22 Aug Camping at Afton State Park
Our second camping trip of the summer was a bit closer to home, and this time we got to go with a couple of friends. Afton State Park is about a 30-minute drive from our apartment in St. Paul, but it truly feels like a world away. Located along the St. Croix River, Afton State Park offers trails through the woods, prairies and ravines for hiking, horseback riding and snowmobiling in addition to areas for camping and swimming.
Due to the area’s proximity to the city, the surrounding community wasn’t happy when the State Park was in development—they were worried about the influx of people to the area. So, to limit the amount of visitors, the park created 28 campsites and they are all backpacking sites, which means that they are not accessible by car and the only way to reach them is to hike to the site. They also have a canoe-in site, a few recently added camper sites, and two group camping sites.
The hike-in campsites are located .75 miles to 1.25 miles from the parking lot, and the hike is straight up hill. It’s a pretty strenuous hike, so it is a good idea to pack light! We brought a bit more than we needed to and ended up forgetting a few essentials, but thankfully, our friends Ryan and Kristen had all the right supplies and saved us. We did decide to do a bit of cooking again, so we ended up lugging a cooler all the way to our site, as well. Micah, Ryan and Kristen all went to the same college for photography, and Kristen snapped some great shots of our weekend on Micah’s camera—only problem is that I don’t know who took what photo, so some of the photos here are thanks to Kristen!
After the short but exhausting hike to our campsite, we got all set up and then ventured to get our water and firewood. Luckily, there is an area for cutting wood and a water station so you don’t have to haul either of those items in.
Some of the campsites are out on the prairie and others are more secluded back in the trees. We booked a site that was more secluded, and it was so nice to feel like we were miles away from everyone else.
Dinner consisted of potatoes and sausage packets again, but this time we had seasoning, which was a welcome treat since we forgot it last time around!
We decided to eat well this trip, so the next morning for breakfast, we (and by we I mean Kristen) made delicious eggs, bacon and coffee.
After cleaning up our breakfast mess, we decided it was time for some hiking and a trip to a nearby lake for canoeing and perhaps a quick jaunt into town for some ice cream. There are miles of hiking trails, and the scenery is really pretty—we made our way through the prairies, then the woods and eventually found our way to the river. We weren’t able to find the path we were initially looking for, but it was still a nice stroll on a gorgeous day.
Once we made our way back to the car, we decided it was finally time to do some canoeing—the boys were going to go fishing to try and catch us dinner, but the entire event turned into a comedy of errors. First, Micah needed a fishing license, and after trying 3 gas stations with machines that were out of order, we ended up making a stop at Walmart—talk about getting out into the wilderness! The funny thing is, that when we finally found someone to help us, it turns out the DNR still shows that Micah is a resident of Florida, which means his “out-of-state” license would now cost more than we wanted to pay and we couldn’t call to get it sorted out until Monday. That meant Ryan would be solely responsible for some fish catching once we made it to the lake. The first lake we stopped at was small and murky with no real boat launch, and the next spot we tried ended up having about a 100 ft. drop to the water. Eventually, we threw up our flags in surrender and decided to go get ice cream instead–not a bad consolation prize, I suppose.
When we got back to the campsite it was time for our alternative plan for dinner. This time we made pizzadillas—aka pizza quesadillas, and they were delicious!
The sunset and the stars were absolutely beautiful that night, and we sat in the field stargazing for quite awhile.
Thankfully, we had dodged the rain for the weekend so far and were considering sleeping with the rain fly off our tent, but an eventual forecast of possible showers convinced us to leave it on for the night. And, boy am I glad we did. Micah and I just about had a heart attack because there was something rustling around our campsite during the night. It was probably just a raccoon, but it sounded like a person or large animal and we were so glad we had that extra layer of protection between us and whatever was lurking outside. Eventually it went away and we finally got some shuteye.
To round out our weekend, we woke up to oatmeal and coffee and packed up to head back to the city for some shopping. Don’t judge–Patagonia was having a sale, and we just couldn’t resist!