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Turtle Treks program seeks to get kids outdoors, teach camping skills

For the third summer in a row, Happy Dancing Turtle will offer area youths the opportunity to hone their camping skills through Turtle Treks.

Happy Dancing Turtle is a small nonprofit in Pine River working to promote stewardship and sustainability. HDT believes in the power of getting kids back into nature, a news release stated.

This program will take youths to state and local parks to learn basic camping skills (such as how to set up a tent and cook over a fire), enjoy campfires under the night sky, learn about Minnesota's natural resources, and participate in a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, such as hiking, canoeing, swimming and geocaching. The activities for each trip will be different.

"This is also a great opportunity for kids to unplug. There are no phones, tablets, video games, or screens of any kind," Michelle Hoefs, program assistant, said in the news release. "Kids have the time to take in and appreciate the world around them, without the distraction of social media and technology."

Two camping excursions are planned for the remainder of the summer.

• Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, open to girls entering fifth through eighth grades, Aug. 14-16. Cost is $110.

• Forbes Park in Pine River, open to boys and girls entering second through fourth grades, Aug. 28-29. Cost is $25.

At Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, campers will visit the historic town of Forestville, a restored 1800s village operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. Then they'll head underground to check out the stalactites, stalagmites and underground pools of Mystery Cave. They will explore the woods, rivers and bluffs as they learn about the natural history of the area.

The youngest campers will enjoy an afternoon of games, swimming and learning camping skills before cooking dinner over the fire, telling campfire stories and sleeping under the stars at Forbes Park. In the morning, they'll help cook breakfast and break down camp. It's a good opportunity for children to reconnect with friends and classmates before the new school year begins, organizers said.

Online registration and payment options, including an option for a payment plan, are available. For more information, contact Happy Dancing Turtle at 218-587-2303, by email at info@happydancingturtle.org or visit www.happydancingturtle.org.

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