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Afton, MINNESOTA
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Super fun waterfall; “walk in” sites not much of a walk

My partner and the pup and I hopped down to Nerstrand for the weekend and had a lovely time!

Campsite: We reserved WI2… and it was no different than a car camping site- not sure what the deal is there, but we didn’t mind. There are four “walk in” sites, and you can see one another from all of them. Sites 1 and 3 require a walk about three car lengths to the tent pad, and 4 is not much farther. We would call all of it car camping. It was a nice site, but after a rain, some of the neighbors pads were totally flooded. Eek! One more positive and remarkable thing was the birdsong at dawn and dusk… so beautiful and unique - sounded like a jungle. Expect to see fireflies at night too!! Ps: The regular campground is so tightly packed and everyone’s out in the open… definitely not ideal for us. The showers are private and way nicer than I expected though!

Hiking: due to weather we just took one small trail to the waterfall- a winding stream makes an appearance through the trees and ferns, then you get to the waterfall!! I wish we could have gone on the other trails- there’s always next time!

Waterfall: this is so amazing to have right close to the cities. It’s shallow enough to (carefully) walk in from the top of the falls for a while- and then down at the bottom too! The most approachable falls ever. A few deep pockets so you can really swim, and a gorgeous, totally tree surrounded area. Just a lovely playground. Cute and weird all black winged dragonflies fluttered all around the falls, and they have shiny turquoise bodies. It was unbelievably beautiful.

Town of Faribault: Bernie’s has so so food and super slow service - last resort kind of place. The Faribault Woolen Mill is there and I’d suggest a tour there if you’re interested in that kind of thing!

Nice getaway not too far from the Twin Cities

I’ve camped here on several occasions and have not been disappointed. The group sites are walk ins only. No drive ins/pull through. They are spaced out enough for privacy. The individual sites are decent & drive in. The space between sites are far enough apart. There are a couple of double sites that will accommodate more than 6 people but less than 13. We’ve rented canoes in the past and have enjoyed it primary because of the sandbars, but have not done it recently so I’m not sure if that has changed or not. The mosquitos were bad in late June! Even with bug spray, candles thermacell, etc…we were still under massive attacked. I’ve always enjoyed coming here year after year, not so much because of the park (although it’s nice overall), but because this place holds lots of memories for me.

One of the good ones

We love staying here. All sites on grass, pool, and really nice campers & workers. Cannon Falls is such a nice town especially when the wine festival is going on. A little speedy, but we still go at least once a year

Ranger Review: GCI Pod Rocker Chair with Sunshade at Prairie Woods Vineyard

Prairie Woods Farm Vineyard campground 

The Dyrt is an amazing community to be a part of! If you become a Dyrt Ranger you get incredible opportunities to review camping gear and one of the latest things that they offered was for Dyrt rangers to be reimbursed for a camping trip at a pre-selected private campsite listed on Hipcamp.com or Glampinghub.com. A lot of Hip Camp listings that I’ve come across before appear to be of the“alternative” variety where you are on someone’s unmowed field. I despise doing tick checks, so I was extremely pleased when I came across this vineyard site when I perused The Dyrt’s curated list of available “bounties” to claim. 

This property is located in Lonsdale, which worked out perfectly since they had availability for the day that I needed to pick up my husband from a conference nearby in Northfield. We lucked out that some friends had availability and were able to join us for our stay. The drive here from the Twin Cities is absolutely gorgeous- rolling fields, perfect trees, and happy cattle are a telltale sign that you have arrived. If you go east into Northfield you have a ridiculously charming AND thriving historic downtown with food, coffee, and nearby breweries (we went to Tanzenwald and Chapel brewing down the road- both were good but I think the consensus was that we liked Chapel better). We stocked up on snacks at a Northfield co-op and beer at a liquor store a few blocks away. We did not explore too much of Lonsdale so there might be some good stores, but we didn’t want to risk getting out there and not having any options. 

The property is approximately 20 minutes west of all of Northfield, and the scenic drive goes quickly. A telltale sign that you have made it is a roadside vineyard. You park by the house in a designated parking area that has a small wagon to haul your stuff and also a mailbox with informational pamphlets about the property, the surrounding areas, and also includes personal information about their family. The grapes grown here go to the Chankaska winery, which is not only one of the best wineries in the state but their son manages it. Super cool! There are a few different mowed routes that you can take to get to the campsite, the majority of them were well-mowed and my tickphobia made me avoid one grassy trail option that looked like a pain to mow with how wet it has been. 

The campsite itself has room for two medium sized tents, has a clean picnic table, and a tall fire ring with newspaper nearby in a tin. The portapotty was nearby and is well lit with solar lights at night. It was really a unique experience being right on a vineyard! Treat yourself to a walk around the vineyard, and if you are into outdoor yoga (I’m not) there is a spot near the road that is flat and open and has a great view of the rolling hills. One of the best aspects of this stay was the she-shed. Despite living in Minnesota, I have yet to obtain a screen house. The she-shed was an invaluable retreat away from the swarms of mosquitoes that eventually descended upon us. We visited when it was hot and humid, so the only improvement would be a fan to help circulate the air. On the other side of the she shed is a portable toilet. I was intimidated by a toilet that you have to read directions to use, so I just opted for the portapotty while we were there. 

The property isn’t on a main road, but the campsite is close to the gravel road so you might hear some cars going by. This was such an infrequent occurrence that it was almost remarkable. At night we heard a pack of coyotes in the distance, and in the morning there were multiple bird songs layered over one another. Thanks Dyrt for putting this place on my radar!! 

Campground video 

GCI Pod Rocker chair with Sun Shade Review 

As I mentioned above, as a Ranger for the Dyrt I get opportunities to try out camping products. For this trip I chose to review the GCI Pod Rocker with Sun Shade which currently sells for $75. I was extremely impressed with the size of this chair the first time I opened it up. I was expecting something on the same scale as those small close-to-the-ground pod chairs that are sold as adult-sized but in no way are large enough to fit the average adult. This chair is generously sized, has arm support, and offers my preferred angle of back support. 

There are not a ton of reviews out for this chair yet, but we bought a different style of rocking GCI chair that the reviews say can eventually have squeaks when you rock on it, so there might be some lube required in the future. Maybe I have a lemon, but one of my first observations was that the sun shade is difficult to adjust. The first time I tried it I actually thought I was breaking it and tried to find a youtube video to make sure that I wasn’t missing any hidden button that would make it glide between positions. I would be more annoyed with the shade if this were at a premium price point, but it isn’t so I’m not. I did contact the company and they suggested that I loosen some screws, but they warned that if I unscrewed them too much then some inner pieces would fall apart. I’m not super interested in making the sunshade inoperable, so I’ll just deal with it and hope that continued use loosens things up. Overall I think that this is a great chair if you spend any time sitting outside and you are bound to have hordes of people approach you with questions!

GCI Chair Review Video

Open sites and beautiful lake with a swimming beach

If you’re looking for a county park close to the Twin Cities metro area with a beautiful lake, good fishing, swimming, recreation rentals like paddle boards kayaks and canoes that also has a campground with Camper Cabins attached, look no further than Baker Park Reserve. Baker Park reserve is just outside of Maple Plain Minnesota which is about 45 minutes from the Twin Cities metro area.

Lake Independence is attached to Baker Park reserve which is a beautiful lake for fishing, swimming, kayaking and, recreational boating. You can catch everything from Crappies, perch, sunfish, walleye and, musky on this lake. A lot of people come out and troll the lake for musky and also bring pontoons for swimming. You can jump right off the pontoon into the lake and have a great time with the family or just be alone on the boat and catch a ton of fish.

The lake can be busy especially on holiday weeks and weekends and The park and restricts how many boats around the lake and enforces no wake zone’s during the holiday I’m busy times. So check the leak before you go if you’re planning on doing or jet skiing or just cruising around on your boat.

The campground that’s attached to the park is pretty open and there are very many secluded sites if any at all. I took a few videos while driving through the campground to show you what the campground is like. There’s a campground office that offer snacks and sodas and ice and such. If you’re looking for a good getaway for the weekend that’s close this would be a good park for you.

Overall, I would give the campground a three out of five because it is so dang open and there isn’t much privacy. There is however, very nice shower buildings and a nice office. I would give the park a four out of five for usefulness and overall fun. There is a lot to do and it is close to the metro.

Interesting Typography

Very cool exploring the rock cliffs along the river, including the glacially created “potholes”, otherworldly! Nice campground close to the water! We camped early in the season before the mosquitoes.

Amazing Waterfall

Fun to play in the water, go behind the waterfall and a good hike up 200 steps to view the falls from above! Beware in winter the hike down to the falls is a grueling one when icy and covered in snow.

Nice relaxing weekend watching boats

This is such a nice park. All spots have a lake view and the beach is within walking distance. We love it here. It’s not to easy to get spots on the holiday weekends, but somehow we managed it

NO WATER ON TRAIL 4TH JULY WEEKEND 2019 (FILL UP AT VISITOR CENTER)

This may be an ongoing issue but none of the fwater faucets or water pumps on the trails at Afton State Park are working. The good news is you can fill up on cold drinking water at the visitor center before trekking around the park's beautiful hiking trails!

Great for hiking and camping!

Serene campground and gorgeous falls to hike to!

Nice place to stay!

Wild River was a great campground, and only about an hour drive from the Twin Cities. The sites were nicely shaded and roomy for our tent and screen tent.

There is ample hiking, however due to early spring rains, many of the trails near the St. Croix were flooded, which is pretty typical for the river in the spring. We would have liked a swimming beach for the kids, but they enjoyed exploring the trails, especially the trail with a lookout over the river. 

The great thing about June is that the bugs weren't bad at all. We escaped early in the morning due to impending rain, but found a lovely brunch spot on the way back to the cities.

Beautiful & mosquitoless

Nice area! Large open sites and NO mosquitos!!!! Will be back with our group again.

No Bugs!!!!

A wonderful campground with a saloon that was great! Friendly service and fun activities!

If you pick the right weekend, it can be peaceful

We had a river front site (63) and the river sites are AMAZING! The tubing is obviously fun and this campground has tree cover unlike anything I’ve ever seen!

When we first arrived Friday, our site didn’t happen to have any campers around us but Saturday night we did have some directly next to us and they played music inconsiderably loud.
The management and staff were nice but they also had little patience it seemed. Also the clubhouse and surrounding structures are falling apart and make the site look old and unkept. It needs to be cleaner is my only complaint.

Ranger Review: GCI Pod Rocker Chair with Sunshade at Prairie Woods Vineyard

Prairie Woods Farm Vineyard campground 

The Dyrt is an amazing community to be a part of! If you become a Dyrt Ranger you get incredible opportunities to review camping gear and one of the latest things that they offered was for Dyrt rangers to be reimbursed for a camping trip at a pre-selected private campsite listed on Hipcamp.com or Glampinghub.com. A lot of Hip Camp listings that I’ve come across before appear to be of the“alternative” variety where you are on someone’s unmowed field. I despise doing tick checks, so I was extremely pleased when I came across this vineyard site when I perused The Dyrt’s curated list of available“bounties” to claim. 

This property is located in Lonsdale, which worked out perfectly since they had availability for the day that I needed to pick up my husband from a conference nearby in Northfield. We lucked out that some friends had availability and were able to join us for our stay. The drive here from the Twin Cities is absolutely gorgeous- rolling fields, perfect trees, and happy cattle are a telltale sign that you have arrived. If you go east into Northfield you have a ridiculously charming AND thriving historic downtown with food, coffee, and nearby breweries(we went to Tanzenwald and Chapel brewing down the road- both were good but I think the consensus was that we liked Chapel better). We stocked up on snacks at a Northfield co-op and beer at a liquor store a few blocks away. We did not explore too much of Lonsdale so there might be some good stores, but we didn’t want to risk getting out there and not having any options. 

The property is approximately 20 minutes west of all of Northfield, and the scenic drive goes quickly. A telltale sign that you have made it is a roadside vineyard. You park by the house in a designated parking area that has a small wagon to haul your stuff and also a mailbox with informational pamphlets about the property, the surrounding areas, and also includes personal information about their family. The grapes grown here go to the Chankaska winery, which is not only one of the best wineries in the state but their son manages it. Super cool! There are a few different mowed routes that you can take to get to the campsite, the majority of them were well-mowed and my tickphobia made me avoid one grassy trail option that looked like a pain to mow with how wet it has been. 

The campsite itself has room for two medium sized tents, has a clean picnic table, and a tall fire ring with newspaper nearby in a tin. The portapotty was nearby and is well lit with solar lights at night. It was really a unique experience being right on a vineyard! Treat yourself to a walk around the vineyard, and if you are into outdoor yoga (I’m not) there is a spot near the road that is flat and open and has a great view of the rolling hills. One of the best aspects of this stay was the she-shed. Despite living in Minnesota, I have yet to obtain a screen house. The she-shed was an invaluable retreat away from the swarms of mosquitoes that eventually descended upon us. We visited when it was hot and humid, so the only improvement would be a fan to help circulate the air. On the other side of the she shed is a portable toilet. I was intimidated by a toilet that you have to read directions to use, so I just opted for the portapotty while we were there. 

The property isn’t on a main road, but the campsite is close to the gravel road so you might hear some cars going by. This was such an infrequent occurrence that it was almost remarkable. At night we heard a pack of coyotes in the distance, and in the morning there were multiple bird songs layered over one another. Thanks Dyrt for putting this place on my radar!! 

Campground video

GCI Pod Rocker chair with Sun Shade Review

As I mentioned above, as a Ranger for the Dyrt I get opportunities to try out camping products. For this trip I chose to review the GCI Pod Rocker with Sun Shade which currently sells for $75. I was extremely impressed with the size of this chair the first time I opened it up. I was expecting something on the same scale as those small close-to-the-ground pod chairs that are sold as adult-sized but in no way are large enough to fit the average adult. This chair is generously sized, has arm support, and offers my preferred angle of back support. 

There are not a ton of reviews out for this chair yet, but we bought a different style of rocking GCI chair that the reviews say can eventually have squeaks when you rock on it, so there might be some lube required in the future. Maybe I have a lemon, but one of my first observations was that the sun shade is difficult to adjust. The first time I tried it I actually thought I was breaking it and tried to find a youtube video to make sure that I wasn’t missing any hidden button that would make it glide between positions. I would be more annoyed with the shade if this were at a premium price point, but it isn’t so I’m not. I did contact the company and they suggested that I loosen some screws, but they warned that if I unscrewed them too much then some inner pieces would fall apart. I’m not super interested in making the sunshade inoperable, so I’ll just deal with it and hope that continued use loosens things up. Overall I think that this is a great chair if you spend any time sitting outside and you are bound to have hordes of people approach you with questions!

Product review video

Nice place

I will do the best

The big woods secret

Nerstrand is nestled just outside Faribault MN. The town has a great downtown area on the river with places to eat and little shops. Our kids especially loved the little ice cream and sub shop in downtown. And let’s be honest the adults loved it to.

The campground is kind of open to each site. Our site looked directly into two other sites and the site was tore up due to a larger truck parking there before us. Which the park could not control.

The walk from the campground to hidden falls if you take the back way down is very steep going down and coming back up. There is a separate trail that leads from the main parking area down to the falls which has stairs and is a much easier walk.

Once you get to the falls your greeted by a waterfall that is approximately 14 feet high that you can easily walk across the creek and go under the falls.

Flowers at the park are very beautiful with a kind that I can’t remember that only blooms within the park area and a few select areas outside.

There is also an obstacle course made from tree logs that the kids loved. They built a plastic slide into the side of a hill and used logs as the steps to climb up.

Bathrooms were very well maintained and they had several private showers with locking doors.

Overall the camping experience was a great one at Nerstrand and we would love to go back with it’s close proximity to the twin cities.

Best backpacking in the metro

Afton state park is a 1700 acre park just outside Woodbury that has excellent river views from the campground. Afton state park has something for everyone from its great but challenging mostly uphill walk to the campground to some great canoe/ boat in sites. They also allow people to boat in as well and pay to camp on their north beach. Afton has two great group camps that can have 50 people.

We had our wedding there and the staff were amazing. Very helpful and knowledgeable about the park.

The park has several blackberry patches spread throughout as well.

Park has a dock you can fish from as well as several miles of equestrian trails. It’s next to Afton alps ski area which has summer mountain biking trails that are easily accessed via park trails.

Fun close getaway

Baker park reserve is one of the favorite local parks. There is great camping for everyone. The boat launch is close and the lake has good Muskie and pan fishing. Park gets very busy on holidays and can be hard to find parking and such but overall it has everything you could want. Has playground/fishing dock/beach and water sport rentals. Park is patrolled regularly by three rivers police. Overall our family goes every holiday for the most part to the park!

Large sites and large bugs

We tent camped here for a night while passing through. It’s a basic KOA with a few amenities. The lots were really big and we had no one near us, so it was nice and private. Most of the lots near the front were occupied but the back was almost empty, which is where the more wooded lots are. Only 1 bath house and it’s not close to most of the tent sites.

Staff was nice and helpful. It has a small pool and game room but not much else for kids. The bugs are aggressive here, especially near the tent sites which are located near a swampy area. Definitely more of a place to stay as you are passing through, not really a destination campground.

Pricey but nice

With all the fees and price of wood we ended up spending as much as we would for a cheap hotel, but I guess it’s the experience that counts. The only reason I would come back is for the hikes. There is a beautiful little hidden waterfall that isn’t on any of the park maps and you have to go off the trail to find it.

Beautiful park

Great park, beautiful views, nice sites

Love this place

This is such a wonderful campground in the middle of the cities. Very well kept, nice camping spots, beautiful hiking trails, and very nice staff.

Very pretty place

A nice state park they have good hiking and biking trails with great scenery like waterfalls and rivers

Great campground

This was one of The cleanest campgrounds I have ever stayed at. The sites are large and very well shaded for privacy. Great playground and hiking area. Some sites are difficult to back into if you have a large rig.

Nice regional park

Stayed here when we got our first camper and it is nicely shaded large sites. Great walking paths and clean restrooms. Great for a quick weekend camping trip.

Ranger Review of the Yurt at Stone Creek Farm and AfterShokz Trekz Air Head

Campground Review: Nestle yourself in a copse of trees with a yurt as you enjoy this camping opportunity. 

Danielle and Dan, the hosts, greeted me right away spending time to talk and walk us around their place. A farm with many elements awaits. A well-tended garden and large yard lead to a mowed walkway. The first turn-off is to their bubble camp. You can stay in a clear bubble and watch all the stars- no dogs allowed in this one. Someone was even using it this weekend. Our yurt was further down. Slip through the opening in the trees and you find a hidden oasis. Wooden chairs, a lounger and picnic table surround the fire pit. A barbecue grill was off to the side. On a large wooden platform sits the tent style yurt. A composting toilet is around the corner. Water is available via their hose that is closer to where you park. There is a bit of a walk (it’s 1/4 mile) to the copse but once you witness the beauty you quickly forget the distance. They provide a cart for you to carry your gear. Note: the open cart could be an issue in rainy weather. The yurt floor is just a tent material on the wooden platform so don’t forget your sleeping pad. Inside there is plenty of room for you and your gear. Once we settled in, my dog hopped up on the lounger with me as we ate dinner to the sounds of the birds. Bug spray kept most of the mosquitoes from eating us for dinner but they certainly tried. Waking up was also a treat. A wolf was howling and a few different coyote packs yipped back and forth. Once they settled down the roosters sounded their call. 

Talking with Dan and Danielle is certainly a highlight. Their warm friendly demeanor make you comfortable right away. They gave us a welcome bag- s’more fixings! We were pointed to the Interstate State Park and told the Wisconsin Side was nicer. We hiked the pothole trail which lead to echo canyon and then around a lake to a beach before ending back at our car. We had fun climbing on rock formations and viewing the river. Driving through St. Croix we found a laundromat to wash our clothes. Just down the street was a park along the river- perfect to lunch at or maybe stop over at the vegan restaurant in town. The small towns on each side of the river have their charm and are worth checking out. 

The one drawback we found was that this is on a farm and work was being done. The tractor and mower were driving around until 10 pm. Once it stopped, quiet sounds of nature arise but the noise kept us distracted and prevented an early bedtime. 

Overall we had a wonderful stay. You should really consider checking out this spectacular location. 

Product Review: As a Dyrt Ranger I sometimes get some cool products to review. This trip I am so happy to be trying out AfterShokz Trekz Air Headphones. This is interesting technology. These Bluetooth headphones go around your ear and transmit the sound through your bones. 

I’ve been looking for a solution to listening to music/podcasts while still being aware of the surroundings as I walk my dog. Dakota and I hike all over and I need to be aware on trails. She is a reactive dog so I need to see distractions an soon as I can to pull her in. With these headphones I am able to keep myself occupied while still hear what’s happening around us. Dakota gets longer walks and I stay connected to the world. 

The fit is good and the headphones did not fall off. I found them bumping into my hat(the connecting piece goes behind your head instead of over it) but I eventually found a sweet spot for them to sit. Sound is great too. Podcasts come through clear and music is crisp. 

I highly recommend the AfterShokz Trekz Air Headphones

So awesome

Such a beautiful place and well maintained. Lots of hiking trails, a lake for fishing, playgrounds, and a man made lake for swimming. Two weird things: no alcohol and no dogs in the campground (yet they are allowed everywhere else in the park). We go here as often as we can

Love this State Park

Wild River State Park is my go-to campground since it is within an hour of my home. I make it my first place to camp every season. Love the scenic trails and all the park has to offer. Hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, exploring, informational programs, and the wooded campsites.

Pretty Good Suburban Camping

Great trails, on a wonderful lake view.

Even if you aren't camping, this is one to return too.