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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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.

17 Things I Want To Do In 2017

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!

2 Crochet

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.

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3 Take more pictures

I just want the memories.

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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).

5 Workout

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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

What do you all want to do this year?

The Distance From Me To You

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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.

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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.

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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?

Hope you all have a great 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!

Adventure Duluth: Fitgers, Malts, and the Lake Walk

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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!

Have a great day everyone.

I’ll talk to you all soon.

Wild by Nature

Have you guys ever heard of the website Goodreads?

If not, it’s this really awesome website where you can keep track of books you’ve read, books you want to read, quotes from books you like, all those kinds of things.

They also have this great section where you can sign up to win free books! I’ve entered probably 3o giveaways and won exactly two. It’s still fun though and totally worth it if you can actually get a book you’ve been eyeing for a while for free.

The first book that I won off of Goodreads is called Wild by Nature and it’s written by a woman named Sarah Marquis.

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The book chronicles her journey as she walks from Siberia to Australia by herself. Sarah is an explorer from Switzerland and she is so cool!!! (Seriously, check out her Instagram, @explorer_sarahmarquis) According to her website she was elected Adventurer of 2013 in Europe and was the National Geographic Adventurer Nominee of 2014.

I got her book in the mail a few weeks ago and ended up reading it pretty quickly. I had read an article about her right after she finished her last expedition in Australia so I was really interested in picking up this book and learning more about Sarah and her adventures.

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The day I finished her book I was home alone at my dad’s house on my first day of Thanksgiving break so I figured, why not have a book/breakfast photoshoot on the back porch?

Anyways, overall I was really entertained while reading this book and I thought it was really interesting. However, there were parts when I definitely feel like we needed backstory as to why things were happening the way they were or something would be said and I wouldn’t understand what had happened until 10 pages later when the background information was introduced. I feel like a lot of my “discomfort” while reading would probably be explained by the fact that Sarah is not a native English speaker.
I really would have liked more information into the background of what it takes to make a trip like this, I would’ve loved a chapter that was based completely around the logistics, all the gear, the plans, the timeframes, stuff like that.
I also feel like the maps at the beginning of each chapters, while helping to see the route she took, were kind of spoilers, they included information about what happened while she was walking when that information might not be shared for whole chapters. I felt like Sarah really talked about her journey really honestly and I appreciated it a lot, I just wish I could’ve known more about her experiences, I would’ve loved more detail.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (I gave it 4/5 stars), and while there were definitely parts of it that I would want to change to let me enjoy it even more, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever dreamed of going on crazy hiking adventures.

“Let your soul touch the earth… go walking”

Adventure Duluth: Canal Park

As I was going over what kind of post I wanted to write about today I began thinking about my life now. I’ve moved to a completely new city where I’ll be living during the school year for the next four years. Why not share about it? So this is the first post to a new series that is similar to my Throwback Thursday posts but devoted solely to adventures that I have in the city of Duluth.

I went down to Canal Park with some friends a week ago and here’s what happened:

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So our friend Sam drove us down and we were trying to find a place to park and ended up on the other side of the lift bridge just as it was getting raised up. We sat there for around ten minutes before hearing a really loud ship horn. Realizing it was one of the really big boats coming in, me and the two other girls who were in the car with Sam decided we had to go see it. Sam waited in the car.

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This side of the bridge was considerably less crowded than the opposite side so we got a great view of the boat.

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This is the second time I’ve seen boats like this go into the harbor. My grandpa took my sister and I to Duluth to see some a few summers ago and this boat was a lot smaller compared to the ones that came in that summer. It was still really big though.

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After the boat had passed we ran back to the car only to discover that Sam had locked us out. We thought she was going to make us walk back to the other side of the bridge but she ended up letting us back in with little fighting which was nice.

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 Once we had found a parking space we headed over to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I got a dark chocolate haystack, which is just coconut covered in dark chocolate. I also got a milk chocolate toffee bar (pictured above) and I can honestly say it was the best toffee I have ever had. The next time I go back I’m definitely getting another one, I’m also going to have to try one of their caramel apples at some point too, they all look amazing.

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We spent a lot of time sitting by the lighthouse watching boats going into and coming out of the harbor. It was a really nice day outside and we probably would’ve stayed longer but there were flies that would not leave us alone for anything.

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After watching some guys jumping off a half sunken building we decided to walk out onto the rocks to take pictures of some cairns that people had built.

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I definitely had a lot of fun with everyone and I can’t wait to have more adventures in Duluth. The next four years have so much in store and I’m definitely looking forward to everything that I’ll get to do.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Hope you all have a nice day!

See you on Thursday.