VOLUME 2 | NO. 1
Senior Connections HJ.COM
This is a combined
Grand Portage to Blue Mounds: Lester Prairie
couple adventures through MN’s State Parks
Brian and Jill Duncan were both raised in Minnesota;
Jill, in Duluth, and Brian, in Minnetonka. But that doesn’t
mean the state can’t still hold new experiences for them.
In 2016, while hiking up a trail in Zippel Bay State
Park, on the northern border of the state, Brian and Jill
abruptly came face-to-face with three black bears.
“They were about 30 feet away,” Jill said, and hadn’t
seen the Duncans yet.
“We said, we should let them know we’re here, be-
cause they were getting a little close. So we just said,
‘Hi, Bears!’ and they were gone in the brush. That was a
thrill,” Jill recalled fondly.
The Duncans, who have lived in Lester Prairie for 33
years, both agree that this was one of their most exciting
moments at a state park, which is saying a lot, as they
have spent more time in state parks in the last few years
than most people have in their entire lives.
“Visiting the state parks is something we can do as a
couple and enjoy together,” Jill said.
The Duncans took up camping after their two daugh-
ters married and moved away from home.
“Being empty-nesters, we took the opportunity to get
out and about in our camper, and we kind of got hooked,”
Jill said. “Being out in the woods is a healing kind of
thing. There’s just something about it; it feeds you and it
heals you, and it’s a wonderful experience.”
They started getting serious about camping in 2012,
when they purchased their little pop-up camper, but it
wasn’t until 2014 when “we really started in earnest to
visit all the state parks.”
That’s when they found out about the state park Pass-
port Club. By paying a small fee, club members are able
to start accumulating stamps in a “passport” booklet at
each park they visit. The goal? To get a stamp from every
park in the state.
After obtaining 25 stamps, members are eligible for a
free night of camping, along with other bonuses, but the
perks aren’t what inspired the Duncans.
Rather, it was the challenge itself that inspired the cou-
ple, especially Jill, who has a self-proclaimed “problem”
“We started in 2014, and kind of went from there,” Jill
said, and “by July of the next summer, we’d been to [all
That’s quite a feat, as there are 75 state parks in Min-
nesota, and the Duncans didn’t just stop in to get their
stamp and leave again. Instead, they made a point of do-
ing something meaningful, to get to know each park, in-
cluding picnics, hikes, and sometimes camping.
Originally, “we would plan to camp at one park, and
then make day visits to other parks in the vicinity,” Jill
said, but once they’d accomplished the Passport Club,
they came up with a new challenge.
“We decided we were going to camp at every single
park you can camp at,” Jill said.
There are 61 state parks in Minnesota that allow drive-
in camping, and as of this past summer, the Duncans
have “camped at every one of those 61 state parks with
During this time, they set themselves yet another
“One year, we stayed overnight at a state park every
month of the year,” Brian said.
“Another one of [my] lists,” laughed Jill.
Depending on the weather, the Duncans usually rent
camper cabins when they visit parks in the winter months,
which can add whole new experiences. One December,
the couple camped in a wood-heated yurt at Afton State
More ADVENTURES on Pg 2
Brian Duncan walks a Hiking Club trail at Lake Shetek
PHOTO BY JILL DUNCAN
is distributed to:
Annandale | Buffalo | Cokato | Darwin | Dassel | Delano | Glencoe | Howard Lake | Hutchinson | Kimball | Lester Prairie
Litchﬁ eld | Loretto | Maple Lake | Maple Plain | Mayer | Montrose | Mound | New Germany | Norwood Young America
Rockford | Silver Lake | South Haven | St. Bonifacius | Waconia | Watertown | Waverly | Winsted