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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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: 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: Bentleyville

For those of you who don’t know, Bentleyville is a “tour of lights” that takes place annually during the holiday season in Duluth. It’s 20 acres of over four million Christmas lights that you can walk through.

Here are the pictures I took…

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I would highly recommend checking out Bentleyville if you’re near Duluth in December. Definitely worth the trip, and it’s free which is awesome too.

Bentleyville is done for this holiday season but next year you should all brave the cold temperatures and spend a night walking around.

Hope you all had a good day.

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.

Throwback Thursday: Itasca State Park

So I figured that every once in a while, probably once a month, I would make a post about some adventure that I had in the past that I haven’t shared on the blog before.

This first one is a compilation of pictures from the two trips I took to Itasca State Park this summer.

 

Our first stop, after the visitor’s center of course, is always Peacepipe Vista. The stairs down to this point are not the safest but the view is amazing! There are two hiking trails that branch off from this vista but I’ve only hiked the one to the right. It leads you to a boat launch near a campsite. I’d love to someday hike the other trail but usually my sister and I have to get back up the stairs so we don’t keep our grandparents waiting.

Another favorite of mine is the Headwaters of the Mississippi. We always stop off there after we eat lunch. It tends to be very busy so I don’t have very many pictures from this recent trip.

If you want to cross the rocks there remember to be careful! Any submerged rocks can be VERY slippery. I’ve only crossed the rocks twice because I don’t like doing it when other people are around; but walking through the water or across the small wooden bridge are just as good!

Also, it’s always fun to stand on the bridges and watch fish try to swim against the river’s current. I recommend that.

 Mirror selfies are always fun. (Sorry to my sister for posting this.)

Once we finish up at the Headwaters we get on to the Wilderness Drive which is a one-way road that weaves through the park and is so pretty. We usually stop off at the red pine, and white pine and look at those.

When I went there with my dad this summer he suggested that we hike the Blow Down Trail. Let me just tell you this now, DO NOT HIKE THIS TRAIL UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED! They do not maintain this trail so it’s only about a foot wide, completely overgrown, and there are SO many bugs. At one point there were literally hundreds of mosquitoes on my back.

Now, this picture is of the Buffalo Kill Site, which is essentially just a swamp right next to the entrance to the trail for the formerly record holding red pine.   By this point of every trip it’s getting late and we are ready to leave so we head out to the fire tower and hike the half mile out and prepare ourselves to climb 100 feet up to the viewing tower.

The view is absolutely amazing from the top. I’m terrified of heights but I’ve climbed up there five times now and it’s really become a summer tradition.

It’s absolutely exhausting but so worth it in the end.

Once we climb down and get back to the car it’s time we leave the park. Someday I’d love to do more hiking there or even bike the trail through the park.

Itasca is a beautiful place to visit and it’s always a highlight of my summer.