When Barry noticed the city named Emily in Minnesota on the map, I didn't give it much thought at first. But when he said we could route ourselves right through it on the way to our next campground, I got more enthusiastic. I figured for a person named Emily, i.e. Me, there would be plenty of photo ops -- and there were!
Arriving in this small city, population 827 as of 2013, we found the city park and parked Pearl. We then walked around from there. Being as small as it is, it was no problem to walk from one end of town to the other, stopping to take photos along the way.
I've never claimed to be much of a saint, but hey, if the name fits!
Turns out that I have another connection to this place other than simply its name. Although I didn't remember it as we walked through town, this rural telephone company, ECTC, installed a Nortel CS 1500 in 2008 to replace their legacy DCO (digital central office) equipment.. The CS 1500 was an IP call server that I worked on in my previous life as a telephony software developer. My memory of the specifics is a little vague, but I am almost positive that at least a couple of my co-workers back then actually traveled to the site in Emily to assist in the installation and integration of the CS 1500 into ECTC's network. Pretty cool connection, if you ask me! (Thanks Jim G. for the article that helped me remember about this!)
Before leaving the tiny city that bore my name, I had to stop in at the gift shop (plus ice cream parlor!) and get a couple of souvenirs. We added the wooden magnet to our magnet board, and soon I am sure I will get a chance to wear the sweatshirt, as we're starting to have some chilly nights being up north with autumn approaching.
I figured that there would be several cities named Emily around the US, but turns out, this one claims to be the only one. Knowing that, I was even happier that Barry noticed it on the map!
We had such high hopes for Crow Wing State Park near Brainerd, Minnesota. It sounded so pretty; wooded and next to the mighty Mississippi River.
The reason we chose this park was that it sits at the southern terminus of the Paul Bunyan Trail, which we were dying to ride. Since the park is very popular, we actually made reservations, which we rarely do, paying an additional $8.50 online reservation fee to ensure we'd get a site with electric hookup. There are only 13 electric sites in the park, plus many more primitive sites.
There had been a lot of severe storms in this part of Minnesota leading up to our visit. Tree damage in the Brainerd area had been especially bad, but the park was in good shape when we arrived other than some potholes and puddles in the unpaved park roads. We checked in, found site #2, and got settled in.
We soon discovered that the mosquitoes here were worse than any campground we'd stayed at in Minnesota; in fact, than any campground we've stayed at period. We'd actually left one national forest campground (Lane Spring in Missouri, covered in this blog post) after just one night of the two we'd paid for for the same reason -- too many mosquitoes..
But this was worse. MUCH worse.
Any time we were outside of the coach, we were swarmed. Poor Paisley was doubly swarmed. It was as if an army of mosquitoes had taken up Crow Wing as their base camp.
As a result, we did a minimum of walking and didn't even get down to the trail to to the Mississippi River. When leaving the coach for any reason, we resorted to wearing long pants and raincoats, tightly closed around our faces. This in hot and humid July was none too comfortable and certainly didn't invite long hikes. And of course, we still got bit. I even got bit on my eyelid, one of the only places I had exposed skin.
The only full day we spent at the campground, it rained the first half the day, so we didn't even get to ride the Paul Bunyan Trail, our only real reason for visiting the park. We could have gone out in the afternoon, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to put on bike shorts and deal with the swarms of mosquitoes. We felt like prisoners inside our rig.
We left as early as we could the following morning.
After leaving, we stopped at the closest Walmart (NO mosquitoes in that parking lot -- ahhhhhh!) and hit their outdoor section hard. We're much better prepared now! We had also previously ordered a screen room online, and picked that up. You'll see photos of that in a later post. Never again will we be sitting ducks for the kind of mosquitoes we experienced at this campground.
Next time in Minnesota, I think we'll give Crow Wing State Park a miss. There are plenty of other campgrounds that are not nearly so mosquito infested, and less expensive to boot. Including our reservation fee and a daily parking fee of $5, we paid $38.25/night, one of our most expensive campgrounds so far.
Fortunately, we did get to ride part of the Paul Bunyan Trail (though not this most southern part) later in our time in Minnesota, and we'll write about that in a later post as well. Stay tuned!
This ride on the Lake Wobegon Trail took us from Melrose, MN, where we were camped, to St. Joseph, the eastern terminus, and back. It ended up being my longest ride of the year to date at over 58 miles. Here's a map of the trail showing where we rode, from Melrose on the left to St. Joseph on the bottom right.
There are several charming trail towns along the way. We reached Freeport first. I learned from Wikipedia:
Garrison Keillor, creator of Lake Wobegon and host of the radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion, has written that Stearns County in general and Freeport specifically, in addition to other small Minnesota towns, were inspirations for his fictional town, Lake Wobegon.
The trail itself takes its name from Keillor's show and is a really big deal in this area. It must draw an incredible number of visitors to these small towns.
We continued on through the towns of Avon and then Albany, where we stopped at a wonderful bakery for a selection of goodies to fuel our ride.
The selection was extensive.
Here's what we ended up with -- all delicious. We brought the ginger cookies back and enjoyed them over the next few days.
We passed many of Minnesota's pretty small lakes, enjoyed seeing plenty of wildflowers, attractive farms, and even spied some Sandhill Cranes feeding not too far off the trail.
Here's the trailhead at St. Joseph.
After reaching the St. Joseph trailhead, we continued pedaling a little bit farther to pick up a couple of Egg McMuffins at McDonald's. It was nice to eat something that wasn't sweet after the pastries.
See that crack in the wall above our bikes? This tiny green tree frog, no bigger than your fingernail, was hanging out there. He appeared to be sleeping soundly.
After lunch, it was time to turn around and head back to Melrose.
We met a young cross-country touring cyclist, Brent. He'd come from Massachusetts and rode with us from St. Joseph to Melrose. I was surprised he was able to stay with us with all his gear; he is a strong cyclist. We enjoyed his company and hearing about his journey.
Along the way, there were several spots where homeowners had planted beautiful flower gardens. Flowers do so well here in Minnesota!
We were glad not to have to ride the old tandem above!
We had a great ride, and with this 58+ mile day, we completed the main trail. Although we did a couple of miles on the northern spur looking for a Little Free Library, we did not complete the spur, which is also considered a part of the Lake Wobegon Trail. Maybe another time and another visit is in order, but for now, it was time to head on to our next spot!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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