Sunday, May 23, 2010

Itasca State Park, May 12-17, 2010

We took the camper to Itasca State Park for a stay in Bear Paw Campground.

We have visited the park several times, but this was our first camping trip there. Itasca is our oldest state park. In fact, it is the second oldest state park in the nation. It consists of 32,690 acres and is a registered natural landmark by the national park service. I calculated my first day trip there was 50 years ago. It was time for us stay a few days with more time to explore.

It was earlier spring up there than at home. The leaves were just starting to open up at the beginning of our visit.

Our campsite overlooked Lake Itasca.

What a great view while sipping that morning coffee!

The bike trail ran right in front of our campsite, so it was very convenient for us to spend several hours riding our bikes each day the weather permitted.

We rode to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a "must see" stop in the park.

The river flows out of Lake Itasca. The word Itasca is made from parts of the latin words "Veritas Caput" which means true head.  It seems it took quite a few excursions with several discussions and disputes for the white man to find this spot. The Native Americans said, "We'll show you where it is for heaven's sake. Quit stomping around disturbing us." And there it was. Right behind Paul.

We also stopped at a pioneer's cemetery along the bike trail.

And Preacher's Grove, a beautiful stand of old pine trees.

Itasca also has many old lodges and cabins for people to stay in while they visit the park. There even is a youth hostel open year round in the park. This building, built in 1911, is called The Clubhouse.

The famous Douglas Lodge, built in 1905, wasn't even open for the season yet. We took a break there on the front porch.

We also got out on the hiking trail as much as possible.

There are quite a few smaller lakes within the park boundaries.

2000 acres of the park are set aside as a State Scientific and Natural Area. We took a hike in that section to Bohall Lake.

Seeking out these natural areas is always high on our priority list.

A short hike from Douglas Lodge brought us to the "Old Timer's Cabin" which was the first CCC constructed building built in the park in 1934. Local experts taught the young men how to build the log structure. What makes this building unique is the size of the logs. A sign by the building states:

"Only the sworn statement of one who is well informed, to the effect that this cabin was built from wind-falls and not cut timber, permits conservationists to show this cabin here. Almost humorous in its scale, it is far from that as a reminder of magnificent forests all but extinct. As a relic of the days when trees were trees, this cabin can inspire us to firm resolution to permit them to be so again in the long term future. …The random informality of the axe-hewn log ends contributes greatly to the naive charm of this little building."

When trees were trees, no kidding! Anyone home?

Of course, our hikes afforded us great viewings of spring wildflowers. We recorded over a dozen different flowers.

The fern "fiddleheads" always cause us to stop and admire.

As did the round-lobed hepatica

and the abundant swamp marigold

and the wood anemone.

My favorite was the Large-Flowered Trillium, which carpeted areas along our hikes and bike trails.

And, of course we had to take the beautiful Wilderness Drive to see Beaver Lake

and the record White Pine.

We spent our mornings and evenings at our campsite with our binoculars to do some bird watching, recording 28 different varieties of birds, including some warblers we had never seen before.

And, there were the birch fires in the evenings. Nothing better than a birch fire.  I told my friend Nancy we slept like we were hibernating bears while we were there!

It is great to be back home in our Minnesota State Parks! We had one more park stay before we headed home. I'll talk to you soon.


Abby said...

Wow - Itasca is beautiful! I have never seen it, unfortunately. Maybe some day we will make our way on a vacation to MN and doing a camping trip there!

I love those log cabins - so gorgeous!

Also, the "swamp marigolds" are far more pretty than the traditional marigolds that people plant in their my opinion!

Great pictures!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

We were just talking about Itasca this weekend. Dad said that it's his favorite state park. I said I had never been there & he corrected me and said I most certainly have been there! Guess I was too young to remember it - I must go back. The pictures are just beautiful!!!

And holy cannasta, those logs are HUGE. Very cool.

Marlys said...

Yes, we camped there when the kids were younger and had such trouble with the coons tipping over the garbage cans at night to get food! We didn't tour the park like you did, but hard to do with 4 kids in tow! We also camped there with the whole Dotzenrod clan one summer weekend but it rained so didn't get out much.