Travel. Where did you go this year? What was your favorite? Where do you plan to or want to go next year?
This year was about getting away while staying close; and instead of focusing on the distance traveled, focusing on the other things I can do to truly be someplace else.
We camped twice at the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in the spring. We first went in April so Aaron could do some fly-fishing in several trout creeks and the Root River. We took the dog, who was new to our family in April. We had the world’s lowest expectations for him because our last dog hated camping. But Obi? He loved it all. A 9-mile hike. Digging around the campsite. Eating sticks. Chillin’ in the hammock. Sleeping in the tent. He seems to be a big fan of camping/hiking– what a great fit for us!
We went back in May to camp the night before the Almanzo 100 bike race. We ran out of cooking fuel while trying to make pancakes. That should have been a sign to just pack it up and go home, but we didn’t listen…
In June, we raced in a few mountain bike races that are part of the Lutsen 99er series. Aaron rode the 69er and I rode the 39er on a fatbike. We camped along the North Shore at Cascade River State Park. We would have stayed two nights, but Aaron biked himself halfway to death so we ended up in the ER for the better part of Saturday evening, and I said, “Nope. Hotel tonight.” Still, we each managed to have a pretty great bike race, we enjoyed the state park, and hung out in Grand Marais, which is like the Stars Hollow of the North Shore.
Admittedly, when we decide to go camping, we almost always gravitate to the North Shore. There is ample state parks and forests for camping, tons of stuff to see and do in the wilderness and in town, and the scenery is delightful. So, when we decided to get out of town in late July, we opted for a part of the state we don’t see often: the prairies of the southwest. We camped at Blue Mounds State Park, in a small stand of trees amidst vast and beautiful prairie. We brought the dog along again, and he was a champ. I think it is safe to say we both learned a lot about the prairie landscape and the important ecosystem services provided by strong, healthy prairies. We also visited the Pipestone National Monument and drove into Sioux Falls for coffee and delicious baked goods from Queen City Bakery on Sunday morning. We really enjoyed Blue Mounds, and I think we will easily find ourselves there again.
And of course, we took the Antelope Wells on her maiden wilderness voyage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in late September.
There really aren’t words for the BWCAW. It is serene and wild in all the most wonderful ways. The sunrises and sunsets are the best I have ever seen. The scenery is breathtaking at every turn. This year we had some really remarkable campsites (and one infested with mice– so the next time you think it will be fun to camp on an island, ask yourself if there is anything on that island that eats the mice). We kept an easy pace, opting for more time reading and fishing, and making good meals. We went to bed at 9PM almost every night. Ugh, it was just magic and every time I am stressed I imagine being back there.
We rounded out that trip with several other adventures– on the front end, spending a night in Hibbing, the small mining town where Bob Dylan grew up. We couldn’t resist the mine overlook, and it was a pretty spectacular sight.
On the tail end, we intended to camp at Voyageurs National Park, since it was the NPS Centennial, but the waves on the huge lake proved to be a bit much for our canoeing skills, so we opted for a night at Woodenfrog State Forest and 2 nights at a lodge on Lake Kabetogama. We spent a good day in Ely at the Root Beer Lady Museum and the International Wolf Center, as well as all the wilderness outfitters and the local brewery.
For me, the best vacations include being outside and taking a moderate pace. I am more comfortable living “unplanned” when we are on vacation; I am more flexible to changes in plans and slightly better able to go with the flow.
I also have found it to be an incredible relief to disconnect completely with social media, email, and text. In the Boundary Waters, it was a forced disconnection. But now, I am more often opting to put my phone on airplane mode for an entire weekend that we are out of town or at least limit checking it to only texts and only for a short 5 minutes or so (essentially in case of emergencies). It is a lot easier to be in the ‘here and now’ of my own life when I can ignore the ‘then and there’ of everyone else’s life. And as much as I really like using and participating in social media, it is also really refreshing to have a break.