Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Whitewater State Park

Paul, Tchazo, Jack and I just got back from an amazing camping trip in southeastern Minnesota. We stayed at Whitewater State Park and were thoroughly enamored with the place. The first day we were there, we swam and played in the cold water of the Whitewater River.

The second day, we awoke to a rainstorm. We decided to sleep in a little later and by the time we were ready to get up, the rainstorm was coming to an end. We were very happy the weather cleared because one of our favorite things to do when we are camping is to go on a long hike.

The route we chose was the Dakota Trail. We were a little concerned about Jack's ability to hike the "difficult" trail, but he proved that he still has it in him!

The trail went up and down the limestone bluffs and led us to 3 lookout points with great views of the surrounding bluffs and forests.

A few of the reasons why the trail is rated as difficult are the really steep inclines and declines, steep drop-offs and slippery trails. At one point, there were wooden stair-like steps to climb. Jack tried his best, but I ended up having to carry him up the steps. He is getting pretty old, so we were really impressed at his ability to keep up with us. While Jack was trying to keep pace, Tchazo was running ahead and then running back to us to check in and then doing it all over again. He hiked at least twice the amount of distance as we did and still had energy left!

About 2/3 of the way through the hike when we were significantly hot, sweaty and hungry, we took advantage of a beautiful vista to enjoy a break and a picnic lunch.

We had planned ahead and brought an assortment of yummy foods for our picnic. It was a good thing we fueled up because our next part of the hike included a wrong turn that took us down a long series of steps. It was only once we had gotten to the bottom that we realized we had taken a wrong turn after the picnic. Back up the stairs we went! That was the point at which Jack started giving me looks that I interpreted as, "Lady, you have got to be kidding me. I have to go all the way back up those steps?!" We did and it was worth it, because we got to see another amazing vista.

In the process of the hike, we also crossed the river on these neat concrete bridges.

We completed the hike and headed back to our campsite. While the dogs crashed, we made dinner and enjoyed our forbidden, intoxicating beverages. (State parks do not allow alcohol. We do not agree with that rule, so we pour our alcohol into plastic glasses.)

Our dinner consisted of a bunch of our garden veggies (beets, carrots, onions, green beans) and some other veggies and mushrooms thrown in. We cooked it on the fire and ate it with rice prepared on the camp stove. Foil packets are our favorite way to cook when camping. The first night we made roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes over the fire in one packet and roasted cauliflower in another. We do not suffer for good meals when camping, that is for sure!

Today was our last day at the park. We took a smaller hike and revisited the river. Tchazo loves to play in the water. He tromps around and splashes and swims and chases things. Jack stumbled and fell in when he was trying to cross the cement bridge and was not pleased.

The four of us have traditionally gone on a camping trip every summer. We had to skip our camping trip 2 summers ago because we were in the process of moving from Boston to Minneapolis. And last year we skipped it because we were in the process of buying a house and moving into it. We were happy to have been able to fit in a camping trip this year and especially happy that we found such a beautiful park to stay at.

I really enjoy the time spent removed from regular life, unplugged from the world, absorbing the sights and sounds of nature and conversing around a campfire. I do declare that those were two very appreciated vacation days!

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