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A Stormy, Tiny Road Trip to the St. Croix and a Day Trip to Duluth

 Scott had to meet a client in Stillwater and then we had plans to go camping afterwards. He dropped us off at the Teddy Bear Park.

I love the ancient smart phone pics.

I like that the park was built right next to the bluffs. Part of the park had chairs and stairs built in for the kids to climb. 

I'm not sure that she liked it as much as you did.

When I arrived at the wedding site only the barn's owner was there. He told me all about the shows he's put on and building his home into the adjacent silo.

I'm looking forward to shooting Nick and Jewel's wedding come August.

We walked downtown until Scott got back.

After seeing Laura Ingalls home in Wisconsin I checked out the book on tape of "Little House in the Big Woods." I reread these books around seven years ago. I was amazed at the things her family did that I didn't remember.

I guess this in an OK detour from NPR.

When we arrived at Governor Dodge State Forest we noticed that there were St. Croix National Scenic Riverway campsites all along the river near Grantsburg, Wisconsin. It turned out that they were free. When we arrived at Fox Landing Brooke was like, "I'm in." Either that or she was trying to avoid horse flies.

We heard thundering in the distance. It seemed to be moving south of us.

We soon saw our first group of canoes coming downstream toward us.

They warned us that it was supposed to rain. We were like, yea and..

We got settled into our new home. This time we were smart and brought our kayaks. I didn't think we would get a water view site, especially not for free.

The thing with primitive campsites is the toilets are pretty rustic. Besides the bugs biting your butt it is a nice view.

You get just enough privacy.

We ate some PB and Js as soon as we got camp set.

This site was much more conducive to casting from shore.

We launched from our campsite and headed upstream after Scott was done. Once we hit the rapids Scott kept saying we weren't going anywhere.

Because we weren't going anywhere.

I didn't believe him and kept paddling. Then I realized he was right. We tried going along the shore, going on an angle. Nothing was working. That's when we realized everyone else seemed to be going only in one direction.

You can tell we haven't really kayaked on a river with a strong current before, right?

We were going to have to figure out a different route to traverse the St. Croix. In the meantime we'd enjoy some hippy ramen for dinner.

Right after this Meadow touched our camp stove. I thought she had just bumped into it and burned her wrist. I guess that was just a wound from another time.

She seemed fine at dinner.

Then out of nowhere she started crying and saying "finger, finger". I opened up her hand and saw that she had actually grabbed the burner. She had a nice burn mark going across her palm and fingers. I felt horrible because we didn't have anything to help her.

I could tell it wasn't too serious. If it had been we probably would've left.

After trying to get her to sleep and telling her it would be better in the morning she perked up and let me read some books to her.

Not a bad place to wake up too.

The light rain overnight seemed to have brought out the ticks. I found one on Meadow and a tiny one on my shoelace.

I seem to be immune to attracting them.

I made us pancakes sans ticks.

We had forgotten the syrup. We just slathered on some peanut butter instead.

The first canoe of the morning.

Meadow was feeling much better in the morning. She did have a long burn blister on her hand, but it didn't seem to bother her.

Meadow found a stick and was pretending to fish. 

Did you know that Brooke loves to stand on logs over water? One of these days she's going to fall in.


We decided to drive our car up to the next landing, kayak down and then hike back. It seemed easy enough.

I should note that most of the campsites here are canoe in sites. Ours was close to the Fox Landing so we only had a short hike in.

The skies were dark and we could hear thunder in the distance. We had absolutely no service up here and we couldn't check the weather. I assumed it was going to around us again. When we launched our boats there was an outfitter group getting ready to go so I figured we were fine.

It started nice enough.

It's so easy to paddle when the river pushes you.

The clouds up ahead didn't seem severe so we kept on going.

I saw in the distance that the clouds were getting darker and a few shots of lightening. I started to hurry back, but it didn't matter. After awhile it started raining, then it got harder and the wind picked up. Then it started hailing. Meadow was crying. I was trying to lean over her to protect her from the hail while screaming, This is not what you do with a two year old.

The less than 2 mile kayak ride had turned into a race to get back to our campsite.

The rain and hail was hititng the water so hard we couldn't see five feet ahead of us. I kept thinking our campsite has to be coming up soon.

I couldn't tell where the site was, but I saw a tree we could hide under. The edge of the river is very shallow and we could hide there until the storm passed.

 As I got closer he was yelling at me to come over so we could hide under the trees. Meanwhile Meadow is screaming. We pulled in our kayaks and hid under trees. I noticed the hiking trail that goes by our campsite. I said we should just take that back to camp. When we got on the trail our campsite was just 20 feet ahead. 

Meadow was shivering and saying, "Towel, towel." Once we got in the tent I wrapped her up and she was happy again. It's hard to tell, but I had welts all over my arms from the hail.

It wasn't an ideal first kayak ride down the St. Croix, but we made it back safe and sound.

Once the rain stopped we went back outside and the skies were blue. Had we waited a half hour we would have had an enjoyable ride.

Everything was soaked. We used the tree as clothesline as we got ready to hike back to our car.

I figured my clothes would be dry by the end of the hike.

Parts of the trail looked like they hadn't been used for while. Other parts had turned into a creek.

Canoes and kayaks were already back out on the water as it started to get steamy out.

The woods were very pretty at the top of the hill.

This part of the St. Croix has the most rapids of any section. They weren't too much to handle. That is if it hadn't been pouring on us.

At some parts we were wondering if we were even still on the trail. I have a feeling we were the only ones to use it this year.

Almost to the next landing.

Afterward we took our car to town to refill our waters.

After filling up at a gas station we went next door to the grocery store. We were going to get something for lunch. That's when I realized I didn't have my wallet. I had left it at the campsite.


Once back Meadow was ready to go kayaking again.

If we come here again we need to bring another person with a car so one car can be at our campsite while the other takes up to a farther landing.

I used our kayak ropes to make a clothesline.

Since we had used up our jam on our pancakes we made some peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Our campsite now looked just a bit trashy. 

I always see families with clotheslines at their sites. We had never needed one before.

It was around here that I cast my fishing pole in the totally wrong direction and got my spinner bait stuck in the tree. I cut it off and tried to find it, but it was gone.

After lunch we took turns kayking between the two nearby rapids. I switched to a medium depth Rapala bait and had some luck getting bites, but no fish for dinner.

At some point I noticed that the lure was tied on strange. I retied it and cast a few times. It was all going OK until the Rapala somehow flew off the line. I was now down to two lures.

The shoreline by our site wasn't very swimmable so I took Meadow over to the boat landing. The night before she kept trying to go in with her clothes on. Of course she stayed on shore with her swimsuit.

Poor Meadow is a bug magnet. 

We slathered on bug spray and still this?

When we got back from frolicking at the landing it was dinner time.

I think Meadow was sick of the outdoors at this point.

Right around here I lost my third bait of the day to a feisty fish. I think I need to take another lesson from Mr. Mike on tying lures.

Since the campsite was free we decided to head to the Drive-In for some ice cream. This is run by the same folks behind the Drive-In in Taylors Falls.

I accidentally ordered the Worlds Smallest Sundae. 

While we were here in town we thought we would check the weather as more dark clouds looked like they were rolling in. When the weather popped up there was an alert for a tornado watch with a severe storm coming. I immediately panicked and said let's pack up our stuff and head to Duluth. I was afraid of running into the storm if we drove home.

With the tornado watch in effect we rushed back to the campsite packed up and drove up to Duluth.

I did not want to be in our tent with 60 mph winds. 

We were safe from the storm.

We drove through a minor storm on the way, but at least I didn't have to worry about tornadoes.

I asked Blake if he knew any natural remedies for burns and bug bites. He pulled out one of his  trusty books. I never knew that the plantain weed growing in our yard was actually medicinal.

This nature led detour wasn't so bad after all. Now we could explore Duluth for the day.

Blake had to work and couldn't hang out with us. We asked him where some good spots to kayak were.

Oatmeal at Blake's is becoming a tradition.

I was going to take Meadow this time, but she was not having it.

After getting poured on yesterday I think she was afraid to go again.

We thought that some reverse psychology would help and we let her play on the dock for a bit.

Eventually she was fine with going.

We finally got out on the water for our adventure to Clough Island.

The clouds were looking a bit too rad for my taste. I think we were both a bit nerve wracked from our last paddle.

We didn't get to explore Clough Island after all.

The rain ended up being nothing more than sprinkles, but at least we were safe.

Meadow was excited to be back on dry land.

I asked Blake were we could eat lunch for cheap. He said, Anchor Bar. Of course.

We figured that the Anchor Bar would be less packed this time around. It was a Tuesday afternoon after all.

Meadow was very naughty waiting for her food. I'm glad it wasn't too quiet in there, but it seemed everyone around us was annoyed that we brought a toddler to a bar.

I would give them that excuse, but they were all drinking sodas.

This place just oozes with character.

I got the reuben burger. These might've been the best burgers I've ever had.

So good and so cheap.

Park Point swimming? Why not?

We drove down the beach to the less crowded areas away from the lift bridge.

There were some impressive clouds to the north and west, but nothing but blue skies up above.

Why do we not live in Duluth?

The water wasn't too bad. Meadow loved jumping in the waves.

She was having the time of her life.

It took me a while to realize that Brooke was slowly getting further into the water.

The hills of Duluth were alive with the sound of thunder.

It looked like another storm was going to hit us again. We decided to stay until the sun was hidden by the clouds.

I started splashing Meadow. She is very particular about water on her face. She had to stop and wipe her face every once in awhile.

This family was from Iowa and on their way to the Boundary Waters. Someday we will have to try that.

Until next time Duluth.


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