State Park Chronicles: Nerstrand & Lake Sakatah

A few years ago, when I bought my first yearly state park pass, I made it my personal mission to try and go to every single state park in Minnesota. While living in Duluth for a few years I frequented parks like Gooseberry and Jay Cooke and this summer I’ll be making my 9th trip (I’ve gone there eight years in a row!) to Itasca State Park and camping with my best friend.

I’ve decided to chronicle my trips to all of the state parks here on the blog. I mean I might as well considering it’s been quite some time since I’ve kept up with the “Adventure” part of Adventures and Espresso. Not sure if I’ll go back and pull old pictures from some of those northern parks or if I’ll post new ones the next time I decide to drag myself to the North Shore.

To kick off this series, however, I’ve got two parks to share with you! Nerstrand Big Woods and Lake Sakatah. I went to both of these in one day, a Saturday a few weeks ago. Afterwards I promptly ended up sick, either with incredibly bad allergies or a virus. I’m still recovering from that!

Alright, so let’s start off with Nerstrand Big Woods State Park:

This park is located northeast of Faribault and takes it’s name from the Big Woods which is a large contiguous forest that covered most of Minnesota back when. Here’s a little snippet from the DNR about it:
When the first settlers arrived in 1854, they discovered an island of woods in the vast oak savanna prairie which now makes up Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Sugar maple, basswood, oak, hickory, aspen, elm, ash, and ironwood trees shade the land. Over 200 varieties of wildflowers, along with countless varieties of ferns and mushrooms grew in the Big Woods.

Park highlights include 11 miles of hiking trails, gorgeous wildflowers, and a “hidden” waterfall!

While I was there I hiked around 6 miles. The trails were really nicely upkept and there were only a few spots where the mud got bad in the middle of the trails. It’s really nice and shaded for most of the trails, so many huge trees help with that. I think the only thing that I disliked was that the trail that leads back from the waterfall to the parking lot is almost entirely uphill… That was rough!! But I made it!!

I would love to go back to Nerstrand in the fall because I bet the trees will be absolutely gorgeous! I highly recommend this park.

 

The second park that I went to was Lake Sakatah. Members of the Dakota Nation originally inhabited this area and they named it Sakatah which loosely translates to Singing Hills. Cannon River, which the lake is part of, was an important way of travel for the Native Americans of this area because the Big Woods in this area made it difficult to travel across land.

So what did I think of Lake Sakatah? I was there for I think half an hour total? I will definitely go back there but the amount of mosquitos was so horrendously bad that I had to leave. I was coated in bug spray and yet they were still all over me. It was awful! There also wasn’t anything really clearly marking trails and I think that from where you park you almost have to take the main park road back to trails but I also didn’t do a ton of exploring to try and find out otherwise.

It has a nice fishing pier though and the lake seems gorgeous so if you’re more of the fishing or boating type over the hiking type this might be a good park for you to check out.

I think I’ll try to return there sometime this fall when the bugs have died off and attempt to explore just a little bit more. There’s also a paved biking/hiking trail that runs 39 miles from Mankato to Faribault and I think it would be fun to bike this sometime.

Overall it was a really fun day and it was great to be able to check two parks off my list. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this series soon! Just as long as the weather is nice I’m hoping to spend at least one day every weekend out at different state parks.

 

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I Miss London

The London trip that I went on two years ago happened again in May/June and so I saw a ton of Facebook posts about it and it makes me miss my time there so much. Yes, I’m 100% that person that thinks about her study abroad experience so much and I talk about it a lot too.

It would be my absolute dream to live there someday, like I truly felt so at ease there and comfortable that I wish I could go back almost every day.

Anyways, today’s post is just going to be a photo dump of a bunch of my pictures from London because damn I miss it!!! I really wish that I had more pictures but I was in a stupid phase where I needed to just be “in the moment” which was great but there’s a lot of stuff I realize I’m missing in my memory because of whatever dumb memory issues I’m having. I have decided though to not include the 200+ pictures that I have from the Harry Potter studio tour… You’re welcome.

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I loved just walking the streets, seeing all the old buildings and aimlessly wandering in our free time. We had a lot of planned things but had weekends free, as well as at least a few hours every day in which we had time to ourselves.

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Oh gosh and the food. Coffee, pizza, fruit, tea. So good. That bottom right picture in the grid is a waffle topped with Nutella and ice cream. There was a group of us that went to Hyde Park twice and got these waffles both times. If I’m being honest, I didn’t try a whole ton of stuff while I was there but that’s mainly because I tried to keep my food budget as low as I could. We paid for most of our own meals and I wanted to be able to splurge when I felt like it so most of my meals came from Pret a Manger (GOD I MISS THAT PLACE SO MUCH THEIR CHEESE CROISSANTS WERE EVERYTHING) and Tesco.

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I miss the public transportation. I have a huge phobia of driving and living in a suburb means I have to drive literally everywhere because there is absolutely no public transport in my city at all. Being able to hop on the Tube or take a bus just about anywhere I needed to go was something far more wonderful than I ever considered it being. And being able to walk a lot of places was great too, like there is so much to do so close together, it’s crazy.

Of course I miss the access to theatre too. These are a bunch of pictures from when I toured the Globe as well as some Shakespeare wall art/graffiti/mural thing that we saw somewhere else. We saw so many good shows. When we did go to the Globe for a show, we all took the standing 5pound tickets and wow, it was so immersive to stand that close to the stage for the show it didn’t feel like we were standing for over three hours at all.

Every time I think about all the shows I saw, I can’t help but think of how grateful I am to even have had that opportunity. Matilda, Kinky Boots, The Woman In Black, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and so many more. It always makes me want to pursue theatre again. I was really into it back in elementary school and then social anxiety took away all my confidence and I’ve forever wanted to be able to try acting again, or I guess just anything in theatre again and I have no idea where to even begin… So I just keep avoiding it altogether and getting just a little bit sad every time I see a new play or musical.

Also I love that I had to take a picture of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theatre but never saw it.

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I spent quite a bit of time walking through parks with some of the other people I was in London with. The weather was really nice most of the time that we were there (bordering on hot most days and I definitely wish I would have reevaluated my clothing) and the parks were gorgeous. So many flowers and cool trees. And swans that liked to flirt with one of the other girls. We spent a good amount of time just sitting around in the sun and reading, writing, people watching. Sometimes too much time in the sun though, a number of us got pretty bad sunburns (I somehow magically avoided it).

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Another thing that London is full of is museums. I spent so much time going to museums because they’re all FREE. The amount of stuff that I learned and saw, oh my heart.

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I mean look at all of this. I got to see two of my favorite paintings in person. How crazy??!!

I’m still just so in love with London. And I wish that I could go back. I learned so much, saw so much, just did so much. It was truly life changing and I love looking back on these pictures and remembering all that I got to do. Truly, if you ever have the chance to study abroad, do it!!

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A Trip To The Zoo

I went to the zoo with my best friend last week for their Adult Night Out event. And since I have no other posts ready to put up today I figured I would share some of the pictures I took there!

We saw some llamas and didn’t feel like paying $7 each to get an up close picture and walk them so those were the pictures we took from a distance.

I treated myself to a mango margarita of some sort and got my best friend to try it. Managed to catch part of her reaction in the picture below. So far she’s only found one drink that she actually enjoyed. Still fun to make her try everything though.

These are some other pics I snapped of her.

Saw a lot of animals, ate some decent food. Would definitely want to go again!

It was a really good night! Weather was gorgeous! I still sweated buckets but it was totally worth it. I haven’t been able to spend a ton of time with my best friend basically since high school just because of how hectic our schedules are but we’re both in the same city for at least the summer and it’s been great to see her more often!

Have you guys done anything fun recently?

Tourism and Back Alley Stuff

Hello again!

So today we ended up with a relatively late start. It’s been nice to have the freedom to go about on our own but I think it’s also made us all move a bit slower too.

A group of us decided to go to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

The crowd there was intense and not exactly my favorite thing in the world. We got pretty close to the fence but were still too far away to see anything clearly. In all honesty, unless you’re going to get there early (and by early I mean early because we got there by 10:30 and it was already packed… for those who don’t know, the ceremony starts at 11) I don’t really recommend this as something to do during your trip to London.

I mean it is kind of cool to be able to say “I saw the changing of the guards” but I have to admit I didn’t really see the ceremony much at all. I had to watch most of it through the phone screens of other people. I didn’t take many pictures at all because I just wanted to enjoy the moment and I figure everyone else at the ceremony has pictures enough for the entire world.

After the changing of the guard, DyAnna and I went off to explore on our own. We decided to go to the Benjamin Franklin house which was quite cool!

Here’s a little bit about the house from the brochure we got:
“The Historical Experience uses the historic spaces where so much took place as a stage- blending live performance, leading edge sound, lighting, and visual projection- to tell the rich story of Franklin in London in his own words.”

It was a really interesting experience and since we are students we got to see it all for the discounted price of six pounds. I would highly recommend this.

After that we stumbled upon the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

They had a koi pond and ping pong tables here!

Then we finished up the day at the British Museum.

I think from my experiences today I would have to say that I would highly recommend finding more back alley experiences (like the Benjamin Franklin House). The touristy stuff is cool too, don’t get me wrong, but I think that experiencing unique things adds to trip more than crowds do. It’s fun to get out of the way and see things that no one else will.

Anyways, I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Traveling Is For Extroverts

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When I signed up for this trip to London I was all gung ho and ready to go but my enthusiasm quickly turned to gut wrenching anxiety as the weeks went by leading up to the trip. This would be my first time out of the country and my first time flying by myself. I felt completely unprepared and honestly still feel that way.

I’m originally from Woodbury, Minnesota which is a suburb of St. Paul and since I was flying out of Minneapolis I got to go home and spend a few days with my very sick siblings before leaving (to all my travelmates, they were no longer contagious by the time I got home so I hope and pray I didn’t bring any germs with me).

So on to the real nitty gritty stuff that you all want to hear about… Anxiety!

Actually I’m sure no one wants to hear about people talking about anxiety but it’s something that needs to be talked about, especially because traveling causes a LOT of anxiety.

So I’m pretty good at coping with anxiety, mostly by just pushing it aside which isn’t that great but it’s whatever. Anyways, I woke up in a panic on the 14 convinced that I had gone to London without packing any underwear. It took me ten minutes to calm myself down and reassure myself that I had indeed packed underwear and that it had in fact been the first thing that I packed.

Then I went about my normal day and ran some errands with my sister and celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom. By the time early afternoon rolled around I had nothing to distract me any further and was officially in panic mode.

This leads me to what this post is all about. Traveling is not for introverts and traveling is not for people with anxiety. Asking questions, talking to people, figuring out directions, etc. It’s not easy for me to ask questions or include myself in things or “force” myself to be extroverted. I mean I can to an extent but that’s a whole other thing.

All in all I think that the world needs to be kinder to travelers, more directions would be lovely and I would really appreciate the security people to be less intimidating too (but I understand why they are).

So from a very anxious introvert, hello from London. I hope I can encourage some other people who are terrified of traveling to actually travel. I think it’ll be worth it.

Day at the Museum

Recently went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art with some lovely friends of mine. We were going to see the Martin Luther exhibit that is there but then ended up finding out we we probably should’ve done advanced research and decided to wander around the rest of the museum instead.

It had been years since the last time I had been at the museum and I remember some of the jade sculptures that were there as well as the giant glass chandelier in the lobby. That chandelier is absolutely stunning and I remember being so awed by it as a kid when I’d go to the children’s theater that is right next to the art museum.

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I love that they had this projected on the ceiling at one point. Looking up at it was kind of scary but I think it looks so cool!

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Mirror selfie in a 17th century mirror.

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We spent hours wandering around and looking at all the art pieces. Every corner we turned there was more to discover and learn about. I loved seeing the ancient work and comparing it to modern work. It’s interesting how much of art has gone from being practical and functional (pottery, etc) to just being creative outputs that don’t necessarily have to have a purpose other than to express something. To see the individual styes of artists is always inspiring and makes me want to create more and experiment more.

So now that I’ve shared some of my pictures from my time at the museum, I’d like to share with you all some of my favorite pieces that I saw while I was there. I’m also going to add links to more information about the individual artists if you’re interested in their piece.

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View of Dresden, Ernst Ludwig Kerchner

I love the colors in this piece. I definitely am drawn to pieces with cool color schemes. Or warm color schemes, or neutral color schemes. Basically I love anything that is not a rainbow. But I also love rainbows.

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Tempest in Yellow, Dorothea Tanning

See what I mean about the rainbows? I love the colors in this! I really liked her work and I think I might actually look into more of it soon!

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Maja by Antonio Saura

This piece has so much emotion in it. I was immediately drawn to this when I saw it in the room.

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Springtime of Life, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

This reminds me of a photograph in a way with how in focus the girl is and how out of focus the background is. It’s stunning in the simplicity of it.

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My Alone Time, Claude Monet

Again with the colors. I love the colors that Monet uses. His paintings are some of my favorites of all time.

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The Duluth Living Room, Anthony Marchetti

These pictures were my favorite things in the entire museum. The artist took historical rooms and merged them onto the outside of buildings or other scenes that related.

There were a lot of other pieces that I liked and they even had Chinese cricket cages that reminded me of the movie Mulan and I loved them. I’m looking forward to being able to explore other museums this year.

Well, I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Happy Monday!!

Throwback Thursday: Great River Bluffs State Park

Last summer my boyfriend and I had a lovely adventure to Great River Bluffs State Park.

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The trails were pretty easy, and a lot of it was shaded which was nice. The weather was gorgeous and the views were absolutely stunning.

One helpful tip! Check yourself for spiders before you leave the park! Because there may be a chance that you will have one crawling all over you and then your boyfriend will have to smash it with an almost full cup of coffee while you’re driving so that you don’t panic and drive off the road. (WHAT A FUN TIME).

Great River Bluffs is a beautiful park, small yet totally worth the trip!

Hope y’all enjoyed the pictures.

Adventure Duluth: Jekyll and Hyde at The Underground

This is quite a long overdue post, but hey! At least I’m making it.

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So my boyfriend and I attended Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde about a month ago and I really enjoyed it! I love going to plays, honestly anything that has to do with theatre. I used to want to be an actress, way back in elementary school, and made it a point to always get cast in the lead roles (and also to memorize the entire plays just because I was that much of an overachiever). I was such a little drama queen. If I can find the old pictures I’ll make a future post about my dance and theatre days!

Anyways, back to the play. It was a small cast with a simple set but it packed a big punch. It was such a creepy play. I’ve read the book before and this play really brought it to life. They had put on a fog machine before the play started which I felt was unnecessary. By the time the play started, both my boyfriend and I had trouble breathing because the air was so thick and by the time intermission roled around, all the haziness was completely gone. I kind of wish that I would’ve not procrastinated so that I could’ve recommended the play while it was still showing, but oh well, lesson learned.

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So a helpful hint for those that have not gone to a play at the Duluth Underground before… This is a picture of the entrance! Follow the yellow line and the theater is at the bottom of the stairs and to the right of the train museum! I spent far too long looking for it and it was not an enjoyable time. This small theatre is definitely a place to check out if you’re into this kind of thing!

I’m attaching a link to the Duluth Playhouse website here, in case any of you would like to look into upcoming plays and events.

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I loved the simplicity of the set. The main focus was the door which I thought was really unique. I also thought it was really interesting how the actors that weren’t in the scene would sit, frozen in the background. It added to the eeriness factor of the entire play.

Since it was such close quarters it was interesting to be so close to the actors. Being able to see facial expressions so clearly and really see the action was great.

Overall this was a great experience and I can’t wait to go to another play soon.

Here’s a review from my boyfriend as well:

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a riveting performance that surmised the struggle with our inner self and explored the battle between the conscious and unconscious mind. I enjoyed seeing the colorful acting styles and emotions that spread across the stage during this hour or so performance and highly recommend any lover of the arts to explore this epic story.

(Not gonna lie, I wish my review was this well written).

As I seem to always try to end off my posts with a question now, what is your favorite play that you have ever seen? I think the one that sticks out for me is one that I saw years ago, I want to say I was around eight or nine, and my mom took me and my sister to see a play version of some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories. She was and still is one of my all time favorite authors and my sister and I used to pretend to be Mary and Laura so often that this experience was really special to me. It was also one of the first times that I ever got to see a real play and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Well, hope your Tuesday is a great one.

P.S. Also have I ever mentioned how much I just like to watch out for mistakes that people make? For example like when stage makeup isn’t properly blended? Haha, so much fun. Okay, now I’ll leave you. Enjoy your day.

Adventure Duluth: Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion is a 39-room mansion built between 1905 and 1908 by Chester and Clara Congdon. I got to tour it last December and here are some of the pictures that I took during my time there. It’s a gorgeous estate and I highly recommend touring it during the holiday season because the decorations are beautiful.

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These are the pictures that I took outside the house. The grounds are stunning and the view of Lake Superior is awesome! It was freezing the day I went, barely making it to double digits, but I still loved checking out the 7-acres that Glensheen is built on. I kind of want to tour it every season just to retake these pictures in the different settings.

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The first room we went in was the library, if I’m remembering correctly I think they said that the Congdon’s owned over 1,000 books. They were living my dream! I would love having a library that big!

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The living room was so pretty! I didn’t get a picture of the tree by itself but you can sort of see it in the reflection in the mirror in the second picture.

I’ll warn you all now that I took so many pictures of the fireplaces, they were all just so pretty!

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Took these pictures in the basement. Of course, I had to document the books, and then I took a picture of the taxidermied owl for my sister because she loves owls.

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Here are the rest of my fireplace pictures. I couldn’t remember which bedroom or room they went to so I decided I’d just throw them all in there at once. The tile on the first one is amazing, and the last one was probably my favorite decoration-wise.

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Here’s a close-up shot of one of the trees in one of the daughter’s bedrooms.

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I love the way the lighting is in this picture. It’s one of the daughter’s bedrooms.

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These last pictures are from my favorite room in the house. It was so green and the windows were gorgeous. It had such a different feel from the rest of the mansion that I was drawn to it. The second picture is a close-up of the detail in the windows. So cool!

So that was my adventure to Glensheen, hope you all enjoyed my post.

Have a great day everyone!