Enchantment in the hills

IMG_6376As I enter my columns into the computer I realize how much my writing has changed over the years. I really need to edit the columns I wrote in the early days.

Anyway, while writing during a lull at one of my recent book signings, I was struck with the idea of blogging about being still. We have a tendency to keep moving along with our busy lives, and rarely slowing down to breathe, to listen and to rejuvenate. No wonder we have so many physical and emotional health issues!

I ran across the following column, which I wrote in 1996. It is about summer camping, which I hope the weather will soon allow us to do, and the last paragraph was appropriate to my current thoughts. Slowing down long enough to nurture my soul with nature is something I really need to do.

Ah, summertime! A time for gathering up the family, the tents, the lantern, the coolers, and heading off to the great campgrounds up north. Oh, don’t forget the dog!

Well, we found a campground down south that isn’t booked up constantly and I couldn’t figure out why. When I called the reservation number for the state campgrounds, I was actually trying to reserve a tent spot at Banning State Park. It was booked up so I asked about Gooseberry. It also was booked up so I spent about 15 minutes on the phone trying to find a spot that wasn’t. I told her that I wanted a campground by water, which shouldn’t be hard in Minnesota, and I wanted it for only one night about a week away.

When she mentioned O.L. Kip State Park, I was totally unaware it even existed. She said it had some sites available and that it was located up on the bluffs by the Mississippi River just south of Winona. I told her to reserve one spot for me. Whew! We had somewhere to go.

I had been to Winona many years before, while in high school, for a dance line camp. All I remembered was that the drive was beautiful and the area was nice. That sure was an understatement! When we got close to Winona, the scenery was breathtaking. We followed the river on Highway 61. We had the river on one side and the bluffs, valleys and small towns on the other.

Finding O.L. Kip was fairly easy. We drove up a winding, tree-lined road to the top of one of the hills. On top there were farms with fields that curved with the slope of the mountain. The wind was really strong up there.

As we made our way around the farms and patches of woods to the campground, we could see for miles it seemed. It was like being on top of the world in the middle of nowhere.

We got to the campground and found there were several sites still open. They didn’t fill up the two days we were there. The campground was in the woods with campsites cut out on both sides of a circular road. The bathrooms and shower were in the middle. We chose a site on the opposite end of the circle close to the paths to the overlooks. There were numerous walking paths around the area. Some were connected to the campground and some had other parking areas from which you could start.

After we finished setting up camp, we went exploring. We ended up at the closest overlook. The view was of a valley nestled in the middle of all the bluffs. The bluffs were nearly all the way around in jagged pieces. The hillsides were mostly trees while the valley itself was dotted with trees in long grass meadows. There was a small farm to one side of the valley. It had a pasture of cattle on the gentle slopes by the buildings. The cattle looked like the chips in peppermint bonbon ice cream. That’s how high the overlook was.

Later we went back to this same overlook after a rain. The sun was setting on the west end of the valley and had burned off the clouds opposite it. Other clouds had settled in the valley where the sun’s rays couldn’t touch them. We were looking down at the clouds. It was awe inspiring. I was mesmerized as I watched the clouds move up and dissolve one by one as they were touched by the fingers of the sun.

At other overlooks we were high above the river. We could see the sand bar islands, the green swampy river bottoms on the other side, and boat houses anchored at various places. Being that high, we could still hear the trains on the track following the river. What was interesting to me was the tracks were between the road and the river with special bridges built through the water in places.

One attraction close to O.L. Kip was the very small town of Picwick. There was an old mill that is open for tours. It was a thriving grain mill at the turn of the century using a water wheel with grindstones first and then later replacing the water wheel with turbines. Eventually the roller machines replaced the grindstones.

Outside the mill was a small picturesque waterfall with a tavern overlooking the whole scene. It’s hard to imagine such a small town having a thriving mill that kept people waiting in mile-long lines to have their grain milled.

So often, in our busy lives, we forget to feed our souls with beauty and relaxation. We found both at O.L. Kip State Park. So next time you gather up the family to go camping, remember that south is good too. It’s almost like leaving Minnesota and finding enchantment in the hills.

      One Comment


  1. What a wonderful reminder of what God has also been laying on my heart lately – the need to ” slow down, to breathe, and to rejuvenate”. Our culture has created the idea of being busy as something to strive for and be proud of. From what we know of Jesus’ life, I don’t think that is how He lived.

    As. I was walking back from school the other night, Aaron looks up at the sky and says, “look at all the stars Mom! There must be 25.” The stars are such a wonderful reminder that the universe is not centered around us, or how busy we are, or how much we accomplished that day. Sometimes God speaks the clearest in those moments of “beauty and relaxation”.

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