We had the most amazing last week in Minnesota. Our route took us all the way up the northern edge of the state where Lake Kebetogama meets Voyageurs National Park. There’s not a lot of RV camping options on the lake, but we heard about a state forest campground called Wooden Frog from some of our traveling friends. They reported that it was not only a nice campground with easy lake access, but that the cell service was great. Sounds perfect.
The campground was fairly empty and we had our pick of sites. There was only one or two with a kind-of, sort-of water view, and those were not at all Airstream friendly, so we settled on a long, back-in forested site. It was a little muddy around the edges of the site, and the on and off rain that we had all week only increased the sogginess (and led to more mosquitos). As a result, we didn’t spend any time outside at our site, but we did walk the campgroudn road a few times.
Most of our outside time we spent on the water. We went out once from the campground boat ramp, and once from the Voyageurs National Park visitor center boat ramp, which was only a few miles down the road.
Lake Kabetogama is full of islands. From tiny little ones only big enough for a single tree to larger islands that would be perfect for a lake house getaway. All those islands make for some fun paddling and we went from island to island, circling around and occasionally getting off to enjoy the rocky shore.
The real reason we came here is to do some camping on one of those islands. The national park manages over two dozen remote, boat-in campsites both on the islands and on the northern shore of the lake. Way back in March we reserved two nights on Grassy Island. It was only about a mile offshore, so we went to check it out one afternoon a few days before our reservation. Here we are approaching it from the south.
On Friday afternoon the big day arrived. We hauled all our gear down to the boat launch and set out to pack up the kayaks. Somehow all of our stuff easily fit inside the boats. With a bundle of wood strapped on the back deck, we set off to our island.
I could definitely feel the extra weight in my kayak while paddling, especially since I hadn’t paid attention to the weight distribution and all the heavy stuff ended up in the back. It really wasn’t a big deal since we were only going a short distance and the water was perfectly calm, but the next time we do this I’ll remember to balance my load better.
Our island had a little beach for docking, but Tim thought it would be easier to land on the front side. It wasn’t actually any easier, but we still made quick work of unloading and setting up camp.
This was the start of a much anticipated two-week vacation for Tim and he wasted no time settling into relaxation mode.
After dinner, we went for a little paddle. What started out as a gray, cloudy evening quickly turned incredible as the sun dipped below the horizon and the sky changed from orange to brilliant pink.
We ended the night with a lakeside fire.
Unfortunately, neither of us had a very good night’s sleep. Turns out sleeping on a thin pad in a tiny tent with a lumpy pillow is not that comfortable. Who would have thought? I knew this might be a challenge for us. I’m the type of person who really only sleeps well in my own bed. I’ve always been that way, but ever since we moved into the Airstream and I fell in love with our soft and squishy Memory Foam mattress the problem has gotten worse. I find that every other bed now feels like I’m sleeping on a rock. I end up tossing and turning all night and wake up in the morning with sore hips and shoulders from the unforgiving mattress (I can only sleep on my side). That’s exactly what happened in the tent. I woke up at least once an hour and had to change positions in an effort to get more comfortable.
Tim fared a bit better, but his major issue is that he’s about a foot too tall for our tiny tent. It was a free tent that we decided to try it out, but it looks like before we do this again an upgrade is needed. Not sure how to fix my comfort issue. Maybe I need two pads to make a thicker double layer? In any case, we made it through the night and awoke to find ourselves surrounded by a thick fog.
After a quick breakfast, it seemed like the fog might be lifting so we headed out on the water. Nope, still foggy.
We floated near our island for about ten minuets as the sun slowly started to burn through the fog. As we paddled towards our neighbor island the fog lifted more, and by the time we reached the far shore of the lake, it had disappeared altogether.
Our destination was a hiking trail on the shore of the lake. It was easy enough to find with a large dock where we tied up the kayaks.
The trail led us through a thick forest and to the edge of Locator Lake. Despite some overgrown areas and ferocious mosquitos, we made it to the lake after and easy two-mile trek.
Locator Lake is part of a chain of lakes deep in the back country of Voyagers National Park. There are remote campsites along the lakes and a snowmobile trail that travels for many miles connecting the them.
Back at our island, we spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying another lakeside fire. The weather forecast was calling for rain to start early in the morning, and we went back and forth for a bit trying to decide if we should stick it out or not. In the end, our cheap, too-small tent with what we assumed was a useless rainfly, made the decision for us. Around 9 pm we packed everything up and loaded it back into the kayaks.
As we paddled back to the shore the setting sun gave us one final spectacular show. By the time it got dark around 10:30 we were back at the Airstream. Needless to say, we both slept great, and when I woke up around 6 am to the sound of pouring rain I knew we had made the right decision to come back early.
So even though we bailed on the last night in the tent, we still consider our first overnight kayaking trip to be a success. We’re already plotting a time and place where we can do it again — with a different tent this time.
And with that, we wrap up our time in Minnesota. We could have easily spent the whole summer here traveling around from lake to lake, but the family wedding in Maine is quickly approaching and the time has come to start making some miles eastward. Up next: we spend 10 days driving through Canada with NO internet (hello vacation). Wish us luck!