When I was in my 20s and early 30s, my friends and I scheduled monthly camping trips every summer from April through October.
We would rent the group site at state parks, stay up late playing guitars and drinking (mostly) non-intoxicating beverages, and get up early for hiking, birding, paddling or fishing.
We spent weekends at dozens of Minnesota’s wonderful parks, from Forestville to Zippel Bay, Big Stone Lake to Wild River.
Having been to most of the parks, I know whereof I speak when I say two of the best are right in our backyard here at Mille Lacs: Kathio on the west side and Father Hennepin a short walk from downtown Isle.
The two parks couldn’t be more different. Kathio is big and sprawling, with rolling hills, hidden lakes, the Rum River, the fire tower, and miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding.
There’s also an incredible interpretive center as well as archaeological sites dating back thousands of years.
Father Hennepin, on the other hand, is small and cozy. You can walk every trail in an afternoon and have time left over to relax at Mille Lacs’ best public swimming beach. The campground includes sites close to the lake, and there’s a boat launch and fishing pier.
After living, working and recreating all over the state, I’ve come to realize that Mille Lacs is really the heart of Minnesota. The state’s history begins here with Father Hennepin’s journals, and it’s the meeting place of three cultures that shaped the state: Dakota, Ojibwe and European. Our environment includes native foods like wild rice, walleye, venison and maple syrup, and our history includes the fur trade, logging, farming and the railroad.
The lake, of course, is the state’s most iconic, with the possible exception of Superior, which is in a different category.
I reflected on that idea in the introduction to our annual Fun Guide, which is included with this issue of the Messenger.
It’s one of our most popular products, and I hope you spend time perusing it this week and hang on to it as a resource to tell you about some of the great ways to spend your summer.
Including how to spend an icy fishing opener — which brings us back to the parks.
If you can’t get out on the lake, there’s always paddling the Rum, or fishing off the pier at Hennepin or the Buck Moore Dam at Kathio.
If the weather’s bad, consider a trip to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum — another gem in another great Minnesota treasure: the state’s historic sites.
The Fun Guide has me realizing once again how much goes on here at the Messenger without my input. As I’ve been busy putting the paper together each week, our boss, Kevin Anderson, has been hard at work on the Fun Guide and the Isle centennial editions — another of which came out last week.
I’ll repeat what I said a few weeks ago: That project has only come about through the volunteer efforts of folks like Gerald Wollum, Dolores Haggberg and Randy Christensen, and it’s been heavily subsidized by Kevin and the Messenger.
Give those folks a pat on the back next time you see them, and if you’re interested in advertising in the final three Isle centennial editions, give our sales staff a call at (320) 676-3123.
Enjoy the opener, and send us your fish pics. And for the record, I’m predicting the ice goes out Friday — just in time for fishing on Mille Lacs!
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.