Family on the 4th

Kauffman Stadium Staats CP-294The Fourth of July is celebrated many ways, and this year for me that meant family.  We made a trip to the Kansas City area to spend the weekend with family and friends; that meant good barbeque, cold beers, a summer sunset over a field of wildflowers, an orange full moon rising in the east, catching up with friends, a boat ride on a local lake, and even a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium between the KC Royals and the Minnesota Twins.  The series is always a good one, and on this night we celebrated a Twins win followed by a huge fireworks show at the stadium.  So many things to be proud of on July 4th, and so many things and people to be thankful for too.

A tale of two ball parks

Baseball parks_StaatsWe celebrated summer this week with baseball – three nights of it, to be exact.  The Twin Cities was host to the US tradition of the MLB All Star Game and Home Run Derby.  Target Field sits in downtown Minneapolis, with the skyline looming beyond the outfield.  The stands were filled with Minnesotans and baseball fans from across the country, totaling over 41,000 people.  The setting was festive, the fans were all in great spirits, the players were enjoying the traditions, and the baseball was memorable.  The following night we took in a Minnesota tradition – a town ball game in Miesville.  Jack Ruhr stadium sits off a county road with the beauty of a mid-western sunset over the cornfields as its backdrop.  The Miesville Mudhens played well, but were not a match for the Austin Greyhounds on this night.  The crowd of about 100 locals enjoyed both the evening and the baseball.  Two contrasts – each with their own sense of grandeur and traditions.

Summer sunrise

Summer sunrise over the lake_StaatsWe arose in the dark early yesterday morning and headed north to one of our favorite little lakes.  With the boat in tow, loaded with fishing and camera gear, we were set for a summer outing.  We had only just headed out from the landing when the sun cleared the horizon and broke over the tree line.  The clouds reflected the colors of the sun, and the reflection came alive in the surface of the lake – both in the calm water, and in the wake behind the boat.  This glorious sunrise was only a prelude to the rest of the day.  We had packed a breakfast to enjoy on the boat in our “lake with a view.”  The fishing was good; we caught a mess of crappies and sunfish (some of the best lake fish for eating).  The morning remained pleasantly cool, and we marveled at the sandhill cranes that passed overhead and the loons that called from another area of the lake.  Before we knew it, a full six hours had passed.  After the trip home to unload and shower, we then headed to the Minnesota Twins baseball game (another rite of summer).  The crowd enjoyed a well-played game under the summer sky, and celebrated the Twins’ win after the sun had set.  One full day with two of my favorite summer past-times;  I can’t help but feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy all of this.

Batting practice

On a beautiful late-spring afternoon I was lucky enough to have tickets to the Minnesota Twins baseball game against the LA Angels.  Even better was that I got to go early to see the Twins’ batting practice.  The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and our hopes were up for a win that night.  After the Twins’ batting practice was over the Angels came out for their warm up.  As the sun was moving lower into the sky it created dark shadows from the stadium deck that stretched across the outfield.  For awhile it seemed most of the action was anywhere but in left field, as these three players seemed quite content to rest on their bats, soak up the sun, and cast long shadows over the green turf.  In the end, the Angels beat the Twins.  But I’ve learned that baseball isn’t just about wins and losses –  it had been a beautiful afternoon and night for a baseball game.

A summer bucket list

I have certain expectations and rites that I associate with the season of summer.  My bucket list includes:  (1) a baseball game with cold beer and popcorn, (2) putting the canoe in the water, (3) sharing a late-night bottle of wine on the deck, (4) eating cherry tomatoes fresh-picked from the vine, (5) watching a sunset, (6) a bicycle ride on an early Saturday morning that includes a stop for breakfast, (7) fishing (hopefully successfully!), (8) a chocolate malt from the dairy barn at the Minnesota State Fair, (9) swimming or wading or dangling my feet in a cool lake when the temperature is scorching, and (10) sleeping in a tent.  Up until last week I’d checked off all my items except the last one, so my mission was to go camping.  We ventured off to the southeast corner of Minnesota.  Passing through acres and acres of corn and soybeans in the center of the state, we eventually came into the rolling hills and bluff country that’s to the west of the Mississippi River.  The landscape is beautiful, with two-lane highways and county roads that curve and twist and go up to the tops of the bluffs and then sky-rocket down into the valleys.  We found our way to a Minnesota State Park that’s nestled in one of those valleys – Beaver Creek Valley State Park.  The park is situated so the creek flows right through it.  Even to get to our tent site the road crossed the creek four different times.  We weren’t driving on bridges, we were actually fording the creek and driving through it.  We set up our tent at the base of a hillside nestled among the trees.  Our days were spent hiking and exploring the park and the valley, along with this far southeastern corner of Minnesota.  With all our outdoor activities, hot temps, and warm sunshine we slept well in our tent under the canopy of trees in the valley with the full moon high above in the sky.  And just across the road from our campsite we could hear Beaver Creek, babbling its way throughout the campground and the valley.