Camping the North Shore: A Travelogue

By Jennifer Alana Lundgren


We venture out towards the great northwoods where the smell of pine and juniper fill up our nasal cavities, and the gust of wet winds blow cool air into our lungs and mess up our hair.

We take this shoreline adventure North every Summer, rain or shine, with each passing year a new stepping stone—solo; as a couple; as a family; as one year more experienced than the last. Camping the North Shore has changed immensely for us from past to present—from our foolishly youthful selves, boundless and carefree, to a version slightly restrained by parenthood. Being a young family has its setbacks; though mild, it’s true. 

Jumping rocks on the shoreline or hiking long distances isn’t of our capacity now as new parents. We aren’t belaying each other or climbing the rock faces like we use to. The days of taking photos and drinking a six-pack under the Morning stars are behind us.

Now, we’re counting each step on the dirt and sparingly paved hiking path, anticipating the next pain-inducing throwing of our back as our dog lunges for a squirrel far beyond reach for the third, possibly fourth time. Taking another step and pleading with my subconscious that our daughter doesn’t have another sudden meltdown because she can’t touch the river that’s thirty feet below us, or that, we don’t end up having one due to extra weight and worry.

And yet, these are but minor setbacks when camping as a young family. Beyond the worries and difficulties, we experience the importance of scattering seeds of fresh experiences for our daughter to grow from every time we chose to go out and wander, regardless of our own waning wildness. We’re rooting her to the earth, the great outdoors, just as we had through our childhood.

Nick, my husband, and I were raised very differently; him in the cities, I in a southern small town—however different, we were both raised appreciating nature.

We played in the dirt, climbed trees, held worms and frogs between our fingers, swam and tubed in nearby creeks. We learned at a young age the significance of the natural world, and how to appreciate the dirt between our toes, the knots in our hair from the day’s play and to leave the Earth as it was—before being called back in for dinner.

From day one of learning we were pregnant with Sage, our daughter, we voiced the importance of instilling that mindset in Sage, and also, within ourselves through fresh parent eyes, and in our soon-to-be growing family. Each year since Nick and I met, we have made this our tradition, trips along the shore. Each year being a new learning curve, but with every learning curve comes grand adventures.

Adventures we’ll look back on and smile; from the songs we shared on the road, watching our daughter take in the river rushing by, laughing underneath our warm sleeping bags in the morning’s light, and singing lullabies beneath the stars. To all the rocks we threw in the vastness of Lake Superior and the seagulls we chased in the hopes of catching, while giggling and screaming with joy.

Grand adventures don’t always require traveling to faraway coastlines, tropical islands, or foreign countries. Some of the best adventures happen right where you are—adventuring the nearby creek, the beautiful lakes of the city, the valleys of the countryside in Minnesota. No need to journey to the ends of the Earth to find what makes us happy right here and now.

Sometimes the best part of our adventure is coming home after a long weekend North, smelling of campfire and having a momentous sense of wonder and wander traced along our hearts. To find these simple pleasures where we are planted. To be present in what we have and not always venturing for what we don’t. To realizing that no matter how far we’ve traveled or how much we’ve seen and learned from this world—this is home.