Chisago County

Garland, wreaths, and snowflakes

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, it’s time to look back at my 2016 road trips to see the decorations in cities and towns across Minnesota. This year I didn’t make any special trips; I only visited when I was already going to an area – though admittedly I may have taken the long way once or twice. (Wait, this isn’t entirely true; the Isanti / Cambridge / Braham trip was just for fun. The other two trips, though were for other reasons.)

The themes this year: wreaths, garland, and snowflakes. That was all I saw on the lampposts, no matter which city.

Garland-wrapped lamp posts in Taylors Falls:

snow-covered Frostop drive-in with a lighted lamppost on the street in front


snow-covered garland on a lamp post, with a red Henderson season's greetings banner

and Chisago City:

sunny image of fake garland and white lightbulbs

Identical wreaths on all the buildings in Isanti:

Isanti Custom Meats with two large snow-covered wreaths

Revival building with one wreath with three white candles in the center

Wreaths in Cambridge:

wreath with a big red bow on the lamp post in front of Leader Department Store

and Jordan:

a row of three wreaths at the top of the lamp posts, with the lamp in the center

Snowflakes in…


lighted snowflake at dusk


sunny snowflake on the lamp post, with the coffee pot water tower in the background

Le Sueur:

snowflake on one side of the lamp post, red banner with three white snowflakes on the other

and Shakopee:

curly snowflake

The store windows and town squares were quite festive. It was really hard to take pictures without reflections from across the street, but I did my best.

Frandsen Bank & Trust in Braham:

reindeer and sleigh made of white lights

Floral shop in Jordan:

two large elves in one window, Santa in the other, snow falling and covering the decorated pots in front

Main Street in Le Sueur:

a Christmas tree in a storefront window, with garland bordering

Mrs. Claus and Mr. Claus on Main Street in Henderson:

painted images in the window, with another Santa sliding down a lamppost outside

Gazebos in Chisago City…

sunny photo of a gazebo with lights and two large candy canes

…and Braham:

garland circling the gazebo under the windows, icicle lights circling the roofline

Santa’s warming house in Belle Plaine:

a small red building with a North Pole mailbox

A nervous pig in the window of Isanti Retail Meats:

giant stuffed pink pig with a small green-and-red elf hat

Santa’s sleigh in the Cambridge State Bank:

red wire sleigh and three red wire conical trees in a window

…and the reindeer across the street at Herman’s Bakery and Deli:

two fancy white reindeer with curly antlers in one window, a white wiry tree in the window to the right

My favorite: a three-window painting of Santa and his sleigh in the windows of the Creamery Crossing cafe in Isanti. From right to left:


Santa with a sack overflowing with presents in front of a gift-covered sleigh

…the reindeer…

two brown flying reindeer

…and Rudolph, who is – of course – a cow.

a flying white-and-black cow with a glowing red nose


Previous Christmas road trips

Categories: Chisago County, Isanti County, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County | Leave a comment

Minnesota state parks in springtime

I’m always on the lookout for wildflowers, so at the first sign of spring, we headed out to four parks to see what we could find.


Wild River

I had a day off in early April and headed an hour north of the Twin Cities to Wild River State Park by myself. It was too early for wildflowers! But there were very clear views of the river and woods since none of the vegetation had grown in yet. It was a great day for a solo walk; I saw only one pair of runners during this 1.5-hour visit.

Paved path

Quiet path through the woods.

Looking across the river

Down by the St. Croix River.

Bright orange mushrooms popping out around brown leaves

These orange mushrooms (I’ve already forgotten their name) were a bright spot of color on the mostly brown ground.

Wild River Canoe Rental building, boarded up

Waiting for warmer weather (and tourists).

Wild River State Park

One hour north of St. Paul
Date visited: April 13, 2015



Maybe it was the dreary weather the day we visited…

Empty bird feeder on the edge of a pond

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of… early spring.

maybe it was the fact that we got lost more than once on the trails (which could use better signs, in my opinion)…

Unmarked paths

Which way does this path go – left, straight, or right?

maybe because it was still too early for wildflowers (not the park’s fault)…

Budding leaves on a bush

The only green the entire trip.

but I quickly decided this wasn’t my favorite state park. Still, there were things to enjoy along the way.

Loon spreading its wings on Lake Andrew

First loon sighting of the season!

Canoe in front of a stone building

Many buildings built by the Veterans Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Observation tower, viewed from the ground

Lookout at the top of Mount Tom, the tallest spot in the area.

 Sibley State Park

Two hours west of Minneapolis; 20 minutes north of Willmar
Date visited: April 18, 2015



Carley State Park is famous for Virginia bluebells – and in May, there are millions.

Virginia bluebells

The weather was much more pleasant for this wildflower trip. Plus, we actually got to see wildflowers.

Wildflower Trail sign

Yes, I WILL take the wildflower trail.

Bluebell-lined path.

Several false rue anemone along the river

There were at least as many of these white flowers – false rue anemone – as there were bluebells.

Concrete steps with spaces between

Non-accessible walk across the stream.

Wooden stairway

Climb the stairs.

Carley State Park

1.5 hours south of St. Paul
Date visited: May 2, 2015


Nerstrand-Big Woods

As long as we were in the area, we stopped by for a quick visit to try again to find dwarf trout lilies. And we did!

A small white flower among much larger green leaves

Dwarf trout lily is so tiny, it’s easy to miss.

Marsh marigolds on both sides of a small stream

Marsh marigolds, on the other hand, aren’t easily missed.

Hidden Falls waterfall from the bottom

And, of course, Hidden Falls is a must-see attraction.

Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park

1 hour south of St. Paul
Date visited: May 2, 2015

Now, on to summer adventures!

Categories: Chisago County, Kandiyohi County, Rice County, Wabasha County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Festive Minnesota towns

I love driving through small-town Minnesota in December, seeing all the vintage Christmas lights. One Saturday in 2014 we drove up Old 61 to Duluth, stopping in every town along the way. Out-of-order, here’s what we saw.

Rudolph in Hinckley.

white outline of a reindeer with a red nose

Dala horse in Cloquet.

Dala horse covered in net Christmas lights

Festive dinosaur on the playground in Mahtowa.

green apatosaurus with a wreath around its neck, in front of a snow-covered slide

A stocking in Rutledge.

red stocking with a candy cane and toys coming out the top

A couple candles in Sandstone.

two red candles with different flames

A bell in Sturgeon Lake.

green bell with a red bow

Curb-to-curb garland in Pine City.

garland with a wreath in the middle and old-style lights on both sides, and tree and wreath decorations on the other light posts down the street

Starburst in Barnum.

three white stars with wavy streaks

Light poles wrapped in garland in Carlton.

lighted garland

Wreaths are a popular choice on Minnesota main streets. Finlayson, North Branch, and Pine City have the same style.

three wreaths, each with three candles and a big red bow

Harris, Rush City, and Moose Lake have other styles of wreaths.

tinsel, artificial greenery, and a green wire

We finished the adventure at Bentleyville in Duluth.

Bentleyville 2014 main entrance, with the giant lighted tree in the background

The Lift Bridge in lights:

S.S. Bentleyville ship sailing under the lift bridge

Paul and Babe:

Paul Bunyan chopping down a tree with Babe the Blue Ox's help

And, perhaps in a nod to Mahtowa, dinosaurs:

apatosauruses and pterodactyls near palm trees

A couple other favorites from the season, though not from this trip:

Folsom House in Taylors Falls, with each room decorated for Christmas by a local business.

front entrance to a big white house, with the pillars wrapped in red ribbon and a wreath with garland above the door

A wreath again in Scandia.

artificial greenery with four sets of three red ornaments, and a now-pink bow on top

Rice Park in downtown St. Paul.

the tall, skinny blue tree with white lights in the foreground

These photos were retroactively posted on Dec. 1, 2015. I don’t know why I didn’t create this post in 2014; perhaps it’s because I recorded it all on Instagram instead.

Other small-town Christmas trips

Categories: Carlton County, Chisago County, Pine County, Ramsey County, St. Louis County, Washington County | Leave a comment

The Wild River

St. Croix River in winter

St. Croix River
Location: Wild River State Park
Date: January 15, 2012

Categories: Chisago County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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