Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Summer Vaca 2022 - Final Stops: Gooseberry Falls, MN + The Field of Dreams, IO

It's the final installment of our 2022 Summer Vacation.  If you've been patiently waiting for the finale, you've made it!  If you missed any of it, you can click the links below and check out our travels through the beautiful state of Minnesota (and even a couple of stops in Iowa).

During our run, we hit: 

  1. The Bridges of Madison County
  2. Minneapolis 
  3. Lake Itasca 
  4. Itasca State Park
  5. Lake Superior
  6. Gooseberry Falls + The Field of Dreams (this one!)
When we took the North Shore Scenic Drive along the coastline of Lake Superior, Gooseberry Falls was a must-do on the list!  One "minor" detail I haven't really mentioned on all of our adventures is my type 1 diabetes.  Since I was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 6, I am fairly good at managing my disease to be in the background, BUT it's always lurking.  On our adventures, basic activities like hiking and canoeing meant lots and LOTS of granola bars and glucose tablets, on top of cutting my medicine (insulin pump) down to nothing while we walked.  For our first stop at Gooseberry Falls, my T1D also meant that I couldn't manage all the walking with the few granola bars that were left.  Of course, like all good lessons, we didn't know it until we had already taken the walk down to the falls.  We stayed for a short while, snagging these first shots, but ultimately decided to leave and get some lunch and more granola bars, with the promise of returning the next day.  

When we came back the next day, we decided to start our exploring at the top.  Gooseberry Falls are actually a set of three different falls that flow downstream.   The falls we saw on our first stop (above) are considered the Middle Falls, while the place we started on our second stop (below) is named the Upper Falls.

Just beyond that bridge is where the second falls, or Middle Falls, can be found.  While they are equally beautiful, the Middle Falls are definitely safer to explore up close.  The Lower Falls (below) were certainly the safest space for families to get in, swim, play, and explore.  While each of the falls was beautiful, my favorite part was actually the creek bed that flowed away from it all.

It reminded me so much of the movie, "A River Runs Through It".  It was so beautiful and calm.  We spent several hours here, walking, exploring, taking pictures, and simply taking it all in.  It was a lovely last stop before we started our journey home the next day.

To help break up our drive, we decided that The Field of Dreams movie site was a perfect last stop.  With my baseball-loving husband and film-production major son - it was a sweet match.  Although, my husband was definitely more on board than my son, who may not have even known the movie existed before that stop.

To say that it was surreal being on the field would be an understatement.  At the same time, I'll admit - it really was just a baseball field.  You know, surrounded by a cornfield, but a baseball field nonetheless.  My crew enjoyed running the bases and slipping into the cornfield, while I walked aimlessly wondering what it would have been like to be in person while the movie was being filmed.

We even got to see the new field in the background that was played on by the Reds and Cubs just a short while later!  The helicopter hanging overhead was there in preparation for the game.

So, here's to the closing of our 2022 Minnesota + Iowa adventures.  If you've never had the chance to visit, my crew and I would highly recommend you put it on your list!

Until next time,

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Summer Vaca 2022: Stop 3 - Lake Superior, MN

After our last stop in Itasca State Park, my crew took off for the shores of Lake Superior.  If you've missed our summer '22 adventures through Minnesota, including walking the Mississippi headwaters in Lake Itasca, a few days in Minneapolis, and even a pitstop to see the Bridges of Madison County in Iowa, you can check them all out at those links.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world - hence the name, SUPERior.  We had heard that the North Shore Scenic Drive along the banks of Lake Superior was a must-do, so that was our big goal.  (Side note: in doing some cross referencing for this post, I found out that the North Shore Scenic Drive has just been closed for the next five weeks due to an eroding hillside!  Eeek!  So glad we got this one in!)  We landed in Duluth our first night, which we quickly began to see is known for being a port for cargo on Lake Superior.  We had no clue how much comes in and out of this area!!  While here, we had the chance to stand under the famous Aerial Lift Bridge (a bridge that lifts the road to allow boats to go under), and then take a walk down the Lakewalk and Canal Park to take in the sights of the area.  It was a really lovely spot and we even found an ice-cream shop that has dairy-free options (such a win for our dairy intolerant kiddo)!

The next day, we took off for the North Shore Scenic Drive.  Jeeps are made for drives like this!  The sun on your face and the wind in your hair - it's fantastic!  At least for some of us.

The stops along the drive gave both the novice and experts plenty of rock skipping opportunities, as well as a chance to seek out special rock formations, and just relax as the summer closed down.

The pup came along on many of our adventures, and even gave us a good scare when she decided to jump out of the parked car window!  No worries - everything ended up fine, but definitely a lesson learned (hopefully for everyone).  We continued on our travels stopping at multiple pull off spots and waterfalls.  For those familiar with the area, Gooseberry Falls needed a second trip and its own post.

I love all the picturesque opportunities travels like these give me.  While I know my husband enjoys trips like this too, I know he also makes sure that I get to indulge in these kinds of chances when we can.  We always talk about how we want to make sure we do these types of things while we still have the energy and ability to go down a steep stair case or hike for miles on a trail.  One day those things won't be as easy.

We ended the day in a sweet little town called Grand Marias where we got to see a fun new open concept art space built out of tiny homes as galleries.  Each one had a side wall that opened to reveal an artist's work for sale.  The town is known as an art spot, but unfortunately our timing didn't work out and most spaces were closed for the evening.

We could have easily spent days hiking and exploring, but we were grateful for the time we got.  Only a few more pieces to our summer '22 travels are left; I can't wait to share!

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Summer Vaca 2022: Stop 2 - Itasca Park, MN

If you've been following along on our travels, we know that our summer vacation plans changed multiple times, finally ending us up in the Northern US in the beautiful state of Minnesota.  We took a pit stop in Iowa to see the Bridges of Madison County, made our first stop in Minneapolis to see Minnehaha Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, and then headed to Itasca State Park for a few days.  We spent some of our time on the water enjoying the things Lake Itasca had to offer, including walking the headwaters of the Mississippi River and pontooning.  And if you missed any of that, all the links above will take you to each post.  After that, we made sure to do some trail walking and Jeep driving on the scenic 16-mile loop.

The hiking, while one of the most challenging parts of this trip for my type 1 diabetes & asthma, was something I loved the most.  My son had recently spent 2 weeks in New Mexico at the Philmont Scout Ranch completing a 10-day backpacking/camping trek that covered over 75 miles of hiking.  Upon his return, he told me how much I would have loved going and taking pictures - but that I probably would have died.  Kidding aside, I may not have died, but all my conditions certainly would have made it difficult on the crew to keep good time.  So, getting to have my own little, manageable experience was perfect.

The icing on the cake was that it was best to have someone with me, and since my daughter preferred the beach on the lake, my husband stuck with her and my son got to hang with me.  I really loved the extra time, even if it wasn't much.  Something about that final vacation before the oldest took off for college had me feeling all the feels.

After one duo spent some time in the woods while the other spent it on the beach, we took off for the scenic drive through the park.  We made sure to seek out what used to be the tallest red pine in the state and stood in awe of both its beauty and its brokenness.  My very favorite thing in life is to drive down windy roads.  I'll take a forest of trees or farmland; it's something from my youth.  Itasca did not disappoint.

The drive was beautiful with its winding tree-filled turns and sneak peeks of the lake.  The one way, empty road gave me the perfect opportunity to jump out and get the shots I wanted.

As we rounded out the evening, my crew decided to investigate an observation tower to see about getting a top view of the park.  The boys didn't want to stick around with Emma and I for the big tree, so we found the dance they did on the trail a little funny because they didn't realize how BAD the bugs were and insisted they would be fine without bug spray.  When we got to the bottom, I decided to wait for them to tell me if it was worth it because I knew that I would need to eat yet ANOTHER granola bar to make it up and back down.  And just as I got cozy at a picnic table, a group of 20-somethings came down the stairs, one wearing a CGM like mine for his own blood sugar and they confirmed that if I had the granola bar with me, I would need it, but it was worth it.  And so, up the tower I went, catching the last kiss of sunlight over the trees before we left the park for the final time.  Itasca State Park and all her riches were definitely a trip worth making.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Summer Vaca 2022: Stop 2 - Lake Itasca, MN

My husband is a big fan of going and doing - meaning he doesn't really enjoy sitting still.  So, going on a family vacation is sometimes a bit of a mixed bag because while I don't necessarily feel the need to see and do all the things, his list isn't as short.  During this vacation, for fear of being bored in one spot for too long, we had several stops across the state - each only lasting a few days.

After our first stop in Minneapolis, our second stop was Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park, Minnesota.  The lake is a glacier lake that is famously known for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which we can see anytime we go to downtown St. Louis.  We found a cabin called Big Timbers that was right across from the park and had a beautiful view out our back window.

On our first full day, we hit the lake and did some family canoeing in the morning.  Not pictured?  The rather loud argument my husband and I had as we tried to navigate the canoe together.  The details were all pounded out and we both made it back to the shoreline dry and alive.  In the afternoon, we went to the headwaters and joined all the people walking across them.  It was a pretty neat and sort of surreal experience.

Big props to my husband for taking those shots of me walking the headwaters with our kids.  Again not pictured: as I was walking back across, I step backward off a rock and sliced my toe.  Diabetics and foot injuries don't mix well (hence the reason I really should have been wearing water shoes).  The headwaters are about a 15-minute walk and my foot was in no shape for walking.  I left behind some blood in the waters and on the bank, but thankfully a mom with a baby in tow also had wipes and I was able to sit for a few minutes with my foot elevated and stop the bleeding.  Then I got to enjoy the view out our cabin window for a bit while the family went swimming.

The next day, we decided a pontoon might be best for my foot.  My son goes camping every summer, sometimes multiple times.  He has had so many opportunities to do all the water things and it was obvious as we navigated through our trip.  It was pretty cool to see him take the skills he's been using in Scouts for what feels like his whole life and use them with us.  He helped us back out with the pontoon and got us out of a couple of sticky situations with the seaweed.

Having Nani along for this trip was good for us all.  While she was no less of a responsibility while vacationing (we may have forgotten her water on a few hikes), she tagged along many of times that it made sense and loved all the extra time.

Emma and I both loved the cool patterns that the seaweed made as the water rippled the lake.  But my favorite part of being on this lake was realizing that the very place we crossed the headwaters could be seen from our pontoon (as seen in the bottom picture)!

Lake Itasca did not disappoint, and we aren't even done with the park!  If you missed day 1 of this trip or our pit stop to check out the Bridges of Madison County on the way in, make sure to go check them out!  I'm excited to share more with you from beautiful Minnesota!

Until Next Time,

Friday, September 2, 2022

Summer Vaca 2022: Stop 1 - Minneapolis, MN

To say that our summer vacation was a little up in the air this year would be kind.  At first, we talked about heading West, considering locations like Glacier National Park or Yellowstone.  We realized that in the window of time we were supposed to have (ten days), neither of those locations, at a two-day drive, would allow us time to enjoy all there was to see.  We then thought we should drive South, giving ourselves less drive time, only to discover how BLAZING hot it is in the summer down South.  I know - duh.  So, weeks before we thought we would be heading South, we looked East.  We quickly realized that the drive would still kill so much of our trip, (have I mentioned we live in the middle of the US?) that we bailed on that idea quickly.  That left us North, in the cooler, but still quite picturesque, state of Minnesota.  If you missed it, I blogged last time about how the highlight of this trip to me was that we were going to get to stop in Iowa and see the Bridges of Madison County.  Outside of that, neither my husband nor I really knew what we were getting into.  But, getting away for a bit sounded lovely and we already had a hotel (nope, we booked that on the drive), so we were in.

We decided our first stop should be Minneapolis.  We hit up the Mall of America, but sadly, like most malls in America, it was fairly low-key.  We saw most of the same stores we see at home, very few people for a 4-floor mall, and a small-scale indoor amusement park - all of which faded quickly.  Our next stop was Minnehaha Falls.  Minnesota, state motto: Land of 10,000 Lakes, also had its fair share of waterfalls, so we had a few on our list.  This one was a good starter.  It wasn't too big, nor was it too far of a walk, so Nani got to come along.

Jason and Emma enjoyed walking the creek that comes off the falls, and then we headed to the park close by to see a few historic spots.  When we saw that our friend's last name (Stevens) was shared with one of the historic markers, we had to take a picture and stop.  The house was closed due to the heat, but it was neat to think about the history of the space.  And also cool to see the garden and outhouse (what a fun conversation that was).

The next evening, we hit up the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis, where we got to have a beautiful view of St. Anthony Falls.  The light on the bridge and under the arches was lovely - and clearly, a photographer's dream, as gobs of them flocked to the area.  We enjoyed a walk & scooter across as we watched the sun begin to set.

Most of our stops were only a few days, but I loved watching my family do the simple things here: walks and talks and just being together.  It's the little things that later become the big things that you miss.  I'm excited to share the next leg of our trip and some new things that we got to try!

Until Next Time,

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bridges of Madison County, Iowa

Somewhere in my life, (likely in high school) I fell in love with the movie, The Bridges of Madison County.  The emotions between the two lead characters were so intense that it really stuck with me, only having a close call with P.S., I Love You.  When I started photography later in life, it took this favorite movie - about a National Geographic photographer on assignment - to a whole new level!  So, when our family vacation plans finally landed on the Northern US, and we were going to be driving through Madison County, Iowa, I was all in!  As my son described it: I giggled like a little schoolgirl.

There are 6 covered bridges in Madison County, and finding them is fairly easy - once you realize that there are road signs everywhere telling you where to head.  Previous to that, you might miss one like we did.  Our first find was the Imes Bridge.  I won't lie - it was sort of magical to walk through our first bridge.  It felt dreamy and surreal and I couldn't stop smiling or trying to get pictures of it from different angles and with different light.  Oh, the plight of a photographer.

After that, the hunt was on (and my son was so excited, as you can see)!  Our next stop was the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge.  While only a couple of the bridges are in their original homes, they all have signs detailing the history of where they started and if / when they were moved.  It was neat to read about each one and consider how they had been traveled on during their heydays.

Next stop was the Cedar Bridge.  The COOLEST thing about this one was that we got to DRIVE THROUGH IT!!!!  The saddest thing about this one is that it has been damaged by arson twice and had to basically be completely rebuilt.  As we visited different bridges, it was interesting to see the sprinkler systems and video cameras that are now inside all of the bridges because of the arson attempts on others.

The Hogback Bridge was one of the bridges that have remained in its original home, although traffic no longer crosses it.  I really enjoyed visiting this one and getting to take pictures because you could see the water that goes under it so much better!  Plus, it just makes prettier pictures.  I also loved that it had more of a natural surrounding that allowed for wildflowers and butterflies.  I wasn't so fond of the biting flies, but I survived.

Our last stop, and one that I definitely squealed over, was the Roseman Bridge.  If you've seen the movie, you might recall that this is the bridge where some of the more iconic scenes and photos take place.  It was fantastic to think about the history of this space and try to remember the scenes from the movie and guess which angles different things were shot from.

I felt a little like a kid in a candy shop and loved the final shots that I got.

I try to make sure I get shots of my whole crew now on our travels.  Hopefully you enjoyed seeing the bridges up close with us and may even be inspired to finally go see The Bridges of Madison County.  I'll warn you though - it really doesn't have much to do with bridges.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Hanging in the Sunflowers

If you have been following me for a while, you are aware that my family has had its adventures with sunflowers.  From our previous visits to our local sunflower fields, to our own backyard sunflower journey, we certainly aim to get our fill of these lovelies each summer.  Some years prove to be more challenging than others with a Boy Scout that spends weeks camping in the summer, but we lucked out this year and were able to find a night that wasn't sweltering, raining, and everyone was home!

My boys can really take or leave the whole sunflower idea.  They go along, they wonder for a little while, my husband even takes some killer selfies, but at the end of the day, my girl could wander and smell and notice all their little nuances for hours, while the boys have made their way back to the Jeep and wondering what ON EARTH we are still doing after 30 minutes.

The reality it, our girl is definitely more interested in the details of nature.  She's is my Botanical Gardens buddy, my splash in the rain child, and the one who wants to see the details of the flowers the rest of the world wants to fly over with their drones.  It may have a lot to do with that fact that after she was born, I started to slow down and take a closer look at what was around me.

The struggle every mom with a camera has is 1 - to make sure to participate in family things and 2 - to be in the photos as proof that we existed.  I have gotten better at asking my husband or son to take my camera and take some shots of me while I play.  I'm always grateful for the photos others take (big thanks to my son for these).  I also started taking selfies a few years ago with my crew and I have gotten better and better at it and often love the outcome!

As the sun began to set, my boys headed back, but my girl was still so interested in exploring.  She wanted to walk the path until it ended, but we soon realized we would likely be another 40 minutes and we were loosing light fast.  As the sun dipped, I caught some Monarchs mating and watched as my girl ran and ran down the fields.  I may have encouraged a few jumps after I saw her hair flying behind her.  And it will be a while before I forget the breath in her voice when she saw the moon over my shoulder. 

As I pulled this set together, I couldn't help but remanence on the years we've enjoyed the sunflowers, and how our time to do these sorts of things is having the sun set, just like this.  And yet.  Over our shoulders sits the moon, ready to take on a beautiful new part of journey.  One, that if you are watching for it, just might take your breath away too.

Until next time,

Friday, July 15, 2022

Christmas Cookies in July

When I went to start this blog post, it made me chuckle to open up my blog and realize the last time I put up a post was December 2021 - and that it was actually about Christmas.  Unlike today, where I am going to put together a post about Christmas cookies - from Christmas - in July.  If you have had the chance to spend time with us in the last few years, you'll know that things haven't quite returned to normal for us - although we are significantly closer than we were a couple of years ago.  This means that I often need to live life day by day.  Most days are ok, but honestly, my heart is still healing from a rough few years.  Recently, I considered just quietly letting my blog end (and for those that are curious, I am still unsure about my business quietly ending).  This week, though, it occurred to me that I often find great joy writing these posts.  And my girl loves them.  And I am literally creating a time capsule for my family.  So, here I am, posting us making Christmas cookies from December, in July.

As I look at my messy kitchen and my family in their everyday digs, I can't help but smile.  This IS my kitchen and my people - in all its beautiful chaos.  I once took pictures in a friend's kitchen and she proudly proclaimed to me that she had cleaned her counters before I came over.  It was lovely, but totally foreign to me in the pictures.  Her kitchen, like so many of us, typically had used counters.  Maybe one day I will be able to keep my counters clean.  In the mean time, I embrace the clutter.  It certainly doesn't stop us from knocking out some yummy Christmas cookies - starting with my girl and her favorites: sugar cookies.  Secretly, I think she likes those the best because she gets to decorate them.  It's certainly a labor of love to get those things from start to finish.

My boy is a standard chocolate chip kid.  Ignore those Craisins - those are for my husband's World's Best Cookies recipe.  Don't ignore that goof ball smile hidden behind my boy's silliness though.  I will miss that kid this fall more than I can describe.  Good thing the dog and Christmas cookies will bring him home.  The cookies may be standard, but he's still serious about the cooking.  I mean, who wants to mess up chocolate chip cookies.  That would be sad.

While the boys' cookies baked (sorry, I missed my husband's baking this year), my girl's were done and ready to be iced.  Oh the joy she finds in bringing her creations to life.  And also the joy my son might find in sitting back and waiting.  I rather loved that he landed right under that mistletoe.

And the final sugar cookie creation.  I have to laugh at the backwards (NEW & made by my son) logo.  Evidently when you flip a picture, Lightroom likes to give you away in the print templates.  Ha!  Oh well.  Here's to embracing the chaos!