Thursday, July 4, 2013

Camping the Bluffs Above the Mississippi

Freja looks out over the Mississippi.

After weeks of rain almost every day we were eager to get outside and explore. Teri took some vacation time, and I reserved us a campsite at Nelson Dewey State Park. We'd never gone before, and all we knew was that it was on some bluffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. That and being only about and hour & half from home made it very appealing for a short trip.

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While the actual "camping" wasn't the remote wilderness experience, it was relatively private. And I have to admit, driving into a prepared site makes camping with a 5yo a helluva lot easier! We even set up a dining fly, which made it bearable as the gnats were in HUGE swarms! All the recent heat, humidity, and rain made for a perfect insect breeding season. Also, camping from Monday till Wednesday on a holiday week, July 4th falling on Thursday, meant the place was pretty deserted!

Freja & Teri enjoy a bug free breakfast & coffee. So glad we packed the dining fly!

So we drove up on a Monday, spent a night listening to a pack of coyotes, and had a full day with no real plans on Tuesday. Instead of driving around, looking for something to do, we chose to simply stay in the park. I loaded all our food, kitchen crate, camera gear, toys, and my favorite chair onto the jeep. We then staked out a picnic shelter over looking the Mississippi River, doing nothing but playing, eating, and watching the birds fly around. I believe we spent about seven hours total just relaxing.

Freja gets herself a snack.

The view was amazing. I can't even begin to describe how much I enjoyed looking down onto a "wild" river, it's banks flooded from all the recent rain. As the day passed the light changed, making the character of the view alter as well. The only sounds were the ambient ones from the surroundings as there were very few people about.

Overlooking the Mississippi.

Bald Eagle
A bald eagle soars over head.

We all enjoyed the relaxing setting, and having it basically all to ourselves was wonderful. The kid was able to run around playing. We had a chance to really spend time together, as my kid would say, "as a family!" I know I had one of the best days ever. I think we'll do some similar excursions, where we simply go somewhere and just relax. No worries, no hustling, no having to be anywhere.

In the late afternoon we headed back to camp. There we all took showers, another good thing about campgrounds, and waited for that "golden hour" before sunset. We decided to go on a hike through the Dewey Heights Prairie. You can read that link to learn more about this unique landscape. All I can tell you is that it was incredibly beautiful! There were so many flowers, and the views were spectacular. Also, as a photographer, it was like Candyland with the way the setting sun lit up the landscape!

Freja & Teri head down the trail, flowers all aglow from the setting sun.

The girls check out the view of the Mississippi.

Looking down river towards Cassville, Stonefield Historic Site in the Foreground.

Teri fretted the whole time that my camera bag was going to cause me to fall over, and tumble off the cliff!

Wednesday we packed up after breakfast and headed home. Instead of going directly there we wandered our way along the Mississippi. Along the way we stopped a few times, once to find fossils along a washed out stream bed, another to dip our toes in the Mississippi, and finally to snack in Wyalusing State Park.

All in all it was a perfect trip, and we didn't even have to go very far. We can't wait to explore more of the state!