Backpacking Weekend : Take a Friend

The photo shows the Lake Maria State Park entrance sign against a background of leafless trees. the grass around the sign has turned slightly green. A car with it's headlights on is seen driving on the road toward the park entrance.

#12 of my 2022 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Bjorkland Trail, Lake Maria State Park, Monticello, MN

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Trash Collected: While I didn’t weigh it, most of what I found was plastic and the trash from what I brought in to eat.


The image shows a mist covered landscape with a marshy area in the foreground. Hints of green underlay the brown of the vegetation.

When my friend Lynae reached out to me to ask if I’d like to go on her first backpacking trip, I was thrilled. We met through the Women Who Hike MN chapter and have hiked together on and off for the past give years. I love her company. We set a date and decided on a first outing weekend at Lake Maria State Park. It would give us the opportunity to hike to a site with our packs, for her to get a chance to try out her gear and we would be able to get in a hike or two as well. Best of all, if there were any issues we could easily get to our cars and head home if needed.

As the weekend neared we planned for our time to meet and I made a reservation for one of the park’s backpack sites. The weather looked like it could be less than ideal. We agreed we’d make the best of whatever came our way. We’d also remain flexible if either of us decided we didn’t want to go or to leave early.

The image shows Ruth's fully packed Granite Gear Blaze 60 backpack sitting on the floor against a wall. It is filled with her camping gear and has two water bottles hanging from one side. A few loose items sit on top of the pack.

Entering the park on Friday evening the sky was a dull gray. I had heard from Lynae she was at the site setting up her tent. I didn’t know how long I would have before the evening rain arrived. I made my way over the 0.8 mile distance to the campsite. My backpack, a Granite Gear Blaze 60L was filled with my backpacking tent, winter weight camping pad and sleeping bag, food for a couple days, a small hand saw, and my 10 Essentials. I’d brought a few extra things to be sure we had the things we’d need to stay warm and dry.

When I arrived at the campsite, Lynae had already set up her tent and was getting to work starting a fire with the two bundles of wood a previous camper had left at the site. I got to work setting up my tent, checking in to see what I could do to help with the fire. Starting one always takes me longer than I’d like. Eventually together we got a small fire going, made dinner and were able to relax. The thought crossed my mind to put up a tarp for us to have as rain cover for our camp table, but I decided to wait. We talked past dark. As the rain started up, I showed Lynae how to bank coals from the fire noting it would be doubtful for them to make it through the night with the coming rain, but it was worth a shot.

We settled into our side-by-side tents and the rain picked up. A few flashes of lightening lit the sky briefly. Then to our delight came the the calls of owls. Later we heard coyote calls. The sound of the falling rain lulled me to sleep as I nestled into my sleeping bag. I’d been concerned bringing my winter weight sleep system would be too warm. It was perfect.

Before I knew it the sun was up. The rain was falling and I could tell the air was more chilly than the evening before. With the day stretching in front of us, we both took our time getting up. The rain and wind picked up intensity as I strung up a tarp for us to sit under. We moved the picnic table as well. It was a tight space, but at least we were out of the rain. We huddled with our mugs of coffee and ate breakfast. Eventually we both agreed it was time to take a hike to try and warm up a bit.

The rain had tapered off for a bit as we gathered our gear for the hike. I removed the hip belt and lid from my pack, clipping them together to create a fanny pack (one of the many things I love about it!). We headed to the visitor center to refresh our water supply and get out of the rain for a bit. As we dried out, we had the treat of meeting a couple who volunteer with the Friends of Lake Maria State Park. We talked about volunteering, the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota and many other things. It was a delightful.

By the time we’d really dried out and our water was refreshed the rain had lightened. We were hungry so we made the hike back to camp for lunch. Lynae had brought her own homemade, dehydrated lunch and I dug into my dehydrated meal. We agreed we’d eat and then get a hike in, even if it was raining. Moving through the woods would be better than sitting under the tarp for the afternoon.

Our hot lunches lifted our spirits and the rain had subsided again. As we headed off to explore the trails, we settled back into our easy conversation. The rain came and went as we made our way around the Bjorkland Trail loop. The trail undulates as it loops the southern end of the park and back toward Maria Lake. We stopped at an overlook on the lake to watch a pair of loons. On the way back to the campground we planned on taking naps to warm up.

Lynae is in the front of the picture smiling broadly while wearing a bright blue rain poncho and clay colored stocking cap. Ruth is standing behind her, laughing in her red rain jacket with her backpack on. The are standing in a wooded area covered in fallen leaves.
Photo Credit: Lynae

I was trying to start a fire thinking it would be nice to use it to hold onto that warmth for the evening when Lynae called out to ask if I’d seen the weather forecast. I had. It was going to keep raining well into the next day. We were both thinking the same thing. We had hit the point we’d had enough of the cold and damp. When the rain stopped for a bit we took the opportunity to quickly pack up our gear. On our way back to our cars we agreed we’d accomplished the goal of the adventure and were already planning our next one.

Next Post Preview: I reflect on how I’m continuing to redefine my time outside.


GEAR: Granite Gear Blaze 60L backpack, Vasque Ultra Dry Waterproof Hiking Boot, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants,
REI Co-op Rainier Full Zip Rain Pant, Icebreaker Women’s Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top, Chickfly Merino Eucalyptus Leggings, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent, Nemo Sonic™ 0 Down Sleeping Bag, Exped Ultra 7R Mat, Thermarest Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel.

Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.

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Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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2 thoughts on “Backpacking Weekend : Take a Friend

  1. Sounds like a good trip Ruth, and good call getting out of the rain. When its already cold and damp, that can make or break a trip. Here’s to more adventures!

  2. Sounds like a good trip Ruth, and good call getting out of the rain. When its already cold and damp, that can make or break the fun factor. Here’s to more adventures!

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