Minnesota Gas Tax Going Up




Hurry up and fill up your tanks! Minnesota's gas tax will rise by 3 cents per gallon on Wednesday, up to 25.5 cents per gallon.

I know for me, I've made sure that I filled up every tank and gas can I have, and I also have a number of open-top 5 gallon buckets that I've filled. Save those pennies!

(Ok, so it's not April...)



Indian Lake State Forest Campground




I headed up to Indian Lake near Rollins & Brimson, MN with just the girls last weekend. Indian Lake has always been a nice place to go for me, although it's been a number of years since we were here (the last time I was here was in October of 1998 - I remember the ice on the lake one of the mornings that we woke up). It's a nice, smaller campground that's out of the way. The DNR continues to take pretty good care of it - the roads are still decently maintained and the campsites were mowed recently.

Thankfully it wasn't as cold this weekend (although it did get rather chilly the first night), but the rain set in on Saturday afternoon and stayed until we left on Sunday morning.

The campground has a boat launch that gets you onto Indian Lake as well as the Cloquet River (which you can follow about 30 miles to Island Lake or something like 70 to the St. Louis River). There's a nice sandy swimming beach as well as a small picnic ground complete with horseshoe pits onsite.


Horseshoe Pits


Water Pump


Beach Area

On Friday afternoon we headed out to do a couple of geocaches (note to self: never let a 3-yr old hold the GPS and expect to go in the correct direction), then we drove into Bear Lake. Bear Lake is a decent sized lake that has a boat launch and used to be the site of another State Forest campground, although they let the campground go years ago and it's fairly well grown in now. You can still drive the loop and some of the sites have remained open - there were three different groups camping there when we drove through.


Boat Launch at Bear Lake


Boat Launch area at Bear Lake

The pictures from the weekend can be found here.



Mille Lacs Kathio State Park






Mille Lacs Kathio State Park was my last stop for the trip. I made a day trip there on Monday morning to do the Hiking Club Trail and the geocache.

The Hiking Club Trail (as well as the latter two parts of the cache) takes you along the old campground road (the campground was mostly abandonded when it was discovered that it sat in an Indian burial ground area) to an overlook of Ogechie Lake where the Indians once had a camp. From there the Hiking Club Trail continues and makes a large loop through the woods.

I really enjoyed the hike along the old road to the overlook area. From there, where the trail turned into the woods, was a little less enjoyable, mostly due to the bugs. I had sprayed myself with bug dope before starting but was still getting eaten, which caused me to walk faster, which made me start to overheat......

The trail also takes you past the location of an old homestead that was there from the 1890s through the 1920s.

I was surprised by the number of trees that I found down along the Hiking Club Trail (and had meant to report them to the park staff but realize now that I never did). There was some evidence of some recent cleanup of downed trees in some areas although I still encountered 4 or 5 that were down across the trail. The maintenance of the parks never ends for the staff. :)

Pics from my short stay at the park are here.



Father Hennepin State Park






Father Hennepin was our last overnight park of the trip. It was also the only park that we camped at where it was just the four of us.

We arrived on Monday afternoon, and I ended up heading out that evening before dark to try and accomplish the two "missions" for the trip - the Hiking Club Trail and the geocache.

The geocache here was a two stage multi. As I started my walk back to the office (where I thought the first stage was), I ended up walking through the picnic area and stumbled upon the first stage (turns out that it's not at the office afterall). I got the coordinates to the second stage and started down the Hiking Club Trail. This was once of the nicer hikes I think I went on, primarily due to the perfect weather and the fact that I was walking along the lakeshore for much of it during a clear evening at sunset with virtually no bugs, a slight breeze, and perfect temps.

Along the Hiking Club Trail there are two additional caches, as well as a cache at Pope Point, which is a half-mile (one way) detour.

On the return trip to the camper along the trail I spied a yearling deer as well as two of the albino deer that are fairly well known in the park. I'm guessing I got within about 30' of one of them as I hiked the trail, and although I tried to take a picture it didn't turn out (it was well after sunset by that point). I had always meant to go back down the trail the next day and see if I could spot them and get some pictures but I never did - this isn't the first time I've seen the deer in the park so I figured I had a decent chance of seeing them again.

We had a pretty good time at the park overall - the kids spent a lot of time at the swing set/sandbox that they had in the campground. The campground was probably well over half full, which was amazing for it being the middle of the week.

Pictures from the stay are here.



Lake Maria State Park






After we left Sibley on Monday we headed over to Lake Maria State Park to get the stamp and do the Hiking Club Trail.

After getting the stamp at the office (which wasn't manned) we proceeded to the trail center to begin the hike. Only after I was pulling into the parking lot did I realize that the beginning of the park's multicache was actually at the office. Since we were pulling the trailer I wasn't sure if there was enough room for me to get the truck and trailer turned around if we were to go back to the office so instead I hiked back down the road to the office to get the coordinates to the three stage multi. As it turns out, the coordinates for the second stage made it so that I would have had to drive the truck and trailer into the group camp parking lot, which I wasn't thrilled to do since I wasn't sure if there was enough space to turn around (if there wasn't then it would be a long 1/2 mile that I would have to back it all up). Since there was another cache in the park that was along the Hiking Club Trail I opted for that instead.

I enjoyed the park but we didn't spend too much time there and probably won't in the future since there is no room for our trailer in the park.

Pictures from the day are here.



Sibley State Park






We stayed at Sibley State Park Saturday, August 16th through Monday, August 18th. I have to say that I while I enjoyed the stay, I was less than impressed with this park.

The park has an outstanding swimming beach - long, sandy, with a decent slope to the lake. It's also a very busy swimming beach. I think everyone and their brother was probably there when we arrived on Saturday.

The lower campground is very close together - this reminds me of my very limited experiences in KOA campgrounds where the camper next to you or behind you is just a few feet away across the grass.

We did the Hiking Club Trail on Sunday as well as the geocache. The cache is near but not on the Hiking Club Trail. Our route ended up adding about an extra mile onto the hike.

The hike takes you up to Mt. Tom, which sounds impressive although I wasn't overly impressed. It seems like when they put "Mt." in front of something that it should be more impressive than that. You are able to see quite a ways from the overlook on top (you can make out the Willmar water towers 17 miles away without much effort), but honestly I've felt like I've been higher on fire towers.

The route of the Hiking Club Trail wasn't well marked at all. You can tell where they have placed new signs recently, but there are a number of intersections that weren't marked at all. At one point my dad knew that the Hiking Club Trail took a left when the sign pointed to the right. We took the left and came upon some older Hiking Club Trail signs later on. We later found more signs pointing people through the campground, although we never ended up on that route. It's almost like the park altered the course (and probably lengthened it), although overall it was very confusing.

I did enjoy our stay at the park - we did some swimming with the girls at dusk on Sunday night and had the beach virtually to ourselves. It was amazing how much the campground emptied out on Sunday - the closeness of the surrounding campsites wasn't really an issue then as many of them were unoccupied (including the one directly behind us).

Pictures of our stay are here.



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