Tipis, tall grass, pink rocks and I understand there are bison.
You can see IA and SD from Eagle Rock, the highest point.
Getting through the entrance is harder than I imagined.
Blue Mounds State Park is just north of Luverne, MN, tucked in the southwest corner of the state. I grounded the Scamp and packed minimal gear for a quick getaway in a tipi. It’s an easy solo trip 3.5 hours from the Twin Cities. On the drive west, as human imprints thin out, the view becomes 360 degrees of uninterrupted horizon. And on that horizon, a cliff whose color is up for debate.
WHAT COLOR IS YOUR MOUND?
So, these “blue mounds” they speak of? Really, these mounds are a Sioux quartzite cliff, 1-1/2 miles long, 100 feet high. And I will tell you this rock is pink. Pink like Himalayan salt.
Pink, not blue, to anyone who’s ever laid eyes on it, EXCEPT, apparently some color-blind settlers heading west in the 1860s.
I DREAM OF TIPI
I wanted to stay overnight in a tipi, for reasons both historic (ingenious structures, what would it be like to live in/travel with a tipi?) and childlike (How cute is that? My very own tipi and wheelbarrow to cart my crap!)
Blue Mounds is one of two MN state parks that rents them; the other is Upper Sioux Agency State Park in Granite Falls.
The view inside looking up.
I can’t believe it’s this bright and I haven’t made coffee.
There are 3 reservable tipis at the cart-in campground. Canvas sides, cedar deck floors, $30-35 bucks a night, B-Y-O-Bed. An air mattress would work great; for one night, I just went with a memory foam pad. The tipi opening is not very tall, and I’m not so limber, so let’s just say there was stumbling.
Seriously, where’s the bison herd?
In case of rain, flaps tie up inside the tipi to divert the water away from you. It wasn’t rain but the wail of coyotes that kept me up at night. Were they as close as they sounded? Or did their howls just travel well over wind and through that piece of canvas separating us?
JET BOILED BREAKFAST REVIEW: A NICE PRESS AND PAP IN A BAG
Tipis made to travel, as is breakfast.
Stumbling out of the tipi (no cooking in there) into the sun, I needed a breakfast made only with boiling water from the JetBoil. There was a winner and a loser. Winner: A $10 coffee press plunger that works inside your JetBoil unit to brew your cuppa java. Not as good usual camp coffee but not bad. Plus, it’s a super lightweight backpacking option. Loser: I had such high hopes for the 7-dollar bag of “Good-to-Go” brand hot cereal you boil right in the bag. Convenient, yes, but the turmeric taste overwhelmed the frail dried fruits. I’ll take that $2.50 box of instant oatmeal, thanks.
WE’RE TALKING 7′ TALL TALLGRASS
Bluestem tall grass turns the color of wine in fall.
If you’ve never seen a real tallgrass prairie up close, it’s super dense.
Swaying grass and flowers with names like “nodding beggarticks” and “hoary vervain.” Butterflies and birds, the whole thing buzzing late summer. Most iconic of all, the prairie’s showstopper, big bluestem grass. It can grow 7′ tall and turns the color of wine in fall. The prairie’s version of fall colors. This patch is one precious carpet square, a rare bit of original prairie left in MN.
NO BISON SIGHTING, ONLY LA LIZ
This is where I show a picture of bison, the kind I never actually saw in person.
I managed to miss the bison. They’d split from the north visitor’s center by the time I got there in the morning. And this wasn’t a day that offered official tours into the buffalo grounds. What I did see was my first Little Free Library in a state park. The titles from Oprah and Liz Taylor made me wonder if Blue Mounds is where realistic women come to dump their self-help books.
I MISSED THE BISON, I THINK I NEED A BEER
Feeling like the only person who missed the bison at a park known for them, (but loaded with tips on living my best life ever from Oprah and Liz) I headed to Luverne.
Big pink houses for you and me!
Downtown is pink!
The courthouse made of that quartzite.
It is adorable and often pink. That quartzite from the mounds (pink, as we’ve established) shows up all over town, in a courthouse, church and historic Hinkly House to name a few.
A craft brewery called “Take 16” is at 509 E. Main St.
It’s named after the old US Highway 16 that used to connect Detroit to
Yellowstone Park through Luverne. I may take I-90, not US-16, when I return for another pint of “Spin the Bottle” and (fingers crossed) a first glimpse of bison, but I will be back.