Although frigid temperatures are sure to snap the minds of many Minnesotans this winter, affordable-cabin rentals, ice fishing and other outdoor-recreation experiences can help save semblances of sanity.
And there are few places better to find all of these saving graces than Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, an easy 90-mile drive from the Twin Cities.
The key to adventuring into the wilds of Minnesota during winter is the following: staying warm. And while there are places to pitch a tent year round at Mille Lacs Kathio, it is advised to cough up the $50 fee and rent one of the park’s five cabins. Equipped with a gas fireplace, two bunk beds, a dining table and enough space to feel comfortably snug, the cabins are worth every penny when it comes to staying warm and therefore sane, presumably. What the cabins lack in luxury they make up for in charm. There is something humbling about sleeping in a warm, small cabin nestled in the frozen forest. It brings back memories of simpler times. Keep in mind darkness comes early during the winter, so a board game or a good book makes for perfect evening entertainment inside the cabins.
When it comes to the wilderness, Mille Lacs Kathio is recognized for possessing some of the best cross-country ski trails within the Minnesota state-park system. And if you don’t own a pair of skis, park amenities include snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals. There is also trail center/warming house with a view of the sledding hill if keeping it simple is your recipe for a good time. All the same, the park has 19 miles of cross-country ski trails, 19 miles of snowmobile trails and marked snowshoe trails that range from a half-mile to 4.5 miles.
The park’s Shakopee Lake and Ogechie Lake offer ice fishing for northern pike, walleye, bass and panfish. Ogechie Lake is more of a reservoir than a true lake, so ice fishing is not recommended. For example, it may come as a rude awakening when the ice is as thick as the remaining water depth when you attempt to fish Ogechie (yes, this happened to the author of this story). For the best fishing opportunities within the park, try the much-deeper and larger Shakopee. Otherwise, one of the largest and most heavily fished lakes in all of Minnesota, Mille Lacs Lake, is located only a few miles from the park.
Though temperatures will likely include the words “negative” and/or “teens” for months to come, wildlife in Mille Lacs Kathio remains active during the winter, although to a lesser extent than other times of the year. Deer, owls, turkeys, fox and other animals can be seen traveling the frozen landscape inside Mille Lacs Kathio during winter.
It’s no secret that Minnesota winters can be brutal. Rather than loafing about complaining on the matter, venture to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and embrace it.
For more information on Mille Lacs Kathio State Park or to reserve a cabin, visit their site.
Photos via: Maggie Nielsen