I kept saying all summer, “It’s ok… we’ll find time to go somewhere before the summer is over.” Well, with hectic schedules and not much time available to take off, sure enough, August rolled around and my fiance and I had yet to take a trip (except for day trips to Detroit Lakes) anywhere that did not involve weddings and family events. The other day I was fed up. I’d be back to the grind of grad school in just a few days and as the saying goes, I needed to get out of Dodge. With not much time to plan and a poor college student budget to work with, we decided to go camping. After a little bit of Googling for camping in the area, off to Pelican Rapids, MN and Maplewood State Park we went.
Now, this wasn’t the first time we had gone camping since moving to the upper Midwest, but it was the first time we had visited a state park in the area, and we definitely weren’t disappointed. We spent an entire day swimming in Lake Lida (which looked a little different than the last time we had visited when it was frozen solid and had ice houses and a bar atop it), hiking around the trails, and in the evening, enjoying the campfire and roasting smores.
After the campfire burned out it was time to call it a night. We headed to our tent and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. A few hours later (though I can’t really be sure of the time) I woke with a start to a strange noise that sounded like a howling wolf… but not quite. Now I am someone who enjoys nature… during the day. Nature at night on the other hand always finds a way to bring out my inner, five-year-old, sissy girl. Panicked, I immediately began planning how I would save myself from the impending wolf attack even if it meant sacrificing my fiance. After a few minutes of utter paranoia, I finally realized this was no wolf but rather, a loon. Now, I know loons are revered out here for their beauty and unique bird call, but at 2:00 in the morning, I was not impressed. Somehow, I managed to roll over and go back to sleep.
What seemed only a few minutes later (but again… who really knows) I was awoken again by the sounds of nature. This time it wasn’t a common loon that disrupted my beauty sleep but rather the sound of a giant bear or rabid raccoon scratching at the sides of my tent (or so I thought). Again, I began plotting if I would be fast enough to roll out of the side of my tent and sprint for the car without being mauled by the giant bear/raccoon foaming from the mouth that now sounded like it was underneath our tent. A bear under the tent? I grabbed the flashlight and surveyed the floor. A little bubble was scurrying around underneath the tent. Somehow a little rodent of sorts had dug below the tent and was now taking refuge from the night terrors that were lurking outside our thin tent door. I sighed, figured I didn’t blame the little guy for not wanting to be outside at night, and tried my best to sleep.
Somehow, I managed to survive the night. As I stepped outside the next morning into a beautiful, Minnesota, summer day, the haunting night disappeared and my trauma was replaced with a feeling of relaxation and peace. As we loaded up the car and headed back to Fargo, I couldn’t help but feel lucky that I live in a place where a relaxing vacation is only a short drive away… even if it is full of animals that want to eat me.