopped on the road, they darted around us almost hitting the calf we were stopped for. Be patient, the bison cross the road at their own pace.

Camping

Not all of our State Park trips are camping trips. We took advantage of a rare slow Monday and Tuesday to camp at Minneopa. We chose a campsite close to the restrooms due to potty training but found that it was still a quiet spot. The site are relatively close together but the spaces at the far end of the loop offer more privacy. Watch for spiders, we were surprised by a big one in the morning.

Firewood is available at the visitors center and this wood burns well. We’ve had some difficult to start logs in the past, so this was a wonderful. Perfect for hot dogs and s’mores with the kids.

Other Activities

Summer

  • Hiking (4.5 miles)
  • Birding (many songbird species in the park)
  • Wildlife observation
  • Waterfall viewing

Winter

  • Snowshoe (rentals available at visitors center)
  • Candlelit Hike/snowshoe (watch the events calendar)

Winter in Minneopa is a sight to see. We were fortunate enough to join in on a candlelit snowshoe event. The path was illuminated by candles on a clear starry night. At the end of the hike, participants can warm up by the roaring fire. We brought hot chocolate and listened the the Park Rangers tell stories about the park and learned more about the bison herd. If your are interested in winter hikes, read more here.

Minnesota State Parks to Visit for Late Season Leaf Peeping

Miss the peak colors of the North Shore? Don’t worry, Lake Superior isn’t the only place to go ‘Leaf Peeping.’ Take a look down South! These parks can still scratch that autumn itch without the long drive north.

Within 1 Hour of the Twin Cities

1. Wild River State Park: Stunning trails along the St. Croix river, through prairie grasses and forests of mixed tree species. Keep the camaras ready, while visiting this park. We happened to cross paths with deer, hawks, and eagles. For great river views, check out the Old Military Road Trail and Walter F. Mondale River Trail. While hiking along the rivers edge, keep an eye out for beavers and otters.

2. Interstate State Park: Dramatic cliffs, pot-holes, unique landscape, stunning leaves, and a plethora of activities. Can’t really miss with this park. While there is a lack of mileage for hiking (just 4 miles in the park) the trails make up for distance with rugged terrain. Rock climbing, boat tours, canoeing/kayaking, and overlooks are other ways to enjoying the leaves in this park.

**Pro-tip: Arrive early at this park. Due to it’s awesome features this park fills up fast, get an early start to avoid the crowds and land a parking space.

3. William O’Brian State Park: William O’Brian State Park is home to a variety of views. The 12 miles of hiking trails will take you to prairie overlooks, oak covered hills and to riverside scenery. Majority of the trails are not by the rivers edge. If hiking doesn’t quite sate that autumn wanderlust, hop in a canoe and paddle your way to satisfying autumn bliss. Watch for waterfowl and beavers along your way.

4. Afton State Park: 20 miles of hiking trails cover prairie restoration, creeks, rivers edge, wooded hills and ravines. This park also has 5 miles of horse trails and 4 miles of paved biked trails. Along the waters edge, birdwatcher can glimpse the waterfowl and raptors.

5. Lake Maria State Park: The previous 4 parks mentioned lie east of the Twin Cities. Lake Maria rests an hour to the west. This park has a different feel to it. More “off the beaten path”. The old growth forest changes the hue of the forest floor and adds a mystical edge to the air. The hiking trails lead to numerous small lakes and tranquil ponds giving chance to come across the rare Blanding’s Turtle. If you prefer birds to reptiles, then keep your sights on the 200+ birds species that live in or pass through the park.

Within 2 Hours of Twin Cities

1. Minneopa State Park: Minneopa is one of the few parks in Minnesota to host a bison herd. Catch these beauties in the autumn colors. Not only does Minneopa have majestic beasts, it is also home to a double waterfall. Be warned, the waterfall is more of a water trickle at this time of the year, but it is still beautiful! The parks only holds about 4.5 miles of hiking, but there is also the Bison Drive. This Bison Drive is a road that goes through the bison enclosure. Stay in your vehicle!!

2. Whitewater State Park: For majestic views that compare to the North Shore, head to Whitewater. With drastic elevation changes on trail, you’ll catch some incredible overlooks. With this park’s 10 miles of hiking trials, you’ll pass along rivers edge, bluffs, and deep ravines. This is a park you don’t want to miss this fall and it doesn’t take a trip to the North Shore to see it.

3. Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: If you are looking to miss the crowds of the busier parks, check out this little park. The 7 miles of well maintained trails will lead you through a variety of colors, over streams, and the open space of a meadow. Up the road from the main park lies a little sections called Little Elk, this area holds a short trail along the Mississippi River.

4. Banning State Park: The beauty of this park is astonishing. Taking the Quarry loop to Hell’s Gate Trail passes along the Kettle River, passed the old ruins, and to a section of falls. The burnt orange and yellow leaves falling over the ruins and falls make for a picturesque scene. With 17 miles of trails and adventure, this has become one of my favorites.

It’s not too late to get your leaf peeping in. The North Shore isn’t the only gorgeous place in the state to see autumn’s glory. Get your hiking shoes and hit the trails before the autumns leaves decorate the forest floor.

BWCA Jack Lake Mine

Have you heard of the Jack Lake Mine? I hadn’t either until my dad showed me an article about it in an issue of the Boundary Waters Journal. This was an intriguing adventure! After doing a bit more research, the decision was made. Jack Lake was to be our next excursion into the BWCA.

This “mine” was actually a test pit for iron ore. When the test samples came back lacking, the mine was abandoned. What was left behind is a sizable whole and numerous artifacts. I’m not sure how aged items must be to gain the title of “artifact” but these sure felt like artifacts to me. These are still strewn about the entrance of the cave. Thankfully visitors have been respectful and left the area as it is. It looks like the miners were simply on a lunch break, a long lunch break.

Finding the Mine

I wasn’t sure about finding this mine. The resources I had found weren’t too clear. It all seemed too simple, I was expecting this to be a hard to find and overgrown trail head lost in time with downed trees and brush. Or that it would be so long that we wouldn’t be sure it was the right trail at all, it wasn’t marked on any map I could find, so maybe it wasn’t really there. None of these things happened. Finding the mine really is that easy, I over thought it. Don’t overthink this one. It’s right there!

Entering from Baker Lake Entry Point #39 is an easy access point. Whether you’re traveling for an extended trip or for the day, this is a very doable adventure. It’s basically a straight shot. Baker lake is a quick dip in the water then it’s already portage time to Peterson Lake. Peterson, though longer than Baker, still isn’t that large of a lake. The paddle went quick, Peterson leads right into Kelly. With higher water, we skipped the 3 rod portage and opted to traverse the flowing water. It was a breeze. Kelly Lake is longer but a beautiful paddle up river with many beaver lodges to view along the way. You’ll know your at the next portage when you find yourself at some breathtaking rapids. The portage is at a rocky edge to the left of the rapids. Take the 69 rod portage to Jack Lake. Now here is were I over thought it. At end of this portage there is a small foot path to your left as you are looking at Jack Lake. That’s it, it’s right there. So obvious. The path is about 50 feet long and you’re there, can’t miss it.

Note: There is good fishing at the rapids on the north end of Kelly and in the sheltered entrance to Jack Lake.

Tools and Artifacts

Approaching the mine off the trail, you’ll be greeted with pieces of the past. Chains, rusted metal and tools are scattered about. At first glance, this seems like someone left a dirty campsite and it needs to be cleaned up and taken care of. Please leave these things as you found them. Treat it like a “Leave No Trace” situation. This little bit of history is a wonder for others to find.

Watch Your Step

I know this cave is intriguing and you’ll want to dive right in, but hold your horses. There are slippery rocks, ice on the cave floor, even the walls are damp and slippery in places. Proceed with caution, be sure to have steady footing and maybe hold onto that slippery wall. Take your time, the cave isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Ice in the rear of the cave is a marvel in the heat of summer. Even in early June, with the heat we experienced, I was surprised to find the thick cold slab. I would be curious to see if the ice remained by the end of August. I suppose that means another trip is in order. Yay!

It’s quite dark near the back of the mine, bring a flashlight or headlamp along. You’ll not want to miss any details hiding in the darkness. Speaking of things hiding in the darkness, that brings me to my next point… Wildlife.

Wildlife

As we all know, bugs in the Boundary Waters are horrendous and it can sometimes be muggy and hot in the summer months. The cave is an amazing escape from both of these things! The animals are aware of this too. On our first visit to the cave, we found a moose track in the ice. It was so unexpected, it had warn it’s way into the still melting ice.

Our second trip to the cave the following day was a bit more alarming. So much so that we did not attempt to enter the cave at all. At the mouth of the cave was a rather fresh bear track leading into the mine. So cool! But the problem was, we couldn’t find the tracks leading out. There is no other way into or out of this mine. That bear was still in there somewhere. We calmly vacated the area and decided to fish in the little bay leading into Jack Lake instead. A fruitful choice as my dad caught a nice bass off a bed near the small rapids leading into the larger part of the lake.

The Jack Lake mine is an easy addition to this already exciting area of canoe wilderness. It’s thrilling additions like these that can add a twist to an already exemplary trip. Especially when you have your children along. Having kids off on these grand adventures and treasure hunts creates memories that will last a lifetime and a sense of adventure that will carry on into adulthood.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: A Park Above the Treetops

For a park that isn’t as well known as others, it sure is a beauty! It’s a great spot for a day trip or a breath of fresh air if your staying in the Mille Lacs area.

Quick Review: 7/10 This park has one amazing highlight, easy trails that are maintained well, a rich history, and bugs. Swampy areas on some of the trails brought on bugs, bring the spray.

Observation Tower

The observation tower is really the main draw to this park. I had originally planned on going to Mille Lacs Kathio last fall thinking that we would be able to see the leaf changes from the tower. Unfortunately, the tower was closed at the time of my planning, we opted to go to Crow Wing State Park instead and save Kathio for when the tower was open. The tower is open during the summer but closes for fall/winter due to icy, unsafe conditions.

Get there early! We made the decision to hit this highlight right away after entering the park. We had a little one along and when that is the case, hitting the highlights first is important. It was a good thing too, we had the Tower to ourselves for a very short time. It became crowded rather quickly. There are rules posted at the base of the tower. It clearly states that you should not climb if there are six people up there. People do not heed the warning. Please follow the posted rules, safety first!

The view from the top of the tower is fantastic. Another perk of experiencing this attraction first, is getting a panoramic view of the area yet to be explored. It’s a unique experience only available at 5 state parks in Minnesota.

History

If you are a history buff or have an interest in Native American history or archeology, this is a park for you. With numerous places to stop along the Landmark trail there is plenty of opportunity to catch a bit of information. The most interesting thing that I learned was that the name “Kathio” basically came from poor handwriting. Haha!

There are at least 30 archeological sites in the park alone. This area was the homeland of historic Dakota tribe and Ojibwe tribe. Pretty cool! Stop and read about the history of these peoples at different locations along the trail. This would be an ideal spot to explore for scouting groups learning about Native American history.

Landmark Trail

This trail is relatively short, just 1.5 miles. Once you’ve reached the last informative sign, it’s been 3/4 of a mile, turning back would make it 1.5 miles. The Landmark Trail is well cared for with a mowed picnic area near the Rum river and Ogechie lake.

Hiking Club Trail

Once passed the Landmark Trail and onto the hiking club trail it becomes more wild and secluded. Along the way, you’ll experience steep hills and marsh/swamp areas. This landscape has created the perfect environment for moss and fungi to grow. We encountered some rather unique mushrooms and plant life. Ferns galore!! I couldn’t believe the amount and variety of ferns growing along the hiking club trail. By completing the landmark trail and the hiking trail together, you’ll have covered about three and a quarter miles.

Other Park Activities & Amenities

While we chose to do a day trip at Mille Lacs Kathio, there are other options for enjoying the park. Whether you are staying at the park or just near by, it’s open year round with a multitude of activities.

Winter

  • Sliding hill near the Trial Center
  • Warming House- also the Trail Center
  • Snowshoeing and snowshoe rentals ($6/day)- just under 8 miles of trails
  • Skiing and Cross Country Ski rentals ($10/day) -about 20 miles groomed trails
  • Snowmobile Trails- Connects to Grant in Aid Snowmobile Trail
  • Lantern Ski- Check the events calender for event date & time (A magical experience, check out #5 on 6 Minnesota State Parks Not to Miss This Winter. Same thing, different park. )

Summer

  • Swimming Beach
  • Picnic Area
  • Hiking
  • Horse Trails
  • Canoe Access -no rentals (BYOC)
  • Educational programs (events calender)

Camping

  • Drive-in
  • RV
  • Backpack
  • Walk-in
  • Horse Camp
  • Group Camp
  • Camper Cabins- Open year round, no pets
A Bite to Eat Post Hike

While we always bring snacks and water along for the kids and ourselves. It’s always a special treat to get a good meal after a day in the woods. This little spot on Mille Lacs Lake is just outside of the State Park. Actually as you are leaving the state park, go straight across Hwy 169 and you’ll find yourself at The Launch. It’s an okay place to eat. We sat indoors but the patio area looked really nice. We visited during Covid times and had some interesting service. It was difficult time, so we weren’t too concerned.

Trail Snacks for Kids & Toddlers

Hiking season is here, although it never really goes away, am I right? As the weather warms up, it gets easier and more comfortable to get the little adventurers out on the trail.

Keeping kids fed while hiking is essential for a good time. There is nothing worse than a hangry toddler or the complaints of “I’m hungry” or “When are we going to eat” when you are less than a mile in.

The Snacks

Water: I know this isn’t a snack. But it is the first thing you should pack. It’s a good idea to bring more than you think you need and to have some extra waiting in the vehicle for when you return. Hydration is key!

**Tip: During winter months, it’s worth it to bring a thermos of hot chocolate.

Fruit & Veggies: Non-perishable, hard to bruise fruit and veggies that stay fresh without being refrigerated. It’s a healthier alternative to sugar packed, processed fruit snacks. This snack is not as filling, but could be paired with another higher calorie snack.

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Sugar Snap Peas (a ‘go-to’ for our toddler)
  • Carrots

Trail Mix: A Classic! Trial mix on the trail is just so awesome. You can eat on the go and customize as you please. If you like the premixed stuff at the grocery store, have at it. For the picky eaters, those with allergies, or if you just know what you like; throwing together a quick trail mix is a snap.

Dried Fruit: If trail mix isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you’d prefer just the ingredients. Anyone have kids that don’t like their food to touch? Individual ingredients are the way to go.

Crackers: Here is a filler. Whole wheat crackers of any variety is bound to keep your little adventurer going. It’s something that can be paced and eaten on the move. The only downside, it can be crumby.

**Tip: If you have a little one in a backpack carrier, don’t feed them crackers until they are out of said carrier. You’re crumb-less hat and hair will thank you.

Pretzels: Twisted or stick, this snack can’t miss. I actually prefer pretzels to crackers on the go for two reasons. First, they make less crumbs and don’t fall apart in a strong little grip. Second, they seem to be more filling than crackers.

Fruit Strips: Not the healthiest choice but it is convenient and can be used a great reward/bribe for accomplishing a certain distance or hill. They don’t take up any space and can be easily tossed in the snack section of your pack.

Prepackaged Snacks: Isn’t the world of food great these days? There is a smorgasbord of ready to to roll snacks just waiting to be tossed in your hiking bag. Most snacks that your kids enjoy are sold in individual servings now. Some of our favorites include:

  • Granola Bars
  • Gold Fish/ Cheese Whales
  • Fruit snacks
  • Cookie Snacks (as a treat)`

Puree Pouches: Apple sauce is the bee’s knees for our littlest adventurer. There are so many different flavors out there to try and bring along. We have migrated more to just apple sauce and the like, but there are whole meal pouches that can provide a more filling snack. If you are looking for a more filling snack, check out the pouches that have sweet potatoes, rice, or other carbs snuck in there.

What Not To Bring

I hate to be nit-picky, but there are a few less than desirable snack items out there that can stay home.

Allergens: Even if you aren’t the one allergic to a food item, leave any allergen that anyone in your group has at home. If a member of your hiking party goes into anaphylactic shock; you’re going to have a bad time. Avoid the risk altogether.

Perishable Foods: Leave the yogurts and cheese at home. I know some them come in convenient tubes and individual packs, but they go bad. Even with a cooler, they don’t stay cool forever and who wants to carry a cooler? I sure don’t. When that food starts to warm up even a little bit, you end up eating questionable dairy. That’s not something I gamble with.

Bruise-able Fruit: Bananas, pears, kiwi, etc…. Though delicious, they will bruise in your bag or squish all over everything. Bananas are, however, a great snack for when you get back to the car. And the potassium can help relieve muscle cramps.

Messy/Inconvenient Food: This one is more at your discretion on what you consider messy. Even a simple trail mix can become messy in the wrong hands. What I have in mind when I think of messy foods is something like pudding cups or fruit bowls. It requires more of a sit down style snacking and needs a spoon. Gets too complicated and in the end, messy.

**Tip: Speaking of messes; a small pack of wipes in your bag is quite handy.

Pack the Snack

Tossing your selections into a pack is a no-brainer; but here are a few things that I’ve learned from experience that I’ll share with you.

Taste Test: As mentioned in previous posts for little adventurers; make sure you kids like the snacks you bring before you bring them. In the middle of a hike is not the best place to learn your hangry toddler doesn’t like something.

Pack Options: This is especially helpful for longer durations, nobody wants to eat only dry crumbly crackers for six hours. Having a variety will help break up the monotony of trail food.

Pack More: Whether your kids are working those little legs or riding in a carrier, they will be wearing themselves out. Have extra snacks available to replenish those burnt calories.

Pace It: Don’t burn through your snacks in the first hour. If you’ve just started and your kids are asking for something to munch on, set a goal to reach before digging into the bag. I like to use benches or mile marks as our goals. If benches and mile marks aren’t an option at that location, I use the Alltrails app on my phone that tracks our hike. I can see how far we’ve gone and pace our snacks by that. Pacing younger kids is more of a challenge. If our little guy is in his pack, I like to hand him pretzels one at a time and only when he asks for them. Otherwise, he eats them all or tosses them into the woods.

Rewards: Having a secret, special snack ready for when your little adventurer accomplishes a great task or concurs a fear is a neat idea. For instance; if your are tackling a greater distance or encounter a steep hill/climb, encourage your kiddo to concur that a obstacle for a reward on the other side. Or don’t tell them and have it as a surprise.

Let the Kids Work: There is a sense of pride and independence that comes with having your kids choose there own hiking snacks and carrying it themselves. My 10 year old daughter has been carrying her own hiking pack for several years. It feels like she is more of a hiking partner now than a little adventurer. Her bother, 2 years old, is now carrying a pack around the house pretending to hike. He’ll have his own bag soon enough!

There are so many snacking options on the market and things you can whip up at home. You’ll find what works for you. I hope that these suggestions give you a head start and some of my trial and error has set you up for success. Happy snacking!

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: A Quick Pick

Sometimes you need to take advantage of surprise free time and hit the trails. I had a very busy weekend over MEA break. Lots of pet sitting! I thought there was no way we were going to spend any time in the woods on this gorgeous weekend. Oh well, there will be other opportunities, right? But luck struck, all of my clients ended up being back early on Sunday, I didn’t work at all in the afternoon! We quickly packed some snacks, chose a spot on the map and hit the road.

Quick Review: 7/10 Well maintained trails, beautiful river views and neat log benches to stop for a snack. There were a few places with tape to keep guests out, safety first I suppose and one not so sturdy railing for a set of stairs.

This park is located just west of Little Falls. It’s a short distance off of HWY 10. Google Maps will get you there! Even the drive to Charles A. Lindbergh Park at the end of October was appealing to the eye, some of the scenes looked like they belonged in a calendar.

Trails

There are seven miles of hiking trails available for exploring at this park. We chose to do a loop trail that crossed Pikes Creek a couple of times. This was a really neat fall hike. The oak and aspen trees hung their leaves over the trail with their gold and orange colors. When the sun decided to shine it made for some dazzling light play across the forest.

The terrain was pretty easy to traverse. Most of the trail was flat. We encountered two instances of stair cases. One wooded staircase right way, the next was stone. The stone staircase was very neat but don’t trust the railing. We crossed over a bridge that had a rock bed beneath it. This made a great little exploring spot for the kids. We could pretend to be the trolls under the bridge. Near the end of our adventure the kids made a pit stop at a log bench with a river view. It was a great place to rest and reflect on our time in the woods.

Near the trail head is a little park. The kids were more interested in the fallen trees and stumps than the swing set or slide. It made for an even more exciting natural playground! Good thing, the playground was a little dated and probably not the safest.

Main Park: The unique thing about this park is that the trails are not all in one place. The main park is on the west side of Grouse Road. This location contains most of the parks trails, camping, playground, and historic markers and sites.

Little Elk: Up the road lies a little section of park that is separate from the main park, but still considered Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. This is where you’ll find great views of the Mississippi river.

History

There is a tidbit of interesting history surrounding this little park. Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. is the parks namesake. His son Charles Jr. was the first man to fly a trans-Atlantic flight. There are locations throughout the park marking significant happenings. I wasn’t able to read all of the plaques as I was carrying a toddler on my back.

If you are into old homes and Minnesota history, try to visit in the summer. During this time, you’ll be able to tour the museum and Lindbergh home just across the street from the main park.

More to Explore

While most of the rentals and extra facilities were closed at the time of our visit, there is a lot offered at this park. Don’t forget; there is a whole little section of park just up the road.

Summer

  • Hiking (7 miles of trails)
  • Canoe rental (check office for availability)
  • Camping
  • Playground
  • Picnic area
  • Volleyball (equipment at park office)
  • Horseshoes (equipment at park office)

Winter

  • Snowshoe
  • Winter hiking (3 miles of trails)
  • Warming House (Picnic shelter doubles as warming house)

This is a great little park for a quick trip if you only have an afternoon. The park was not crowded and had spectacular views for a shorter hike. If you’ve only got half a day, this is a great park to pick. For the history lover, this park could take you all weekend. Not to mention all of the history just up the road in Little Falls.

Keep It Simple: How to Rough-It With a Toddler

Well… I’m not going to say this was a breeze, but it’s doable and worth it! A bit of work and a little challenging, yet absolutely worth it. We’re going to go over a few things to help you tackle your adventure with your toddler and have it run smoothly:

  • Why
  • Where
  • Gear
  • Foods

Why?

Toddlers are frustrating anywhere, so why bring them to a place with such limited resources? Because we love it! And we want them to love it, too. Simple enough!

For us, it wasn’t just about getting Killian out in the wilderness; it was about getting our whole family out there. For various reasons, we have missed too many yearly trips to my favorite place, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I am determined not to miss another yearly trip. So far Killian seems to have inherited my love for the outdoors, he’s always wanting to be outside and is so curious when we go on little hikes.

You have your own reasons for wanting to get your little adventurers out there, keep those reasons close to your heart when you reach a frustrating situation.

Where?

When it comes to planning a trip in the Boundary Waters there are so many options. Land of 10,000 Lakes, right? Not to mention that there are around 80 entry points. So how do you choose?

Keep it simple. This is key! Lets remember who you are planning your trip with; a toddler. They cannot sit long, they need snacks, detest being contained, may need a diaper change along the way, will likely need to be carried and cannot carry any gear. Basically, hungry free-loaders.

With “keeping it simple” in mind, go for an easy lake. So you’re looking for an entry point that has one or more of these qualities:

  • Short portage
  • No portage
  • No Motors
  • Short paddle in
  • Smaller Lake

Ideally, a lake that you can launch your canoe right from the truck and unload at the lake is perfect when voyaging with such young children. You really won’t find a lake with all of these things, but you can get close. You’re not looking for a long route. Short and sweet!

I highly recommend Kawishiwi Lake. This was Killian’s first taste of the BWCA and it was perfect. We stayed right on Kawishiwi, actually we only paddled for about 5 minutes before reaching our campsite. Not our normal style, but with an infant, it was superb. Kawishiwi meets 3/5 on my checklist above. It has no portage, no motors, and can be a short paddle. It’s not a very small lake, but with all of the nooks, crannies, and islands, the lake is broken up enough to keep any high winds from reeking too much havoc.

Hog Creek was round two in Killian’s BWCA adventures. It’s more to tackle than Kawishiwi with it’s long paddle in and a beaver damn to hurdle over. For those more experienced already, it’s a good lake. Better for toddlers rather than for infants in my opinion. We landed on Hog Creek due to some misjudgments on scheduling, avoid these issues with this post here.

Gear

There is a surprising amount of equipment on the market geared toward babies and toddlers in the wilderness. I’m telling you, you don’t need much! There are a few things that might help you travel with ease, but you really don’t need all of that fancy stuff.

Hammock

The hammock is one of the best purchases that we made. I highly recommend acquiring a hammock for a trip with infants/toddlers/young children. They are perfect for naps. But don’t let kids under 2 nap alone, you don’t need them getting tangled or wind up sleeping face down. Be sure to get one with a built in mosquito net! Depending on what time of year you go, those buggers can be brutal. The tree straps must be at least one inch thick, check that before you purchase.

Small Toys

We like to pack light! You don’t need to bring a whole slew of toys along. The whole point is to disconnect from modern life and reconnect with nature. Bringing too many toys from home will defeat the purpose of getting your kids out in the wilderness, but having a few things is a good idea. We brought a small moose and bear along. These went along with the trip environment and were great entertainment when Killian needed some kind of distraction. Mostly he played with sticks, rocks and moss. Cannot get more natural than that!

Warm Bedtime Gear

There are small sleeping bags for little ones on the market. You don’t need to bother with these if you don’t want to, your little one would outgrow it in a day anyway. We brought Killian a small nap mat that we had at home. This was really just to get him in the mindset of going to sleep. He actually slept in my sleeping bag with me. Our trips with the kids are during the summer months, but it can still get chilly, warm pajamas are a must. If you spring for one of those little sleeping bags, make sure that it holds body heat well. When Killian sleeps in my sleeping bag with me, I know that my body heat will keep him warm and I don’t sleep deep enough while in the woods to risk rolling over on him.

Life Jacket

You can’t forget about the life jacket. Won’t get very far without it. This is a really important part of the gear list, probably the most important. A good life jacket will make a world of difference. For more safety tips on life jackets click here.

**Safety Tip** All members of your camping party, infant to adult, should always wear their personal floatation device while in the canoe. They really do save lives.

Food

Now for the more delicious part of your little adventurers time in the wilderness: FOOD! It’s a well known fact that toddlers are atrocious when they are hangry. Best thing to do is keep the little gremlins fed. But how do you do that in the wilderness? Here are a few pointers.

Food Pouches

Food pouches are amazing for being out in the wilderness! For Killian’s first and second trips, these were life savers. And on various hikes! They are like a whole little meal in one convenient pouch or just a simple apple sauce pouch for a quick snack. We used these most while we were preparing dinner. Killian didn’t understand that he had to wait for the meal to cook, he was hungry now! Understandable for an infant/toddler. We fed him one of his pouches while waiting for our meal to cook. This helped to tide him over until the real meal was ready.

One mistake that I made; not having Killian try the flavors beforehand. This sucked. He didn’t care for the chicken noodle flavor, so we had a whole pouch go to waist. Bring a few extras, they might have a voracious appetite after a long journey. Also make sure they know how to eat out of the pouches before your trip so they don’t squeeze it all over themselves. You don’t need them seasoning themselves for the wildlife.

Granola Bars

Nutrient packed granola bars are nice to have on hand for your tykes. With so many options out there, I’m sure you’ll be able to find one that suits your family. Make sure that they are nutrient dense and high energy!

Breakfast

Oatmeal. This is the easiest breakfast you can have out there. Just mix with hot water and your done. So easy!! We used to bring pancake mix that you mixed with water and fried up there in oil…. long process and a big mess! Nope. Oatmeal is the way to go. For our trips with the kids, we went with the Quaker Oats oatmeal. I gave it to the kids a few times before our trip to make sure that they would eat it (not sure why I couldn’t figure that out with the food pouches, duh). They loved it! Of course they did, it’s mostly sugar… sigh. But it filled them up and gave them energy for the morning. You might have a different brand or plan for your meals. But oatmeal was the way to go for us.

Hot chocolate in the morning is a nice treat after a night spent in the tent. If you are looking to save on dishes (I always am), drink your hot chocolate first, then make your oatmeal in the same mug. This way, you won’t have oatmeal chunks floating in your hot chocolate and you will only use one cup per person. Yay!

Dinner

Quick meals that are easy for your child to eat are the best. We went for pre-seasoned noodles or rice. Chicken flavored rice mixes pair really nicely with fish. Fish should be thoroughly cooked with no bones left in it. You don’t need anyone choking on a bone out there. A toddler cannot live on food pouches alone, so make sure you are bringing meals that you know they will eat, can you tell that I’m stressing this point a lot? Having food that is quick to make is important as well, kids don’t like to wait once they get hungry. I don’t like to wait either. We have had good luck with Good & Gather Spanish rice for fish tacos and Knorr Rice Sides. They are quick which saves fuel and time.

If you are wanting a classic ‘hotdogs over the fire’ meal, make that your first night’s meal. Freeze your dogs at home, put them in a small, soft sided cooler that fits in your food pack. Do not bring a giant cooler! They will thaw as you make your way to your campsite and be ready to cook by dinnertime. Leave the buns at home, they just get smashed and gross.

S’mores

What’s a camping trip without s’mores? Lame, that’s what it is. You’ve got to bring s’more supplies. Here is a tip though: put your chocolate in the cooler with your hotdogs, this will keep them from melting during hot summer voyages. And bring wipes, it’s going to be messy. But the messy faces are worth the smiles.

Water

Obviously you need to give your little adventurer plenty of water, dehydration is nothing to mess with. But here is the thing, have you ever tasted the water up in the northern part of Minnesota? It’s different. I don’t mean to be a water snob, but it’s different. You are not going to want to haul in all of the water that your family will drink while you’re there. But you will need to have a good water treatment system. Even after the water is treated, it still tastes different. Flavor packets are the way to go here. They are light, small, and potent. We don’t bring bottled water, it creates more trash that we have to carry out. The only exception that we made was for Killian’s formula on his first trip. We brought just enough plus one bottle to make his average amount of formula that he would have in the amount of time that we’d be there. We weren’t going to risk giardia with an infant. Breast fed babies will make this much easier as long as mom is going with.

Really, camping with a toddler isn’t as hard as it sounds if you cover your bases. It’s not easy, but it’s not so tough either. Having them out there experiencing the places that you love is what it’s all about. Preparation and thinking things through make the whole trip experience run smoothly.

Gather your fidgets and get out there, it’s so worth the effort.

Minnesota Winter Nights: 6 Winter Events to Embrace the Darkness

There is something truly enchanting about experiencing a wintery woods in the darkness. So many in the Midwest complain of the long, cold, dark winters. Then there are those who embrace the darkness enough to see the glow of the snow under the moonlight. It brings out a different kind of beauty that is only witnessed by those willing to seek it.

I have compiled a list of events that take place around Minnesota that give you the opportunity to seek the beauty. I hope you can get out and enjoy a few before the winter slips through our fingers.

Illuminated Events

Twinkle Light Trail- Lake Itasca State Park- December 1st- Mid-March (snow conditions vary). This event is not run on just one day of the season. The 3/4 mile trail near the Bear Paw Campground is lit for 3 months. This whimsical trail is available for hikers, snowshoers and skiers but the trail is not groomed for skis. The electric twinkle lights are illuminated from sundown to 10pm for your viewing and adventure.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Candle Light Event- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park- February 12th 6pm-9:30pm The candle light trail will be between the Trail Center and the Interpretive Center. The trail is available to snowshoers, skiers and hikers. Trails will be packed but not groomed, ski conditions vary. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis at $6 per snowshoe pair and $10 per ski set. There will be a fire to warm you up after your wintery hike.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Candle Light Event- Fort Ridgley State Park- February 12th 5pm-8pm Bonfires and a candle lit trail will make for a magical wintery evening in the woods. The trail begins at the Parks Chalet and winds its way into the forest and prairie. The trail is set for snowshoers and hikers.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Candle Light Event- Frontenac State Park- February 12th 6pm-8-pm Snowshoeing, skiing, or hiking at this candlelit trail event will have you in awe at this beautiful park. Campfires will greet you at either end of this trail along with a warming shelter equipped with a woodstove. Snowshoe rentals are available for $6 on a first come, first serve basis.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (daily $10, yearly $25)

Owl Moon Walk- White Water State Park- February 19th 6pm8pm A quick presentation and education on the owls of Minnesota will find you out in the woods calling for these mysterious birds by moonlight.

Passes- Normally this park has a $7 daily use fee, but it just so happens that this event falls on the Free Park Day. There are a few freebie days throughout the year. Bonus!

Moonlight Snowshoe Hike- Minneopa State Park- February 26th 7pm-8pm Meet up at the group campground for an educational night hike at this unique park. The guide will take you through the woods and overlooking valley. Discussions will be had at numerous locations including talks about the five senses in the dark, this is a great chance for kids learn about themselves and to concur any fears of the dark. There are no instruments used for light on this hike, just the light of the moon.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Items to bring along

Beverages: Nothing warms the family up after a chilly walk in the woods like a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Here is a tip; bring a thermos of hot water and chocolate packets for your travel mugs (no ceramic mugs, the contrasting temps with shatter them). Thermoses are hard to wash hot cocoa out of, mugs are easier to clean up. If hot chocolate isn’t your speed bring along some tea bags or a tightly sealed thermos of coffee. You’ll be happy you have it at the end of the trail.

S’mores Supplies: Many of the State Park events have a roaring fire ablaze at the end of the trail, this makes for a great opportunity for some s’more making. But you’ll have to bring your own supply.

Headlamp: Though the trails are well lit with candles at these events, it’s not a bad idea to bring along a headlamp just in case. We’ve used headlamps for retying boots and fastening snowshoe/ski straps. It’s nice to have a backup light for emergencies.

Warm Gear: Dress for the weather! As night falls the temperature drops. The thermometer might read a different temperature by the end of your hike. Winter boots are a must, don’t try this in summer hiking shoes. Winter hiking boots and summer hiking boots are two very different kinds of footwear. Dressing for the weather should be second nature to most Minnesotans, but I still feel it necessary to mention.

Winter Sport Gear: Bringing your own skis and snowshoes will give you better odds of completing the activity that you have your heart set on. The only other determining factor would be snow conditions. Sometimes mother nature doesn’t always deliver the snow quantity or quality that we are hoping for. When we did our snowshoe hike at Minneopa State Park this year. We ended up leaving the snowshoes in the car, the conditions were better for boot hiking.