This potentially might be the last State Park Chronicle of the year 😦
There’s a chance that I will be able to go to one or two more parks in the coming weeks but I swear every time I make the plan to go to hiking on the weekend, then one of three things happens: one is that work gets so overwhelming that I have to spend the weekend hibernating (even though I know that hiking will make me feel better), two is that I end up staying up way too late on Friday night and spend Saturday sleeping instead, and three is that all week it says it’s going to be nice on Saturday and then it RAINS.
So if I can somehow get it together, I might go hiking this weekend. But also, I’m getting a new bed frame next week and am supposed to be getting a storage unit soon and I have another paper due so I’m guessing I will spend the weekend crying and stressed instead of hiking. Plus my chronic pain has been through the roof the last few weeks and it’s hard enough standing on my feet for eight hours a day for work let alone unwind with some rigorous hiking 😦
Okay, back to the point of this actual post. Afton State Park!! I have been here a lot over the years and while I haven’t explored a whole lot of it, the parts that I have seen are very nice.
Afton was created in 1969 and I think the biggest draw to the park is the St. Croix River!
The beach is almost always at least a little bit busy and there are always boats going by in the river.
Since I was there with my brothers and mom this time, we mostly stuck to the main loop, heading down to the river and then back up. There’s also a trail through a “prairie” that’s really pretty (when it’s not sunny that is, hiking in direct sunlight is no fun!). Other than that, I don’t think I’ve been on any of the other trails.
It was crazy looking at these trees by the river because you can see the marks from flooding water and it’s crazy to see how high up the water got. The flooding this year was crazy!
There have been a ton of butterflies out and about and my mom and I chased this one down the trail to get some pictures. Afton is also a great park for checking out birds. I almost always spot loons down at the river and there are usually some hawks swooping around too.
I think that Afton is a great day trip spot. My mom and the rest of my family camped in a yurt there once during the winter and they had fun but I think I’d prefer going just during the day. It’s a pretty small park, at least compared to something like Itasca and like I mentioned earlier, I feel like the main draw is the river. And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of water so it’s definitely not my main draw to the park. Plus if you stop in for a day trip, then you can head over to Stillwater, or across the river to Hudson and get food or just walk around. Both of those cities are really nice!
But it’s got relatively easy trails (the hike back up to the parking lot can be a bit of an effort just because it’s all uphill) that are simple to navigate.
Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to another park before winter hits, but I think if not I’m ending off the year on a high note. This was a fun trip and the weather was absolutely perfect!
This summer I completed my 8th (or 9th, I’ve lost count to be honest) trip to Itasca State Park in as many years! Itasca is one of my all time favorite places to visit and it’s become my summer tradition to climb the fire tower there. Way back in March of this year I decided to book a campsite for a weekend and camp there for the first time. Usually I just make a day trip there while I stay at my grandparent’s house but I’ve been itching to camp again so that decided it in the end.
Itasca is Minnesota’s oldest state park and was established in 1891. It spans over 32,000 acres and contains over 100 lakes!
My best friend and I drove up to the park one Friday afternoon after I got done with work and arrived not long after dark. We quickly set up our site (not very well I might add), found the bathroom, and then settled into the back of my Jeep for a peaceful night.
That first night we really didn’t figure out the optimal airflow situation so it was pretty hot in the car but I didn’t notice too much because I was far too tired to care.
So on morning one we got up and made the dumb decision to leave the campsite with no food. We ate breakfast before we left but decided we would surely make it back to the campsite before lunch and had no need to pack sandwiches for our adventure. Trust me when I say this was probably the dumbest thing I have ever done. I know better than to not pack food, I have always known better than to not pack food and I have literally no clue why I decided this time was any different than any other time I’ve been hiking.
Anyways, we headed off away from our campsite and meandered our way to the bike trail. We walked on that until we hit the crosswalk to head over to Peace Pipe Vista so we headed over to that side of the main road and embarked on Brower Trail.
Now don’t let the picturesque scenery distract you from the hell that was this hike. Thanks to all the lakes, the trails that are more densely wooded are very, very buggy. My best friend went hiking in shorts with no bug spray and her legs were absolutely covered in mosquitos for most of the hike.
I think overall my whole message for hiking at Itasca is bring bug spray and wear long pants if you can! One trail that I will always urge against going on is the Blow Down Trail. It’s less than a mile long (I think) but the entire thing is pure hell thanks to bugs. I literally could hear the buzzing of mosquitos in my ears for hours afterwards.
At some point during this morning, though, I got stung by something and almost fell off the trail because I was momentarily blinded by pain and twisted my ankle on some roots. I still have no idea what stung me but it made the rest of the hike absolutely hell for me. And I’m usually not a baby when it comes to pain (because thanks to chronic pain I always hurt) but dang this was bad. We eventually stumbled upon the Douglas Lodge area, a place that I have never actually been to despite all my trips to Itasca.
One of the employees at the gift store was very helpful and gave me some stuff for my sting and then I bought a jacket and a sticker. We walked over to the main visitor center after this, wandered around inside (they have really cool taxidermied animals displayed there along with a lot of interesting historical information) and then went back to the original gift shop we’d been at so that my best friend could buy popsicles.
Eventually we decided to make our trek back to the campsite but this time we were smart and stayed on the bike trail the whole time. A lot of people talked to us along the way and one guy tried to accuse us of being the “annoying choir group” that was apparently making noise and singing show tunes all night… We pretended that we had been in a completely different campsite because honestly both me and my best friend were so creeped out by his questions.
We totaled almost 11 miles of hiking by the time we got back to our campsite. I think by the end of the night I was close to having walked 12 miles. And while I’m normally on my feet for upwards of 8 hours a day thanks to my job, I was so not ready for this much physical activity with almost no calories going in my body. It felt like the day lasted like two days despite the fact that we were only gone for four hours that day.
This was our more modified set up that we figured out for the second night. The tarp allowed us to keep the back half of the Jeep open so that we would have better airflow than the first night and also keep out the rain that we were supposed to be getting that night.
That afternoon we spent a lot of time just lazing around the campsite. I read the entirety of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and my best friend was working her way through books two and three in the Harry Potter series. We ate a lot of Cheez Its and peanut butter M&Ms and watched all the dogs pass by with their owners. That night we actually met a really naughty St. Bernard who took off from their owner’s campsite in order to come sniff out the food we had at ours.
My best friend showered and then we went off to buy firewood so that we could cook dinner. It took us a while to get the fire going but once we did I’d say we got really lucky because we barely finished cooking our food before the storms started rolling through.
I’m very glad that we were using my car as our shelter because the campsite basically drowned during a few complete downpours. We stayed quite dry in my trunk.
This is us after it started completely pouring. I literally climbed in the open window in my trunk in order to avoid getting soaked. It was… Quite interesting to say the least.
On Sunday we got up and moved very, very slowly. And by we, I mean my best friend. Though I did sleep in until 9, I was completely ready to go by 9:30. But after we finally packed up the campsite we headed first to the Pioneer Cemetery before going to the Mississippi Headwaters.
I don’t have very great pictures of the Headwaters in this post but it’s always so busy there and it’s hard to get any pictures without people in them. I did make my best friend take “cute” pictures of me though because I’m trying to be better about taking pictures again.
After the Headwaters we headed off down the Wilderness Trail drive and went straight for the fire tower. The Alton Heights fire tower is located a half mile down a trail at the end of the 10 mile one-way drive and is 100 feet tall.
Though I’ve climbed this tower countless times, this time was a struggle!! I’m just going to blame it on the fact that I hiked 11 miles the day before and not what my mom told me (which is “well you are getting older”). I think I’m actually in better physical shape now than I have been in years but oh boy were my legs sore.
There are some pics from the top!
After we were done at the fire tower we headed out and drove over to my grandparents house for a late lunch and then for the long drive home. It was a whirlwind of a weekend but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being outside is where I’m truly happy and I can’t wait for more camping trips in the future.
Here’s a fun throwback to an old post that I wrote about Itasca. It was actually the second post that I ever published on the blog!
I would recommend Itasca to people who are looking for a nice place to camp, it’s a fun park to spend a few days exploring. It’s also a pretty “touristy” park so if you make a day trip it’s easy to hit all the big sites while you’re there. However, if you’re looking for a quiet park, this one won’t be for you. This is one of the most popular parks in Minnesota and can be very busy most days so plan accordingly! Be prepared to encounter a lot of people. And if you’re going to be climbing the fire tower, you might have to wait a while at the bottom if you get there during “peak” hours. There’s a limit of 6 people on the tower at a time so the line can get pretty long when it’s busy.
And now it’s time to start planning my next state park trip!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!!
Last summer my boyfriend and I had a lovely adventure to Great River Bluffs State Park.
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!
I have never followed through on resolutions. Never! Not once! So I’ve decided to make a big resolution to never make another resolution. Instead I am going to make a list of 17 things that I would like to do in 2017.
1 Blog consistently
I’m horrible at being a blogger. That’s pretty obvious to me, so this year I’d like to try and blog at least five days a week. I want to act like this is a job!
I am in the process of opening an Etsy shop of crocheted items that I have made. Obviously in order to do this, I need to crochet things. I need to make things and I need to crochet every single day.
3 Take more pictures
I just want the memories.
4 Journal more
I’m working on a post about reasons to start journaling and I realized just how awful I am at journaling consistently so on top of blogging consistently, I would also like to journal consistently (every day would be amazing but I’d be happy with a few times a week, even just once week where I sat down and got out all my craftiness and emotions out would be awesome).
Starting off today I’m doing a 30 day workout calendar from Blogilates with my boyfriend and I’m hoping the two of us can hold each other accountable and workout a lot this year. We both really want to get into shape and I’m hoping by doing it together we’ll actually follow through.
6 Culture myself
Hahaha. Well I really just want to go to more museums, look at more art, go to London (hopefully!!). Hmmm. Yeah, that’s about it, I just want to appreciate stuff more. I want to go to plays and learn about history and people.
7 Go on a road trip!
Summer road trip to Seattle is currently being planned!
8 Meal plan
I’m one person. I hate making food for myself. I know that I need to take better care of myself and eat better and it’s so difficult for me because of all the food issues I have. I want to start meal planning and using the groceries I buy and really experiencing and enjoying food.
9 Develop an evening routine
Most nights this past semester have involved me working on homework until around midnight and then falling into bed and looking at my phone for over an hour until I’m finally tired enough to fall asleep (this “routine” also usually involved me forgetting to brush my teeth or take my makeup off). I want to have a routine that will help me wind down and maybe help with my insomnia some.
10 Cook more
This goes along with the meal planning. I started off the school year cooking a lot and I really enjoyed it! But then I started a second job for about a month and began to live off of granola bars and microwaveable meals which spiraled into me redeveloping some poor food habits and ended with me kind of never eating or eating really poorly. So I would like to cook more meals, I have a Pinterest board of recipes collecting dust and I intend to change that this next semester.
11 Wear more lipstick
I love lipstick, I think it looks great on me. It makes me feel super bad ass but I rarely wear it because of my stupid anxiety. I always feel like people are judging me when I wear it. So now that I’m trying to care less about what people think of me I want to wear as much lipstick as I possibly can!!!
12 Do more artsy things
I just painted a few days ago for the first time in about a year and it made me realize just how much I missed doing artsy things. When I had really bad insomnia in high school and middle school I used to stay up until two or three in the morning and just paint or draw or color and I really really miss just being so uninhibited with my artwork. I want to do more collages and paintings and use the adult coloring books I have.
13 Be cleaner and more organized
I have lost my student ID more times than I can count just because I put it wherever I please instead of keeping it in one specific spot. I have also run out of mugs (which is a feat for me because I have about 10 at school) just because I haven’t done dishes for so many days. I want to live with less clutter. So along with this I want to try and minimize my belongings. I’ve already done so with my books which is a pretty big deal for me.
14 Go on adventures
I want to be spontaneous and go hiking and just have fun.
15 Save money
Kind of self explanatory. I spend too much money, should save some more than I do. So I also need to learn how to budget.
16 Read more widely
I’ve really developed a wider reading range recently and I’d like to continue to read different genres and authors and learn things and be different from my younger only reads dystopian novels self.
17 Treat others better
Tell people when I’m thinking of them. Bake cookies for my friends when they’re stressed out. Help people when they’re down on their luck.
I basically just want to be more consistent and have more fun this year. That’s basically it.
I purchased The Distance From Me To You by Marina Gessner a few weeks ago and read it in less than 24 hours.
It’s about a girl named McKenna who is planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail with her best friend before they go off to college. Unfortunately for McKenna, her best friend backs out on her last minute. Instead of canceling the trip, McKenna decides to hike the trail by herself. She heads out on her own and along the way meets Sam. Sam is a guy who has dropped out of school and run away from an abusive home life. They fall in love and lot’s of trials and tribulations happen (standard contemporary book stuff, you know?). The book is full of lots of obstacles and hiking and I really enjoyed it.
This book was a really easy read. The story went by really quickly and the ending really made me want a sequel, I would love to read more about McKenna and Sam.
Lately I’ve been really into these “adventure” stories. It’s been so dreary and cold here that to read these types of books makes me a little less sad that it’s still winter and a little more excited about being able to go hiking this spring and summer.
Two criticisms that I had about the story are the sections regarding hiking, and the insta-love component. I would have appreciated more detail regarding the actual hike, more about the trail and the towns and what really goes into hiking the Appalachian Trail. I liked that the author included a lot at the beginning about all of the training that McKenna did but once she got on the trail it really seemed like she just hiked. There wasn’t a ton of detail regarding what she did when she wasn’t hiking or what the towns she stopped off in were like. The other aspect that I didn’t like, the insta-love, I really should have seen coming. The love was mentioned in the summary on the cover flap so I saw it coming and since it is a contemporary novel I figured it was going to be pretty insta-lovey, but it still bugs me whenever it happens.
I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads and recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure stories. Or contemporary books. It was an easy read and had a great balance of light-hearted and serious tones and story lines. It wasn’t the perfect story by any means, but I still loved it.
Have any of you guys read this book? If so, what did you think about it?
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Here’s a close-up shot of one of the trees in one of the daughter’s bedrooms.
I love the way the lighting is in this picture. It’s one of the daughter’s bedrooms.
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.
Quite early on in the school year, one of my youth group leaders surprised me one Saturday and took me out to lunch with one of her friends. They were going to the hot air balloon festival and Dianna figured she might as well treat me to some real food while she was at it.
We went to Fitger’s and I ordered a bacon cheeseburger (my staple at most restaurants) and a root beer. Dianna’s friend ordered a beer and the waiter asked to see her ID which led us all into a conversation over ID’s and being carded. The waiter thought I was at least 21, which I thought was really funny, you know, being 19 and all.
There you have my delicious plate of half eaten food. It was so good, I was so excited to have gotten out of having to eat in our dining room on campus. Thinking back to this meal so many months later I would probably rate it a 4/5 stars. Definitely a really good burger, not dry at all, and the fries were really good too! I also really enjoyed the root beer they had there as well.
There’s a picture of me at the restaurant. Funny story about this picture actually, Dianna took it so that she could send it to some of the other people from the youth group and she only sent the caption “Lunch date” without attaching the picture. That definitely got some questions from the other leaders.
After we finished up at Fitger’s, we walked over to the Portland Malt Shoppe.
Dianna and I split a cookie dough malt and it was really good! The shop is now closed for the season but I know I’ll be bringing people there when it reopens next spring. I highly recommend it if you’re in the Duluth area.
After all of this food we headed down to the Lake Walk and just spent the afternoon talking and walking along Lake Superior.
I had such a good day that day. I’m so thankful to have people in my life like Dianna.
So if any of you are around Duluth definitely check out Fitgers and if you’re there in the spring/summer definitely check out the Portland Malt Shoppe!