Otter Tail County

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:


dark brick building with a small sign that reads Hawley Lanes


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.

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

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.

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