So far, we’ve focused on the beaches in Crow Wing County. It seems a little unfair to focus on the ones closest to Brainerd when there are dozens of beautiful beaches thirty minutes out. So, we grabbed snacks and supplies and drove the construction-riddled journey up Hwy 371 to Pine River to visit not only the Pine River Dam Park but also two (count ’em TWO!) beaches on Pelican Lake near Breezy Point.
Pine River Dam Park
The Pine River Dam has been in use for over a century, and it has been used a place of congregation and celebration for nearly as long. Pig roasts, wedding receptions, and more recently, the world famous duck races have all been held near the dam in Pine River. The curved bench area has been a meeting place for decades, and the location has only been getting better over the years.
Three of our four 2017 Freshwater Friends Eco Camps are in the books. Our campers have ventured on field trips, eaten straight from the garden, and learned a bit about our environment.
Here’s a small glimpse of the adventures our Freshwater Friends have had over the last few months:
1st-2nd Grade – Loons (June 12-16)
The trip to Serenity Now Alpaca Farm had mixed feelings.
Dave W. introduced the neat idea of hydroponics.
There was even time for swimming at Sand Lake.
Nora showed off the fish at the Crosslake Dam.
I found out that Crow Wing County only has four “public” beaches in the county limits: Gull Lake, Lum Park, Whipple Beach, and Serpent Lake Beach in Crosby. That’s it. You would think that with how much the BLA relies on our lakes for business and recreation, that there would be a larger emphasis on public beaches.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at the beaches that are a bit outside of town on the east side of Crow Wing County.
“Kahnah’ bek” is a sight to see.
Crosby has been undergoing a sort of renaissance, one which has allowed the area to be noticed on a national scale. The little town boasts world-class mountain biking, upscale eateries, and has been a fisherman’s paradise for years, and it’s only a matter of time before the region’s best-kept secret starts to draw more visitors from out of town.
Green grass is a perfect way to get some sun.
Wonderful News! The broccoli and cauliflower are beginning to grow heads. The peas are climbing and carrots are growing. The bean plants are looking great. The potato vines are reaching for the sun. The squash, pumpkins, corn, and watermelon are coming along. We’ve got red romaine, spring mix lettuce, tomato plants, and pepper plants growing in our hoop house. More harvest is on its way.
Garlic scapes are a unique way to add flavor to your dishes.
Basil is a new item in your bag. Use it as soon as you can, the flavor fades quickly and it is difficult to keep them fresh. To store, wrap loosely in a damp (not wet) paper towel and seal in a ziplock bag. Place it in the warmest part of your fridge, either in the door or on the top shelf. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Chop with a very sharp knife or use scissors. It’s best to add fresh basil at the very end of cooking, after you’ve removed your pan from heat, to preserve its delicate flavor. Or even better–use it fresh. Sprinkle on a green salad, a fruit salad, scrambled eggs, or pizza. Add to any cooked dish right before serving. Enjoy!
They don’t call it the Brainerd Lakes Area for nothing. As we get into the dog days of summer, there’s no better time to make use of the area’s namesake. But before you double-check your packing list and apply your sunscreen, take a moment to see which beach might fit your needs. I grabbed my kids and we spent a hot afternoon doing a little research of the area’s best beaches.
Gull Lake Recreation Area
Clean sand welcomes all sand castle builders.
Ever since the early 20th century, Gull Lake has been a destination for loggers and fishermen. Gull Lake has since become a premier destination for tourists from around the state. Featuring no fewer than three world class resorts, pristine waters, and shorelines for miles, Gull Lake is the jewel of the BLA. So, you can see why the modest little beach sitting just north of the Gull River outlet is no surprise.
One thing you should be aware of first is that since the entire Gull Lake Dam area is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, there is a $5 daily auto parking fee to make use of the facilities. But, it’s money well spent, in my opinion.
You can see how little the actual beach area is at Gull Lake.
The first thing you’ll notice is the amount of green shaded area surrounding the beach. You’ll notice it even more when offset by the narrow beach area. This is, as they say, a feature of the beach. You’ll be shaded while staying out of the water, enjoying your picnic, or playing a game of volleyball.
At 120 miles, the Paul Bunyan State Trail is the longest recreational trail in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Recourses Parks and Trails Division recently (three years ago) added over six miles to the southern tip of the trail. For just $1.2 million, this connected the Lake Bemidji State Park in Bemidji to the Crow Wing State Park just south of Baxter.
I wanted to show that this little jaunt is a worthwhile use of your time. So, last Sunday I took my Gary Fisher road bike and hit the trail. I live just off of the Buffalo Hills City Trail on Graydon Ave. I was able to connect to the trail by riding west past Central Lakes College on College Dr (which is part of the PB Trail at that point) until it hits the Hwy 371 bypass.
You can see how the PB Trail hits Baxter right in the commercial section.
This month, we’re focusing on helping you get outside more. I took this as a chance to see what my town had to offer in terms of outdoor activities. I also wanted to make this as inexpensive as possible, so I limited my exposure to the long list of parks in the Brainerd area.
We started in Baxter and moved east. After 14 different parks, we decided what we liked best about them and what most people would get a kick out of. Brained/Baxter has a pretty robust parks system, so every park we went to was enjoyable, well maintained, and clean. But, we narrowed them down to the top 10, plus a bonus park (in no order of preference).
1) Gregory Park –
Gregory Park is probably the most well-known park in the area. It is nestled in a nice neighborhood to the north of downtown Brainerd. It has historically been a staple in the town, hosting seasonal events such as “Arts in the Park,” car shows, and get-togethers. Consisting of four square blocks, Brainerd organizations and residents make us of its large green space. With fundraising already happening for a splash pad to be installed in the park, Gregory will continue to be a favorite.
You can see the history in Gregory Park.
This atrium is the center of the park.
Gregory Park has acres of open green spaces.
Best Reason to Visit – Historical Connection
Gregory Park is steeped in history. It has been the focal point of north Brainerd for over a hundred years. The things that stand out for Gregory Park are the little remnants from the past. The Parker Bandstand is a mainstay. The arches at the north and south entrances to the park are entrenched in locals memories. If you want to connect with Brained on a historical level, Gregory Park is the place for you.
Here’s a few promotional shots we did.
Some production notes:
1) I wanted to make these have a little more somber feel to them. Last year, we did something like it
and I wanted to recreate the slight ennui that our counselors would have without our Eco Campers. However, Michelle H. (counselor in the kayak) convinced me that we should do a few “happier” takes to see how it looked. I agreed and we got a shot of a take I wanted and a few that she wanted. In the “Kayak” spot, I thought it worked so well to have the before and after to show how the tagline (“Summer’s More Fun With Friends”) is true.
For anyone who lives in Minnesota, you know that summer is when everyone is eager to enjoy what our great state has to offer. Home of thousands of lakes, hundreds of miles of trails, and thousands of acres of forest, there is no shortage of “stuff” to do this summer.
Do you have your plan on how will you get to it all? Is it even possible?
Yes. It is. All it takes is one simple trick. But first, let’s look at the concept of “time.”
In the “Nick of Time”
What is “time”? Can we actually perceive “time” as something tangible? Philosophical giant, George Carlin said, “There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.” To be sure, we rely greatly on our memories to perceive “time.” What did we eat for breakfast? Who won the horseshoe tournament last summer? Did I just take a sip of water? These events can be recollected, so they must be part of what we perceived.
But, what about the concept of the recent past. When does the recent past transition from “now“? The concept of “now” lays on a razor edge. Some say that “now” is actually in the past. Carlin sure thinks so! Indeed, your brain perceives “now” at an 80 millisecond delay. But, some think that we have a little more leeway, more like three seconds in which “now” is “right now“.
So, we’ve got about three seconds to experience something before it becomes memories. But, how do we maximize these experiences before they become relegated to “the past.” After doing some research, I found that each separate group of “three seconds” are not collected equally. In order to maximize our “time”, we need to actually be engaged in our activities. These “three seconds” intervals feel longer if we actually have memories stored in them.