Birch Lake State Forest north of Melrose is an emerald island in the midst of a bountiful sea of farmland.
That is the way James Kubow, a summer campground host at the forest, describes his home from May to September.
“This forest is a real gem,” said the retired para-medic from Chisholm Minnesota who spends his summers back home in Minnesota and his winters down south.
“I prefer camping in a tent to camping in a camper,” said Kubow. “You can hear all the sounds and feel the weather.”
Kubow lives in a six-person tent with an entrance large enough to set a lawn chair and cooler. The weather turned into a severe storm in July that tipped over every tent in the campgrounds that hosts 24 drive-in sites and 10 hike-in sites.
Kubow’s neatly organized campsite includes a pile of firewood, a shower tent, canopy over the picnic table and a screen tent to escape mosquito visits.
He has books to read and a smartphone to keep tabs on the outside world.
He called his fire place his television. “When I want to change the channel I just put a new long on the fire.”
The Minnesota State Parks and Forest camphosts are volunteer “live-in” hosts who primarily assist visitors with information about the campground, park and surrounding communities.
Camp hosts work four to five days a week, pick up litter, stock supplies, make minor emergency repairs and assist naturalists program activities.
Camp hosts are expected to set an example of being a model camper, keep a clean campsite and observe the rules.
“I love it once people get their campsites set up they like to tour the campgrounds. You meet the nicest people, most from about an hour away a few from all across the country. We even had one group of Canadian hockey players on their way to a tournament,” said Kubow.
Kubow has been a wilderness backpacker most of his life that loves being out outdoors. He believes the less you have the less you are burdened.
He eats well from the fish he catches in Big Birch Lake, some freeze dried foods and he enjoys sausage and eggs cooked on his Coleman stove.
“Birch Lake’s five and a half miles of hiking trails have a nice variety of oak and elms, wild raspberries and mushrooms to pick. Birch Lake is also a good walleye lake,” said Kubow.
Sitting by the fire Kubow said his campsite is also his church, where he feels closer to God.
People interested in being camp hosts can call DNR coordinator Gloria Resendez at 1-651-259-5607 or e-mail: Gloria.email@example.com