BEST PLACE TO GO CAMPING (1999)
Need to get away from the cube, the cash register, or the highway's tether? Want to escape without bringing it all with you in the full-metal experience of the RV? To feel the rustle of prairie grass against your calf and the call of the whippoorwill without having to drive over the border? Afton State Park offers the perfect spot in which to blow the urban dust from your tubes: The 24 hike-in campsites, several situated on the bluffs of the St. Croix River, are hidden away amid stands of aspen, birch, and oak (one of them is accessible only by canoe). While reservations are taken, a full third of the sites are kept open for those of us who like to camp on a whim. The various trails connecting the sites, some paved and some surfaced with grass or gravel, offer miles of biking, hiking (20 miles!), cross-country skiing (18!), and even horseback riding (5). The trails wind through the woods and restored prairie, where you might get lucky enough to spot the jade and maroon neck of a pheasant or the dull brown of a ruffed grouse as they scurry into the grass. If you happen to work up a sweat, the trails eventually lead to the swimming beach, where a quick dip will cool you off and make you remember why chlorine sucks. All in all the park offers the perfect spot--untouched by excessive human handiwork--in which to get away from the nattering, beeping, and honking of the workaday world.