Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Solo camping trips. If you have never done one I highly recommend it. Unplugging from everyone and everything for a defined amount of time can be so healing. If you have lots of “stuff” in your emotional backpack it can get intense. I’ve unpacked and re-packed all that many times. This trip was just me enjoying re-connecting with the woods.

The campground is a big loop with the shower building in the center. The sites on the inside of the loop have electric hookups and the sites on the outside of the loop do not. I selected a non-electric site so that I could face the opening of my tent to the woods, not to neighbors. It was so quiet at night and there were fireflies. I loved that. The tent pads were pea gravel. I was worried that there would be nothing for the tent stakes to grab into but that was not a problem. Signs in the park said that a group called “Friends of Nerstrand Big Woods” created the tent pads. Thank you so much! I slept very well!

The main attraction here is the waterfall. I chose to visit it in the evening on a Tuesday and had it all to myself for quite a while. Long enough to eat my evening meal and draw a picture. As I left the area I walked up to it and put my hand in it, feeling the force of gravity. Every other time I walked past it, it was full of people playing in the water. I am grateful for how I experienced it.

The trails here are well maintained and wide enough that you do not need to worry about having to wear long pants if that is not your thing. Bugs were an issue, but Minnesota in late June is that way. I used DEET so mosquitos were not a problem, but the gnats kept trying to land on my eyeballs and that was not enjoyable. Sunglasses helped. If anyone has suggestions to repelling gnats, let me know in the comments.

This park is only about an hour from my home and I do not remember ever being here before. There is over 10 miles of beautiful trails with a nice variety of shade and sun. Usually I gravitate toward shady trails but I even enjoyed the restored prairie loop trail. It is shaped like the number 8, has interesting biodiversity, and the view of the rolling open landscape with the big woods still in the distance was lovely.

My favorite aspect to this trip was that there were so many black raspberries! I ate my fill as I hiked. It is my understanding that it is fine to pick and eat edibles as you hike in Minnesota State Parks, just don’t load up containers. Snacking, yes. Harvesting, no. Late June to early July is berry season so by the time you are reading this they are probably done. You can plan your trip for next year!

It was also fabulous to see people of all skin tones enjoying this park. True, the majority of people I saw were white, but in many Minnesota hiking locations I see zero people of color. Here I saw 10 or 15 people of color out of approximately 100 total people I encountered. I did not notice any tension between groups and I hope there truly was none. Minnesota has a dismal record of racial injustice, but if we can all get out and enjoy our beautiful natural spaces together, I am optimistic for the future.

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