This year’s MEA weekend destination was Bemidji. Emma, our oldest, goes to Bemidji State University so that little detail was a factor in our decision.
It was last year at this time that I experienced Bemidji for the first time ever. Unreal, right? I just always gravitated to the North Shore whenever I vacationed prior to marriage and kids. And we didn’t travel very far from the farm growing up in South Dakota.
Bemidji is great. Personally, my favorite part is the bike path that connects Lake Bemidji State Park to town, including the Paul Bunyan and Babe Welcome Center (daughter Miranda’s favorite park), Diamond Point Park and, just a little further, the BSU campus.
Yep, loved the town, loved the paved trail. Biked on it every day of our stay. Justine, daughter No. 2 who needed to get in a good workout because she was missing swim practice, and I started at our campsite and went the whole way around the lake on Friday.
We did make a pit stop though. I needed to visit with a personal banker at Wells Fargo (long story but basically a fried laptop resulted in me losing my direct linkage to our checking account, including our user name and password). Shelby was super-helpful, and the time it took for her to assist me allowed Justine enough time to enjoy a pumpkin spice latte — her first — from Starbucks.
A look around town
Lake Bemidji State Park has great hiking trails as well. Our first hike (except we call them “walks” so Miranda doesn’t whine as much) was the bog walk upon arrival Thursday afternoon.
We continued the “bog” theme by heading 40-plus miles north of Bemidji on Saturday to experience Big Bog State Recreation Area. Pretty cool place. It’s been dubbed “Minnesota’s Last True Wilderness.” It’s a two-part recreation area that includes a 500-square-mile peat bog, the largest in the lower 48 states.
We walked the mile-long boardwalk (not really “boards” though; more like really durable slotted poly slats braced on aluminum frames) and had a picnic lunch at the Ludlow Island Area in the Northern Unit. We scoped out the campground and visitor’s center, climbed the fire tower and walked the beach of Upper Red Lake in the Southern Unit.
Upon Emma’s request — because she hadn’t had the opportunity yet in her busy college life — we visited some of the fun shops in downtown Bemidji, including the Yellow Umbrella and The Least of These. Raphael’s looked like “the place” to dine for breakfast or lunch but it was after 2 p.m. when we walked past so they were already closed. Emma showed us the Italian restaurant — Tutto Bene — where she dined when my cousin Ann, a retired hospital administrator from Phoenix, Arizona, and her husband Paul, stayed a few weeks earlier in Bemidji on their first-ever trip to Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
Sunday morning’s highlight was 9 a.m. Mass at St. Philip Church (mere blocks from campus) with Father Chuck and visiting Deacon Mark from Moorhead who gave a preview of the upcoming three-day retreat on being disciples of Jesus Christ. His message to live our life as a gift of love to others just as Jesus has given his love — and his life — to all of us was an inspiring send-off for our trip home and the week ahead.
Yep, all is good in the woods! Emma is liking her new home-away-from-home and we’re liking when we get to visit. Go Beavers (that’s BSU’s mascot, just in case you didn’t know).
Rita Meyer is married and the mother of four children age 18 and under. She and her family are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Meire Grove. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.