Saturday, July 28, 2012

Roughing It - Camping in Minnesota

Today's question for the Summer Blog Challenge focused on the last time of "roughing it." For me, "roughing it" means not having the everyday luxuries that I take for granted and being in the wilderness.

Many years ago, I used to go camping in Grand Marais, Minnesota, with my dog Casey. 

The Girls with Casey in the Snow
Sophia, Olivia, and Casey on the nature trail
at the farm.

Sometimes I would take Sophia when she was a toddler and could move about on her own. I enjoyed getting away from the routine and stress of running a non-profit organization; and being able to spend time outdoors enjoying nature and wildlife. 

Cheeks Stuffed with Food
Chipmunk I saw on a trip to Grand Marais.

I had a one-room tent that I would set up in the middle of a cleared space, with pine trees surrounding me. It was like I was in a different world.

Fog in Grand Marais
Pine trees in the fog in Grand Marais.

One summer night that Casey and I were camping, I woke up to the sound of twigs breaking and heavy breathing outside the tent. 

Casey stood up and faced the zippered door of the tent, her fur raised between her shoulder blades. She did not make one sound. Either did I.

I sat up on the edge of the air mattress listening in fear. I had no idea what was outside the tent. Within five minutes it was on its way.

We laid back down and tried to fall back to sleep. Not more than ten minutes later, I heard the same loud breathing and larger twigs snapping, but this time it was even closer. 

Casey, this time, stood next to me with her fur standing on end. Both of us didn't move or make a sound. From the sound of the breathing and the size twigs that were breaking, I knew very well that it was not a small animal - like a rabbit or a fox. This was something of more substantial size from the sound of its steps.

Thankfully, the noise gradually got quieter. It never returned that night.

At 5:30 a.m., when the sun began to rise, I haphazardly threw things together and quickly brought them to the car. Near the car were bear tracks and scat.

Walking Around to Find Food
This is not the black bear that I heard in Grand Marais.
This bear is one that Sophia, Olivia, and I saw in Maine.
It was at a sanctuary for wildlife that was 
orphaned, injured, or human-raised.
(Photo taken in September 2011.)

When I came home, I searched the internet for the sound of a black bear breathing. When I played the sound...sure enough...that was the same sound that I heard.

So, between the bear, Casey, and me there was a flimsy piece of fabric (the tent). That bear could have easily ripped the tent apart with one swipe of its paw. Why it didn't, I'll never know.

Since that time, I have gone camping, but never in a tent. I have taken the girls camping and we have stayed in camper cabins at state parks. These have four sturdy walls that a bear can't get through. There are windows on three sides and a door on the fourth. The ones we have stayed in all have screen porches.

Outside the Cabin
This is an older camper cabin at Lake Shetek
in southwestern Minnesota. 
The newer cabins all are a lighter wood.

Camper cabins do not have bathrooms, kitchens, or multiple rooms. They are simple structures that are more  sturdy than a tent, but give the feeling of "roughing it" since the things we take for granted (e.g., running water) are not present.

Inside the Cabin
The girls in the upper levels of the bunk beds.
This was at Lake Shetek State Park.
(Taken in June 2012.)

Sophia and Olivia like the camper cabins because they have bunk beds and they can sleep on the top bunk.

Olivia in Bunkbed Camping
Olivia sound asleep after a day of camping.
She brought some items from home to
set up next to her when she slept.
(Taken in August 2008.)

Near each camper cabin is a fire ring where we make a fire and cook our dinner.

The Girls and I  at William O'Brien Camping
Olivia, Sophia, and me making dinner.
My sister (Mary) and her sons went camping with us.
(Taken in August 2008.)

We went camping in early June in southwestern Minnesota. We definitely felt like we were roughing it because it was in the upper 80s and there was no air conditioning. Although we did bring three fans to circulate the air, the high humidity and temperature were challenging.

Sophia Eating Dinner
Sophia eating dinner on the porch.
We were happy that we were able to start a fire
since the winds were over 30 mph that night.
(Taken in June 2012.)

Our next camping trip is in September to Lake Itasca - where the Mississippi River begins. We're looking forward to seeing a part of Minnesota that the girls haven't been to, and that I haven't been to since I was a child.

Girls on Path by Lake Saganaga
Sophia and Olivia walking on a trail near 
Lake Saganaga in Grand Marais.
(Taken in September 2010.)

The cabin we're staying at is a step up from a camper cabin because it has some of the amenities of home (like a kitchenette and air conditioning)...yet still has the feel of camping with a fire ring and picnic table near by. It also is surrounded by nature...something that we enjoy and will remember years after our experience camping.


Kassie Groll said...

Oh my gosh, I think a bear encounter like that would turn me off of tent camping too! We stayed in the Targhee National forest once and the Be Bear Aware signs everywhere had me totally freaked out, especially since we took our little girl that was only 7 months old at the time.

Domestically Seasoned said...

Wow, I think if I came that close to a bear, I WOULD NEVER GO BACK IN THE WOODS let alone camping in it. I like the idea of the cabin camping. It sounds like a fun adventure with out the fear of being eaten by a bear.

Anonymous said...

Wow that bear story is scary. I would also stay in four walled cabin after that.

Nicole GF said...

I love renting the cabin camping... I definitely wouldn't want to have the same incident happen to me in a tent... that would probably put me off camping all together!

Tami @ said...

Looks like you had some fun! said...

The bear story is terrifying! I was always so afraid of bears when I was younger but I never actually saw or heard one - I think it might have turned me off camping for good!!

kt moxie said...

I'm just imagining that bear breathing and I'm scared. Wow. What a story.

Charis's Mum said...

Oh my!! I would have been freaking out if I saw the black bear. I'd like to go camping next year with my husband and daughter, but we'd either have to sleep in a cabin or buy a tent.

Charis's Mum said...

I would have freaked out if I saw the bear. I'd love to go camping next year with my daughter and husband. I have fond memories of camping when we were growing up and would like to pass that on.