If the size of this park’s entrance sign indicates its expanse, Schoolcraft State Park is one of the smallest in Minnesota at just 225 acres. Yet, its impact on our family was big. But not for the usual reasons in our quest to visit all of Minnesota’s state parks (66) and special recreation areas (9).
To understand, let me go back to a chance encounter months before, miles away.
A Story of Serendipity and Pie
It all started with a pie. A pie a stranger from southwestern Minnesota recognized when the kids and I were watching as Marcia Hales was presented a proclamation from the city. Marcia is the woman on Park Point who graciously opens her holiday-clad yard each Christmas to the public. We were delivering the apple pie that Finley felt compelled to bring Marcia after our first visit to her light display.
As we stood listening to the announcement of Marcia Hales Day, a woman standing near leaned over and asked, “Are you Kristina? Do you write the outdoor blog? Is that THE pie?”
As a former Duluthian, I learned she follows Outside In Duluth and had just read the entry on Finley’s pie, which had inspired her trek to Duluth to see the light display that very dark, chilly night.
And in that moment a long distance friendship was made…and subsequently developed over email. She and her husband Brian have been avid state park visitors and campers for years. In our email exchanges, we share our love of Minnesota’s natural areas. In one note, she wrote,
Who knows — maybe we will meet again on a trail somewhere or on the lake shore or picnicking at a park. We have a full summer of camping reservations made in our MN state parks — maybe we will end up being at the same place at the same time …
From a Pie to a Smile
Mind you, the night we met at Marcia’s it was dark and we were bundled from head to foot in winter gear. Yet, Jill’s smile stayed with me. And it was that smile that I recognized in the middle of woods…in a tiny park…in central Minnesota 8 months later.
As our family passed a couple examining a mushroom on the trail and exchanged our greetings, one hiker’s smile felt so familiar. A few feet later, I turned and asked, “Is your name Jill?”
Her premonition came true.
Together, we explored the rest of the trail, chatting along the way, trying to locate the Dobson Homestead that dates back to 1898, which we never could find. We talked about the history of our state’s natural land and who does and does not get included. We talked about the pain of losing a parent. While we had only communicated a half a dozen times via email, it felt like we had been friends for years.
As for the park itself, as the guide book declards in a rather short description, “The Mississippi River is the real draw here…” It winds through the park nestled in tall grasses. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the parks namesake, supposedly camped here on his way to being the first European to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
After each park visit, the kids reflect on their experiences.
Park Highlights as Reported by Finley (6 years old)
- “I liked the very old trees. THAT’S ALL I liked,” said grumpily.
[Background: We stopped at this park after a long weekend in the northwest corner of the state. Schoolcraft is just off of Highway 2 so we used it as a quick leg-stretcher. Finley was wore out and tired from the trip, as evidenced by her curt report on the virgin pine forest’s 300-year-old trees.]
Park Highlights as Reported by Daley (10 years old)
- Watching the pontoon boat on the Mississippi
- Seeing the tiller motorboats go by with the dogs in them
- Seeing the bass boat
- Hiking and talking with Brian and Jill
- Using the old-fashioned water pump
For more information, check out the Schoolcraft State Park’s website.
Have you visited Schoolcraft State Park? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!