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Iron Range Camping for Work and Fun

Scott had more shoots this weekend. This time it took us way up north. With Meadow back in school we left Friday afternoon. 

Luckily Meadow's teacher canceled their afternoon meeting and we were able to leave earlier than we planned.

To break up the long drive we camped for the night at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. We booked the last site, I can't believe people are still camping. When we were setting up our tent Meadow said, "Why are other people so close to us?" We don't go to normal campgrounds very often I guess. 

We set up early and went on a hike before dinner.

We should have brought our canoe along, but a hike would do.


We learned all about the history of the state park along the trail.

Much to the disappointment of the kids we kept hiking. 



Theo wanted to take breaks at every bench, but I can't sit still that long. 

She really can't sit for more than a minute.


The kids were more interested in the hike by pretending to play Star Wars.


Theo likes collecting rocks.

Theo and Meadow wanted to bring their Light Sabers along to the campground, but I had to tell them to leave the sticks in the woods.

The days are getting shorter so we had to head back for dinner.

Mac and cheese for the kids. Chili mac for us.

It was chilly. This is the first time we've camped this late in the year. We've camped in April but never in fall. Judging by all the full campgrounds this weekend this is the thing to do.

Pancakes and eggs for breakfast before packing up.

We then drove up to Grand Rapids where I had a shoot. No, I didn't shoot the stupid Trump store. But we did get pasties next door on the way out of town and laughed at all the winners going in.

We ate at Blandin Park away from the Trump Shop to enjoy our pasties. 

Pasties Plus is a must stop if you're in Grand Rapids. You can even order ahead or pick up cold ones to bake later.

Meadow chose the rutabaga one for her and Theo and the kids ate it up.

I picked the german: sauerkraut, potatoes and brats. A perfect pasty.

Then we drove through the Iron Range to Virginia. I had never been this way before. It was super cool seeing all the mines returning back to nature. Someday I'd love to bike camp the Mesabi Trail.

We recently got a small roof box for our Yakima rack. It's really great. After shooting another paint store in Virginia we drove through the city.

I can't believe we waited this long to get one. 

This hall caught my eye.

And just down the block was a lookout over one of the decommissioned taconite mines.

Next summer we need to plan a trip up here.

We had two choices for where to camp near Virginia. The first was a three site campground by Big Rice Lake.

Both were along the same road in the Superior National Forest.

 I was worried with the busy weekend that the sites would be full. When we arrived there was no one there. The dock at the boat launch was still on the shore and the outhouse was closed because of COVID. The sites were very basic. Just a firepit and an open area. We chose the biggest site for the kids to play. This place looked like the kind of place where teenagers go to hang out and drink beer. 

Meadow liked this campground much better than the packed one at Mille Lacs Kathio. Theo just wanted to play with the firepit.

We had black beans and rice with eggs and fried onions and bell peppers. Simple meals these days.

Someone had left a couple grills behind. The kids made bridges with them.

Shortly after this photo was taken a chipmunk crawled up my leg.

The chipmunk had been hanging around our site. He approached Brooke from behind, slid under her legs and went right up her leg. Brooke screamed and the chippy scampered away.. It was too funny.

You can't fly drones at the state parks (technically you can't land in a state park) or national parks, but you have free reign in the national forests.

This would be a cool place to kayak.

It seems too early to see colors changing.


One other person arrived while Scott was using the drone.

We took a walk to the boat launch before it got dark. Another family was there rescuing turtles. A turtle nest was found and some had gotten squished by cars trying to make it to the lake. The other kids brought the baby turtles to the lake. Can you spot them? They were teeny tiny, only an inch or two big.

We watched the turtles until it got too dark. 

Big Rice Lake is only five feet deep, but stretches for three miles.

There was a bunch of wood left at our campsite and we ganked some from another site. We had s'mores to make tonight.

I told some silly stores, we ate our s'mores and we let the fire rip.

We're not really fire people but since it gets dark so early we figured why not.

After waking up we had to go check on the turtles.

We found one more turtle in the nest and brought him to the lake. Then the kids fished for a bit.

The skies were hazy again from the wildfire smoke on the west coast.


Then mama showed up after doing some packing. On our way out we saw that the whole campground was actually closed. We thought it was just the bathrooms. Whoops.

After packing up to head home we passed the Lookout Mountain - Laurentian Divide hiking trails.

We accidentally took the wrong way and followed the outdoor fitness trail.

The kids loved it, but it just went around in a circle.

There were also some cool mountain hiking trails in this area.

Then we circled back to the Overlook Mountain Trail.

Was totally not expecting the colors to be so vibrant right now.

Theo was not into hiking anymore and I didn't bring our Ergo or water so we turned back around.

We didn't quite make it to the top of Lookout Mountain.

On the way back home we had plans to stop at Banning State Park to eat our lunch. This is what we encountered when we arrived. 

We do not suggest camping or visiting state parks along or on the way to the North Shore.

Cars were parked on the road leading up to the picnic area. We were like, nope and turned right around. Apparently most people don't mind crowds and have way more patience than us. 

I'd suggest you go explore the Iron Range and National Forests to the south and west of the typical Minnesota tourist destinations. It's a much wiser move during this strange year.

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