Book that campsite now!

Welcome to our annual Outdoors Issue! 

As I write this, we’re in the middle of a fairly wet and cold spring in Minnesota. 

But fear not! This month’s magazine is designed to inspire you to jump into summer and the Great Outdoors with everything you’ve got. We’ve got parks for picnics and playdates; three Minnesota road trips; a cool, under-the-radar resort in the Brainerd Lakes Area; and a detailed look at Minnesota’s unsung water-based Voyageurs National Park, where only boats are allowed.

Unlike much of the BWCAW, Voyageurs is open to motorized boats, including houseboats, making the destination more family-friendly as well as beautifully sublime. Who knew? (Well, I didn’t anyway.)

Best of all, we had a local expert write the story — our School Days columnist Megan Devine, who lives in Ely and has been exploring the water-based park at the Canadian border since she was a child. Voyageurs is simply gorgeous, quintessentially Minnesotan and is now definitely on my family bucket list.

In this issue, Devine also shares her tips for finding outdoor adventures. I nodded emphatically when I read her words: “The first step is to make reservations and to get the dates on your calendar. If you don’t, the time will slip by, something else will come up and/or the whole idea will become too stressful because you won’t have enough time to prepare.”

Agreed. It’s just too easy to stay in town and play in the backyard or at local parks and call it good.

But staying home doesn’t break you out of your routine, and it doesn’t immerse you in nature the way a night — or two or more — in the woods can. 

My family doesn’t have a weekend cabin, so we have to really plan to spend time overnight outdoors. We have to want it. And, when we’re lazy, we often don’t. And that’s a shame.

One of the best family trips we ever took happened only because I got a wild hair and insisted that we book a campsite at a state park far in advance.

Not knowing the state very well since we were Seattle transplants, we threw a metaphorical dart and hit a lesser-known Minnesota gem — McCarthy Beach State Park near … Chisholm. 

Its campsites were situated between two lakes and it was known for its beaches. How bad could that be? It was also far away, four hours by car and inland, so definitely a departure from our typical North Shore trips.

Well, it was pretty amazing. Our son went canoeing for the first time, had a ball swimming on some unseasonably warm beaches (pictured above) and even slept in a tent for the first time, too. We made breakfast, lunch and dinner on the fire and avoided major bug bites. 

And it all happened because we picked a date and booked a site.  

So if you want to camp this summer, read this epic guide to get inspired. And then: Just do it! Book a camp site and commit. Rain or shine, you’ll come back changed.