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,