Less than three miles from our front door is this gem of a park along the shore of the Mississippi River. We’ve heard about it many times, but never explored it until this week. It was full of delightful surprises.
During the week of June 16, we took our second trip to Camp du Nord. (Our first visit was the summer before Oliver was born.) It was a glorious way to kick off our summer. We were way up north, totally unplugged, and getting into a more natural rhythm (going to bed early, rising with the sun, getting dirty, washing in the lake, walking everywhere, etc.). We stayed in a platform cabin (“Deer”) which was perfect for us. Here’s the description from the website:
Deer Platform Cabin 6 — Enjoy one of our “off-the-grid” eco-cabins. These newer cabins are simple, yet very comfortable. A screened porch with picnic table and stainless steel table make outdoor cooking a breeze. The sleeping room includes 2 elevated long twin over queen bunk beds. Nearby water spigot, showers, biffies, and refrigeration are available. Solar lanterns and all dishware and cooking utensils are provided.
We stayed in a backpacking tent last time, and although we love tent camping, we found it challenging to manage for a full week with cooking, washing, bugs, and unpredictable weather. The cabin gave us more sheltered space without adding electricity and plumbing.
Our pictures are in the gallery below, arranged roughly in chronological order. Note that we only took pictures of a few moments during the trip. Unpictured elements that we all remember fondly included, in no particular order:
- age group activities for the kids in the mornings
- cooked meals with the community up at the dining hall
- afternoon ice cream at the trading post
- the polar bear plunge into the lake every morning
- the sauna
- hiking on the nearby trails
- easily achieving 20,000+ steps each day by simply walking around camp (if you wanted to go beyond that, the hiking trails extend pretty much infinitely)
- filling downtime with non-electronic activities (Bananagrams, crossword puzzles, reading, writing, drawing, inkle weaving, etc.)
- a week without news headlines
As always, click on a picture to see a larger version and then scroll through the slideshow.
Family camp? This was a new concept to both Sarah and Andrew, but we had been hearing wonderful things about Camp du Nord from families we know in St. Paul for a few years, so this summer was our first time giving it a go. We are generally a do-it-yourself family vacation kind of family, so the idea of going somewhere where we could enjoy being on a lake AND having our days filled with activities we didn’t plan sounded kind of dreamy. We were not disappointed!
Camp du Nord is a YMCA camp located near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in extreme northern Minnesota, mere miles from Canada. Andrew and Griffin kicked off every morning with the “polar bear plunge,” wherein the doughtiest members of the camp all run screaming into the chilly lake. (For anyone who has done a real polar plunge, into freezing water, this was not really that bad.) After breakfast, the kids spent every morning in age-level activities led by an incredible group of counselors. Sarah and Andrew were gloriously free from all responsibilities during this time. In the afternoons we engaged in full-family activities, which included a canoe paddle to a nearby smaller lake where Andrew succeeded at his first canoe portage, Voyageur Days where the kids tried log rolling, and an all-camp hunt for the counselors who were hiding in the woods. There are cabins available to rent, but we opted for a tent site right on the shore of the lake where we slept and had breakfast and lunch. We took the advice of families before us and joined the full camp for dinner in the dining hall. A couple of evenings, we took advantage of the traditional wood-heated Finnish sauna, which always concludes with a dip in the lake! And every night, we fell to sleep excited and exhausted, ready to see what adventures awaited us in the morning.
Like all family vacations, there were smatterings of tears, whining, and impatience, but overall, we all agreed that we loved family camp and look forward to returning in the future!
We had plans today to head downtown to see museums and monuments on the national mall, but it was a poor sleep night and a bunch of us were fighting colds, so we decided to stay closer to home. We walked down to Brookeway Drive, the street Dave and I lived on as kids in the ’70s. At the end of the cul-de-sac is a path up to the old railway tracks, now repaved as part of the Capital Crescent Trail. (I remember trains going by, and often put coins on the tracks for flattening.) The kids had a blast in and around the creek for a couple of hours, though I didn’t get the camera out for the epic meltdowns they had after one too many daring maneuvers led to cold, wet feet (and a butt, in Griffin’s case).
We didn’t let a little snow and frigid temperatures interfere with our Thanksgiving Bocce game. Grandpa Jeff got out the snow blower and made us a court. The teams:
- Griffin, Nik, Alli, Pam
- Maggie, Andrew, Sarah, Jeff
We played to 11, and it was close to the very end. In the final round, 10-9, team 2 landed the clinching point. They simply had superior mastery of snow-braking techniques.
On the Roy side, the bocce tradition began at a rental house in Fort Bragg, California, on the Mendocino coast. We used to rent the place for Thanksgiving in the early 2000s, inviting friends and family for feast and fun. Here are two pictures from that era (with a slightly different climate!):
It’s been a rather extended celebration this year. We began on Griffin’s actual birthday, April 8, with cinnamon rolls for breakfast and family presents at dinner. Then he was honored at both of his preschools.
Then Sarah baked a spectacular cake for his party on Saturday, but the kids both woke up with pink eye and we had to cancel the party! (Noooooo! But we ate the cake, which made it ok.) We rescheduled the party for the following weekend and this time everything worked out, including an even more magnificent cake. (Six layer rainbow cake with all natural ingredients? No problem.) And grandma and grandpa presented a new bike. Woohoo!
Click on the pics for larger versions.
What has Griffin learned? Birthdays last for three weeks and include numerous celebrations, multiple cakes, magic bunnies that hide eggs, lots of chocolate, and special trips to the ice cream shop (those last tidbits were for Easter and my birthday, but the distinctions may not mean much to him). We’re setting ourselves up for success here. 🙂
Before a lovely dinner at Everest on Grand, Maggie found a play structure that was just her size.