Everyone is ready for summer

Published 6:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2014

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

There’s one thing that almost everyone I’ve talked to in the last month is ready for: summer. No matter what the temperature is or the weather is like at this time of the year, there’s one thing that can possibly make it just a little more bearable — and that is thinking about or even planning a camping trip, family vacation or just looking forward to summer activities in general.

When I look back at the many years our family spent camping and fishing together, it gives me a good feeling. Although I know I cannot physically relive those days, the memories I have are priceless. On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself chuckling to myself when thinking of something funny that happened on one of our many camping trips.

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I know that my love for camping started when I was a youth who had — for all practical purposes — only an imagination and a true love for the outdoors. I recall one time when a few of us neighbor kids decided to sleep outside, and the only tent we had was one we made from an old flannel bed sheet thrown over the clothesline in our back yard with another blanket spread out on the ground for a floor and old sheets clothespinned to the ends for doors. My mother helped me make my first clothesline tent when I was a little younger, but I only played in it and hadn’t slept in it. So now it was for real. The sheets and blankets were the same ones my mother would use to cover her flowers and garden to protect them from an early frost.

Sleeping outside meant we’d be able to play outdoors later than usual, and that also meant we could play cowboys and Indians in the dark, which was always fun. Tag was another good game to play at night and it didn’t even require any arguing about who shot who first. I’m sure that playing these games today would get us in trouble with the ethics police, and pointing a loaded finger and going “bang” might result in jail time. It seems like no matter what game we played, every one of us would interpret the rules just a little bit differently; I guess that was just part of being kids.

Everything seemed to be going along pretty well until we became tired and decided to try and get some sleep. We didn’t have sleeping bags, so we took blankets and pillows from our houses. Eventually we’d settle in for the night in our makeshift tent with a trusty flashlight serving as a lantern. The sound of crickets chirping would be drowned out only by the buzzing of mosquitoes. Now, you need to realize that a blanket tent is not mosquito-proof, so there was really not much separating us from the pesky critters of the night. On those warm summer evenings the dew would set in at dusk causing the blankets and pillows to become damp and clammy.

Eventually, I would start to thinking about how nice it would be if I was laying in my dry bed inside our mosquito-free house. No one ever wanted to be the first one to crack, so we laid there sweating and swatting mosquitoes hoping that sleep would finally come and put us out of our misery. Once the blankets and pillows were soaked with dew, you knew that it would be a long night unless somebody buckled under the pressure. If one of us were to bring up the fact that there were way too many mosquitoes or that it was too damp, we were all on board with the idea of heading indoors.

The following day, we’d usually talk about our camping adventure as if we had survived a night in the north woods fending off wolves, bears and mountain lions. This is what kids did when they needed little more than a good imagination to entertain themselves.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued the following news release, which I think is pretty exciting and would be unique to this area of the state.


DNR proposes bison reintroduction to Minneopa State Park

The Department of Natural Resources’ parks and trails division is proposing to reintroduce bison to Minneopa State Park, near Mankato, and is seeking public comments on a draft management plan amendment for the park.

The amendment describes the impacts and opportunities created by the reintroduction of bison for resource management, interpretive services, recreation and visitor services at the park. Citizens can ask questions or submit comments until May 5.

As part of the public review, DNR staff will have an open house at the Blue Earth County Public Library, 100 E. Main St., Mankato, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 22 for anyone interested in providing comments about the draft management plan amendment.

The draft management plan amendment is available for review online.

Copies of the plan will also be available to review at the DNR regional headquarters in New Ulm at 261 Highway 15 S., and at the office at Minneopa State Park, five miles west of Mankato off U.S. Highway 169 in Blue Earth County at 54497 Gadwall Rd.

Minneopa State Park, established in 1905, contains southern Minnesota’s largest waterfall and the remains of the historic Seppmann Mill. The park encompasses 2,691 acres of which 1,653 are owned and managed by the DNR. Park facilities include a campground, group camps, picnic areas, a visitor center and trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.

Those unable to review and comment on the draft amendment at the open house can submit comments to Jade Templin by calling 651-259-5598 or emailing jade.templin@state.mn.us.

Until next time, think spring and start planning that next family vacation or camping trip, even if it’s just in the backyard. If you take advantage of our many state parks and national forest campgrounds, it will enhance the experience of spending time in our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column is published in the Tribune each Sunday.