Goodhue County

Christmas decoration road trips

I love road trips in December because of the vintage Christmas decorations in small-town Minnesota. This year I took two trips just to see the lights – the first heading west along Highway 12 to Dassel, then north to 55 back to the Twin Cities (though it was too dark for pictures for the journey back), and the second south on 35 to Owatonna, back to Faribault, and then west to Waterville and New Prague. These were my favorites from the adventures (along with a couple extra photos from shorter trips).

My new favorite scene is in Montgomery, a city that celebrates its Czech heritage. These 3-D Christmas trees are paired with a blue banner that says “Peace” and “Joy” in both English and Czech.

tree decoration with a banner that says Pokoj Radost

The town also has two other styles:

garland and an antique streetlight, and a wreath with three red candles

Its neighbor, Lonsdale, has many design variations on the Season’s Greetings lights.

three drawings on white oval lights surrounded by garland

Antique street lights share a pole with the regular city spirit banners in Delano:

Share the Road with Bicycles banner next to a streetlight hanging from garland

Owatonna’s Central Park has trees in each corner, including a picturesque spot across from the historic National Farmers’ Bank:

tall tree with a gold tinsel star, in front of the historic bank, and a lightpole with garland and a wreath

Snowflakes in Northfield:

blue Welcome to Northfield banner next to a white snowflake

Simple wreaths in North St. Paul:

wreath on the left side of a lamppost with two lights

New Prague has candle wreaths like many other towns, and this jeweler added its own tree:

wreath on a utility pole next to Marquardt Jewelers sign with a tree made from green light strings

Grocery stores are painting their windows in New Prague…

painted words The Simple Joy of Food with painted cookies

…and Farmington:

painting of two elves and a skating snowman

Garland crossing the intersections in Cannon Falls:

four garland strands at the street corners, meeting at a wreath in the middle

Cannon Falls also has wreaths on its lampposts – an effect that is somewhat muppet-like when viewed up close:

two light bulbs with dead bugs that look like eyes above a large narrow wreath that looks like an open mouth

Snowflakes on lampposts that look like candles in Faribault:

white snowflake decoration on a light pole wrapped with red tinsel

This was the second time I drove through Morristown and Waterville, and I have a hard time keeping their names straight. I can remember the “Morris” and “Water” but never remember which is a town and which is a ville, so I usually end up saying Morrisville and Watertown. I reached these two just as the last light was fading, and the snowflakes were blinking on in Morristown:

lighted snowflake on a pole in front of a business with lighted decorations in the windows

Shooting stars in Waterville:

lighted star decorations on both sides of a quiet street

Skinny wire in Medford:

candle and Christmas tree

A variety in Rockford, including curly trees I haven’t seen anywhere else:

lighted set of bells, reindeer, and curly tree one one side of a busy street

Darwin had the most shapes of one style of decoration – in this case, white wire.

white wire shapes - snowman, angel, bells, candle, shooting star, horn, wreath

Waverly has two styles, the white-wire along Highway 12…

Welcome to Waverly banner with a dove, and a bell

…and “tinsel” style on Main Street.

colorful tinsel - candle, white snowflake with blue lights, a triangle-shaped tree, and a three-tiered tree

Montrose wins my Most Variety Award for 2015. Many different banners and tinsel shapes along Highway 12, snowflakes on the south side of County Road 12…

Peace banner, Season's Greetings oval, white wire snowflake, tinsel candles, candy cane, and tree

…and my second-favorite of the season, these ornate vintage street lights on the north side of County 12.

red streetlight circled twice by garland, more swirled above, Happy Holidays sign hanging on bottom

Other small-town Christmas trips

Categories: Dakota County, Goodhue County, Le Sueur County, Ramsey County, Rice County, Steele County, Washington County, Wright County | Leave a comment

Eagle watching at the Red Wing checkpoint

several trees with an eagle nest at the left and a bald eagle flying at the right

A lone eagle ready to land in a treetop.

Last Saturday we decided to take a short trip, hoping to have an outdoor adventure before the impending polar vortex drove us back inside. We had a good time visiting Paul Bunyan last month when we stumbled across the CheckpointMN winter scavenger hunt, so we thought we would try another destination. One of the options is a location in prime eagle-viewing territory in Red Wing, so we headed south on Highway 61, just needing an hour to drive from the Twin Cities.

The DNR recommends looking for eagles anywhere from Bay Point Park and Colvill Park, so we started at the checkpoint at the south end and headed back north. If you’re not paying attention, you will miss the turn for Colvill Park because the park is not easily visible from the highway, and you need to go west and cross under 61 to reach the park. I have been to this park before, and we still missed the turn.

a faraway view of three bald eagles in one tree and one eagle in another tree

The busiest section of trees we saw. Too bad I didn’t have a zoom lens!

This was at least our third joint trip to Red Wing, one of our favorite Minnesota cities. It was allegedly 19 degrees above zero, but a strong wind made it feel like at least 19 below. I struggled to smile for the official pose, and my husband struggled to take a photo without removing his gloves!

a smiling woman in a purple winter coat with her arms outstretched

Soaring like an eagle for my CheckpointMN pose.

I’m typically not one to complain about the cold, but the wind was strong enough that we didn’t last long outside and we’re already talking about returning when it’s a little warmer. It would be a lot of fun to walk along the river or relax on a bench to watch the action. The last weeks of February and first weeks of March are typically good times to view eagles in Red Wing or a little farther south in Wabasha.

Lots of ducks — mallards and what we think were common mergansers — weren’t afraid of the cold water, but of course eagles are the stars here. This photo was taken from the comfort of our car. I imagined one bird saying to the other, “Cold enough for ya?”

a bald eagle and another bird sitting on an ice sheet in the middle of a river, with a dock and grasses in the foreground

A bald eagle chatting with a friend.

We planned to also visit Barn Bluff Park, but since it requires a long climb on snow-covered stairs, we’ll save that one for a warmer day. Instead we headed to the third park, Bay Point, for our last look at the eagles, near a lot of ice fishing houses on Ole Miss Marina. At this location the eagles were too far away to watch for long, but this bird made the stop worthwhile:

raptor flying to the left with a view of the underside of its left wing

We got a closeup look at the flight of this beautiful bird.

We didn’t realize that Saturday would also be a good day for watching trains. In the short time we were in the parks, three different trains moved through Red Wing.

three trains: Soo Line, Canadian Pacific, Amtrak

Three parks, three trains.

Red Wing is also notable, of course, for pottery, antiques, and shoes, but we didn’t do any of those this time — just lunch and a stop at the uniquely fun Scandinavian Uffda Shop. A fun end to a fun afternoon of eagle watching.

More about Red Wing

Visited: January 4, 2014

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

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