It’s Thinking Out Loud with Penny’s Passion! And right now I’m thinking about my vacation. Only two more days of work, so yeah, I’m definitely in checked out mode! Specifically though I’m reflecting on our past trips to Itasca. Nate and I have been up there together six times, but with all the experiences we’ve had I swear it feels like more!
We spent our honeymoon there for a week and it would also kick off what I was calling the Itasca curse for a little bit (I joke, you’ll see why though shortly). Nate was driving a cute little Jetta at that time and we took it up with us because it got amazing gas mileage. Well, one morning we woke up and discovered a bear had sat on the trunk. It was a stick shift and another day we stalled out trying to leave and go somewhere and had to have a park ranger come help us. And then the icing on the cake was realizing his tires were bare and needed replacing or we’d never make it back to the Cities. So our wedding present to each other was four new tires and we sat and ate Dairy Queen in Park Rapids while they were being replaced! I joke, but we really did have a nice time that year. I have funny memories of him trying to teach me to drive the stick shift in a dirt road. We went up inside the Ranger Tower and that was my last time up there, I realized I couldn’t handle heights anymore and he had to talk me down the entire thing. We knew we’d want to try to get back there every couple of years after we had such a nice time.
Look at those babies up there, wow. LOL (Also, date was 2006, not 2004. I never worked my camera quite right)
Because life happens, it would be four years before we got back there again, returning in 2010. And the Itasca Curse returned as well. Nate had a different car this time, one we bought a mere two weeks before we left on the trip. It was a used Buick, but one that was seriously driven by the quintessential little old lady who only drove it to church, so it was in great condition. We arrived at the park and learned that we were there one week before the “season” started, so the Lodge would not be open for meals. But we had a kitchen so we said, hey, we’ll just cook meals here. We drove back into town, had dinner at a place called the West Forty (that we always joke is the Back Forty because it’s seriously at the far end of town) then grabbed groceries and started heading back to the park. And all of sudden we both kind of see a deer off to the side of the road and we go, oh a deer and then realize it was moving very quickly towards us and we both go “OH SHIT A DEER” before we could do anything and Nate tried to miss it, but we hit it dead on. He pulled over and got out to survey the damage, thankfully we were ok and the airbags didn’t deploy. But as he’s walking around the car I see him dropping F bombs left and right and I was so worried. The entire front was bent up and you couldn’t open the hood of the car at all. BUT it was drive-able. We drove back to the park, called our insurance the next day and finished the trip without any further incident and had a really great time. We had the car fixed when we got back and it was totally fine after that!
I was so excited to catch this fish with a pink fishing pole – like a girl! We threw the fish back I think.
In 2012 and 2013 we visited the park with a bunch of Nate’s extended family and stayed in what is called the Clubhouse, a giant cabin with twelve private bedrooms, most which have a bathroom attached and then it had a huge common room and screened in porch. The Itasca Curse was pretty much broken at this point, although one of the trips Nate’s cousin stuck a crockpot of chili in the fireplace to try to heat it up faster, but it had been in a cooler and well, extreme temperatures lead to a bit of an explosion. Those trips were a lot of fun, it was nice to have lots of people around in the evenings to do things like play games and sit around the fire. But it was also nice to do some of our own exploring during the day. The second year I was pregnant with Oliver and a little more owly, mainly because I couldn’t have a beer by the bonfire at night while everyone else was, but it was still a nice getaway and Ollie had his first dip in the Mississippi River when I was about 20 weeks pregnant with him. And I used my pregnancy as an excuse to get ALL the ice cream up there!
2012 above – the Clubhouse and a picture of Nate and I while hiking in the woods.
2013 – There’s an Ollie in my belly! And some of the best ice cream from Minne-soda Ice Cream Fountain in Park Rapids
Once Ollie was born I knew we’d want to continue our tradition of traveling up there when we could, so we planned a trip for the summer after he turned one. In fact, he turned one and a half while we were there. I know he doesn’t remember the trip, but we had a blast with him. We found a great disc golf course in Park Rapids and visited that several times, it also had a great playground for him. We took him to the Headwaters. We went on tons of bike rides and picnics. And he fell in love with mommy’s favorite pizza joint up there, Rocky’s Pizza Place. The only bad memory from that trip was his first boat ride. We put his life jacket on and he was like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and basically toppled over the moment he set foot on the boat. Then the entire time we were out on the lake (15 minutes at most) I just remember he kept saying “off. off. Down. Off.” He was not a fan. I really hope we have a better boating experience this time!
He looks uncertain of the water, but I remember he waltzed right in even though it was chilly!
I am so excited for our time up there and to hopefully make some wonderful new memories. It is fun to look back on the good – and even not so good – experience we had up there. I look back at some of those less good experiences and laugh at them now. They were character building if nothing else! I’ll be sure to share all about our trip this time when we get back – let’s hope that curse is broken though and it’s uneventful, ha!