Experience Outdoors 2021

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OUTDOORS Women hope to help move the needle in Minnesota’s hunting participation

Campfire cookin’ s’mores and more Brophy Park brings wealth of outdoor opportunities Outdoor library makes getting outside easy, affordable AN ECHO PRESS PUBLICATION




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INSIDE this issue

6 | Alexandria’s Outdoor Library offering adventure for all seasons 8 | Campfire cookin’ s’mores and more 10 | Lake Brophy Park comes to fruition 12 | Retirees opt for comfortable camping 14 | Chef Mike Rakun cooks up some Bulgogi

From back, left to right, Rachel Duclos, Dayna Adams, Heather Hilgart, Kim Nguyen, Kelise LaSharr, and Colleen Foehrenbacher, front, pose for a photo together during a women’s hunting weekend they had during October of the 2020 archery deer season. Contributed photo

How women

can help halt the dwindling participation numbers in hunting Growth rates show interest, but there’s work to be done

Eric Morken Sports/Outdoors Editor­­ Diann Drew Publisher Sara Slaby Designer

A publication of Echo Press October 2021 225 7th Ave. East, Alexandria, MN www.echopress.com To advertise, call 320.763.3133

By Eric Morken | Alexandria Echo Press


lexandria’s Lauren Krebs patiently sat in her elevated stand during a cool Nov. 3 morning in 2018 looking over the brushy tree cover and cattails in the swamp on her family’s hunting property in Douglas County. Three hours had come and gone on opening day of Minnesota’s firearms deer season when Krebs spotted movement heading toward her through the swamp. She had shot deer before this season as a young hunter along with her dad, Dean Krebs, but she was hoping this would be the year she could tag a bigger buck on her own for the first time. This deer certainly fit everything she hoped for. Krebs noticed the wide rack of a big 8-pointer moving over the tops of the brush as she slowly grabbed her gun and rested it on the ledge of her stand. She pointed it toward an opening in the cover that would provide her a clean shot.

“He got closer and my heart pounded more and more,” Krebs said. “Finally, after what seemed like forever, he stepped into the opening, stopped, and looked around. I took a breath to calm my shaking, excited body, aimed, and squeezed the trigger.” The shot rang out and the buck whirled around and ran back the way he came from. She waited a while before getting down to look. Her dad and uncle soon arrived to help take up the track, and it wasn’t long before they found him. “That opening morning was amazing as I saw around 10 bucks chasing does around my stand before 10 a.m.,” Krebs said. Krebs, 17-years-old now, has fallen in love with hunting just like her two younger brothers, Wyatt and Hunter. From the time she was 7, she was sitting in a deer blind with her dad and walking along on pheasant hunts at the age of 5. CONTINUED ON PAGE 4 Experience Outdoors 2021 | 3




1. Alexandria’s Lauren Krebs with a big 8-point buck she shot on opening morning of the 2018 firearms deer season in Minnesota. Krebs, 17, has been a part of her family’s hunting traditions since she was 5 years old. 2. Samantha Prahl, who grew up near Hinckley, Minnesota and now lives in the northwest metro area near the Twin Cities, hangs in a hunting saddle for an archery deer hunt. Prahl started hunting at the age of 30 and has become passionate about it over the last two seasons. 3. St. Paul’s Dayna Adams with a big doe she shot during the 2020 archery season. Adams started hunting at the age of 32 when she got her first bow and has since gone on to help many others get involved in archery through being a USA Archery instructor, and a National Archery in the School Program instructor. Contributed photos

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3 Krebs has hunted turkeys, ducks, deer and pheasants in Minnesota, along with out-of-state trips for pheasants in South Dakota and antelope in Wyoming. She will go on her first elk and mule deer hunt in Montana this fall. “I enjoy the challenge of hunting,” Krebs said. “I also like being outdoors, seeing things in nature that other people don’t get a chance to see. Knowing where my food comes from and that I provided it makes me a very proud hunter.”

Fighting a trend

Krebs is an example of how girls and women of all ages, if given the proper introduction and pathway into hunting, can become passionate about it for the same reasons so many men take to the fields, marshes and woods each fall. Across the country, data has shown that women for more than a decade have been a fast-growing segment of outdoor users, including in hunting, but they still find themselves in the large minority in terms of hunting and fishing. A 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey found that of the 35.8 million anglers who fished in the United States, 27 percent of them were female. Of the 11.5 million participants who hunted in 2016, 90% (10.3 million) were male and 10 percent (1.1 million) were female. James Burnham, the recruit, retain, and reactivate (R3) coordinator for the Minnesota DNR, is currently gathering all the 2019 and 2020 hunting participation data for Minnesota, but the DNR has numbers ranging from 2000 through 2018. “Between 2005-2016, we saw increases in participation by women, the only place we saw growth in hunting participation,” Burnham said. “In 2017 and 2018, we saw annual declines in women 4 | Experience Outdoors 2021

participating, but it’s not clear if that pattern held in 2019 and 2020 just yet.” Women can help grow hunter participation numbers, but there is also work to be done to really move the needle in terms of halting what has been dwindling license sales for hunting in the state and other parts of the country. Minnesota did see an uptick in resident firearms deer license sales during the pandemic in 2020 (354,023). That is still the second fewest since 2010 (379,866) and far from the 10-year high of 391,967 resident firearms deer licenses sold in 2013. “I just think we need more opportunities at varying levels for women to get involved, but also then feel more welcomed,” Dayna Adams of St. Paul said. “We have intro classes, but we need more classes for people to grow in it. Some people don’t have those influences in their life through brothers, sisters, mentors who will guide them and lead them through that. If we want people to stay in the hunting and fishing field, there needs to be more opportunities for all skill levels. They need to be cost effective and they need to be building on top of each other.”

Adding adult first-time hunters

Adams is on the leadership team of the R3 Council in Minnesota that strategizes ways to recruit and engage more hunters, anglers and outdoor recreational users in the state. She is also a board member of the non-profit Women Hunting and Fishing in All Seasons organization. Their group works to introduce women to the hunting and fishing field through events they host and by connecting them to other organizations and resources that can help women stay involved in the outdoors.

I enjoy the challenge of hunting. I also like being outdoors, seeing things in nature that other people don’t get a chance to see. Knowing where my food comes from and that I provided it makes me a very proud hunter. Alexandria’s Lauren Krebs, 17, on the reasons she has grown to love hunting.

Adams, 37, is like a lot of women her age who grew up around hunting but never really felt a part of it herself. Fishing was more her thing. She was in her early 30s when she shot her dad’s bow for the first time. Almost immediately, she fell in love with archery. “I jumped right into women’s-only target indoor shooting,” Adams said. “It just spiraled beyond that and it is now my fifth season hunting exclusively with a bow...I knew ultimately my goal was to get into the field and to harvest an animal from field to table.”

Adams said it’s important for women to feel connected to other women in the outdoors, but she was quick to say that they encourage any of their participants at events to invite the male figures in their lives as well if they want to. “I learned so much from my brother,” Adams said. “He was my mentor and my supporter first, but then when I grew from that, I wanted to help other women because I’ve had women reach out to me on that.” Samantha Prahl can relate to the importance of seeing more women in the hunting space. Prahl, who now lives in the northwest metro area near the Twin Cities, grew up near Hinckley, Minnesota. Her dad and brother did a little bit of hunting, but she and her sister never did. “It was definitely kind of the guys’ thing to do,” Prahl said. “The guys’ time alone.” Prahl met her husband, Garrett Prahl who runs the DIY Sportsman YouTube channel, in 2014. Garrett offers viewers of his channel do-it-yourself videos related to gear and hunting strategies, predominantly for turkeys and whitetail deer. “I didn’t start hunting right after I met Garrett,” Prahl said. “I knew it was something he was really passionate about, but between 2014 and 2019 I didn’t hunt.” The two were listening to a hunting podcast in the vehicle together where popular female hunting and outdoor personality Rihana Cary was a guest. “I was like, ‘What?’ A girl that hunts? I started looking her up,” Prahl said. “It was mostly through social media. Their style of hunting is very different, but that was what I first saw of some women who hunted. Then at one point I thought I wanted to try it.” Prahl got her first bow in 2019. She went through Minnesota’s hunter safety course online and had her first hunt in October of that year at age 30. She overcame some initial hesitancy of being on camera for Garrett’s hunting videos. His message to her was that many people could learn through her process of getting into hunting. The Prahls promote a style of hunting anyone could do by going on public land. During the 2020 archery season in North Dakota, Samantha made a good shot on a big doe at less than 15 yards with her bow for her first deer. “I was super excited and happy because I had had hunts with Garrett before where I had an opportunity and just did not connect,” Prahl said. “So that very first time I had an opportunity and wasn’t able to shoot it, I felt discouraged. Kind of like, ‘What am I doing? Maybe this isn’t for me.’ Beyond hunting for us, we don’t really buy meat from the store. I just felt super proud to be providing for Garrett and me.”

For the food and more

That food aspect of the hunt is often an important part of what draws newcomers into the field.

The Field to Fork program is a recruitment tool that the National Deer Association has seen a lot of success with in getting adults from non-hunting backgrounds to try hunting for the first time. “That’s definitely something that is a major driver. It’s very important,” Prahl said of food being the reason she hunts. “But there’s other things about hunting I like. Getting outside. You have that time to reflect and some quiet time. In groups of Garrett’s friends, this is such a tight group of people. Everyone is super nice to be around, helpful, more than willing to go out of their way to help you have a good experience.” Both Prahl and Adams love the strategizing and work that goes into hunting. It pushes them, and the end reward is multifaceted — pride and health benefits of harvesting one’s own food, and mental and physical rewards that stem from hunting. “I feel like I’m still learning a lot,” Prahl said. “I’ve gone on some solo hunts, but I’d like to get to the point where I’m comfortable and able to break down, process my deer. Know how to get it out myself. Have a plan in place for all those things. There’s definitely some women who do all that, and those are women who have impressed me a lot.”


Changing the culture

Prahl and Adams would love to see women continue to grow with hunting opportunities. Both have jumped right into becoming serious about archery hunting, but involvement in hunting can be done at whatever level one is comfortable with, from small game to big game. There are many local and national organizations ready to help out. The Minnesota DNR, at a state level, offers classes on the basics of getting into hunting and fishing for newcomers. “But the DNR is part of a government system,” Adams said. “They only have so much money. They only have so many people, and they can only do so much. A lack of people and resources is what keeps this from growing too. It’s trying to find the resources or someone dedicated who wants to continue to support someone. But the other challenge is mentors burn out.” That’s why continuing to shift a culture that for many years cultivated the idea that hunting is for the boys will likely play a big role in the extent to which women continue to grow in the hunting field. That starts at the family level. “One thing I think would be cool is if you do shoot a deer (as a father), bringing (your daughters) in to see the deer,” Prahl said. “Not the whole process of sitting there for hours, but bringing them in to see the deer that was shot and being a part of that process. It’s just exposing them more, and then leaving that open door.”


4. Alexandria’s Lauren Krebs with a rooster pheasant she shot during a winter hunt. 5. Samantha and Garrett Prahl of Minnesota with a doe that Samantha shot on a public-land Nebraska hunt during the early 2021 archery season. The Prahls help people with do-it-yourself videos related to gear and hunting strategies on public land hunts through Garrett’s YouTube channel, DIY Sportsman. Contributed photos It won’t happen fast, Adams said, but it’s a growing population. The more women can feel welcomed into the hunting and fishing world by those already in it, the more potential there is for even greater growth. “We have a cultural norm where men are viewed as the ones who should be out in the field and providing for their family. The cultural shift has to be an invitation from men seeing women and girls being a part of that,” Adams said. “Whatever level that is. If it’s just the wives, daughters or nieces sitting out in the tree stand, they’re still a part of it. When that happens, they see how they enjoy it. They think that’s something they could do in their life. Just the invitation is incredibly important. I think growing together will help this grow for women, but it will help grow the hunting and fishing industry too.”

Email sports and outdoor editor Eric Morken at emorken@echopress.com.

Experience Outdoors 2021 | 5

Alexandria’s Outdoor Library offering adventure for

all seasons By Thalen Zimmerman | Alexandria Echo Press


ack of access to gear that makes getting outside so enjoyable can be a barrier for some, and a relatively new outdoor gear library in Alexandria is making it easier to get the necessary equipment to take to the outdoors for any number of activities. The Outdoor Library located in the Community Education office at Woodland Elementary offers four seasons’ worth of fun with their library of outdoor equipment purchased by the Alexandria Viking Sportsmen Club and Douglas County Pheasants Forever. The library opened in October of 2020. “This whole thing was started to get kids and adults outdoors,” Community Education director Lynn Jenc said. “So much research points to being outside, in nature, to be a stress reliever. Fresh air and sunshine are very beneficial for people to help reduce their stress and anxiety.” The Outdoor Gear Library features various inexpensive activity equipment that will keep you busy all year long.

Yard Games

According to Jenc, the yard games have been very popular during the graduation-party season and other outdoor social gatherings in the summer. The games cost $3 per day and feature games like Life Size Connect-4, Giant Jenga, badminton, volleyball and cornhole sets, ladder golf, spike ball and four square.

Camping & Hiking

The library camping package lends the user a propane stove; propane not provided; an LED lantern, two inflatable sleeping mats, a hammock big enough for two people and a seven-person tent, all for $3 per day. If you plan to do some hiking, you can also rent a set of hiking poles and a bird-watching kit which includes binoculars, two copies of the Kaufman Field Guide of North American Birds, and a Douglas County bird checklist. Both of which cost $1 per day.

Bikes & Water

Bikes can also be rented out through the library. The cost is $20 per day per bike and includes a bike rack that attaches to the hitch of a car. There are multiple sizes of bikes to choose from, depending on the size of the rider. For those looking to get out on the water, multiple kayaks are available. The library’s website says their sit-in-style kayak is perfect for beginners and those looking to enjoy a stable and relaxing experience. And an open cockpit kayak is ideal for fishing. The kayaks each cost $2 per day. An aqua mat is also available for rent and costs $4 per day.


A hunting package is available for rent during turkey season. It includes a ground blind with two blind chairs, a turkey box call, a hunting vest and both

The Outdoor Library showcased its available gear at the shooting park during Youth Outdoor Activity Day on Aug. 29, 2021. Photos by Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press 6 | Experience Outdoors 2021

hen and tom decoys for $3 per day. A hunting license obtained through the DNR is required to hunt turkey.

Snow Gear

No excuses to let winter keep you indoors; the library added plenty of equipment to keep you busy even in the coldest of months. Their Ice Fishing Package includes an ice shelter, rods and lures, a propane heater — again, propane not included — a lantern, and of course, a hand auger. The package costs $5 per day. For those looking to get more exercise in the winter months, cross-country skis and snowshoe sets are available for $2 per day. When this idea was formed, research was compiled from surveys sent out to students within the district to determine exactly which equipment their audience would be interested in. There was also research into the University of Minnesota Duluth’s gear library, what type of equipment they offer and how they operate. “We did digging on liability and what type of equipment is popular for them to help determine the types of equipment for us to purchase,” said Jenc. The Library originally opened in Oct. of 2020 with just fishing and hunting equipment. The library had a slow start due to covid. “It was a challenge,” remarked Jenc. But by wintertime, cross country skis and snowshoes were added to the catalog and became the most popular items. And things really picked up

Addison and Colton Kramer of Alexandria play with the life size connect four yard game available at the Outdoor Gear Library in Alexandria. The public can rent gear for cheap for all types of outdoor recreation by calling the Community Education office at Woodland Elementary at (320)-762-3310.

Equipment was on display at the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria on Aug. 29, 2021 from the camping package available for rent at the Outdoor Gear Library. in the springtime with the addition of the kayaks, according to Jenc. “It took a little bit to get the word out. And we are still in our infant stage, but we had a great first year,” said Jenc, “I am hoping this is a forever library. We will continue to grow by asking the community what they would like to have available at the library.”

The library would like to add “Fat Bikes” to the catalog — bikes with wider tires for extra traction in the winter months. “It will be really fun to watch what the next year brings in,” says Jenc. The library has no limit on what people can check out. Jenc says they purchased the items to be used, so they want to see them utilized.

When an item is unavailable, the staff at the library will refer you to an item you haven’t tried yet and hopefully introduce you to a new opportunity outdoors. “We had someone come in to get a pair of cross-country skis, but unfortunately, they were all rented out,” Jenc said. “We convinced them to try snowshoes, something they had never done before. When they returned the shoes, they described the experience as amazing.” Community Education handles the rental process, but Jenc described the library as the “brain-child” of the Viking Sportsmen and Pheasants Forever. “Without their support and contribution, the library would not be possible,” Jenc said. While equipment donations may be accepted, the library prefers financial donations to ensure the equipment provided is safe and reliable for the community. To get started with gear rentals, call the Community Education office at Woodland Elementary during business hours — Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and set up a date and time to pick up the equipment. Call (320)-762-3310. Pay over the phone with your card or in person. All forms of payment are accepted. “Enjoy the outdoors, be brave, and try something new,” Jenc said. “You may surprise yourself. You may discover a new passion.”

Email reporter Thalen Zimmerman at tzimmerman@echopress.com

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Experience Outdoors 2021 | 7

Campfire cookin’ s’mores and more By Celeste Edenloff | Alexandria Echo Press


f you have camped before, you’ve more than likely had a campfire. And if you’ve had a campfire, odds are you’ve toasted marshmallows for S’mores. But campfires can be used to make more than just S’mores. And you don’t even need any pots and pans. There are other ways/methods of cooking over a campfire that include using aluminum foil, sticks or pie irons, which can be purchased in the camping section at your favorite outdoor store. But first, here are some campfire cooking safety tips, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: • Alway build the smallest campfire, building just what you need. • Please be careful when putting in, moving, stirring or taking food from a campfire as it will be hot. • Cook over coals, not the direct flame. Food can burn quickly over the flame. • Put your fire completely out when done. Here are some recipes to try using the various methods.

Aluminum foil

Make sure to use heavy duty foil or double the sheets when cooking over a fire.

TOP TO BOTTOM: Belly-Busting Banana Boats can be made on a campfire using aluminum foil and are a chocolatey, banana gooey dessert for everyone. Cast iron pie cookers are a great way to make sandwiches and pies in a camp fire. Roasting sticks are a great way to cook hotdogs, marshmallows and other food items over a campfire. Shutterstock photos 8 | Experience Outdoors 2021

Brownie Orange-licious You will need oranges and a brownie mix, preferably the kind that you only need to mix in water. Cut the orange in half. If it won’t sit flat on the table, shave off the bottom until it does. Scoop out the orange pulp inside, making sure to eat it. Take two sheets of aluminum foil and wrap it around one-half of the orange, leaving the top open. Mix the brownie mix according to directions. Fill two-thirds of the orange up with prepared brownie mix. Place next to the coals in the campfire or on top of coals in a grill. Bake for 20 minutes or until the middle is done. Belly-Busting Banana Boats You will need bananas, chocolate chips and marshmallows. Do not take the peeling off of the banana. Make two rectangular slits on top of the banana. Then, cut one end and peel it back, making a flap. Scoop out the banana just below the flap and eat it. Put chocolate chips and marshmallows into the rectangular hole. Fold the flap back over the banana. Wrap in foil and set near warm coals for 5 minutes. Pull it off of the coals and let it cool. Just be careful, the banana boats will be hot. Unwrap the aluminum foil and enjoy the chocolate, banana gooey goodness.

Pie irons

Pie irons are a camping tool used to make stuffed sandwiches and desserts, especially pies. Pie Iron Pizza Pocket You will need refrigerated pizza dough, canned pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, toppings such as precooked sausage or bacon, pepperoni, veggies chopped into small pieces (they will cook faster) and butter. Butter the inside of the pie iron generously. Unroll pizza dough from the container, cut a piece of dough and spread it out inside one half of the pie iron, with an equal portion hanging over. You’ll fold the hanging portion back over the toppings before closing the pie iron. Spoon sauce evenly around the dough. Spread sauce on the overhanging flap of dough, too. Add your toppings. Now fold the overhanging flap of dough on top of the toppings. Pinch around the edge of the dough so a pocket is formed. Close the iron tightly and bake on each side for 5 minutes. Cook longer for a crispier crust.

Roasting stick

Nothing says camp cooking more than roasting a marshmallow over the fire with an ol’ faithful roasting

stick. But remember, do not cut any live tree to make your roasting stick. Eggs on a Stick You will need a large orange, egg, salt and pepper. Cut a large orange in half and scrape out the fruit from both pieces. With a sharp knife, cut a small “x” on one orange half about 1/4 inch below the rim. Cut another “x” just below the opposite rim. Thread a roasting stick through the cuts so that the orange halves hang like a basket. While someone holds a half peel steady, crack a small egg into it. Grasp the end of the stick and hold the orange shell over low flames or embers of a campfire for about 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and remove the orange from the stick. Add salt and pepper and enjoy your egg. Mummified Hotdogs You will need hotdogs, cheese slices and refrigerated biscuit dough. Spear hotdog onto roasting stick length-wise. Roll biscuit dough into a long rope-like structure. Wrap cheese around hotdog and secure with biscuit rope, pinching together at top and bottom so it stays on the hot dog and secures the cheese. Cook over indirect heat until hotdog is done, cheese is melted and biscuit is golden-brown.

Email reporter Celeste Edenloff at cedenloff@echopress.com


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Lake Brophy Park comes to fruition Outdoor lovers near and far getting use out of recent addition to Douglas County By Thalen Zimmerman | Alexandria Echo Press


ity and county parks can have their limitations in what kind of value they bring to a community, but the Alexandria area has certainly embraced the multiple outdoor opportunities that Lake Brophy County Park has provided. The park has served as an all-season opportunity for people of many outdoor backgrounds. From mountain biking and hiking trails to a swimming beach with an EZ kayak launch, a playground for the kids and skiing and sledding in the winter. Anyone looking for fun outside should check out the park. “Just looking at the number of people out here on a daily basis, I’ll say the park has definitely been a success,” said Park Superintendent Brad Bonk. “Even coming out in the winter, I have seen a packed parking lot.” The park was purchased in 2015 after original plans had it set to be a housing development. But after the crash of the housing market following the recession of 2008, new plans were made — with money from various grants and an anonymous donation — Lake Brophy County Park now rests on 160 acres on the northwest edge of the lake just west of Alexandria. The park has successfully attracted locals looking to stretch their legs outdoors as well as plenty of visitors from outside the community. “It is a great health value to the community,” Bonk said. “It helps people get outside and become active.” On the park’s beachside, visitors can utilize the swimming beach, a pier for fishing and a place to launch their kayaks or canoes. The park’s ADAapproved EZ launch kayak system allows beginners, the elderly, those with disabilities, or anyone who would rather stay dry to launch into the water. With an easy-to-use transfer bench and transfer slide boards, users can simply sit, slide over and drop down into a kayak or canoe and use durable side rails to pull off or back on. “The beach is always clean, and the dock is great for fishing. The kids love it,” said Melissa Dallmann of Lowry. 10 | Experience Outdoors 2021

Just looking at the number of people out here on a daily basis, I’ll say the park has definitely been a success. Park Superintendent Brad Bonk

Dallmann routinely brings her REM clients to the park to stretch their legs and get some fresh air. “It is a great place to expose the kids to the outdoors,” she said. “There is lots of nature to explore.” Dallman said she discovered the park after starting at REM. Since then, she has recommended the park to her friends. REM is a support service that cares for individuals with developmental disabilities and helps to enhance their lives through activities within the community. Diane Shearer, 61, from Fergus Falls, had a firsttime experience after her grandson, Jude Shearer, 10, and daughter-in-law, Michelle Shearer, convinced her to come with them, as they have been to the park a few times before. “I was really impressed when we pulled in. It is beautiful,” Diane said. “I have really enjoyed watching the kids with the grins on their faces play at the playground and take turns on the zipline.” The ADA-accessible playground has unique features from a zipline to a treehouse with a web of rope to climb to the top, educational games and puzzles with the standard slides and swings. According to Bonk, it is the largest playground in a 60-mile radius.

“The kids love the park. Every time we make it to Alexandria, we have to stop,” Michelle Shearer said. “Our dog even loves it.” Michelle believes the park has been a great investment for the community as it draws plenty of tourists to the area. She mentioned that many moms she knows from Fergus Falls love to bring their kids to the park as well. The hiking and mountain biking trails — which double as ski trails in the winter — cut through the hills standing 140 feet above Lake Brophy, providing beautiful views of the lake and the rest of the park. According to Bonk, there are plans to add a skills park and a pump track in the near future. The skills park will allow novice and expert level bikers to develop and hone their skills on the hills by riding over various obstacles and features. A pump track is a trail that, when used correctly, requires no pedaling, but instead, the rider uses a “pumping” action to maintain momentum. “We mountain bike all over the state, and we are super impressed with the trails and the beautiful views,” said John Champa, 54, from Pine Island, who enjoyed his day at the park with his wife, Tammy, after their son — who lives in Alexandria — recommended it to them. “We have already biked the whole thing and are about to do it again.” “We are absolutely coming back, next time we will bring the grandkids,” added Tammy. To get the park another step closer to completing its master plan. The Douglas County parks department will also be adding a four-season restroom and covered picnic shelter on the lawn next to the playground. Construction for the shelter is expected to begin in the spring of 2022, with plans to be finished by autumn of next year. “Usually, with a park’s master plan, it takes about 30 years just to get a third of the way complete. We have done it in seven years,” stated Bonk. “There is so much that makes this park great and a nice place for kids to come,” said Jude. “It is very nature friendly, which I like.”







1. Michael Florin rides ahead of his dad, Maxwell, on one of the Mountain bike trails at Lake Brophy County Park near Alexandria on Saturday, September 4. 2. From a hill in Lake Brophy County Park, visitors get a view of some of the park’s amenities, which include a playground, fishing pier, Central Lakes Trail and Lake Brophy. The park also includes walking trails, a beach, restrooms and a kayak launch area. 3. Donna Gronau and Jeff Kaczmarczyk visit and enjoy the sun while their kids play on the playground equipment at Lake Brophy County Park on Saturday, September 4. 4. Mountain bike trails wind back and forth over a hillside at Lake Brophy County Park. The park includes several different mountain biking trails ranging from easy to very difficult. 5. Travis Lang banks through a corner on one of the mountain bike trails at Lake Brophy County Park near Alexandria on Saturday, September 4. 6. Aaron French runs on one of the mountain bike trails at Lake Brophy County Park on Saturday, September 4. He ran over nine miles on the trails that day. Photos by Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press Email reporter Thalen Zimmerman at tzimmerman@echopress.com

Experience Outdoors 2021 | 11

Retirees opt for comfortable camping

Vikingland chapter of Minnesota Good Sam Club offers camaraderie in camping By Karen Tolkkinen | Alexandria Echo Press


arie Shelstad has been camping since she was 7 days old. “My dad just had wandering feet,” she said. “I went to a new school every year.” That ceased when she was in 10th grade and her parents bought a resort on Lake Mary in Douglas County. Now retired, and twice a widow, Shelstad continues to camp. This time, it’s in a 1992 Class C motorhome, the kind you don’t need a special license to drive, and she goes with a big group of other campers from around the area. She’s part of the Vikingland chapter of the Minnesota Good Sam Club, which is part of a worldwide organization that claims 1.7 million members. There are degrees of camping difficulty, from rugged backcountry, bear spray-in-your-pocket locations to the private campgrounds with electrical outlets that Shelstad and her friends patronize. There are two good reasons Shelstad now camps with her RV group: Comfort and camaraderie.


As people age, they still appreciate cool outdoor mornings and campfires, but they find their backs and joints can’t handle the hard ground or even cots. RVs and pull-behind campers provide a bed that’s more like the one at home, although fellow Good Sam member Irene Tvrdik cautions older buyers to think hard about what their needs will be, as some beds can be difficult to maneuver around when you can’t move so well. “Most of these motorhomes, the bed on each side is pretty tight to the wall and high up,” she said. “That means people sometimes have to scramble over the foot of the bed to sleep, which can be tough when trying to help a spouse or someone else get comfortable.” Several members of the Vikingland group praised slideouts as adding much-appreciated extra inches inside their units. They work well, said Vikingland President Gene Rossum, as long as the RV is balanced on level ground. Balancing them isn’t difficult, he said, but requires extra steps, like driving onto leveling blocks. If the RV isn’t balanced, the slides can bind up. Other comforts include awnings, he said. Awnings provide shade and shelter. “Now everyone wishes they had one that was motorized,” he said. “If it starts raining hard at night, you have to go out and put them up.” 12 | Experience Outdoors 2021

Some of the members of the Vikingland Sams club include, left to right, Curt and Rosemary Danielson, and Julie and Dan Kakac with their dog, Bailey. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press Bathrooms are almost universal in units now and provide a much-appreciated alternative to the fly fests known as pit toilets. “Air conditioning is almost a must,” he said. “You get in some of these campgrounds, there are no trees or the trees are very small so there’s no shade.” Televisions are getting more common in RVs, he said, and not just one, but two and sometimes three.


When the Vikingland Sams hit the highway, they often caravan to their camping spot. That means sometimes a dozen or so units travel together, leaving 500 feet between each rig so that other vehicles can get around them.

Technology has led to a bit more isolation — for instance, they all have cell phones instead of CB radios, which Shelstad said once provided easy, constant chatter during trips. However, once they get to their campgrounds, there’s a lot of sharing, and everyone helps everyone else. “RV people are just so helpful and just so friendly,” Shelstad said. “If you’d go to a motel, you’d just sit in the motel and not know anybody.” For Shelstad, an only child who never had any children of her own and who is now a widow, she considers the club family. They not only camp together, but they help each other throughout the year, provide comfort in times of loss, and visit regularly. “They’ve all been extra special. Everyone is so good,” she said. “Everybody is right there for you.”

RV people are just so helpful and just so friendly. If you’d go to a motel, you’d just sit in the motel and not know anybody. Marie Shelstad Camping trips are full of card games, communal meals and stories around the campfire. Every place they camp, they leave behind their rigs and climb in with whoever has a car or truck and head to the nearest town. In August, they visited Prospect House, a Civil War museum, in Battle Lake, then headed to Granny’s Pantry for ice cream, which they licked on a warm, sunny afternoon on the sidewalk. They also toured Lund Boats in New York Mills. “If the club hadn’t done it, I probably never would have seen it,” said Audrey Hanson of Alexandria. Hanson loves RV’ing because it gives her and her husband the chance to venture down lesser-traveled roads and see firsthand the vast diversity of American lives: the teacher on an Alaskan island near Russia who had been adopted by an Eskimo tribe and had become a matriarch within the tribe. A man who was carving beautiful items from ivory and wood. “People, if you tell them how pretty their object is that they’re making, they enjoy talking to you,” she said. In September, the Vikingland chapter camped near the Mississippi River and visited the zoo in Little Falls. “That was something,” Shelstad said.


RVs provide a lot more protection against the elements than a tent, but they also pose unique challenges.

This year, someone backed an RV into a slough and had to get pulled out by a good-sized wrecker, Shelstad said. Wreckers also were summoned in 2010, after a camping site in Owatonna received six inches of rain and RVs bogged down in mud. Hanson said her least favorite part of RVing is fixing the motorhome “when something goes wrong. Because there’s always something that goes wrong with your unit because it’s pretty hard to drag a house. … When you drag a working house with water, and a flush toilet and a refrigerator, you have to expect you’re going to have troubles.” Still, the Vikingland members say the pros outweigh the cons, and that usually everything goes smoothly.

Dwindling numbers

Statewide, the group has been dwindling, Vikingland members say. They used to organize two jamborees a year, but now they only have one. Some chapters have folded entirely, and remaining members have joined other chapters. However, the Vikingland chapter is still thriving. Mostly, new members join after hearing about it word of mouth. To learn more about the Vikingland chapter, visit mngoodsamclub.com or call Rossum, the president, at 320-491-3817.

TOP: Members of the Vikingland Good Sam RV Club headed into Battle Lake during their August trip to see the Prospect House Civil War museum and for ice cream. From left: Curt and Rosemary Danielson, and Marie and Greg Schmidt. Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press ABOVE: Members of the Vikingland Sam RV Club play the game left-center-right during one of their monthly trips. Contributed

Email reporter Karen Tolkkinen at ktolkkinen@echopress.com

Experience Outdoors 2021 | 13

Chef Mike Rakun cooks up some


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Recipe contributed by Mike Rakun


n avid outdoorsman, Mike Rakun, owner and chef at Longtrees Woodfire Grill in Alexandria, looks for any opportunity to get into the wilderness. Any given season, you can find him tapping into nature’s bounty – foraging wild plants and mushrooms, picking up produce from local farmers or reveling in his favorite outdoor activity – hunting. Everything from grouse up in the range to moose in the Yukon River Valley of Alaska, Rakun hunts, cooks and eats what’s in season. While Rakun likes to let the flavor of his meat speak for itself by simply seasoning it with salt and pepper and ensuring he doesn’t overcook it, his favorite recipe to wow even the pickiest of crowds is Bulgogi. The best part is that this variation of a Korean BBQ is perfect for using up those tougher cuts of meat like the leg, rump roast or skirt steak.

Mike’s Wild Game Bulgogi

1 lb frozen game meat – venison, elk, wild boar, moose, etc. Remove the meat from the freezer to partially thaw (20-30 mins). Keeping meat partially frozen helps allow you to cut the meat into thinner slices Marinade ingredients 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 to 2 tbsp red chili paste (chili garlic sauce, Sriracha or gochujang) 1 tbsp plain or toasted sesame oil 3 cloves of garlic Other ingredients 1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil 1 bunch green onions

1 tbsp fresh peeled ginger or substitute 1/2 tsp powdered ginger 1/2 tsp black pepper Optional 1/2 cup grated or minced Asian Pear (any pear can be substituted, the pear helps tenderize the meat)


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2 tsp sesame seeds

Combine marinade ingredients in a food processor until smooth or finely mince the garlic, ginger and pear and whisk together with the rest of the ingredients in a glass bowl, baking dish or gallon ziplock bag. Now that your marinade is ready, slice the partially thawed meat against the grain as thin as possible and put into the marinade. Be sure your meat is evenly coated, then cover and refrigerate for 2-plus hours or overnight. On high heat, add some oil to your frying pan, cast iron pan or our favorite, a pancake griddle. Working in small batches, sear the marinated meat on each side no more than 3 minutes per slice. Remove and cover to keep warm. Adding more oil as necessary, continue until all your meat is cooked. Garnish your Bulgogi with sliced green onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds over top. Keep it simple by serving it on warm rice or get creative and use it in lettuce wraps, add to stir fried veggies, or have Korean style tacos! Mike Rakun Owner, chef at Longrees Woodfire Grill in Alexandria

14 | Experience Outdoors 2021

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