Four more Minnesota lakes to be exact. First we finished up our second week at Cass Lake. Our original site was already reserved, so we moved a few sites down to number six.
The beach here was a bit more rocky for putting the kayaks in and out, and the screening from the neighbors not quite as thick, but the overall site was bigger and we were able to back in sideways so our door opened on this gorgeous view.
For most of our two week stay we hung out around the campground. There’s a natural ebb and flow to living on the road, and currently we’re in a routine of sticking close to home and enjoying our immediate area instead of driving around and exploring. Not sure if that’s considered the “ebb” or the “flow”, but right now it’s working for us. Of course, staying close to home is easy when you not only have an awesome place to park your house, but also a gorgeous lake to paddle around and a fun bike trail nearby.
I mentioned last time that we biked the nearby Migizi Trail. The entire trail makes a 19-mile loop around Pike Bay with a small stem connecting the main trail to the Norway Beach Rec. Area (where our campground is located). The first half of trail goes alongside a railroad, through a residential section and then parallel to a busy road. The second half winds through a dense forest interspersed with meadows and past the Pike Bay NF campground while offering up occasional glimpses of the bay. There’s no question which part of the trail we enjoyed more. So we rode it again — twice actually — except this time we skipped the boring part by reversing our direction and riding from Cass Lake to the Pike Bay Campground, then turning around and riding back for a very scenic 15 mile route.
When we weren’t biking (or inside hiding from the rain — rainy days make for boring blog material, but trust me, we’ve had a bunch of them) we spent our afternoons and evenings paddling around the lake. The sun sets really late up here in the north — like 9:30 late — so we’ve gotten into the habit of kayaking after dinner and staying out until sunset. Because really, does anything beat a sunset over the water?
Eventually our time at Cass Lake ran out and we had to move on to another lake. We didn’t go far. Our reservation ended on Friday, and although we technically could have stayed one more night before hitting the two-week limit, all the waterfront sites were taken so we decided to head out. Tim was still working when checkout time rolled and we couldn’t drive to the next lake yet, so we moved 10 miles down the road to the Palace Casino where they have a free dump station and RV parking. Turns out they not only have a free dump station and free RV parking, they also offer electric hook-ups — for free! All you have to do is sign up for a Player’s Club Card and they’ll turn on the power for you. We didn’t spend the night, so we didn’t take advantage of this perk, but we did use their dump station and spend three hours working in the quiet and nearly empty parking lot.
The second in our whirlwind lake tour was Lake Winniebigoshish — better known as Big Winnie or Lake Winnie. It was only about an hour and a half drive from Cass Lake to the northeast corner of Big Winnie where a cluster of national forest campgrounds dot the shore. We first tried the East and West Seelye Bay campgrounds, figuring with all sites first-come, first-serve we could snag one. Nope. The east campground was full except for some tiny little sites, and the west campground was unexpectedly closed, so we drove another mile to the Deer Lake CG where only half the sites are reservable.
These are all small campgrounds with tight, tight curving roads and lots of low hanging branches. Some of the sites were good sized, but we had a hard time maneuvering around with our size trailer which makes me think a larger RV should probably avoid these campgrounds all together. On our way we passed an ACOE campground that looked better suited for larger rigs. We did find a site though. A giant and spectacularly sloped site with a tiny slice of water view. I completely forgot to take a picture of it. We didn’t spend much time at our site anyway. By the time we settled in was early evening, so we had a quick bite and then drove the kayaks down to the boat ramp.
Whether you call it Lake Winnie or Big Winnie, there’s no denying that this lake is big. Measuring in at 58,544 acres, it ranks #4 out of the 11,842 Minnesota lakes that are 10 acres or more. Yup, that’s a big lake.
In addition to being big, Big Winnie is also a popular Lake. We saw lots and lots of boats zipping around and floating near the shore while fishing. Did you know that everyone in Minnesota is into fishing? Seriously, everyone.
In the morning it was time to move on to our third lake in as many days. The destination was Scenic State Park on the shores of Coon and Sandwick Lake. Here we found another really tight campground with small sites and tunnel-like roads due to the low hanging branches. Compared to most RVs, we’re pretty short in height (I think we measure in around 10 feet tall), which means if we find the branches low and the roads narrow then this is definitely not a big RV friendly campground. We took a site in the non-electric loop and wedged ourselves in between the thick woods and road.
After a late lunch it was time to hit the trail. Scenic state park has a network of hiking/biking/snowmobile trails that make several loops on the eastern side of the lakes. We took our bikes and rode a few miles on the wide forest lined trail.
We encountered a few obstacles like this one. Not sure if they recently had a storm, or if the trails don’t get used much outside of snowmobile season. Judging by the amount of people we saw while biking (no one but us) my guess would be the later.
At the Chase Point trail we parked our bikes and walked the narrow, one-mile long spit of land that juts out between Coon and Sanwick lakes.
This point is believed to be the result of a river tunnel formed within the massive glacier that once covered this area. Today, it’s home to a healthy stand of red pines, which just so happen to be the Minnesota state tree. At the end of the point a lone cedar tree stood guard.
That evening we once again headed down to the boat ramp for another after-dinner paddle. These lakes are much smaller and shallower than Big Winnie. I spotted a sign at the boat ramp that said “Speed Limit 10” which meant we were in for a very quiet and peaceful paddle.
It rained Sunday morning so we lazed around a bit before heading north to our fourth Minnesota lake. This time we went all the way north to Kebetogama Lake in Voyagers National Park. We’re at a small state forest campground on the lake shore called Wooden Frog. We can’t wait to explore the area, and even more exciting, this coming weekend we’ll be taking our very first overnight kayaking trip! Stay tuned….