Each summer, I make it my goal to fit in every possible outdoor activity imaginable. This usually includes kayaking, golf, lots of bike riding, perhaps some lawn bowling, several hikes, tossing around a softball (maybe one year I’ll join a league again), and, well, lots of porching with Prosecco in hand.
This year, I added a new activity to the list—canoeing!—combined with an overnight camping trip.
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Choosing an outfitter & route
The St. Croix River separates Minnesota and Wisconsin with charming riverfront towns dotting each side. With a few outfitters to choose from, we went with Eric’s Canoe and Kayak Rental mainly because of that Bill Murray photo. (Not really.) We opted for the 20-mile trip, and Eric dropped us off upstream at 9am. We had until sunset the next day to return the canoe, where our car awaited at Taylors Falls. Knowing there were 6-8 hours of paddling ahead of us and that campsites are somewhat scarce along the way, we planned to spend just a few hours on the water before hunkering down for the evening.
The journey was downright delightful. Without much of a current to coast on, you do need to paddle to make progress, much to my chagrin. The water was peaceful and picturesque. After a while,I turned on the portable speaker and popped open the sangria. One can only handle so much serenity—amiright?
After stopping on one of the many tiny islands for a Doritos break (and accidentally leaving my flip flops there, doh), we were back on the road—er, river—in search of a place to call home for the night. After about 10 miles, all of the spots were full, which I reasoned into being a good thing because it had been four hours in the canoe and my old lady back was starting to ache. Another 10 miles the next day seemed painful, so I was happy to keep up momentum going while I at least had the sangria.
The first spot we found, we nabbed. We pulled in around 2:30pm and dragged the boat on shore, immediately made a fire, ate our hot dog “dinner,” and hung up the hammock. I attempted to read a book but drifted to sleep immediately.
After some more sangria and finally s’mores, it was almost bedtime. Then something happened. The moon started rising, and it was big and bright and beckoning. The trees blocked it from our campsite, so we made the bold choice to carefully and very slowly put the canoe back in the water. Having watched others flip their canoe earlier in the day while presumably sober, I was a little nervous, but we got ourselves back in the boat and paddled out to the middle of the river for an uninterrupted lunar view. The photo below was taken on said moving boat with a decent camera but by very amateur photographer, which is meant to say it doesn’t convey the moon magic wholly, but trust me when I say—it was really something. A perfect end to a great day.
The next morning, we had a short paddle down to the end point, where we returned the gear and found our car waiting. We made a short pitstop at Taylors Falls and Interstate State Park, explored a bit, and got some ice cream before hitting the road.
MORE: Minnesota’s Best Waterfalls
Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad
We brought along the Hammock V sleeping pad from Klymit to try it out for a night. It’s meant to not only keep you in place while sleeping in a hammock but provide insulation and warmth along the back and sides.