Ultimate MN Scavenger Hunt

Lowell Park

Checkpoint in Lowell Park, Stillwater

I can’t believe this is the first time in my life that I’ve heard of MN Checkpoint–a yearly statewide challenge that encourages Minnesotans to visit areas of the state they normally never see.

There are ten Checkpoint locations across the state–since the challenge opened on Dec. 3, I have already visited two. The premise is simple: take your photo with the signpost declaring this spot as a checkpoint, upload it to the MN Checkpoint website, and earn points that you can exchange for prizes. Depending on how many of the ten points you end up with, you can win anything from wool socks to a three-day hotel getaway.

For one checkpoint, I took a weekend drive to the Zumbrota Covered Bridge with my constant travel companion cousin. We reminisced about an earlier trip to the area, during which we became horribly lost in Zumbrota, took a break, contemplated thieving silverware from a restaurant, and bought cheap travel mugs at a Casey’s General Store, which still fondly leak all over us to this day.

I gained another one yesterday in Stillwater’s Lowell Park, as I happened to be downtown for the holiday book sale at the Warden’s House Museum. I took riverfront photos for several other groups who were enjoying Stillwater that day, and explained the premise of the Checkpoint challenge to anyone who would listen. I think it’s a marvelous idea.

The challenge is competitive, and the prizes go fast. The last time I looked at the site, many items had already run out.

While this is somewhat disappointing, I think the real value in participating is the experience you get out of making the voyage to each location. Road trips seem out of the question during this time of the year; more likely to happen over the summer months. But there’s no real reason it should be this way! Yeah, it’s a little colder. And sometimes driving conditions can make winter travel a hassle. But given our unusually warm, misty, rainy winter thus far, the timing seems ideal. Zumbrota

The challenge is commercially stimulated, of course (what isn’t?) but MN Checkpoint is ultimately a way for people, especially ones who tend to interpret the arrival of winter as the termination of fun, to get out and enjoy their home state in a new way. Whether I end up with two points or ten, it’s still fun to be a part of it. And maybe I’ll start a little earlier next year. 😉

The challenge runs through Jan. 31, 2016. Seems like a worthy New Years project to me.

Locations left to visit:

August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm

Arctic Cat, Inc. in Thief River Falls (a location I am eager to visit after an incredulous Englishman approached me on a visit to the U.K. inquiring if Thief River Falls was a real place)

Voyageurs National Park

TCF Bank Stadium (for anyone in the Cities, that’s one easy point for you right there)

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park (Ah! The famous campground featured in the story of the time we brought the rain fly but forgot the tent.)

World’s Largest Freestanding Hockey Stick and Puck in Eveleth

Cuyuna State Recreation Area in Crosby-Irontown

Hopperstead Stave Church in Moorhead



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