These past two weeks were spent in an idyllic setting an hour from the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Hay Creek is located about five miles southwest of Red Wing Minnesota. The creek is quite long, passing through several counties before emptying into the MIssissippi River. Spring fed, it is crystal clear, shallow, and is known as one of the best trout streams in the country. The surrounding area has trails for all kinds of activities meandering and crossing one another under old growth deciduous forest.
The state forest allows camping without a daily fee, though it has no improvements, and all camping is primitive style with no running water outside of the stream itself. It is a unit of the Robert Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest, which has eleven units sprinkled about the southeast corner of the state.
It’s not well publicized, and I searched for an entry point for hours then called the Department of Natural Resources and got detailed driving instructions to find the access point at Hay Creek. I had looked at a lot of locations and when I found my destination I was overjoyed to find one of the most lovely spots in which to camp that I have ever seen. There were many sightings of wildlife, and I have never seen so many different kinds of butterflies anywhere else in MInnesota.
The banks of the creek had been cleared to get rid of buckthorn and other invasive species, and replanted with wheat grass and other native plants and trees. The water in the creek is cold, clear, and pure. On hot days, it provided an easy cool down. Five minutes in it kept me cool for several hours. I’d have used it for drinking water had I a filter to remove the sand particles. It was delicious. I used it for washing, and I even washed my clothes in it. There were exposed slabs of limestone that were perfect for beating my clothes. You cannot get that kind of freshness out of a bottle. Dried spread out on the grasses, the smell was divine. It did not do a very good job of getting out stains and ground in dirt however.
I learned that people are not used to seeing a woman dressed in stained clothing in a state forest. My attitude is that, if you manage to stay clean while camping, you are not doing it right. I explained that you could tell how much fun I was having by the state of my clothes and shoes. More dirt = more fun.
I was questioned as to how it was that could set up camp where there was no campground. I explained the program called dispersed camping to a local police officer. He didn’t know the rules, but I brought him up to speed as politely and respectfully as I could manage. My son and my best friend wondered if I felt afraid camping by myself which I was not, at all. I feel more fearful in a supermarket parking lot in the city then I did out there.
Camping alone has been a great relief to my depression and anxiety. I find the rhythms of rising, making a fire to have hot coffee, collecting dead fall for fueling the next fires or two, cutting it, building the fire for lunch completely engrossing and very satisfying. At night, I slept in my tent, completely at peace and quite tired from the days activities.
It has been a healing force at a time when I am rebuilding my shattered life.When I was younger I spent a lot of time in the woods, and I am getting that part of me back on track. I enjoy all the little things, plants, bugs, four footed furries, the sky…so wonderful to look at! It is necessary that I reclaim those parts of my life before all the troubles of the past few years. Grief, loss and pain nearly killed me; I struggled with suicidal impulses, immobilized by searing self blame and doubt for about a year. I went to therapy twice a week for five months to keep me alive and out of the hospital. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I am now a female Hercules.
It’s starting to come back together again, piece by piece. Writing has been a major force in venting and explaining to myself what happened and how to proceed in finding a future that is liveable. I suspect that I will need professional help for the rest of my life because of the outrageous things that I experienced at the hands of my ex-husband and a handful of his cronies.
I very much want to do new pictures, but that muse is not coming forward as I’d like. It’ll happen, given that I allow myself the slack I need.