I became a slightly better and braver person after staying at Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest state park. It was the first place we stayed for more than a single night during our first week of RVing, and it was a great break from driving.
We pulled into the state park around 10:00 P.M. The evening was dark and rainy, making it one of the worst ways to find out that our headlights were meant more for others to see us, and not for us to see where we were driving. When we pulled into the campsite, it seemed Gina and I were the only people still awake. I later realized how dead silent it truly was when we finally shut off the RV engine; oops, sorry bros. Gina backed the RV up into our marked camp site. There was a slight decline, but what did we care? We had automatic leveling jacks! Looking back now, I deserve a slap in the face for putting 100% trust into a machine. Machines malfunction. Like humans, they have good days and bad days. That night, our automatic leveling jacks told us they were having a bad day.
At that point in the night, we were both exhausted and embarrassed for pulling into the campsite so late, so when we hit the button for the automatic leveling jacks, I let out a sigh of relief believing we would soon be able to rest quietly once the rig leveled out. Gina pushed the button to send the jacks down, and they let out an obnoxious mechanical operating noise. The jacks seemed to be taking much longer than usual to level out. Two or three indicators would show they were level while the last one seemed to be jerking around, and then suddenly, all four would be out-of-wack again. It seemed like a never-ending process until one of the jacks just decided it was done trying. Three were level, but the rear passenger one just blinked red and wasn’t moving anymore. So, we retracted the levels and then tried to re-level them once again. Same results. Okay, cool. Now what? We decided to try and back up further into the site since the end of it seemed to be a little more level. Well, unfortunately, the leveling jacks were pissed and chose to stop working all together. When we tried to retract the jacks, they just let out this awfully loud and ferocious repetitive slamming noise. At this point, I felt like I could cry. It was just what we needed. Pitch black, waking up the whole campground, and the leveling jacks stopped working while the RV sat on a stupid decline. I’m not sure what eventually caused the jacks to spontaneously work properly and retract, but of course that didn’t happen until we tried two more times resulting in the same awful noise each time. Fortunately, we were able to get the RV onto more level ground so that the leveling jacks could do their job more easily (slackers).
Once home base was finally all settled in, Gina and I hooked up our pups, Roxi and Shirley, for a hiking journey. The walking trail was easily accessible from the campground we stayed at within Itasca State Park. There was a campground just north of us called “Pine Ridge” where you could rent bicycles, boats, canoes/kayaks, and have beach access. Our campground was called “Bear Paw”, which was a simple, yet beautiful spot situated right along Itasca Lake. The bathroom facilities were clean and modern, the site offered 15, 30, and 50 AMP electric hook ups, and the fill/dump station was conveniently located at the entrance/exit of the campground.
We started on the trail, which followed the edge of Lake Itasca, at about 11 A.M. The trail was extremely narrow for most of the hike, so we were very thankful to have put on some bug spray. I highly recommend Repel Tick Defense Spray because who doesn’t want to repel mosquitoes AND TICKS?! The spray didn’t have that lingering awful smell of Deet that you can taste, and it went on dry. However, no amount of bug spray could chill Gina and her crippling fear of wildlife. Whenever the path became particularly narrow with the weeds rubbing on our legs, she would work herself up to a near full blown panic attack for fear of being bitten by a snake. It took all I had to not heartily laugh and the scene playing out before me. Instead, I did what any great girlfriend would do; I held her hand, soothed her, and rushed through those narrow areas. Who has my award? Haha.
After some time, the trail popped out to a more populated area in the state park. There was a small restaurant and a gift shop. We took a short rest, filled up with water, and continued to more hiking trails. During the second half of the hike, we let the dogs off their leashes. There wasn’t anyone else on the hiking path making the walk very peaceful and enjoyable. The dogs were loving their lives, especially Roxi when we hit an area where she could jump in the lake and swim.
My first “act of bravery” (lol) was walking up a tree trunk that was at a 45 degree angle, about 20+ feet in the air. For those of you at home rolling your eyes, it’s a lot higher than it sounds! I’ve always had a fear of heights, but I am what they call an “adrenaline junkie”. I love doing things that scare the crap out of me just for the rush. About halfway up the tree trunk, my nerves started picking up, and I began to shake. I stopped and turned back toward Gina at the bottom that I didn’t think I could make it. After about 10 seconds of internal deliberation, I turned back toward the highest part of the fallen tree trunk. I took a deep breath and said quietly to myself, “Fear is an illusion. It isn’t real. Fear is a choice.” (Click HERE for a link to one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard that influenced this way of thinking.) I took a step. It was slow and deliberate. My legs felt heavy, and I was trembling from my chest to my limbs. I kept going…and I made it. I cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of aliveness and pride that washed over me. It’s something you’d just have to experience for yourself. Face your fears. THEY AREN’T REAL.
My second experience of triumph (not to be confused with Donald) was when I climbed the 100-foot tall Aiton Heights Fire Tower built in 1940. With a ground elevation of 1,675 feet, the tower was once used to spot forest fires for early warning to settlers. About halfway up the tower, the wind started to pick up quite a bit. I looked up to see how much further there was to go. I then looked down to see how high up I was. That’s when the shaking started. As I continued to climb up, the tower became narrow. The wind almost took my baseball cap right off my head, and the tower was slightly swaying. The view from the top of the tower made it all worth it. I felt so vulnerable up there, like it only would take one good wind gust to send the whole thing toppling over. Spoiler alert: I lived.
Though the actual state park was average when it came to the sights, we really enjoyed our time there.
Oh, really quickly before I go. We stopped in Fargo, North Dakota. No, we didn’t do anything cool (unless laundromats are cool?). We just wanted to be able to say that we’ve been to Fargo.
Thanks for reading, everyone!