2017 in review

The year started with one of my favorite winter activities, Checkpoint Minnesota, a statewide scavenger hunt that was unfortunately in its last year, unknown to everyone. I’ll miss it, though I admit I never officially submitted my visits (just posted them on Instagram), because I enjoyed the motivation to get out and explore during the cold. We only made it to four of the 10 checkpoints during this year’s event, though we had been to two of the others in the last two years, and later in 2017 we coincidentally went to two more.

March for Science Minnesota

I was out of town for the women’s march in January, so I made sure to be in attendance for the March for Science in St. Paul on Earth Day. The homemade signs were clever and inspiring, and I was happy to see so many people marching proudly. I had to leave the event early for a family wedding shower, so I didn’t get to see the rally at the capitol.

large group of people, many holding handmade signs, walking toward the capitol building

Old-school Dairy Queen in Moorhead

On an overnight trip to Fargo-Moorhead, I requested dessert at the “rogue” Dairy Queen, where they play by their own rules and serve a “heritage” menu of items that more modern restaurants don’t anymore. I had a Mr. Maltie frozen chocolate malt on a stick.

barn-shaped building with a red roof and white sides, with Moorhead written in blue script near the top

Highland water tower

This St. Paul water tower is open to the public twice a year, and we climbed it during Highland Fest in July. The tower was designed by Clarence Wigington and completed in 1928. It was retired from service only a couple months ago.

looking up at the top of a six-sided brick water tower

Lynx win their fourth championship

Two years ago, I wrote about the Lynx dynasty after Minnesota won its third championship. Now it’s four in seven years. I was fortunate to once again be on press row taking statistics for the deciding Game 5, this time at Williams Arena.

streamers falling next to the scoreboard as the clock expired

Roadside attractions

None of these were destinations themselves this year, but it’s always fun to come across one of these statues on a road trip.

Minnesota state parks and SNAs

At one point, we were trying to visit all of the state parks. While we’re technically still working on the parks passport, we haven’t added many new stamps over the last couple years. Instead, as I’ve focused on volunteering as a master naturalist, I’ve started visiting scientific and natural areas (SNAs) more frequently. So these two categories are combined into one.

Minnesota Historical Society sites

Three years after taking a job with the Minnesota Historical Society, and after visiting many of their 26 historic sites around the state, I decided that 2017 was the year to complete the circuit. And I’m happy to say I did, finishing with a Christmas tour at the Mayo House in Le Sueur on Dec. 16! Counting places I’d been before, I made it to 18 sites this year.

First-time visits

Especially with the MNHS trips, we saw a lot of towns for the first time:

Hawley

dark brick building with a small sign that reads Hawley Lanes

Olivia

wire corn decoration on a lightpole at sunset

McGregor (which has an emu!)

emu behind a wire fence

Pequot Lakes, during a five-day family reunion

red-and-white bobber-shaped water tower

Redwood Falls, for a family wedding

a bank that manages to look like both a spaceship and a castle

Christmas tours

And, as has already been documented, I closed out the year with road trips to see Christmas lights, within about 2 hours of the metro.

2018 resolutions

In 2017, we crossed off several longstanding wish-list visits (Moorhead DQ, Maplewood State Park, Lost 40), so I need to add some new ideas.

I’d like to go back to Moorhead to see the Hjemkomst ship and the Hopperstad Stave Church. I’d also like to eat ice cream at the Peppermint Twist in Delano, visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, go biking near Lanesboro, take a ghost tour in Pipestone, see a water skiing show, watch a movie at a drive-in theater, go to the Northwest Angle.

New state parks on the list: Moose Lake, Great River Bluffs, and Glacial Lakes. I’d like to go back to Interstate for a pothole tour and see the bison again at Blue Mounds. And I’d like to see five new-to-me SNAs.

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Categories: Aitkin County, Beltrami County, Cass County, Clay County, Crow Wing County, Dakota County, Hennepin County, Itasca County, Lake County, Le Sueur County, Morrison County, Olmsted County, Otter Tail County, Pine County, Polk County, Ramsey County, Redwood County, Renville County, Washington County | Leave a comment

The most wonderful road trips of the year

When winter rolls around, I hop in the car to look for Christmas decorations on Minnesota main streets. I’m surprised that five years into these trips, there’s still so much variety to be seen. Not counting the simple snowflakes and wreaths, I keep spotting more tinsel or white-light shapes around nearly every corner.

My first trip of the season was a solo venture out west on 212 to Brownton, then north to Hutchinson and back on 7.

A snowflake, though with blue as well as white, in Norwood Young America:

six-pointed white snowflake with a blue star center

and this fun stack of presents:

a red present on its side on the bottom, a leaning gold present, and a small green present on top

I ventured off the main road when I saw a sign for Biscay (which I hadn’t heard of), and I’m glad I did.

Candy canes across the bridge in Glencoe:

a white wire candy cane on a light pole at the top right, and four more in a diagonal row off into the distance

And stockings down the entire street in Winsted:

a red stocking with candy canes in the middle, a diagonal row of the same stockings to the bottom left, and the Winsted water tower at the right

Cologne’s white wire shapes:

A sleigh in Missile Park in St. Bonifacius:

a wire horse pulling a man in a sleigh at the right, with a US Army statue in the background, at dusk

The next evening, we took a trip to Le Sueur to do the candlelight tour at the Mayo House. The park next to the house has this very bright tree:

giant tree glowing with white lights, and a small white house in the background

A week later, my husband and I took a trip up 169 and back to the Twin Cities on 65. I got to take pictures from the passenger seat.

Princeton variety:

This fun garland in Onamia reminded me of the Grinch tree:

two swoops of greenery with multicolored light bulbs, and a red bell hanging off the top greenery

A park scene in Onamia:

wire train set under a real pine tree, with three green tree decorations in the snow at the right

I enjoy the decorations that cross a street, like this one in Milaca:

double strand of greenery draped across the street, with big red bows at the corners, and a white circle in a wreath at the center saying Seasons Greetings MILACA

On the next street was this very festive bank:

brick building with four white pillars wrapped in greenery, greenery draped across the top front, and gold tinsel letters spelling NOEL at the top

After turning east at Lake Mille Lacs, we went through Isle. I first thought these swoopy stars were a fancy boot:

lamppost with a Seasons Greetings banner, with white swoops and star shapes above

Santas in the library window:

five homemade paper Santas

On the east end of town, I wondered why Santa wasn’t in the sleigh on the roof, then I noticed he is piloting a boat:

brown garage with a white wire sleigh and reindeer on the roof at the right, a blow-up boat with Santa and standing reindeer at the left

Ogilvie has a simple version of the decoration we saw in Milaca:

wreath with a white center that says Seasons Greetings

Finally, on a sunny day two days before Christmas, we took a road trip south on Highway 61. Wintry trees along the highway:

Pine trees along highway 61

Red Wing snowflake:

closeup of a white tinsel snowflake

and a decoration that stretches to all four corners of the intersection of Bush and 3rd:

looking up at a white light decoration that comes from four corners and meets in the middle, with multiple strands that look like bunting and two stars dangling on each side

We drove through Minneiska quickly and didn’t get close to any of these, but I wanted to include them anyway:

Kellogg started out with a plain snowflake near the highway, but driving into town we saw this great reindeer swag:

garland stretching across the street, with a wreath with three candles in the middle, and matching wire reindeer facing the center on both sides of the wreath

and then we stumbled across this simple and beautiful star display on the other end of town:

white strands across the road that look like bunting, with one white wire star in the center

More photos

Previous Christmas road trips

Categories: Carver County, Goodhue County, Hennepin County, Kanabec County, Le Sueur County, McLeod County, Mille Lacs County, Wabasha County, Winona County | Leave a comment

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2017 edition

After Thanksgiving may seem like a strange time to post photos from the Minnesota State Fair, and I agree. A broken computer left me without my photos for almost three months, but I’m back now — so without further ado, here’s what I saw on the first Sunday of the 2017 fair.

one of the streets at the fairgrounds, packed with people, with the space needle in the distance

This pileup of ducklings was the cutest thing I saw:

more than a dozen fuzzy yellow ducklings crowded into the corner of their pen

We were at the right place at the right time to see a mini parade of horses:

two Clydesdales pulling a wooden trailer with two women in black formal dresses

The Hamline Dining Hall is always a good choice for a rest from the chaos, and this time it was a particularly inspired choice because it started pouring about 30 seconds after we walked in. I had the delicious Swedish wild rice meatballs and potatoes that were way salty. I mean, way, way, way too salty. My tray was a fun vintage version from Bonanza:

a white tray with a plate of three meatballs, white gravy, a roll, potatoes, a cup of coleslaw off to the left, and a glass of an iced purple beverage

I think it was required of all fairgoers to take a photo of the new ferris wheel, which we decided to ride after I claimed I would be disappointed to go home without doing that. It was fun but only went around one time!

the tall ferris wheel, at an angle at dusk so the colored lights are visible

While on a walking loop I needed to get a closer look at these papers, which turned out to be the results of the Milk Dash 5K run unceremoniously masking-taped to the side of the restroom building:

four pieces of 8.5x11 white paper with lots of words printed, all held to a brick building with lots of messy masking tape

This year we stopped into Monty’s Traveling Reptile Show for the first time, after talking about it every year:

closeup of a tank holding a water monitor at the front looking left, a sign reading the name Hydro and vital statistics such as 6-8 feet, 50-60 pounds

My favorite item in the Creative Activities building was this beautiful Danish bakery, with tiny details like having the building’s address be 2017…

corner view of a white stucco building with red accents, a white border fence, a Danish flag, red tablecloths on three patio tables

…and on the inside, many more perfect details such as pots in the cupboards, pies waiting for their top crusts, and the Scandinavian wedding cake that first caught my eye:

same building, showing one floor with a kitchen scene with an oven, wooden cupboards, cookies cooling on the stove, dough rising in a bowl, and a baker behind the counter

Runner-up favorite item: this “pixellated” quilt of Minnesota roadside attractions, such as Paul and Babe in Bemidji, and the big loon in Vergas:

closeup of the two scenes that look like pixellated Polaroid photos with handwriting descriptions

There was plenty of topical seed art, as usual, such as the changing of the name of Lake Calhoun back to its Dakota name:

framed artwork of a lake with lettering that says Bde Maka Ska

and the eclipse, which had just happened at this point:

a long, short framed artwork with a three versions of the eclipse, including a ring in the center, and August 21, 2017 at the bottom

I won’t include a photo of the wall of honey jars, like I usually do, though it remains my favorite spot at the fair. Instead, given that the holidays are coming, I’ll end on two Christmas photos:

the tree room

many different types of Christmas trees with award ribbons

and fancy decorated cookies.

a display of 14 cookies on sticks, such as a reindeer portrait, a white star on a red background, four decorated trees, and a winter version of the Spoonbridge and Cherry

More from the fair

Categories: Ramsey County | Leave a comment

The gales of October

An early winter storm was predicted to arrive on the north shore late on Thursday, October 26. When I arrived at the Split Rock Lighthouse historic site for a work visit late that morning, the winds were picking up and it was raining off and on.

The view across Lake Superior may appear relatively calm, but whitecaps are forming:

the horizon in the background, water with waves and small whitecaps in the bottom two-thirds

…and starting to crash on the shore:

coastline viewed from above, with a small island in the distance, white lines marking waves reaching shore

I walked down the 171 stairs in the spot of a former tramway to the edge of the lake, where the water was making small splashes on the shore:

Split Rock Lighthouse at the top of the cliff at the top right, mostly woods with a couple thin orange trees, rocky shoreline with wavy water

Watch the Waves at Split Rock Lighthouse video on YouTube

Back up to the lighthouse, and beyond to the northeast side, where sea caves are visible below the lighthouse and create nice, big splashes:

lighthouse viewed from the opposite side at the top of a tall cliff, with a long wave hitting the rockface

Watch the Waves at the Sea Caves video on YouTube

Then I left the historic lighthouse and set off down one of the state park trails. With the light rapidly fading, this is the scene two and a half hours after the first video, farther down the shoreline where perhaps the bigger rocks helped make more dramatic splashes:

the lighthouse farther in the distance, a large flat rocky surface in the foreground, with a curved wave splashing to the left

zoomed-in view of a greenish-blue wave about to hit the shore, lighthouse in the distance

a wave just breaking, a large splash in the middle and extending downward toward the right, with several waves lining up down the shoreline in front of the lighthouse

closeup view to the east with a large wave hitting at the left, another one coming in at the right

Watch the Bigger Waves at Split Rock Lighthouse video on YouTube

I wanted to stay longer and watch as the waves got even bigger, but I needed to head back to the Twin Cities. It was getting too dark to take many more pictures, anyway. I made it out of town before the storm really hit — and caused a lot of damage in Duluth.

first of three images of the same wave, this one breaking with a large splash

second image of the wave, the tallest part now on the right

third image of the wave, mostly dispersed but with many individual droplets hanging in the air

More about this storm

Categories: Lake County | Tags: | 1 Comment

Maplewood State Park

On our way out of Pelican Rapids on Sunday, we saw a sign that said Maplewood State Park was only six miles away. Even though the weather was gloomy and at times rainy and at times blustery, we jumped at the chance to see this park during its peak season.

cattails in the foreground, lots of orange trees around the edge

As a master naturalist, I loved seeing all the signs marking restored prairies planted in 2011, 2009, 2002, and 1999.

dark brown sign: Prairie Planted 2002, with colorful trees in the background

Our original plan was to simply take drive through the park on Park Drive. But when we saw the sign for the Hallaway Hill overlook, we parked the car and headed up the former ski hill. It’s only a 196-foot vertical climb, but the last part especially gets the blood pumping.

steep dirt path through bright red sumacs

At the top we learned that this park has a wealth of geological features: lakes, an island, kames, kettles, moraines, eskers, and even goat prairies (areas on the hillside that were thought to be too steep for anything but goats). Nice views of the woods and Lake Lida, even on a cloudy day.

two leafless trees in the foreground overlooking a line of sumacs at the edge of the hill, with a lake and island in the background

After descending, we walked out to the swimming beach, where there were actual (small) whitecaps

a picnic table on the sand, rough Lake Lida, and a colorful islet

and then got back in the car for the driving tour.

a paved road with trees lining both sides, mostly green, some yellow

We pulled over for this big tree.

large maple tree with wide-reaching branches with orange leaves

And pulled over again at this overlook on Field Lake.

prairie in the foreground, a lake with a couple trees on the close side, and lots of colorful trees on the far side

And then, just as we were thinking about wrapping up our visit, the clouds started to thin and the sun came out, just before sunset.

sun setting with grasses in the foreground, dramatic purple and blue clouds

And it set the trees on fire. See the difference one second made?

prairie grasses in the front, a straight row of trees, half green and half orange or yellow

same scene with sun shining on the trees

We walked back down the one-way road to the overlook to see the change:

Field Lake from a different angle, zoomed in, with sun lighting all the trees

For fall color, this is a good weekend to visit Maplewood State Park.

More information about Maplewood State Park

Full disclosure: Some of these photos were taken by my husband, since we were trading cameras during this trip.

Categories: Otter Tail County | Tags: | Leave a comment

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