Suzanne Lindgren

Are you soaking up what remains of summer? Every year, it seems, I find myself wondering in mid August how it’s all gone by so fast.

My family’s theme for this summer, due primarily to serendipity with very little planning on my part, has been beaches. We’ve been to Lake of the Dalles beach at Interstate Park, Balsam Lake, Square Lake, Big Marine Park Reserve and Lake Alice at William O’Brien State Park. 

For the county and state parks, I’m that cheapskate who usually finds the idea of buying an annual park sticker a bit extravagant. We’ll stick to the day pass, thanks. 

But what I discovered this year is that once you have one, you find time to visit for an hour here or there, making it well worth the investment. At $30 to $38 (depending on the park system and whether you’re a resident) they cost a family less than dinner out, and the more you use them the better the value.

Strummer isn’t swimming yet, so it’s been nice to find some sandy, shallow spots where he can wade out and get a feel for the water. Extra points for parks with beaches and playgrounds, as is the case at Wisconsin’s Interstate Park and Big Marine Park Reserve. 

Our Lake Alice visit was just last weekend, when we went camping with my family at William O’Brien. Many thanks to my mom and stepdad (aka “Grammy and Grampy”) who reserved the sites, did the bulk of food planning and offered backup childcare. It’s not an activity I could have done without a lot of help. And it prompted me to buy a Minnesota state park pass to add to my growing collection. 

In addition to swimming in the lake, we joined a naturalist on a bird walk Saturday morning. I got a kick out of watching Strummer search for birds with his binoculars. Up ‘til now he’s only used an imaginary pair on our “bear hunts,” so he was pretty excited to get his hands on the real deal. And although I’m still far from fluent in bird song, the session really opened my ears to the calls of the various species. 

We even fit in a trip to Big Marine Park Reserve (getting a little more mileage out of that county park pass) where Strummer and his cousins pretended to be pirates on the ship-like play structure. 

When it comes to park passes, I’m finding it’s the more the merrier. And if you’re thinking about getting one this late in the seaons, it helps to know that the passes are good for a full year, not just until the end of 2019. 

In any case, there are still a few weeks of summery weather ahead, and the cooler days of fall to look forward to after that. Enjoy!

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