On Monday, I left the Michigan city park and headed to Grand Forks to pick up the produce I’d failed to get the day before. Unfortunately… well, I’ll just say I’m glad I don’t have to buy my vegetables in Grand Rapids regularly.

(Digression: I just rewrote the above paragraph five times — literally, five times, maybe six — trying to politely phrase “lousy, over-priced, boring.” Because why? Because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of the vegetables? Because someone who owns a grocery store in Grand Forks, North Dakota might someday read my blog and get offended? Because I don’t want to be rude? Gah, sometimes I annoy myself. More directly, the local grocery store in Grand Forks was so dismal that I wished I’d gone to Walmart instead. I don’t think I’ve ever made such a wish before, or even conceived of the notion that such a wish could be possible. There. Rude or not, that’s the truth of my Grand Forks vegetable shopping.)

Post my disappointing Grand Forks excursion, I headed to an Army Corps of Engineers campground in Minnesota. My favorites, as you know.

But, ah, not that one.

Maybe my post-headache blues had just left me in a critical mood, but Leech Lake Campground was crowded & confusing, with small sites and narrow roads. I was ready for a place with good showers, which Leech Lake might have had. But when I realized that I’d missed the 1-3 PM registration window by 2 minutes and instead of getting settled into a campsite right away would have to go back to the front office at 5PM to register, I decided I’d just keep driving.

I feel a little guilty about that, because one of the reasons I missed the registration window was that I was dumping my tanks. But only a little guilty, because the other reason was that I got caught behind a very, very big RV trying to back into a reasonably small site and had to sit on the road behind it for about twenty minutes, while the driver tried to navigate between the trees. Fun, fun. At least I wasn’t driving the big RV!

I decided to head to a county park about an hour farther east, but along the way, I passed a national forest campground, Mabel Lake, and swung in to take a look. It was glorious. Absolutely fantastic dry-camping. For $14, I had a huge site (#22), surrounded by trees, with a short trail that led down to an adorable tiny beach.

Fluffy white dog standing in water at the edge of a lake.
Zelda at the beach

I could see the water between the trees (and there were other sites that had real water views), but my site was surrounded by gorgeous green trees. There were trails leading into the forest, and it smelled incredible. I don’t have the faintest idea what kind of trees or plants they were that smelled so good but every breath felt fresh and clean and… hmm, like Irish Spring soap, actually. Whatever plant Irish Spring smells like, that would be the plant that was growing in that delightful national forest.

There was only one small problem. Actually, no, there were only about a million small problems. I like to remind myself when I run into bugs that they are the sign of a healthy ecosystem. That they are essential to the well-being of the planet. That as long as they’re not in my space (indoors), I should respect that I’m in their space. But, OMG, the mosquitoes were insane.

If they’d just been willing to stay outside, I might not have found them so oppressive, but it was impossible to open the door to the van for even the quickest second, without a flood of them pouring inside and going on the attack. And the thing about mosquitoes, to me, is that I don’t actually care that much if they bite me — it itches, so what? — but I HATE the sound of them. The high-pitched buzzing in your ear and around your face is so damn annoying.

Mabel Lake was so beautiful and I loved my site so much that on Monday evening, I thought I’d spend a few days there, appreciating the sounds of nature, enjoying solitude and peace. On Tuesday morning, after I walked Zelda while wearing a scarf wrapped around my head and face like a bee-keeper’s shroud, I packed up the van and headed out. Good-bye, Minnesota! Next time I will come equipped with some industrial strength mosquito repellent and maybe I will love you more.

Van surrounded by trees
My huge site