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'Camper Cabins' guide to great outdoors

Submitted This cabin at the Crow Wing State Park is among author Tom Watson's favorites. It offers a spacious setting shaded by towering pines on a site just far enough from the road to offer some privacy. 1 / 5
Submitted Chippewa County offers camper cabins at its park long the Minnesota River at Wegdahl. 2 / 5
Submitted This is one of three camper cabins at Lac qui Parle State Park. They are the only cabins in the park system to feature air conditioning. 3 / 5
Submitted Tom Watson is an outdoor writer living in Appleton who has authored guides to hiking, tent camping and now camper cabins in Minnesota. 4 / 5
Tom Watson's newly released "Best Minnesota Camper Cabins'' will inspire wanderlust in anyone who enjoys the varied landscapes of Minnesota. 5 / 5

APPLETON - For a former Boy Scout who cut his outdoor teeth as part of a search-and-rescue team based on Alaska's Kodiak Island, this subject might seem out-of-character.

Adventure Publications has just released "Best Minnesota Camper Cabins'' authored by Tom Watson of Appleton. "Roughing it in style'' proclaims a sub-head on the cover of the 144-page guide book.

Watson admits that camper cabins are a step or two up from the primitive, minimal impact camping he has always enjoyed.

But the book isn't about the best camper cabins, per se. To be included in this book, they all had to be spartan, and not include the amenities expected in cabins at most resorts.

"You're basically sleeping in a wooden tent,'' said Watson of how he defines a camper cabin for this book.

What he does is guide readers to the landscapes and outdoor experiences to be found at the 98 different camper cabins featured in his book, and that's right in keeping with Watson's passion for the outdoors. The cabins are the launching points for the wide range of outdoor adventures Minnesota offers.

Watson has discovered camper cabins shaded by towering pine trees and others hidden amidst hardwood forests; places where visitors can truly find the quiet, getaway retreat so many desire.

His travels have also led him to cabins offering views of sparkling waters that are irresistible to those who love to cast a line or dip a paddle. And, he's found a surprising diversity of cabins offering vantage points to enjoy the horizontal grandeur of Minnesota's prairie region, where winding rivers and trails wait to be explored.

Watson takes his role as guide to these locales to heart. He made trips to the sites. And every time, he carried a camera, tape recorder and notebook to preserve his observations.

In all, he estimates he devoted somewhere between 12 to 15 months to the process of exploring camper cabin sites, selecting the best, and creating the narrative to introduce readers to each.

The book features his photographs on every page to give readers a look at just what waits for them.

Watson heartily endorses the growing popularity of camper cabins across the state. They are a great way for people new to camping, or who lack the basic equipment, to discover camping and the outdoors, he explained.

Camper cabins can also be the ticket for parents with young children to enjoy the outdoors. Knowing there will be a roof overhead when it rains can save the trip. And of course, camper cabins allow aging campers and those with physical limitations to continue to enjoy the camping experience.

The majority of camper cabins and sites in the book are found in state parks. Yet the book also features many camper cabins found in county, regional and even some municipal parks. The book also includes a selection of yurts available for camping.

Watson said he was surprised to discover the varied camper cabin opportunities found in this part of the state. Cabins at Sibley, Lac qui Parle, Carlos, and Glacial Lakes State Parks are featured, as are cabins at Chippewa County's park at Wegdahl along the Minnesota River and the Koronis County Park on Lake Koronis.

As a guide book, Watson includes all of the essential information for each featured cabin, such as how to reserve a site, whether pets are allowed, and rates. Best of all, he offers "Tom's Tips'' to let readers know what opportunities they dare not miss outside the doors of each featured cabin.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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