We had spent the weekend exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Our last day had been cold, with bright sunshine and strong winds. The snow was deep inland from the lake and there had been no thawing anywhere as the temps hovered near zero. We pulled into our cabin after sunset, yet there was a hint of light in the sky. With a bright star high above, the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, and the comfort of a light to guide us, we knew we were back – to enjoy a fire in the fireplace, and to marvel and appreciate the beauty that surrounded us on our explorations and our journeys.
With moderating temperatures, we headed out for some snowshoeing last night. North of the Cities is a small Isanti County Park called Wayside Prairie County Park. We pulled into the parking lot an hour or so before sunset with the hopes of exploring this small park. We traipsed across the frozen lake, following snowmobile tracks, to the southern shoreline. This lovely little cabin was perched on the hillside, overlooking the frozen lake to the west. With its tiki torches still attached to the dock supports and the yellow lawn chair overturned at the end of the dock, it looked like the party had ended right before the start of winter. As we gazed at the sunset reflection in the window of the cabin, it was fun to dream of what this little lake is like in the middle of a warm summer, after the spring melt. We toasted the summer to come, then turned around and snowshoed back across the lake, remembering that winter will loosen its hold on us eventually.
Last weekend we ventured to north central Minnesota, an area filled with woods and lakes. Although the anticipated fall colors were not at peak color yet, the area was beautiful in the cool of the early mornings and the sun dappled afternoons. Our trip was for R&R, and we spent the weekend exploring and wandering the landscape. We hiked on both forest and park trails, smelling the change of the seasons and listening to the rustling of the leaves. We journeyed down forest roads, stopping to admire lakes sparkling in the sunshine and listening for the birds – Canada geese, ducks, and loons. We put our canoe in a small lake and marveled at the clarity of the water down to almost 10 feet. Pulling out our fishing poles, we found the “sweet spot” on the lake and caught a couple of meals worth of sunfish. Our home base was a cabin at a small family run resort with our own dock overlooking the lake. The cabin was built in 1941 and had the charm and simplicity of only the necessities. Surrounded by trees and providing a view of the lake, it was the perfect place for us to appreciate and marvel in the beauty of the area.
We headed out last weekend for one final camping trip before the snow flies. Our original plans had us going to the southwest corner of Minnesota, but a prediction of one to two inches of rain changed our minds. Looking for “drier pastures” we drove to North Dakota. Nestled in the southeast corner of the state is the Sheyenne River Valley that seemed to have the potential for unlimited exploring. One of the national scenic byways runs through this river valley, and we found ourselves meandering down gravel roads taking in the scenery. The peak fall color was already past although there were spots of gold mixed in with the rich maroon and brown of the oaks. The valley is wonderfully scenic and has beautiful rolling hills, as well as much history. We camped at Fort Ransom State Park near the spot where the original Fort Ransom was established in 1867. After the fort was dismantled in the mid 1870’s the valley was opened for homesteading. Many of the early settlers in this area were Norwegian farmers, and their heritage and influence is evident. Within the state park is the original homestead of Andrew Sunne who settled on the land in 1884. His home and original barn are still on the site. This photograph is of a cabin that is on the Sunne site, looking out over part of the river valley. What wonderful sights the Sunnes must have seen out their cabin windows, seeing the river and hillsides and following the progression of all four seasons.
This past January, in the middle of freezing temperatures and feet of snow, we were planning a spring trip to a Minnesota state park. We decided that mid-April would be a perfect time to go to the prairie lands of western Minnesota and enjoy a warm sunny weekend with the opportunity to photograph early wildflowers. Of course, this past winter has been harder and longer than usual, and the snow has only recently melted. So it wasn’t altogether a major surprise when we drove to Lac qui Parle State Park on Friday night and arrived in the middle of a snow squall. The snow continued throughout the night and into the morning, with the winds howling around our little camper cabin. As “frightful” as it was outside, we were warm and snug on the bluff overlooking Lac qui Parle Lake, which is a broadening of the Minnesota River. The winds continued throughout the day Saturday, blowing the clouds across the prairie sky. Eventually the front passed us by early Sunday morning and we awoke to blue skies and warmer temperatures. Lac qui Parle was named by French explorers who lived with the Dakota Indians and means the “lake that speaks.” This weekend the area was “speaking” with a plethora of pelicans, geese, ducks, and cormorants. We were even treated to the sighting of a coyote and the olfactory “sighting” of a skunk. With the recent spring snowmelt the lake has flooded the lowlands and even closed some of the roads in the area. However, we were still able to explore this part of the state that borders South Dakota, meet some fascinating people who shared their knowledge and history of the prairie and the area, and brush up on the history of the fur-traders and missionaries that settled here with the Dakotas in the early 1800’s. We will certainly return to this wonderful state park and prairie land again, perhaps in the fall when over 150,000 Canada geese migrate through the area. Although our original plans and expectations did not come to fruition, we had a truly wonderful and enjoyable weekend.