Is There Such A Thing As A Romantic Camping Getaway In Minnesota?
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Tom Watson, author and freelance photojournalist.
Tom is the author of: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Twin Cities: and The Best in Tent Camping: Minnesota:(Both published by Menasha Ridge Publishing)
Tom also is the author of How To Think Like A Survivor: A Guide For Wilderness Emergencies (coming out summer of '05, published by Creative Publishing, International)
Good day Tom and thanks for agreeing to participate in our interview.
When did your passion for hiking and camping begin and what kept you going?
Good day to you and thank you for this opportunity. My dad was pretty active in the outdoors. After leaving the Navy he opened a hobby shop that carried a lot of sporting goods. I was able, as a boy growing up in eastern Missouri, a chance to try out all sorts of equipment - lures, rifles, bows and arrows. Also, since my dad enjoyed camping, we took advantage of the myriad places in Missouri to primitive camp. My cousins lived there, too, and they were avid campers as well. So, since I was about seven, I spent a good portion of every summer outdoors.
By the time I was thinking of college - back in the late 6O's, my folks were divorced and I had been living with my mom during the school years. I wanted to maintain some outdoor exposure so I decided to go into Forestry at the University of Minnesota, on the St. Paul campus. All those factors and my growing love of the natural sciences still keep me going to this day.
As many of our readers are interested in romantic getaways, could you describe eight of the most romantic and unique camping areas in Minnesota? Why are they romantic?
That calls upon my interpretation of both "romantic" and "unique" campsites. I am foremost a primitive camper, minimum facilities, minimum impact.
To me a romantic site is private, remote and amid better than average scenery or natural attractions.
* Based on that I could list almost any campsite in the BWCA Wilderness as well as any in Voyageurs National Park - most of which are water accessible only. As far as drive-up sites, and those with a bit of walk-in access (my favorites), I have to list the following:
* Lake Maria State Park - isolated walk-in sites scattered along a hill under a full canopy of oaks and maples - fabulous fall colors! Great hiking trail, too!
* Great River Bluffs State Park - this part overlooks the Mississippi River offering these incredible vistas. The overlooks are at the end of short trails through a dense overstory of maples, very peaceful and the vistas are breathtaking - some with very romantic perches upon which you and a significant other could sit cozily for hours.
* Lake Elmo Regional Park Preserve. It's so close to downtown St. Paul yet it offers remote, walk-in campsites and several miles of cross-country trails. The campsites are along a walk-in corridor about 100 yards from the parking area and each one is situated in deep foliage so the privacy level is quite good, too. These are basic sites without a lot of amenities close by. These are good sites for lounging around or taking several hikes.
* Crescent Lake Campground- This is just outside the BWCA area, in the Superior National Forest. It's the best laid-out campground I've seen - based on my likes. Each site is either up on a knoll or cut deep into the woods for very private and serene settings.
* Split Rock Lighthouse State Park - One of the few really good campgrounds on the North Shore of Lake Superior only if its not so tightly laid out as all the others are. There are walk-in sites stretching for about ˝ miles along the rocky shore of the lake, each separated by a forest of birch trees. The sounds of the water against the shoreline, breezes in the trees and the freshness of the area all combine to make a very soothing kind of camping experience.
* Crosby-Manitou State Park - Like Lake Maria, this is solely a backpacker's park. The sites are situated throughout the rocky banks of the river, many a short distance from ragging waterfalls and thundering cascades.
* Very romantic in a Grizzly Adams sort of way, as are most of these. Lake Kabetogama region of Voyageurs National Park - I couldn't resist offering the camp sites scattered throughout this park's southern region. Many are single campsites on small, rocky islands - no chance of encroachment by other campers! They are all water-accessible, but what's more romantic that a boat ride out to a private campsite surrounded by a national park?
Many of the campground in the state forests of Minnesota - Granted some of these are popular with horse back riders, ORV riders and fishermen, but if you can find one not being used you can have the entire forest to yourself with trails and rivers and lakes in abundance. These offer very few amenities but if you are self contained and interested in romancing the day away, you won't need any extras anyway.
Would you recommend to honeymoon couples or couples looking for a unique romantic adventure that they try camping, and if so, why?
From my perspective, if a guy can find a lady who truly enjoys camping (not parking a big RV on some flat lawn and driveway), then it won't matter where you go. However, I think to really understand a person you need to see how self-reliant they can be. I think camping brings out that and separates those who need things and those who can make do without complaining. Get those down right and the rest of it will be easy. Finding that right camping partner may be the stepping- stone for many other successful interactions.
Has there been any change in the popularity of camping over the past thirty years, and if so, why?
There has definitely been a shift in the definition. It's amazing how many RV parks with concrete slaps and broomstick trees are listed as "campgrounds". There are fewer and fewer places to go to actually pitch a tent in a pristine, "campground" setting.
Our affluent society enables more to buy the bigger units, but perhaps it's more that as we grow older we still enjoy the outdoors and the "assisted camping" units help people do so.
I think the sways in the economy affect camping, too. Instead of long, thousand mile trips for a week, families are taking shorter, weekend trips and are going camping instead of spending more money on lodging and extra gas. Overall I think "camping" in general is slightly more popular.
What does travel mean to you?
Travel means going at least 50 miles on either business or pleasure. "Travel" as a hobby or activity, of course, conjures up images of new, exciting or relaxing destinations. I am a naturalist, so "traveling" means seeing and experiencing new environments, new flora and fauna, and also new cultures and lifestyles - that's why "traveling" is such a good educational experience.
How do you come up with ideas for what you write? What methods do you use to flesh out your idea to determine if it's salable?
I try to see what's covered in the current magazines to see if I have experienced some new areas that are timely and can be written about in an informative and entertaining way. I love photography and usually won't even consider a story unless I know I have good photo support for it. That is also a good selling tool for editors. Otherwise, I look to resources on the Internet, writing groups, etc. that will list topics of interest or announce opportunities. Menasha Ridge already had a good base of hiking books but needed one from Minneapolis. That's where I was living so it was a chance to do a guide book right in my own back yard. Once you get a 'feel' for a magazine you start to anticipate what might be salable for them.
What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your books? How did you overcome these challenges?
Frankly the biggest challenge is always if I could cover the state or topic thoroughly given the budget (what I'd be paid for it and the expenses I would have to get it done), that I'd find adequate information once I started, and most importantly, that anyone would care enough to want to read about it. When I started the camping book I didn't know which ones I could use and which one wouldn't measure up. I'd sometimes drive for two hours only to find there really wasn't a campground you'd want to recommend or that fits your criteria.
Minnesota's a big enough state that in one weekend, to cover the area I was researching, I put 1100 miles on my car - and that was out of my pocket. You overcome the hurdles by deciding that you will complete the task and you become more savvy in ways of optimizing travel and budget during the research portion.
How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?
80% of my writing opportunities begin from the Internet. I belong to the OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America). Their website offers monthly updates from editors seeking specific topics. Other websites do the same.
I also use the Internet to verify facts or to learn more about something new, and check to see what's been published in the type of magazine for which I generally write (kayaking, camping, outdoor gear, tourism destinations, etc.).
Who are your favorite authors, and why do they inspire you?
As a kid Jules Verne always aroused my imagination and Sam Clemens rekindled the kind of feelings I had growing up in Missouri (along the same rivers, I might add). I really enjoyed the macabre of Edgar Allen Poe and the poetry of Robert Frost, pretty mainstream writers - but all of whom allowed my imagination to complement theirs.
Unfortunately I don't read as much as I should, so authors don't just pop out in the conversation. I write a lot, creating my own stuff. If I had to pick an author I've really enjoyed reading recently it would have to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez - his collection of short stories are wonderfully imaginative and slightly "weird".
I've always enjoyed Ray Bradbury and the Twilight Zone bunch of incredible writers. This is totally aside from the kind of writing I am doing now.guide books and magazine articles. Fiction is a much harder, higher level I hope to aspire to some day.
As there does not seem to be any authoritative standards that exist for guidebook authors or publishers, how do you know that a guidebook is up to par? How do you check out the authorial competence?
To me there are two types of "guide" books: those that are basically a compilation of data, sometimes cleverly arranged so as to appear new and different but basically a collection of lists off the Internet.
The other books are opinion pieces using a particular activity or skill and the author's breadth of knowledge to know what's important, etc. I feel the author has to first reveal him or herself, offer a profile so the reader can say, "yes, I identify with this person so what they like I would probably like".
In that sense I approach it from what I would consider a good campsite or enjoyable trail. I tell the reader right up front that I am a photographer and naturalist so I will stop and smell the roses or take a picture, even along the most seemingly mundane of trails. I also offer a historical perspective - most publishers want you to qualify yourself anyway.
I grew up in Minnesota for the most part (except those summers spent in Missouri) and was active in the Boy Scouts. I spent a lot of time outdoors, on trails, hiking and such. I had a sense about these books before I started my research. Another big factor, frankly, is that this is a business, a pleasurable one, but a business. Unless you produce a product people will buy, you won't be in the writing business for very long. It's at least a working hobby and as such demands some discipline and fiscal judgment.
How do you blend your photo- journalism with your travel writing?
People like to imagine themselves in a picture. "Wish that was me paddling that kayak in Alaska!" A good photo draws a reader into the story- let's them see what you are talking about.
Sometimes an editor puts such a restraint on the number of words they want. A good photo can relay needed information with very few words. I pride myself in being a good photographer and I know that many a story was sold because there was good, crisp, colorful support photography offered with the writing. Photos also help me recall areas without taking a lot of notes.
I spent a full month in Peru and shot probably 30 rolls of film. I used about 8 pages of a journal - most of which was identifying some of the photo subjects I took. I then go back and review the photos to see how many I could offer for a variety of different story ideas. Sometimes those images even make it to the front cover - a nice bonus!
What is next for Tom Watson?
I really want to pursue some fiction writing in the style of Roald Dahl, or some of the writers camp for the old Twilight Zone series.
As far as magazines and guide- books, I will continue to look at them as those opportunities appear. It's good income and it allows me to share some exciting adventures with those eager to do the same. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you.
Thanks again Tom and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, they meld words with art focusing on romantic destinations.
Norm's Bookreviewing site, bookpleasures.com comprises over twenty five international reviewers who come from all walks of life.
You can find out more about Norm by going to sketchandtravel.com or bookpleasures.com
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SPENCER (WBNG) â People traveled to Spencer from all around the state Saturday for the annual Sportsman Show. Thousands are expected to attend the two ...
Conservation scholarship named after longtime Maine outdoor educator Bangor Daily News
For more than 40 years, Harland S. Hitchings helped teach coastal Mainers valuable safety outdoor safety lessons. Beginning this year, the Pleasant River Fish ...
With Grove construction underway, GPAC looks to expand arts center for the next 25 years - The Commercial Appeal
With Grove construction underway, GPAC looks to expand arts center for the next 25 years The Commercial Appeal
About a month after construction crews broke ground on the outdoor performing arts venue known as The Grove, the site next to the Germantown Performing ...
PixelFLEXâ˘ Helps Define Outdoor Luxury Living at 414 Light Street in Baltimore - Digital Signage Connection
PixelFLEXâ˘ Helps Define Outdoor Luxury Living at 414 Light Street in Baltimore Digital Signage Connection
Nashville, TN (2/18/2019) â Dedicated to making every project better than their last, Questar Properties has been developing vibrant and award-winning ...
Tom Sawyer Day - Floating Down The River
There were four of us on that first Tom Sawyer Day. I promised my friends an adventure-disaster, sure to get them wet and cold.
Cheap Safari in Africa For $70 a Day - Heres How To Do It
You would think that a cheap safari in Africa for $70 a day would have to take place in some shady game reserve in Timbuktu that nobody visits. But not in this case.
Edible Wild Plants For Backpackers
Knowing a few edible wild plants can make your next backpacking trip, or any trip into the wilderness, a lot more enjoyable.You can pack lighter if you eat wild berries every morning for breakfast, for example, and leave your oatmeal behind.
Highpointing: It's Not Just For Mountaineers
Mount Sunflower, Kansas. Ebright Azimuth, Delaware.
Ultralight Backpacks - The Lightest
Why ultralight backpacks? Devotees of ultralight backpacking know you reduce your packweight most by concentrating on the "big three;" backpack, shelter, and sleeping bag. Forget those 6-pound backpacks, 9-pound tents and 5-pound sleeping bags.
The Benefits of Inflatable Fishing Boats
Inflatable fishing boats are great yacht tenders/camping boats that are light enough to be carried in a backpack. Some 8-foot inflatable fishing boats are good for two and gear, and are large enough to float in moderate whitewater rivers.
Is There Such A Thing As A Romantic Camping Getaway In Minnesota?
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.
Solo Backpacking Tips
Solo backpacking means peace and quiet. No one to talk to means no words are put between you and the beauty around you.
Mount Kenya - Up High at God's Mountain
Mount Kenya is Africa's second highest mountain, after Kilimanjaro. It is estimated to be 2.
River Cruise in Bangkok - Sightseeing on the Chao Phraya
A river cruise in Bangkok gives an insight to the community life on the Chao Phraya River and the legacies on this river of kings, a picture of stark contrasts.It needn't have to be an elaborate affair; you can cut the frills and expenses.
Shark Pictures Not The Real Thing
Pictures of a massive dead Great White shark on the back of a bakkie are doing the rounds on email with the subject line saying "Caught at Monwabisi and Strandfontein Beach yesterday" - but experts have dismissed it as a hoax.The grim pictures show the shark with a hook and trace still attached.
Experience The Real Florida
Every year around 40 million visitors come to Florida for the sun, sea and attractions. Most visit the world famous theme parks or enjoy the fabulous palm-fringed sandy beaches.
Great Indian Holidays
Holidays in India, awesome in her size and diversity. This virtual sub-continent, stretches from the lofty Himalyas , a series of 2000km long mountain ranges in the north, to the extensive deserts in the west, the lush evergreen forest in the south to the far-flung sub Himalayan forests in the North East.
The Best Safari Company for Your Safari Trip - Heres How To Choose
Which is the best African safari company for my safari trip?This is a question that comes up very frequently and it's not surprising.There are so many safari operators in the market all promising the earth that it is very difficult to choose between them, especially when you know nothing about them.
Maples for Autumn Colour
As the weather cools in late summer and the days shorten noticeably so the deciduous trees and shrubs begin to withdraw chlorophyll from their leaves in preparation for the winter shutdown. With less of that vital green pigment to mask them, the other colours within the leaves begin to show through.
Creative Camp Cooking
For most people, outdoor cooking is synonymous with barbeque, but there are many other ways to cook outdoors. If you have been camping, you are probably at least familiar with the portable propane stoves which provide a burner or two similar to the stovetop burners you have at home.
Have you ever gone solo backpacking? If you have, you'll probably agree that it isn't a matter of it being better or worse than backpacking with friends. It's just a different activity altogether.
Is The Workamper Lifestyle For You?
If you've been dreaming of traveling the highways in your RV, but see the adventure as something far in the future when you retire, then you may want to seriously consider giving the Workamper lifestyle a try. You can live your dream now; it just takes a little preparation and commitment.
Costa Rica: Land of Natural Wonders
Costa Rica is a small country - just 75 mi/120 km separates the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea at the narrowest spot - Costa Rica still has some of the most diverse scenery in the world. Its coasts have both sandy beaches and marshy swamps, while its interior is dotted with volcanoes, dense with rain forests and abundant with unusual flora.
Survival in the Wilderness: What to Do, What You Need
Summer is for picnics, hikes, outdoor concerts, barbeques ..
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