July 21-24, 2018
Voyageurs National Park is the reason we made this summer trip. Back in 2016 we asked Chloe where she wanted to go next summer and she answered “someplace I’ve never been” (that certainly narrowed it down – not). After perusing the atlas and discussing previous trips, she homed in on Voyageurs and we started making a plan. Unfortunately we later were told we could only take her for 10 days that summer so we did a much shorter trip up through Michigan and had fun. Then we sat around in Maryland the rest of the summer wishing we were on the road.
On to planning for 2018… there was only one acceptable plan on the table and that involved getting to Voyageurs. We made it clear to the parents that Chloe was invited to travel with us for the summer but even if she couldn’t go, we were going ourselves and alternate child care would be required. Hmmmm, let the child have an awesome vacation that she had been planning for two years or be the bad guy that said no (again) AND pay for months of child care. Parental permission was given and the trip was on.
Voyageurs is mostly water. There are three visitor centers on the mainland but if you want to spend time in the park you need a boat. We checked out renting a houseboat and booking mooring sites in the park but it was a bit out of our budget. We considered using an outfitter/lodge but prefer to put our money into the National Parks so we booked three of the NPS boat tours and visited all three visitor centers. Note: ALL the Boat tours we were on had been fully booked well in advance with wait lists. Most Voyageurs boat tours are booked through recreation.gov. The North Canoe program is booked via phone through the visitor center hosting it. Since we booked the one for Kabetogama, we had to wait and call when they opened for the season.
Boat tours were settled; lodging was the next challenge. Voyageurs has no campground on the mainland (and only boat in camping in the park) and the few public campgrounds were a bit pricey for what we would need so we settled on Woodenfrog Campground in the State Forest right on Lake Kabetogama. It is walk in only but the ranger said he’s never seen it full so we took a chance. It also has no hookups but we lucked out and the weather was moderate while we were there. Some of the sites would have been tricky to get level but there were plenty to choose from even though we rolled in on a Saturday. We got a nice level site backing to the lake with a trail down to the water and beautiful pine trees on which to hang our hammocks. It was also close to the entrance so we avoided having to twist our way through the whole campground each time we went in and out. If our inflatable kayaks had been on board, we would have opted for a site closer to their little dock and launch area. But, alas, we were dependent on getting boats elsewhere.
Saturday, July 21, was a busy day breaking camp at Fall Lake, dumping our tanks in Ely, touring Soudan Mine, driving several hours, finding a site at Woodenfrog and setting up camp so it was time to rest… Not! The Kabetogama NP visitor center didn’t close for another hour or two so off we went. We did a quick walk about, checked on our boat tour for the next day, enjoyed the exhibits and checked out a free adventure pack to play with. Chloe choose the animal one, of course. You could keep it for 24 hours and received a patch for doing the activities. We especially liked the “Birdsong Identiflyer” and played with that a good bit. The pack also had nature ID books, park info, magnifying glass, bug box, etc. When the visitor center closed we headed back to camp. FINALLY it was chill time (aka hammock time).
I’d like to point out here just how patient John was with my planning. I planned a fairly busy trip to take full advantage of the time with the grandchild and to get her to the many places she wanted to see. THEN we kept finding more things to add to the schedule. John tried mental telepathy saying (Please, no more!) but when that didn’t work, he just rolled with it.