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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Ever since the jet stream turned course and started sending Canadian high pressure over the border into Minnesota, the relentless tornado sirens have seemingly been more quiet, the humidity has lifted for a couple weeks and Lisa and I have found ourselves coasting into late summer gear.

And that is to say, we have ignored blog updates for almost 2 weeks as we’ve reveled in some glorious Minnesota summer days that are priceless. Priceless because we seem to get so few of them and because the pain of last year’s long winter can still be felt. The local cadre of weathermen/women in the Twin Cities were happy to announce these last couple of weeks as they’ve born the brunt of bad news for months, either too cold or too humid or too stormy or too rainy. Some friends and co-workers just say things like, “I’m not going to complain after last winter, I’ll take anything as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with snow or freezing temperatures.”

I have the sense that they believe somewhere in their heart that if they say anything negative, the spell that is holding our momentary relief will be broken and Mother Nature will hurl us into an early fall and winter as punishment for a display of ingratitude.

Reality is sometimes best left unspoken, if not to hold onto our current spell of perfect days then at least to cherish these moments that will get us beyond the Holidays and through the three months that follow into another spring.

Gary's Cessna 180 sea plane

I will cut this post short so you can get outside and enjoy these moments as much as you can. We’ve kept some notes to build on the last couple of weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping us from spending time at our keyboard:

  • We flew with a pilot friend in his Cessna 180 on floats to a wonderful small town cabin festival.
  • We took time off from work to spend precious time with my sister and her family visiting from Billings Montana – last Friday I went to the Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. (You’ll like it if you enjoy history).
  • We’re volunteering at the church picnic today – stop by for free BBQ, kids games and a terrific jazz band.
  • We’re planning a trip up north to a cabin in the woods.
  • We fixed our first blown bike tires – all by ourselves! (Reveling in the small victories)
  • We’ve got tickets for Twins games in the hopes of seeing Thome hit #600!

Now get out there and enjoy the day – because the reality is that we’re losing 2-3 minutes of daylight every day. Ignore the last half of that sentence if you must !!

My sister and me!

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The weekend before last, there were four of us middle-aged white faces that set out in two canoes on a 2 day overnight camping trip in northern Minnesota. We had 3 rivers to choose from depending on water flow. We ended up putting into the Whiteface River at County Road 52 about a mile west of the town of Cotton. The river originates in the Whiteface Reservoir and flows southwest finally feeding the St. Louis River. We did not put in

Breakfast

These guys know how to make breakfast in the woods!

at the reservoir, although the fastest water runs between there and County Road 52. The main thing is that we were 4 middle-aged guys who packed to travel in comfort. We had 2 aluminum canoes, 2 large tents, 2 large coolers, 4 captains chairs and 4 backpacks. We just wanted to paddle, camp, eat, mix Jeremiah Weed lemonades and enjoy the outdoors for 36 hours. And believe me, we ate like kings!

Our drop in site on the Whiteface River near Cotton, MN

The real adventure began when we started about an hour late putting into the river. As it turned out the only other people we would see for the next 36 hours happened to come floating by as we arranged the boats under the county bridge. They were 3 guys, 2 in a canoe and 1 in a kayak…and they were traveling LIGHT. They had the real-deal equipment: light weight canoe, small packs and a water proof pack for food and tent.

They smiled, waved and gave us words of encouragement as the 4 of us loaded our gear like we were at a private campground and not sparing the luxuries.

Off we went, and I must say that once you’re on the river, it’s quiet, full of wildlife and peaceful. There were several class 1 rapids to navigate and we did pretty good. Although the flow coming out of the reservoir was reported less than optimal. So in several places we had to get out and push the canoe through rocky, shallow spots. There are very few county road crossings along the way. Much of the stretch has long expanses of state-owned land with no access, so there’s literally nobody around. There are spots with private land, a few houses with barking dogs and many hunting shacks buried in the woods. We saw mostly deer, geese, wood ducks, mergansers, beavers, song birds, and otter and raccoon tracks. This river is just one of 32 waterways totaling 4,400 miles designated by the Minnesota DNR as “water trails”. If you scout the DNR website, you’ll get references to books and online materials that provide phone numbers for water flow rates from dams and reservoirs that would affect your experience. If you go to the Whiteface, you can dial for discharge readings: 218-720-2777. A discharge of 150 cfs is enough to get by with a bit of scraping on the bottom of your canoe.

Most of the trees are maple, cedar, conifers, aspen, birch and pine. Most of the pine is gone. It was logged long ago, but you’ll spot the occasional red or white one standing tall amongst the rest. The forest is mostly made of large ferns that look like something from the forests of

Mark stuck

Mark learns that the shore isn't as solid as it appears!

Avatar. There aren’t any official campsites along the way. So part of the adventure is making your own. However that can be a bit tricky because you must respect the private property and then you must find someplace where you can access the river bank easily. And that is where the challenge is. Other than the rocky class 1 rapids, the rest of the river is mostly a weird mixture of charcoal colored sand and clay. This stuff sticks to you like putty and if you’re not careful will suck you in down to your knees. This leaves you wondering how you’ll extract yourself without loosing your shoes and not falling completely into the river.

Oh, if you go, beware, there are mosquitos. They fly faster than you can paddle. However, I was prepared. I had doused my clothing in permethrin before the trip and we all sprayed clouds of deet on ourselves. Amazingly, I didn’t have a single insect bite. They buzzed me incessantly, but I never itched from a bite.  And once the campfire was going, the bugs simply stayed away. I only had one tick find the palm of my hand as I was out gathering firewood, and he ended up in the fire.

Earlier I told you that you might see beavers on your trip. If you don’t see any, you’ll certainly run into their handiwork. Mother Nature does her best to add to the fallen trees through wind and erosion. There is a stated log jam about 3 quarters of the way toward where County Road 133 crosses over the river. This is a HUGE log jam. The maps list the portage around the log jam as 50 rods, but it is MUCH

Portaging the canoe over logjam #1

bigger than that. At a minimum, I’d estimate it to be 200+. The kicker is that you think it is the only one on the trip. Not so. We ran into 3 log jams. And the only way around most of it is by portaging through ferns and stinging nettles. The copper colored waters of the river feel really good after burning your legs on the nettles! Originally we intended to exit another 7 or 8 miles south of County Rd 133, but the log jams slowed our progress and we were thinking one of us would have to hitchhike a ride from someone to our van. But as luck would have it, the 3 guys that had passed us the day before

A collection of 2 groups gives each other a hand!

ended up behind us on the following day. We had set our earlier and they eventually caught up to us at the 3rd log jam. They rescued us as they had a ride waiting for them at County Road 133. In exchange we shared our 2 coolers full of food and we all exchanged stories of our trip and spent a few minutes enjoying God’s provision for us all.

Brent and Mark

Brent and Mark

Getting ready for supper!

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Britt, MN - in the Superior National Forest

My first annual men’s snowmobiling weekend is in books and upon returning home, I kissed Lisa and asked where the bottle of ibuprofen was. And that means the weekend was a great success. We arrived at Lake Leander around 6pm last Friday night and noted that St. Louis County Minnesota had as much or more snow than the Twin Cities. It took us a couple hours to blow out 3 feet of snow from the driveway, clear a path to the outhouse, unload the van and begin starting the snowmobiles so they’d be ready for Saturday.

One pesky cold start forced us to postpone the Friday evening ride, but we eventually got the machine started. Of course it didn’t help that it was -14 below zero F. But according to the locals, this was the most snow they’d had in years. So the sledding was perfect.

Let’s get one thing straight, snowmobiling in Minnesota is a whole culture where the trails are groomed and posted with street signs (stop signs, curves, slow, etc). But the most important signs are the ones telling you how to get to the next bar and lounge.

Our machines took us on a ride that landed us at Liquid Larry’s, The Oasis, The Voyageur and Britt’s Lounge. Honestly, we never got cold even though by Saturday night after 12 hours of riding, the temperature was -20 F on it’s way to -39 F.

My Facebook check-in’s helped to confirm for Lisa that the Man’s Snowmobiling weekend is mostly about male bonding and she was glad to allow me to experience it. She’s doesn’t like the cold, nor the idea of riding a loud smelly machine, nor the thought that trips to the outhouse are not heated.

I also want to give a call out for the folks up on the Range: they are good people. A guy named Jim had gone over to the cabin in the afternoon and fired up the gas space heater before we arrived to warm it up. Another guy loaned us an extra machine so all 4 of us could ride together. Another guy opened up his repair garage when we needed to store a machine with a broken suspension arm. Everyone was glad to see us and helped show the best of a real Minnesota winter.

All of this helped me enjoy a couple days with some special friends. I’ve known Gary since 5th grade & Mark since 3rd grade; and Chris is one of Gary’s co-workers. He has had all of us over for grilling and is one of the funniest guys I know. It isn’t often we get the chance to be goofy,  eat steaks, have a couple cocktails and crack jokes at each others’ expense AND drive snowmobiles around. Livin’ the dream! Thanks guys!

Gotta dig 'em out first!

Revin' the engines!

Chris & Gary

Mark

Yours truly!

Entering Narnia

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You heard me right, this weekend in Minnesota is going to be “butt chappin’ cold”. And when people in Minneapolis tell you it feels cold outside, you should sit up and take notice. For a humorous reflection on that notion, check out our friend Sank’s post on a trip up to Fargo/Moorehead.

The reason I bring it up is because this weekend I agreed to go to a lake somewhere in the Minnesota Iron Range in the northern portion of the State. The purpose of the trip is to go snow-mobiling. This is an annual adventure trip for several of my friends and they’ve been inviting me to go every year. I’ve been fortunate enough to have real excuses to turn down the invitations over the years, but not this year.

From what I understand, there’s one bar about a mile down the road from the cabin. The cabin itself will not have running water as the plumbing isn’t winterized. Meals and trips to the W.C. will be to the bar down the road. Planning out my meals at the bar is okay, but planning W.C. trips to the bar is not something that appeals to me. Especially when it’ll be about -25 below zero outside.

I plan to bring a couple of really good books. If it’s too cold to ride through the woods, I’m going to make as many friends in the bar as possible. I’ve heard they do Karaoke on Saturday nights. That ought to be fun. I’ll bring a camera and share  the adventure on what Minnesotans living on the frozen tundra actually do when it’s butt-chappin’ cold out.

Stay tuned.

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Friendship is truly one of God’s perfect gifts.  God has arranged to gift me with three friends that I’ve had since I was in elementary school. I’ve known Terry and Mark since I was in 3rd grade and the three of us met Gary when he moved to our neighborhood in 5th. It seems rare these days to have such long standing friends. And we live close to one another. Three of us are in the Twin Cities and the fourth is a couple hours west. Hunting season is one of the few times during the year when all 4 of us try to arrange it so we can spend time together; and pheasant hunting is our perfect venue.

The pheasant hunting wasn’t so great this year. The fields were soaked. In fact, I’ve never seen so much water at this time of year. The rain in September was just too much and even though it was mostly dry in October, we ended the month with a few days of rain and the ground just couldn’t take it. It was enough rain to prevent farmers from getting corn harvested. The birds are lounging in the corn and there’s just no way to get them out of there. Hunting pheasants will get better when the corn is in and the water has frozen over. We saw a few birds, but we had other obstacles this year too. Terry’s dog had a bum foot and couldn’t take the field. We hunted sans chien. It’s just not a very productive hunt without a dog.

Our bad luck didn’t deter us from having a great time. We took a break at noon and lingered awhile longer over fried chicken and chips at the local cafe. I think we’ve all slowed down a bit as we’re 47 years old and feeling a few creaks in our joints. It took me half of Sunday just to get stretched out and feeling better. But it was worth it.

The four of us marched across several fields yesterday with a chilly wind in our faces and warm sun on our backs. We saw a couple dozen turkeys, a big buck deer and many geese. I looked at the faces of my buddies as we joked with each other and caught up on the details of life as we walked across the Minnesota prairie. I could see extra wrinkles, less hair and grey whiskers on our faces. But mostly, I saw the years of our youth flash forward through time. I recalled youthful memories like boy scouts, bike rides and football. I heard new stories about kids, gratitude for having jobs in an uneven economy, updates on parents and plans for the holidays. I felt the rays of the sun setting on our day together as the memories became another year richer. Lord, thank you for the gift of camaraderie: four friends, a few pheasants and a lifetime of genuine happiness. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Do you have grade-school friends that will always be by your side through thick and thin? What are your favorite memories? How do you continue to create new memories together? Do you see the handiwork of God on how He’s arranged for you to have friends in your life? How would your life and your contentment be affected without them? Share a memory in the comments, we’d love to hear it!

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We discovered yet another fabulous biking trail last Sunday. What an awesome fall day! We’re finding there aren’t many better ways to spend these kinds of Minnesota September days. You get to enjoy the sun, some lovely scenery and exercise all at the same time!

Brent at the trailhead in Wayzata.

This time the trail was the Three Rivers’ Dakota Rail Trail which opened in 2009. It runs 13.5 miles from Shaver Park in Wayzata to St. Bonifacius on the former Dakota Rail corridor. You pass through a number of suburbs, small towns, Lake Minnetonka bays, wetlands and farm land. Apparently these corridors make appealing bike routes since they are flat and often travel through interesting territory. According to Wikipedia, “The conversion of rails to trails hastened with the federal government passing legislation promoting the use of railbanking for abandoned railroad corridors. This process preserves rail corridors for possible future rail use with interim use as a trail.”

A few other things to note about this specific trail are:

Overlooking Lake Minnetonka

• It’s very smooth and virtually completely flat.
• There are no public restrooms associated with the trail along the way.
• Trail designated parking in the Wayzata lot (right off Lake Street) is limited.
• While it’s quite a safe trail, there are a couple busy intersections.

Once we arrived in St. Boni, we were greeted by an inviting little cafe called “The St. Boni Bistro” where we enjoyed lunch. They have a somewhat limited menu, featuring a number of breakfast items along with sandwiches and salads. All four of us were happy with our selections. The organic iced tea was particularly tasty, especially after the long ride. On a nice day, you’ll probably try for one of the patio tables. We did discover they aren’t particularly open to menu adjustments. One of our party was dissuaded from having her salad dressing on the side. The restaurant didn’t want to be responsible for anything that strayed strictly from the menu. We did, however, like that they are committed to healthy, organic foods.

Lunch at the halfway point.

Yet another adventure in biking chalked up! So far, we’re not regretting the spontaneous bike purchases made earlier this summer. I think we may even be feeling slightly more fit. Well, at least it feels good to be active. Sadly, it might not be long before our biking must convert to cross-country skiing. Let’s hope that’s at least a few months away though!

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Beyond the simple bliss of getting away from the daily routine for a short while, we found ourselves with more than a few memories to savor now that the long awaited vacation is behind us and that “daily-ness” has set back in. I’m hoping that writing them down will help pack them away in our minds to pull out on cold, winter, blustery days that are sure to arrive before we’re ready for them.

One of many childhood trips to Duluth

This get-away was to the North Shore here in Minnesota, a favorite destination since childhood. I have great memories of watching the ships come through Duluth Harbor and skipping rocks in the Mighty Superior. Those trips planted a fondness in my heart for our “Norwegian Riviera.” There’s something magical about the North Shore. For me, worries, cares and stress seem to evaporate as I drive north.

On this trip we hoped to focus on some time to relax, read, enjoy God’s creation and scout out fly-fishing spots. Here are a few of the highlights:

Doe at Fort William

Coming face-to-face with a doe, staring at us from no more than 10 yards away at Fort William in Thunder Bay, Canada.

The peacefulness that comes when you step onto the Naniboujou grounds. This lodge was first conceived in the 1920s as an ultra exclusive private club. Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ring Lardner

The memorable Naniboujou dining room.

were among its charter members. The shoreline is one of the best for hours of rock picking. One look at the dining room and you’ll recognize why it is unforgettable in itself. There’s a rich history behind this lodge and we enjoyed reading more about it during our short time there to have a fabulous dinner. If you’re ever in the area on a Sunday, they also serve a delightful afternoon tea of which I have partaken more times than I can count!

Feet in the bubbling Temperance River. One of my very favorite simple pleasures in life: putting my feet in a running river on a sunny, summer day. My husband kindly encouraged me to indulge in this activity for quite some time.

I love to put my feet into bubbling rivers!

An exquisite dinner at the Angry Trout Café. This restaurant is located on the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior in the town of Grand Marais. We got to enjoy a romantic setting on their patio while a full moon made its way high into the starry sky. They feature cuisine with ingredients that come from the surrounding region – locally-grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice and their specialty, fresh Lake Superior fish.  Brent loved his trout with corn-on-the-cob, baked potato and salad.  Everything was fresh and perfectly prepared. Both

A romantic, moonlit dinner at Angry Trout.

of our plates were nearly overflowing with things like carrots seeminingly picked out of the garden just that day and wild blueberries that more than likely came from a nearby patch. The maple-mustard and basil-tomato dressings were homemade. (I want the recipes!) I had delicious white fish with yummy wild rice. All in all, this was our favorite meal of the trip. Oh, and the cheesecake was tasty too!

Brent’s favorite coffee spots on the trip were at the Angry Trout (we purchased a bag) and at the Wild Onion Café (Grand Marais) where we had breakfast. This breakfast was nicely done there and reasonably priced with good service. At Papa Charlie’s (Lutsen) we had a decent meal with a really good bottle of wine. And Brent is still licking his chops over the frozen Tiramisu, which includes Kahlua, amaretto, Tuaca (an Italian vanilla liqueur), espresso syrup and vanilla ice cream blended together for a “smooth, creamy libation.” No wonder he’s still talking about it!

Scouting for a good trout spot.

WiFi in Grand Marais and at the Coho Café & Bakery (Tofte). Ok, this may seem to be an oxymoron when you’re traveling the North Shore, but we have to admit, it was nice to pick up the occasional signal.

Naps next to rushing rivers. There’s nothing like the sound of water pouring over rocks as a perfect match for relaxation. While Brent tossed his line in, I took advantage of the opportunity for some lovely catnaps.

A few of these highlights might show up again in some future posts since they leave out a lot of detail. At the same time, there’s no way to fully reflect the beauty, adventure and quirkiness of the North Shore without taking a trip there yourself. What’s your favorite thing to take in while on the Shore?

(An aside…In a North Shore Google search, I came across a informative blog you might want to check out before your next trip. The most interesting thing I picked up on this  “The North Shore…There and Back” site was that the arch at Tettegouche State Park fell last week! Some great shots from MPR.)

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