Park Rapids Couple Visits Minnesota's 66 State Parks - Wadena Pioneer Journal

Park Rapids Couple Visits Minnesota’s 66 State Parks – Wadena Pioneer Journal

PARK RAPIDS, Minnesota — Diane and David Thoelke launched into a tenting journey in Could 2014.

This might take them by means of all 66 state parks in Minnesota.

“There’s a fantastic oak savannah, proper within the coronary heart of the state,” Diane stated of Nerstrand Large Woods State Park, the primary cease on their eight-year journey. “It is actually hilly there, and there is a waterfall. It is a terrific place to hike. »

Nerstrand Large Woods State Park

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

His household usually picnics there and family members nonetheless stay close to Nerstrand, Minnesota.

A uncommon dwarf trout water lily grows on this park. “We knew it bloomed within the spring. It is very uncommon on the earth,” Diane stated.

David stated they determined to go to the entire state parks after “we realized we have seen just a few in our day, through the years.”

“When our youngsters had been rising up, we camped at just a few of them all around the state,” Diane added. “I believe we thought ‘Let’s do it. I guess we may see all of them. And we did!

A retired first-grade trainer, Diane meticulously labeled photographs from their travels and famous dates. David is a retired lawyer.


Glacial Lakes State Park

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

Generally they stayed in an RV cabin. Generally they stayed in Diane’s sister’s motorhome. Generally they only got here to see a park’s nature heart after which moved on.

In September 2014, they traveled to Forestville/Thriller Cave State Park. With 21 km of underground passages, it’s the longest cave within the state. Above floor is historic Forestville, a restored 1800s village run by the Minnesota Historic Society. In keeping with the DNR, based in 1853, the city flourished till the railway bypassed it in 1868, after which the city steadily declined.

“It is like they shut down city and stroll away,” Diane stated. “Even the small common retailer remains to be stuffed with issues.”

In the summertime of 2015, Diane walked alongside the North Shore, visiting seven state parks together with her sister and a childhood buddy.

Later that fall, they noticed two close by state parks: Maplewood and Glendalough.

“Maplewood is gorgeous,” Diane stated, particularly for its fall colours. The maple forest takes on sensible hues of orange, gold and pink. The Thoelkes hiked to see the park’s eight essential lakes.

MORE PARKS: Dive into Minnesota’s Yard Park Sequence

En path to Iowa, they stopped at Afton State Park.

Once they lived in cities, they most frequently visited William O’Brien State Park. Situated on the Sainte-Croix River, it provides excellent mountain climbing and canoeing trails. They returned in November 2015.

By way of the Nationwide Audubon Society, they continued south to John A. Latsch State Park to see magnificent Tundra Swans earlier than their migration.

“They had been anticipating a robust wind. All they do is unfold their wings and that pushes them east in a day,” defined Diane.

Frontenac was close by, so that they stopped there too. “It was lovely to observe the river,” she recollects.


David takes a stroll in St. Croix State Park.

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

Thoelkes love spending time in nature, whether or not it is mountain climbing, chook watching, tenting, or boating.

“Each park is just a little totally different,” Diane stated. Some have a historic or geographical specificity.


Nice River Bluffs State Park

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

The view from Nice River Bluff State Park, overlooking the St. Croix River, is unimaginable, for instance. “Breathtaking surroundings,” Diane stated. “We had been there in June 2016.”

Buffalo River is barely a day’s drive from Park Rapids.

A sandstone quarry is on the heart of Banning State Park. Canoeists and kayakers descend the speeding rapids of the Kettle River.

After a visit to North Dakota, the Thoelkes ventured to Lake Bronson, Previous Mill, and Crimson River State Parks within the northwest nook of Minnesota.

For a day journey, they went to Large Bathroom, which was a state park then, however now it is a state recreation space.


Zippel Bay State Park is situated on Lake of the Woods, one of many largest lakes on the earth. Diane walks alongside its white sand seashores.

Contribution/David Thoelke

“Then we did Zippel Bay and Franz Jevne in in the future. We had a picnic, went on the market and got here again residence,” Diane stated.

In June 2017, they visited Sibley, Monsoon Lake and Camden State Parks.

Bear Head Lake State Park, close to Ely, attracted the Thoelkes in July 2017.

At Scenic State Park, the Thoelkes stated you are surrounded by gorgeous pink and white pines.

A catch-all street winds by means of Savanna Portage State Park. The historic path was traveled by fur merchants, Dakota and Ojibwe Indians, and explorers over 200 years in the past.

A 2018 assembly allowed them to cease at a number of parks in western Minnesota.


Father Hennepin State Park

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

Father Hennepin, situated on Mille Lacs, and McCarthy Seaside, close to Hibbing, are nice state parks for teenagers, with nice swimming seashores and biking trails. Whitewater, close to Rochester, can also be widespread with households.

One other must-see is Grand Portage State Park, on the Canada-US border. “The Pigeon River is what separates our international locations. How many individuals know that?” Diane puzzled.


A path takes guests from Grand Portage State Park to Pigeon River Falls and the border with Canada.

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

Franz Jevne State Park can also be situated on the Canadian border.

COVID disrupted their schedule in 2020, so that they solely visited one state park.

“This fall, we bought just a little extra critical,” Diane stated, as they solely had eight state parks left to go to.

In early September 2022, they stayed at a lodge in Sioux Falls, SD to see Lake Shetek, Break up Rock Creek and Blue Mounds State Parks.

They achieved their objective after they noticed Speaking Lake State Park on September 23.


The Thoelkes rejoice the completion of their quest by checking off the 66th state park at Speaking Lake.

Contribution/Diane Thoelke

Each grew up in Saint-Paul. Thirty-two years in the past they purchased a cabin on Little Mantrap Lake. Once they retired in 2015, they made Park Rapids their everlasting residence.

Visiting all of the state parks has been a enjoyable retirement mission, Diane defined.

“It by no means turned a job,” David added.

“We simply stay in a fantastic state. We now have to understand what we’ve right here. It is lovely,” Diane continued.

David speculated that the inspiration for the mission might have began with their marriage.

“On our honeymoon, we took a street journey and our first cease was Itasca State Park,” he recollects.

“Fifty-three years in the past,” Diane added. “We by no means thought we had a lake proper subsequent to it.”

And their favourite park is the one closest to their residence: Itasca.

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