Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

August 11, 1997

Camping at Sibley State Park

I heard four young women from the campsite next to us scream and then scramble for their tents. Moments later a good sized raccoon scurried through our campsite with a full bag of marshmallows. One young woman yelled, "That raccoon stole our marshmallows."

A half hour or so before the marshmallow event, around 8 p.m. on our first and only night in the park, that same raccoon had spent quite a bit of time investigating our campsite. My wife was in the tent napping and I was in the process of grilling a few brats for supper when I got my first glimpse of the pesky coon. I was standing at the picnic table when this animal snuck right by the tent and stopped at the grill. It was still light out, so at first I thought the critter was a pet cat. When the critter was turned off by the heat from the grill, it hopped up on the bench of the picnic table to check out what was on for supper. I knew it was a raccoon, and I was startled a little bit.

At the park headquarters and in the bathrooms I had seen flyers to warned campers about raccoon that said "Don't lead me to a life of crime. Store all food and coolers in your vehicles." But, a raccoon on my picnic table during daylight hours.

I chased the critter off the table bench and he promptly went to the fire pit to see if any morsels were available there. With the fire pit clean, he headed straight for the truck. He must of figured I was a pretty smart camper and had all the good stuff stored in back of the truck. When the critter got to my truck he actually hopped up on the bike rack and put his front paws up on the the tailgate and looked into the back of the truck through the window in the topper door. He found what he was looking for, but couldn't get to it. Then the little pest just sat there on the bike rack and looked at me and my brats until I chased him away.

Later that evening, about 11p.m., the raccoon came back and this time with all kinds of his friends. For the campers who didn't have experience with raccoons, the animals were definitely led to a life of crime.

The raccoon adventure occurred on the Friday night, our only night of the planned weekend camping trip. A severe thunderstorm blew in on Saturday night at about 8:30 p.m., and with home only a little more than an hour away, we pulled up stakes and headed out. Leaving the raccoon, rain, and a beautiful state park behind.

The raccoon were fun to watch, and aside from the rain and a leaky air mattress, the camping trip was super.

Sibley State Park is a beautiful place. From Lake Andrew and Mount Tom to its oak forest and prairie knolls, the park has a lot to offer.

There's something for everyone, hiking trails, paved bike trails, a swimming beach, fishing pier, boat and canoe rentals, a great interpretive center, naturalist programs for the entire family, wildlife, and two well-kept and very nice camping areas.

Along with the relaxation of tenting and sitting by the campfire, my wife and I enjoyed hiking, biking, canoeing, watching wildlife, and a naturalist program and presentation on wood ducks.

The two campgrounds, Lakeview and Oakridge were both well designed and well kept for camping. We tented at Oakridge, which is more accommodating for tenters. The area is heavily wooded and most sites are very private. All are very close to the bathroom and shower facilities. If you're pulling a trailer, or camping in an RV, Lakeview is the place to be. There's more room, electricity and all the needs are there, and there's a beautiful view of Lake Andrew.

Moving on, and before you pack up the tent or gear after a day or two at Sibley, you have to head to the top of Mount Tom. Mount Tom is one of the highest points in a 50 mile radius and the view from the top of the look out is breathtaking. It's the focal point of the park and area.

For us, perhaps the best part about Sibley was its proximity to home. The park is located approximately 15 miles north of Willmar off U.S. Highway 71; only about 80 miles, and just over an hour's drive, from this area.

Sibley was a great place to enjoy the outdoors and if you experienced the park I'm sure you would feel the same. Next, we're heading to Lake Carlos State Park, north of Alexandria. Hopefully the rain will stay away and the raccoon there are tired of marshmallows.

If you would like more information on Sibley State Park call (320) 354-2055.

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