Browsed by
Month: May 2018

farewell 38

farewell 38

sipping on a margarita on my last few hours of 38. i did get out for a run and then got some pics of a great evening sky and the light it was throwing.

i really missed spring this year. i missed the smell of snow melting to slush and then water and the thawing dirt and melting fields. we were thrown directly from the winter that never ended to summer. can i insert some sort of metaphor about life here? the days are long but the years are short. i’m about halfway through, i reckon.

book review: Out West

book review: Out West

what a FANTASTIC book. i picked this up on a random reddit recommendation and couldn’t have been happier i did.
written in the mid-80s, so much of duncan’s insights are still so relevant. with his road rules (never turn back. don’t stop to ask for directions.) and his stories of his traveling the same route of lewis and clark but in less time and better accommodations, this is such a pleasant read for anyone interested in the west, the lewis and clark expedition, or anyone who has an itch to travel. this book is dense but worth reading every word.
mn state parks: lindbergh and crow wing

mn state parks: lindbergh and crow wing

this weekend i had to go to costco because i hadn’t been grocery shopping in a month. and since the closest costco to me in baxter, i decided to make a short afternoon of it, stopping in little falls to visit lindbergh state park and then right off 371 to stop at crow wing.

my first stop was lindbergh state park, which just seems kind of sad to me. it’s more of a recent historical marker, containing the lindbergh house and outbuildings. unfortunately, the tours weren’t open for the season yet, so i was relegated to taking a photo of the house from afar rather than getting inside.

this state park is right along the mississippi river on the outskirts of little falls, so it seems a little more weirdly urban, and you can see the disrepair that the state park system has fallen into. there are also WPA projects in the park, which are always a treat.

and then i saw this log across the picnic area. this is an old-growth white pine from many years ago that have basically been logged to extinction in this state EXCEPT for the lost 40, which i am going to this summer! after seeing the size of this tree, i’m super excited to make the stop at the lost 40.


crow wing is something else. if you know where the brainerd/baxter rest stop is with paul bunyan hanging out, this state park is right to the west of that stop.

this is also a state park that’s more of an historical marker, commemorating the lost town of crow wing, which was right at the confluence of the crow wing and missisippi rivers. there’s a short walk you can take a long the rivers that explains the town, with a restored house from the era. it points out the pertinent historical spots, and the park is at a spot where three biomes meet: pine, hardwood, and prairie. it reminded me of what would happen if the black hills were plopped down in the middle of the nodak prairie.

i was walking toward the lost town and got to spend some time in these pine trees, with needles scattered across the ground and scent of pine wafting over me once in a while. it made me want to skip costco and head straight to the black hills. it also made me really excited to check out the campground, but the campspots are in the hardwood section of the park, so i decided i probably wouldn’t spend my free campsite here (unfortunate because it’s so close).

i would go back to crow wing just to spend more time checking out the historical site.

next up: next weekend i’m going to attempt a west central loop, heading out to lac qui parle, glacial lakes, big stone, monson, and hitting up sibley state park.

peace in two parts

peace in two parts

on impulse, i decided to take a walk through the st. ben’s campus and the st. john’s campus tonight right around sunset. i brought along my camera in hopes of getting some good opportunities. i also wanted to bury my nose in some lilacs.

the two campuses bring me a sense of peace that i don’t find anywhere else (maybe that’s why i gravitate toward central mn) but in two very different ways. since i went to st. ben’s, the feeling i get walking through that campus is a peace related to a more uncomplicated and carefree time.

even with the new buildings and updates, it still brings a sense of, ok, this is where i was during a formative time. this is familiar. this is what i lived and breathed for four years. this was home for four years.

and st. ben’s is on the edge of st. joe, so there is a sense of civility to it – the noises from hwy 75, glimpses of cars driving past the main building. even though st. joe is only a few thousand strong, you still feel like you a part of a larger piece, something more modern, yet still holding onto tradition.

but when i step on the st. john’s campus, there’s a sense of wildness, woods, and looseness to the peace. a sense of peace you would only get by slipping into nature, whether it’s paddling one of the lakes, heading into the trees, or hiking along the trail to the chapel.

it wasn’t until i had graduated that i learned that st. john’s is not named after the apostle john, a more mystical creature. no, the campus is named after st. john the baptist, who lived in the desert and raved and ate grasshoppers. this changed my mindset about the campus completely.

while i never called st. john’s home, i did have many classes there. if given the choice between visiting st. ben’s or st. john’s, i choose st. john’s every time.

and since i’ve moved to avon, i’m 10 minutes from campus and gladly take the short jaunt to spend time in the woods, finding a piece of peace.



to keep myself accountable for running, i’ve downloaded an app called runbet (thanks, pubert!), where i get to bet $$$ against myself completing a running program. there’s a giant pot and the people who don’t finish don’t get their money back; it’s split among all the finishers. i chose an easy one to start with. i really hope i don’t biff it my first week because…

…i’m getting a tattoo on my right thigh tomorrow! if it’s anything like my ankle tattoo, i’ll be up and running the next day. all i ask is that i get two more runs in this week. it should be ok. tattoos mostly feel like sunburns after the first day. (oh, i’m getting crabapple blossoms.)

it’s super downtime at work suddenly, and it’s both a relief and kind of scary at the same time. then i remember that most people don’t have miles and miles of lists of things to do at work, and i feel a little bit better about life.

i have got to get my garden tilled. i am anxious to get stuff in in the ground, and all i need to do is get it tilled.

omg i’ve got to go. stan is sitting on my lap, which is unprecedented. he never sits on my lap! *hearteyes*

ditch mead

ditch mead

today i was on my run (a rather enjoyable, leisurely one i might add) out on the county roads here in avon. the grass is starting to green up and the leaves are making their appearance, but the roadside ditch grass has yet to spring up (i almost said ditch weed but realized that had a different meaning). which means i see a bunch of garbage in the ditches, especially beer cans.

which made me have a moment of reminisce while i was out pounding the pavement.

every spring, my dad would take my siblings and me out to country roads to scour the ditches for aluminum cans so we could take them in for a nice payout at the recycling center. each of us was armed with a garbage bag and instructions to pick cans until the next driveway or road.

(this next part is lifted from a thing i wrote a few years ago for my thinkpiece on devil’s syrup that went nowhere.)

Thinking back, I wonder why we weren’t given gloves to protect our fingers; we ran into a lot of funky stuff in those ditches. Perhaps it was dumb luck or hopeful optimism. My dad parked his white, former USWest telephone van at the next crossroads or farm driveway, and with two of us on the left and two on the right, we scanned the ditches for cans. It wasn’t abnormal for us to walk away with the old van filled with sticky, yeasty smelling cans. Some summers those cans funded our vacations.

Recently I was talking to my sister Liz about the can pickup jaunts, and she wondered how we managed to gather so many cans. It took a moment of consideration, but I realized that in the 80s, plastic bottles were relatively non-existent. We had just made the jump from glass bottles to aluminum cans at the grocery store; plastic 20-ounce bottles had yet to make their debut. When you think about it, it’s really unfortunate that we migrated from two very recyclable materials for drinks to one that doesn’t recycle well at all (most plastic bottles are recycled into carpet) and takes years and years to biodegrade.

mn state parks: great river bluffs, latsch, william o brien, interstate, and wild river (whew)

mn state parks: great river bluffs, latsch, william o brien, interstate, and wild river (whew)

what a difference a day makes. my drive home from la crosse was exponentially greener than my drive down. i was hoping for great greenness when i got home (that was a no go. we needed rain.)

the first state park stop was great river bluffs, which is right where i-90 and hwy 61 meet just north of la crosse. this was a nice park, with camping and river views and pine trees and aspen, oh my!

but it also had a lot of college kids. throwing balls at each other and also at my car. cool. 

the views off the bluff were excellent, though. and summer break has to start sometime.

i love that this part of the mississippi is so spread out that there are islands with trees in the middle of the river. it’s hard to notice the width of the river from the road.

speaking of the road, i drove down during the 100-mile garage sale, which was a real pain. cars driving 35 looking at sales suddenly creep up on you when you’re driving 60. i was impressed with my resistance to stopping for minidonuts.


then i stopped at john latsch state park, which is not far away, just north of winona. and it was so inconsequential that i forgot to take a picture. there was one gravel parking lot that would hold 6 cars and a set of rickety stairs going up a bluff. no other trails. i didn’t feel like hiking up a questionable staircase, so i got my stamp and left.


sometimes it’s nice to avoid the cities when i’m driving back from SE minnesota, so i swing east and go home through stillwater, then head west pretty soon after that. this time, i headed even more north, driving through the st. croix river valley, which is a DELIGHTFUL little drive. it’s right where the deciduous and coniferous biomes meet in the state, and there are the lovely bluffs leading to the river. imagine everything good about non-prairie minnesota, and that would be it. and luck would have it, there are a couple state parks right there.

that said, william o’brien state park is definitely on my list of parks to return to. what a beautiful park. even though i got there in a downpour, it was still a park i knew that i wanted to try to reserve a campsite in.

my sad picture of a river inlet in the rain really does it no justice at all.


just north of o’brien is interstate, which is right on the river. it reminded me slightly of a roadside campground in the middle of the black hills. it was really intriguing – there was the busy hwy 95 running right past it, but people were happily fishing from the beach and campsites were sold out for the night.

there was a path to this really interesting culvert that ran under 95, and it still had thick winter ice in it.

the minnesota side of the park is pretty tiny, but the wisonsin side (hence interstate) is really large. i’d like to explore this park more and possibly the wisconsin side, too.

as a ps: taylor’s falls, the little town right by interstate, is a cute little place i’d return to as well.


then i decided that it still wasn’t dark out, so why not keep on going. wild river was just up the road, and i could hitch onto 95 from there to head west toward home. so i did.

wild river is not quite as picturesque as the other two nearby parks, and it seems like it’s geared toward fishing more than anything.

by this time, the rain had passed and clouds cleared. sunset was imminent. but the river looked calm, and i could see that the green hadn’t quite gotten up here like it had down in the south part of the state.

(that was ok. it just needed another couple days; three days later and the trees have popped here.)

i got out of wild river just about 8 p.m. and headed home. i like the drive west on 95 – i take it often from i-35 to st cloud – it’s a nice journey through some farmlands but even more forestlands, conifers and aspens with their northbound pull. i got to my driveway at 9:30, 8.5 hours after leaving liz’s.


next up: i think over memorial day weekend i’m going to head to my old stomping grounds and check out the west central parks. we’ll see what sibley has to offer besides a dip in lake andrew!

mn state parks: afton and frontenac

mn state parks: afton and frontenac

last friday i took off from st. cloud around 1:30 to head down to la crosse, where liz and i were to run a half marathon relay saturday morning. since i was headed down a pretty great expanse of the state, why not hit up a couple state parks on the way? i always take the river road down to la crosse anyway, so stopping at a couple wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

the first park i stopped at was afton state park, which is east of the cities, north of hastings. i booked it down i-94 through the cities, flying past the line-up of cars headed north to their cabins. the weekend weather promised to be gloriously warm, just what we needed after 7 months (years?) of winter.

i was driving through cottage grove when my eyes were assaulted with a foreign color: green grass. it was unbelievable.

and soon after i entered afton, which is an oak savannah. oak are notoriously late spring bloomers, so the green had not yet extended to the trees of afton, where the st. croix meanders through on its way to meet the mississippi.

it’s still incongruous to have something so elementally earthy, like a state park that works hard to re-introduce grasses and trees native to the area, in the same space as something so foreignly human-made.

as far as afton, it’s not on my list of parks i would necessarily visit again. it seems like it caters to the metro folk, with its paved  paths and updated visitors center. i prefer my parks a little more rustic. i’m a rural gal at heart.

despite the barren oaks, there was some life visible, small buds holding their own against the gale force wind that day.


as i drove south, it got increasingly green. though not full-on spring green (still plenty of hold-outs), it was greener than it was in central mn, and i thought maybe, just maybe, spring would actually show up.

my next stop was frontenac state park, which overlooks lake pepin. what a fantastic park. there is a set of precarious-looking stairs switchbacking down the bluff to a picnic area and beach, with more than one overlook.

and then there is lake pepin itself. it’s technically just part of the mississippi, but when the chippewa river enters the mississippi, the force is so powerful that the delta backs up and creates lake pepin.

i spent too much time at this park*, having a deja vu moment and enjoying the view. i headed out, driving through old frontenac, which is on the national historical registry. i knew i was in for a treat when there was a horse paddock in town (with horses!). the old homes facing the river were charming, built in the mid-1800s. because the train tracks routed around the town early on, it’s been saved from modernization for the most part, but for some reason it’s still alive. maybe it’s because it is so charming looking.

after that, i got going and headed down the river road through lake city, wabasha, winona, to la crosse, getting into town around 7 p.m. not bad for a 6-hour drive.

*i’ve noticed that my initial idea of sparing half an hour for each park visit is NOT reasonable, especially if there’s an interpretive center. i think i’ve spent that amount of time at only one park, and that’s because it was a bust.