For several years in the mid- to late 1970s, my father and I would load up a tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and outdoor clothing onto the back of his small Honda 650 motorcycle, climb aboard (both of us) and spend a couple of weeks or more exploring the scenery of the middle portion of the United States. One of the more memorable was that of the summer of 1977 when we headed north from our home in northeastern Kansas. The original goal was to enter Canada through Grand Portage and continue along the top of Lake Superior before re-entering the States at Sault Ste. Marie. We got only as far as Thunder Bay in Ontario before turning back south for a variety of reasons. The trip produced many fond memories but ended on a dismal note when the bike threw its chain in a remote area of central Iowa during the worst heatwave in recorded memory.

Bridge over Pike Creek at Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, Little Falls MN in May 2011

Long before that mishap amongst cornfields with nary a tree in sight, we enjoyed around eight or nine days exploring the thickly forested “Land of 10,000 Lakes” of Minnesota. While I was probably most excited at the time about visiting Duluth with the potential of seeing many large ships in the port, once I saw the first signs advertising the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park in Little Falls I began pestering my dad about stopping. I was a big fan of Lindbergh at the time and the first day cover of the 50th anniversary stamp released by the U.S. Postal Service that May was the first I received in my long-standing membership in the Postal Commemorative Society. My interest in the pilot’s activities both before and after his solo transatlantic flight continue to interest me and I wrote two lengthy articles on A Stamp A Day about him in 2018 which can be seen here and here). I am already anticipating the onslaught of philatelic items sure to be issued five-and-a-half years from now on the 100th anniversary of the flight.

Brainerd is a town to the north of Little Falls.

The park in Little Falls was created in 1913 when the family of Charles Lindbergh, Sr., donated 110 acres in his memory. Located on the Mississippi River, it offers visitors a wooded campground, hiking and skiing trails, and a quaint picnic area. The picnic area includes a historic Work Projects Administration (WPA) picnic shelter and a stone water tower. The historic home of Charles A. Lindbergh and the adjacent museum are operated by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) and are next to the park. Today, the park contains 570 acres. Pike Creek runs through its center before emptying into the Mississippi River.

Lindbergh was born in his mother’s hometown of Detroit but relocated to a new home in Little Falls on a 110-acre farm outside of town. The farm was also home to Charles’s two half-sisters from his father’s first marriage, Lillian and Eva. Lindbergh had the pleasure of growing up here and he enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle of the area. He would often spend his days swimming in the river, climbing trees, interacting with the lumberjacks who brought logs down the river and hunting with his father.

At a very young age, Lindbergh showed interest in aviation and dreamed of becoming a pilot one day. In his book, The Spirit of St. Louis, he recounted seeing his first airplane in Little Falls: “One day I was playing upstairs in our house on the riverbank. The sound of a distant engine drifted in through an open window. … No automobile engine made that noise. … I ran to the window and climbed out onto the tarry roof. It was an airplane!”

Lindbergh attended Little Falls High School although he was not a particularly good student at the time being much more interested in mechanical things like cars, farm equipment, and motorcycles. Luckily, students who wanted to work on the farm could leave school and still receive full academic credit. Lindbergh left classes to run his family farm only to return and receive his diploma in 1918. Lindbergh continued to run the farm for the next two years.

I do not recall if we visited the museum during our brief visit. Likely, we arrived after closing time and departed early the next morning. I do recall walking the shady trails around our campsite and purchasing the patch in a general store nearby. It is the only souvenir I still have from that trip (even a commemorative medallion in a red leatherette case purchased at Thunder Bay’s Fort William has disappeared over the years). Well, I suppose, I do still have the memories of the trip, ones that my dad and I continue to laugh about. That is the best souvenir of them all…


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