no title please

no title please

i have so many things i want to do an armchair legal review of and can’t focus on which one i’d like to do. on top of that, sometimes a person just wants to not listen to the news because it seems like every day there’s another piece of craptastic news that happens. at some point it just becomes noise.

anyway, if i ever get inspired to pull out my legalese hat and put it on, perhaps i will. or maybe i’ll just turn off my phone and go for a paddle on the lake or sit on my patio and hope nothing blows up. not like i can do anything about it*.

*my resignation is starting to be overwhelming. is this the point? can i be done being angry?

mn state parks: west central loop!

mn state parks: west central loop!

i had a COMPANION on today’s state park visit. nate has three days off and agreed to come with me on my west central park loop. yay!

we headed out around 10:30 and hopped on 94 to head up to glacial lakes park, which is at the more northern end of the glacial ridge. this is a ridge running in west central mn where the glaciers left a crapton of deposits and therefore lakes.

glacial lakes is a nice park! it’s near starbuck, which is near glenwood. there’s a giant lake nearby as well as a couple smaller lakes in the park. we didn’t spend a lot of time in the park, but we did check out a scenic overlook into the lake and then i took a (very)short hike into the woods.

then it was a long haul to the very western edge of the state to big stone lake state park, which is right on the SD/MN border just below the little bumpout in the state.

i was a little excited for this visit because i can check off another county that i’ve visited. now i only have two counties left in MN before i can say i’ve visited them all.

before visiting the park, nate and i drove into ortonville to find something to eat. we ended up going to this dive bar and not surprisingly had one of the best meals i’ve had in a while. gotta love small-town bars!

big stone lake is a dammed river that creates a rather large lake on the border, and the state park is just a little piece of land with some campsites, a public water access, and a small swimming beach. the land in that area is interesting: there are stones all over, so you can’t farm the land, but it’s prairie, so it’s pretty flat and uninteresting. there are a lot of cattle grazing, and scrubby trees trying to make it on the edge of the prairie.

then another long haul to lac qui parle state park , another wide place in a river.

and this is where i got the find of the day! the largest cottonwood in the state is in this state park! it’s got a 394″ circumference at 4′ (!) and is 106′ tall! i wish i could find out if they have an estimate on how old it is. i had visions of walking to general sherman when i rounded the bend to see the tree!

holy tree!

by this time nate was maxed out. sure, google maps said the loop would take 5.5 hrs, but this didn’t count time in the parks or eating lunch. so it was close to 3:30 at this point. we hightailed it across the prairie. the nice thing about the wide open spaces is there are very few cops and the speed limit is 60mph.

the second to last stop was monson lake, which was another public access and a few campsites, as well as the still-depressing reminder about the sioux uprising.

the final stop on the look was sibley state park! this is certainly a familiar park; i think i spent every day the summer of 1998 on the lake andrew beach, frying to a crisp. i stopped in the park office, which i don’t think i’ve ever been in, and then took in the familiar lake parking lot. since nate was about ready to hitchhike back home, i didn’t spend much time reminiscing, took a pic of the lake, and we headed home by way of new london.

we got home close to 6 p.m. the amount of time i’m taking in the parks is making me nervous for my drive home from the north shore. that may end up being a 15 hour day :/

motivation monday (but on a saturday!)

motivation monday (but on a saturday!)

you know it’s been a sad state of affairs lately when you spend an entire saturday cleaning and fixing stuff around the house and afterward you’re amazed at how good it looks. i started with the living room and couldn’t get over how nice it was so i just kept right on cleaning. and i painted the wall that’s needed painting for about 8 months (still need to do something about the floor, but that’s another day’s project).

here’s an update this blog will be happy to hear about: this weekend i survived the craigslist killer and bought a new camera. a canon 5d mark III, which is a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUge upgrade from my sad 30D. oh, 30D, you did me so good for 11 years. but this will be a fantastic step up for things like STAR photography and low-light photos and overall photo loveliness. i parted with a large sum of money for this, so it’d better be SUPER awesome at stuff.

first couple photos taken with new cam? the peonies in my garden.

i’m ready, 5d. let’s get my photivation back on track.

mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

after camping by myself, having a weird old time, i had a toss and turn night. i couldn’t get comfortable and it was sticky humid. finally i got to sleep and woke up at 8:30, which is SO LATE in camp world. i broke camp in record time because i had a long day ahead of me. it was still sticky humid and getting everything stuffed in their bags was kind of gross.

i headed farther south. and south dakota was calling me – come west, young woman. (or middle-aged woman.) i briefly toyed with the idea, but stuck to my schedule. one of these days i will be spontaneous.


after chomping down a cookie and a can of diet pepsi, i stopped at blue mounds state park, which was a close to a south dakota stop as i was going to get this trip. what a great park! there is a bison herd and rolling prairie and native grasses and, i mean, can you beat this for wanting to head off into the sunset?

i admit, i am a lakes and trees girl. but there’s something about driving across south dakota, the hills, the waving grasses, the sky reaching forever into the west. it’s a different sort of home feeling – maybe a feeling of wanderlust rather than home. it makes me want to travel, even if it is across the prairie.

got some bison in the distance. one buffalo needs 5.5 acres of land to live off of, and the park has dedicated people for the herd.

and once again nature wins:


then it was a short drive on I-90. i stopped in worthington to find a coffee, which i was pretty grateful for. then to kilen woods state park, another park encompassing a river valley on the prairie.

i hiked the short trail to the des moines river, which starts in shetek park – i had visited that park the day before. the sun was still trying to peek through, but at this point, it was starting to cloud over again. i didn’t spend a lot of time at this park, as i had a few more to pick up on my way home.


minneopa state park is right outside mankato, so this was a very busy park. it seems like there is a lot going on at this park. i accidentally took the bison loop, which would have been ok if everyone else and their neighbor hadn’t decided to take it as well and i wasn’t in a hurry. i did get a pic of some buffalo, so i guess there’s that! two buffalo herds in one day. not too bad.

then across the road and down about a half mile, there’s a giant waterfall. the minneopa creek was high that day and just cascading over the falls.

there was mist curling up from the falls, making it seem like i was in some sort of horror movie. but there were way too many people there for that. remember how i like my parks more rural? well, i do. although the WPA buildings at this one were pretty nice!


and speaking of not rural, let’s talk about flandrau state park, which is right smack dab in the middle of new ulm. here a was rolling through a neighborhood when suddenly, a park. i was so surprised i didn’t even get any pics. in fact, i don’t remember much about this park at all. if i remember correctly, it’s small with a few campsites and trails.

well, i was short on time.


a brief interlude for the historical society!

i headed up the river road that we took so many times on the way from new london to austin and vice versa. every time we drove the road, we passed the harkin store, and every time we drove right on past. well, it was time to stop. i was surprised it was open on a sunday since it was sunday, but i paid my $6 to the historical society and got a history lesson on the long-gone riverside town that once prospered in the area. (reminded me of crow wing up by brainerd). the harkin store is the only building that remains. it’s pretty interesting and worth the $6. a lot of the items in the store are original to the store, and the person giving the tour knew her stuff.


fort ridgely was a short drive from harkin. once again i was reminded of what a cruddy way the dakota were treated. this one is a memorial to those who fought in the dakota war in 1862. the fort’s remains are from 1853, which was built as an outpost and training ground. it made a sort of buffer between the whites settling in the river valley and the dakota. i know there is a memorial and park in mankato, and the state parks do a good job of educating people about how an entire people was kicked out of their home and sacred land, but where’s the park memorializing the american indians? i have yet to run into one. perhaps it’s still on my list.


then i made the mistake of the day. i should have checked the website for greenleaf. turns out it’s just a public water access, and the stamp was at the dnr office in hutchinson. i drove around looking for a dumb self-service station, then finally looked at their website. sigh! so i backtracked to hutchinson to get the stamp.


and booked it. it had been a long day. i was hungry, and a stop in litchfield yielded a slice of casey’s pizza (seriously if you haven’t had their pizza, check it out. and the donuts). i dismiss litchfield a lot, but every time i drive through i’m impressed. it’s got a sizable lake, a decent swimming beach, an actual town square and park. good job, litch.

the route i took home took me through eden valley, which i had never visited. and it lives up to its name. what a perfect little lake community. central minnesota at its finest!

finally i was in the homestretch, driving north of richmond to avon, which is a very scenic drive with the right amount of rolling hills, fields, trees, and an occasional small lake. and the sun decided to make an appearance, streaming down through clouds onto those lovely avon hills, and a person just has to say there’s no place like home.

mnstate parks: upper sioux, camden, lake shetek, split rock creek

mnstate parks: upper sioux, camden, lake shetek, split rock creek

saturday morning i woke up a little later than normal, rolling over as nate came to bed and wondering if i really had to get up and head out for a day of state parks. i was gone the prior weekend as well. that along with work was almost enough for me to shut my eyes and forget the $26 i spent on a campsite.

then i remembered the reason i made this goal was to get out of my comfort zone of staying at home all the time.

i do love staying at home and putzing around.

so i took off.

not even 5 miles south of avon, the rain started. sigh.

i took a brief interlude into new london where i took a driveby pic of the old wallace homestead and sent it to my peeps. then we all lamented the fact that the new HS auditorium hadn’t been around while we were there. then i tried to turn around and my trip almost got cut short when i nearly got stuck in mud. *eyeroll*

i had planned to stop in willmar to check out the farmers’ market, but it was non-existent. i think it was the rain.

then i buckled down and drove through the pelting rain. visiting state parks in inclement weather isn’t fun.


the first stop was upper sioux agency. if there’s one thing that visiting state parks has taught me so far it’s that american indians have gotten the crap end of the toothbrush (not that i didn’t know that before, but good grief it’s just so overwhelming infuriating and sad to read about it at every stop).

i drove through granite falls to get through the park, taking a meandering river road with wisps of fog rolling along the edges of the trees. then suddenly i dipped up from the valley and onto the rez, alongside the requisite casino. a short way down the road was upper sioux.

like i said, it was rain city, so i didn’t spend a lot of time here. but there were some information items about the dakota uprising and how this confluence of the yellow medicine and minnesota rivers was originally a native homeland. seems like a lot of these parks preserve confluences that were once sacred to american indians.


i continued southwest to camden state park, which has a spring-fed swimming pond and great fly fishing. i took a break to eat some lunch and took a short hike to the river.

driving along the prairie grass and farmlands that suddenly give way to river valleys where these parks are is kind of disconcerting. all at once you are disoriented, wondering what happened to the wide open skies that are now crowded by trees (i prefer the trees).


it becomes pretty apparent pretty quickly that lakes in southwest minnesota are highly regarded. lake shetek seemed like an urbanized park. the lake itself was ringed with homes, the park itself carving out a small section of the shoreline. and it was a busy park. minnesotans really like their lakes, even if they need to drive 20 miles to get to one.

there is an island, loon island, that is connected to the mainland by a causeway built by the WPA.

at this point you may be wondering why the island is called loon island, as no self-respecting loon would deem this lake cool enough to nest on. i sure was, as i was walking the odd causeway to the island.

turns out it was a case of misidentification. the island was inhabited by double-crested cormorants, which i guess sort of look like loons. they, too, dive. so why didn’t they rename the island? well, the cormorants are gone now too. in the early 1910s, residents thought the birds were depleting the fish population, so there was a cormorant hunt. and it was so successful that the birds have never returned.

*huffs* *shakes head*

humanity is proving itself more and more stupid.


now for something different! i stopped at a NATIONAL MONUMENT. yes, i checked out pipestone.

i felt like this was entering true prairie territory. i didn’t spend a lot of time here, just enough to do a short hike through the restored prairielands and to check out the red rocks.

at this point, the sun finally made an appearance and the rain stopped. it was humid and sticky, though not yet hot.

i was itching to get to my campsite.


after checking out the local scene in jasper (not much), i headed to split rock creek state park, where i was camping for the night.

the “lake” was created after the WPA dammed up the river, making it the only lake in the county.

let’s talk about dams for a moment. i want to learn more. i like the idea of lakes created, but i also like the idea of letting nature take its course. i like the idea of hydro-electric, but i also like it when salmon can swim upstream. a book that’s been long on my to-read list is john mcphee’s “in control of nature” which delves a little more on the subject. one of the info-stops along the hike to the dam mentioned how flooding has damaged the dam more than once.

maybe it’s nature saying get a clue.

that aside, i checked in and drove to my campsite, which was a little small and made me happy i had only a 4-person tent. set everything up and ate supper before heading out on a hike along the lake and to the dam.

then i read a book in my hammock and felt generally weird about camping alone.

not gonna lie: it’s not about safety; it’s about company. i spend a lot of time alone in my life. nate works overnights, so i occupy myself a lot of the time. but short of a couple work-related things, i don’t travel alone much. or at all. i’m traveling with someone or to someone. and even though i’m a giant introvert and pretty quiet, having someone else with me at the campsite would’ve been nice.

but i survived.

once it got dark, i was going to try out some star photography. around 9:30, i saw the stars start to peek out, so i decided to wait until 10:30 or so. then it clouded over around 10. well that was the end of that.

but i DID get some fireflies!

on tony bourdain

on tony bourdain

in 2005 or so, back when having cable tv was still a thing, i was cruising through channels one day and happened upon “no reservations” on the travel channel. i was intrigued. and kept watching. and kept watching tony bourdain as he traveled over the world eating its foods, good and bad, from the travel channel to cnn to on my netflix queue. i love his narration, so i picked up his books: first “kitchen confidential.” then i checked out his fiction. when “medium raw” came out, i ordered it on its publish date. i own his cookbook that recently came out. when nate and i went to see alton brown a couple years ago, alton brown said “you may think i’m the god of food. that’s wrong. that’s anthony bourdain.” i often daydreamed about what it would be like to be his fixer, what i would show him in my area of the world (not that he would ever come to central mn but a girl can dream). i meant to look up when he was on tour and go see him in whatever it was he was touring for. i followed him on twitter. i followed his production company (zero point zero) on twitter. i followed them both on instagram. i admired his F-you attitude to a lot of things, the cynicism in a lot he did, and the way you could see when his attitude warmed toward something, most likely a grandma cooking in her home. the way he and ZPZ made each episode of his travels a true work or art, the words moving with the camera shots, the focus pulling at your eye and the words at your heart. the artistry that they managed to pack in to each hour of travel talk. and still what always brought me back was his narration, his way with words, making a person yearn to be there with him, traveling the world and logging it with food, with a cynical eye, with a drink or three, a cigarette in the early days, and always, always with words.

fangirl. always will be.

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.