It wasn't long after taking their kiddos out camping that Kellie and Dan Francis decided they wanted to make a career out of the pastime. This May, the Detroit Lakes couple made that dream a reality when they purchased Wilds Resort and Campground on Shell Lake, roughly 20 minutes east of Detroit Lakes.
Just starting off their first summer, Dan says things have been going smoothly so far. They're hoping to ease into the industry by running the place the way the previous owners did, since a lot of the returning vacationers are used to the way the campground is set up now.
"It's fun meeting all the new people that come in, all the different families .... Most of the people that stay in the cabins have been coming here between five and 15 years or more, so that's cool to have that longevity, which also comes with a lot of stories," Dan said with a laugh.
This summer they're looking to learn the ropes and then maybe change things up a bit next summer, mainly adding more sites to their current 14 seasonal sites, six cabins, and three weekend tenting and camper sites.
"We're doing construction this summer and plan on putting in an additional 31 sites, half of those which will be seasonals, and the other half will be weekend camping sites," said Dan, adding that they're looking into getting more docks to go along with those additional sites.
The new owners are also looking to just clean things up and do some updates to amenities such as bathrooms and kids' areas.
"We are building a new shower house and then a new playground," Dan said.
While they're "off the beaten path" and like to keep it that way, they are hoping to still be connected to the world via an updated website, which will make it possible to book campsites and cabins online.
Otherwise, Dan and Kellie say they're looking to keep the quietness and seclusion of their little getaway, which has the only private lake access to Shell Lake.
"If you look out at the lakeshore, you can see it's not very populated, which is nice," Dan said. "The lakeshore is beautiful. You look out, and you don't see a hundred houses. It's just treeline."
Having one of the few accesses to the lake, they also provide pontoons and boats for guests to rent, and they have a little fish cleaning shack for lucky anglers.
"People that have been staying here have been doing excellent with catching their northerns, some walleye, and some crappie," Dan said.
The secluded campground has other amenities for a weekend-or longer-getaway. With a little store that offers standard grocery items, knick knacks, and various items a resort-goer may forget, there's no need to leave, during a stay.
They've also got a variety of indoor activities, if the weather isn't ideal for fishing or hiking.
"We have a TV room, a kids' playroom, a game room," said Kellie, adding that the TV room actually seems to be really popular with the youngsters.
Although it's a fairly seasonal business, Dan and Kellie say they do plan to rent out some of their cabins year round, since they seem to also have a hot spot for four-wheeling and snowmobiling.
"We're right next to Smokey Hills, and we're one of the few places that you don't have to trailer to ride the trails. You can just ride right off of our driveway to the trails, which is really nice, and there's endless miles of trails in the Smokey Hills," Dan said.
If you go
The Wilds Resort and Campground
45120 Maple Drive, Osage
218-573-3515 or thewildsresort.com