Ft. Ridgley State Park – Camping Trip

It’s not often that I am able to assist chaperoning one of the Boy Scout Campouts – but the March Campout and the rest of my schedule just sort of “synched up”. 

The Troop’s March campout was held at Ft. Ridgley State Park.  The state park sits on the the land that once housed Ft. Ridgley – a pioneer era  military outpost that was in operation between 1853 and 1855.  The fort’s mission was defensive, and peacekeeping – trying to maintain peace between both the settlers, and the Native Americans that lived along the Minnesota river during the same time.

The trip was pretty typical to the Boy Scout Campouts I have been on - loud, rambunctious, messy (why can’t Boys keep their clothing inside their duffle bags?), dirty (as in have you seen a kitchen after Boy Scouts make their meals?) and muddy.  These are a FEW of the words that come to mind. 

In other words – it was a chance to let the boys out to be… boys!

Upon arrival – we set up camp.   It’s still pretty cold and wet here in Minnesota – so we stayed in the Chalet (photos behind the link).  After setting up camp, the older scouts started off getting the younger scouts instructed on “the basics” – working on their Toten chip and Firem’n Chit (The first couple of things that new scouts are introduced to).  We also had a few scouts who needed to be signed off on some knots and lashings, and building a “Camp Gadget” (items made from wood that are tied, knotted, and lashed together to make something useful at camp).  Items made for this campout included a flagpole, and a boot scraper.

While the new scouts were being introduced to the basics, and the next youngest scouts were making their camp gadgets, the oldest scouts started making lunch.  Hot dogs (and I use the term “hot dogs” loosely.  

They were called “Fun dogs” and boy oh boy did the Scoutmaster take a lot of good natured ribbing from the fathers for going with the cheapest possible generic version of “hot dogs” he could find.   

Personally, I didn’t care – they tasted pretty darn good after the drive up and set up – only I should have brought some onion….

Once lunch was complete, and tummies were full, it was time to hit the trails for a hike…   We crossed the State Park on foot – we went off trail and found ourselves in drifts of knee deep snow, or in places where boot depth water covered with a thin crust of snow. 

We hiked to the woods, and then did some “wham-branching” (walking through the woods where branches that you walk through swing backwards as you pass them – and if the person behind you is too close, they will get “whammed” by the branch).  We located the outdoor amphitheater, stopped for a rest, then headed to the historic site of Ft. Ridgley.

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On the way – I was able to find a GeoCache!  (or at least PART of a GeoCache).  The Minnesota DNR places one Mulit-stage GeoCache in each of their state parks (they do not allow visitors to place them).  I found the first stage, and once I entered the coordinates for the next stage, I found out we passed it (unbeknownst to me) on our way to the first stage.  The hike was to visit the Historic Site... The GeoCaching was just "extra-circular" on my part, so I was not about to head back down into the ravine.  I’ll save the coordinates to the second stage for another time. 

Once at the site, even though the interpretive center was not open, we were able to explore the ruins and learn the history of Ft. Ridgley through some interactive signage placed near each ruin. 


Hiking back, we decided to take the road MORE traveled, and hoofed it along the paved street.  It was a longer trip, but much easier walking.

That did not stop the boys from getting more dirty, and wet.  They had opportunities for “head dives” into the snow banks, and even one feller decided it would be a good idea to wade into a pool of snow melt (water) that was over his waist.  His boots were filled with standing water, and his coat, pants, and shirt were SOAKED.  

Sigh…. Boys.

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Once we arrived at back at the Chalet, the boys (who’s feet were cold and wet) all wanted to go back inside – along with a couple of the dads.  Since my feet were not cold yet (wet, yes… just not cold yet) Myself, the Scoutmaster, and one other dad (one of the new dads) decided to walk another trail to check out the creek.

I had a great time on that little hike – and got to know one of the new dads pretty well!  Very nice guy, and will fit in with the rest of us dads perfectly!  

Once everyone was back, warm, and dry – the boys started doing their own thing (many were playing Dungeons & Dragons (or their own variant of the game) while others did some reading, listening to iPods, and several of us (myself included ) broke out some playing cards. 

I had a hankerin’ for some cribbage (more on that in another post) but unfortunately, no one brought a board along with them.  So I was introduced to a game I had never played before called “Up and Down the River”.  Within the first couple of hands, it was obvious I had never played before, and by mid game – even one of the new scouts (who had never played before) was picking up the game much faster than I was (i.e. beating the pants off me!). 

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Dinner (a pizza hot-dish of some and biscuits) was served, and then “cleaned up” (and I use that term loosely) – and the boys all went back to doing their own thing.  The “up and down the river” game started back up with a couple of new players who wanted to join in.

Not long after the game was finished, folks (i.e. the dads) started getting a little tired (It was after all, Daylight Savings eve – clocks were to be set ahead before we went to bed). 

Sleeping arrangements were…  odd… to say the least.  I do not own a cot or a self-inflating mattress pad.  I have a foam pad, but it does little or nothing, and since I was not sure what the sleeping accommodations were going to be, I left my foam pad at home.  As Murphy and his law would dictate, I found myself sleeping on the tile floor…  (Tip for future Boy Scout Dads…  Tile floors make for painfully sore mornings…)  It wasn’t completly horrable – I did lay out all my clothing on the floor under my sleeping bag for some added “cushion”.  It helped.

Several of the boys slept in a long / deep storage closet with doors on either side.  They set up a table inside and made “bunks” (one kid on top of the table, and two kids under the table).  It was odd to say the least, and I can only begin to imagine what the inside of that little “tunnel” SMELLED like!  Blech!

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I was first up at 5:30 am.  I quietly got my things packed, and sat down in the dark and quiet of the morning listing to the music of Kate Micucci on my MP3 player.  Ahhh, so peaceful…  (Best darn $5.00 download I have ever found – If you have not listened to her, I highly recommend it!  Follow the link for a listen!) I nodded off a few times before the Assistant Scoutmaster got up – followed shortly by the rest of the group.  Before long, everyone was doing their jobs, packing, cleaning, making breakfast (pancakes and sausage), and preparing to head back out.

It would not be a Boy Scout Campout in Minnesota (especially during the snowy months) without a snowball fight – and this trip did not disappoint.  While waiting for the camp director to ok us to leave – a giant snowball fight broke out – kids vs dads.  With all the melting that had been going on, it was more like an ice ball  fight. 

The ground was both wet and slippery.  The dirt / grass was exposed in certain areas, and it goes without saying that many of the boys (mine included) came home covered in mud…   

#2 of 5 had it all over his back and his butt.  Before I let him into the car – I made him unpack the trunk and get some clothing he could put over his dirty clothes.  Just as we were packing the trunk back up, another one of the boys riding in my car walked up behind me and said… “Um… Mr. FOF… I’m a little muddy.”

ARRRGGHHH!!  He was even worse (if that was possible)

I gave up.  It was a loosing battle.  They were exhausted, and tired, and dirty – and so was I.  I loaded them up, and headed back home.


  1. How awesome! My little dude so can't wait for his first actual Boy Scout campout with tents and everything. Our winter sledding campout at the Boy Scout camp in the mountains sounded a lot like yours. How fun - and so great you could go.

    BTW - we got skunked on 3 geocaches a couple weekends ago - we'll have to try them again when there isn't any snow. Thanks again for the awesome recommendation on the GPS! We LOVE it!

  2. It took a lot of me to not say ...
    "But what if they did a head dive and ended up hitting something and breakin their neck?"

    Although, you know, I figured he would of learned a lesson and none of the other boys would do that.. right?


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