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Day Tripping: Hitting the road to Hayward

This time of year the Golden Gates of Summer swing wide open in the Davey house. School is out for our girls and me, with one question looming high above all else: Now what?

For us, that answer is, and always has been, camping.

We kick off our summers with a low-maintenance, activity-filled trip to the Hayward KOA. This isn’t your scout camp of yore. It’s easy. It’s fun. And if you need to check those imaginary boxes of what is and isn’t camping, you can always yell at each other while backing in your camper or setting up the tent.

For our family, the reason above all reasons to go there is all the activities they have planned throughout the week. That’s right, they plan things, so you don’t have to. The weekend we went was Western-themed. One night they showed the film, “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West”, in the park and the next they had a dance complete with lights and pumping country music.

During the day there is often face painting, craft tables, and loads more to keep the little ones from uttering the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored.”

A heated pool, arcade and playground equipped with a huge wooden pirate ship — a toy I never refuse to play on when the girls ask — are all also readily available, and dead center in the campground for easy access. Attached, though currently unbraved by the Davey Ladies, is a giant waterslide as well as access to my favorite activity, a river raft down a jaunty river in your trusty inner tube.

Not everyone may have all the doodads and accessories that go into some more rustic camping, but this KOA has you covered. There are sites for campers, tents, rentable trailers and even cabins if you want to travel light. Bathrooms, showers and other amenities are all there too. The check-in building has all your basic camping needs in case you left anything behind, and an ice cream and food shop on the grounds will even deliver food to your campsite.

At less than two hours away from Cloquet, you could pack the family and overnight bags, rent a cabin and let the good folks at The Red Pine Express do the cooking for you.

The off-site activities are too plentiful to list, but some of my personal highlights are in downtown Hayward, which boasts restaurants, book shops, toy stores and a candy shop that is typically whipping up a fresh batch of confections right before your eyes.

This year we ventured out to the Wilderness Walk Zoo, just shy of 15 minutes from camp. Admission may seem a bit steep at the gates — $16.95 for adults and $11.95 for children at the time of writing — but once in, it is well worth it. Deer and turkey roam the premises; the petting zoo section was teeming with baby goats, rabbits, fawns and other critters too cute to pass up. Other animals included racoons, bears, pigs, horses, lemurs and camels. They even had a tiger and a wolf, which made the girls’ day because they are their favorite animals respectively.

A free tip from me is to buy the $5 bag of corn as you go in, rather than the corn cones or other feed from the coin-operated machine. Each stall provides information on what the animals can eat, and most of them can have corn. There is an on-site restaurant and arcade, a maze and a mystery shack. You can easily make a day of it, and the land itself is beautifully laid out with a river running through the middle and a large field with walking paths near the back. We all look forward to visiting it again next year.

Three nights is perfect to make the most of everything. Earlier in the week, the campground and local attractions are vastly more open, but even when the weekend arrives, you won’t feel too pinned in.

Each year as summer slowly claws itself free from winter’s icy grip, our family eagerly counts down the days until we can kick off summer again at the Hayward KOA, and this year was no different. We can hardly wait till next year to get back and see what other wonders await.

Cloquet’s Darrell and Emily Davey and their two 9-year-old daughters agreed to share their summer getaways with Pine Knot News readers. Look for more ... if it ever stops raining.

Contact the Davey family c/o [email protected].

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