Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield

Mel and I took advantage of the warm weather to head down to to the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield. Here’s a few pics:

It's neat how the wetland is nestled in the middle of the most dense portion of Richfield.
Wood Lake Nature Center wetlands
One of the coolest parts is the boardwalk.
Here's my ugly mug on the boardwalk.

How about you? Did you get a chance to get outside to enjoy the great weather on Saturday?

Frozen Minnehaha Falls

A while back, I saw this post on the North of MPLS tumblr, and after I saw the photo, I agreed entirely with the title of the post:

I can’t believe I’ve never done this before.

Turns out, when Minnehaha Falls freezes in the winter, you can climb up and stand behind the frozen falls.  It’s incredible.  The falls are still flowing a little, so there’s still running water, but it freezes into giant columns of beautiful ice.

The most interesting part was how relatively warm it was behind the falls.  It felt a good 10 degrees warmer behind the frozen ice falls than everywhere else.

Here’s some photos:

UPDATE: Bill’s feelings were hurt that I didn’t link to his photos, too, so… Bill went to the falls like a year ago.  He owns me because he was there first.

Weekend in Ely

Mel and I spent the weekend in Ely again.  Fun times up there!  Our baby nephew was around, so that was fun. I was gonna post a super-cute picture, but it’s prob a little weird for me to be posting pictures of other peoples babies.

We did some swimming and biking, and (since the in-laws have satellite TV) I enjoyed watching several episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter.  It’s been several years since I’ve seen an episode of that show.  I’ll tell you what: HD picture quality doesn’t do Dog or his wife any favors.  They were both looking a little rough around the edges, in my opinion.

We hiked back up to Ennis Lake again, which is always a treat!  The whole weekend was pretty much perfect, except for when Mel got mad halfway through our hike.  She’s a pretty intense hiker, and when the rest of us stopped to take some photos, she kind of snapped:


Yes, dear.

4th of July Ely Parade 2010

So it’s about time I got around to telling y’all about my 4th of July weekend, right? As always, Mel and I headed up North to Ely to see the in-laws.  Here’s one of the fantastic sunsets we saw while we were there:

On Saturday, we decided to go for a little hike on the Bass Lake Trail.  Mel told us it was about 1/4th mile, which sounded just about right seeing as how Mel’s foot is broken and she has to wear this funny plastic boot all the time. (did I tell y’all that Mel broke her foot?  Well she DID).  Turns out, though Dry Falls was a little further than 1/4 mile.  It was probably closer to 3/4 miles, which is a long way to go without bending your ankle (or so my wife tells me…).

But the view was worth it:

Dry falls is awesome, and there were peeps all over the place:

(Dry Falls Trivia: 1. Dry Falls isn’t actually dry.  Both times I’ve been there there’s been water flowing.  2. The banner photo at the top of the SingleSpeed blog was taken at Dry Falls a few years ago).

On Sunday, we went to the Ely 4th of July Parade, which is always a total treat!!!!  Here’s some of my favorite shots:

Ely High School marching band:

WHOA!!!  It’s Miss Babbitt Leah Bissonette!!!!

Ely dancers are a mainstay of the parade:

The ZUP’s guy handing out Butterfingers and pepper (yes, you read that correctly, pepper – you don’t ask questions in Ely):

As always, the Lawn Chair Dancers were a crowd pleaser:

Also, the clown band is one of my favorites:

Back at the in-laws place on Moose Lake, I decided to take a dip in the lake.  I know it looks like I’m about to belly flop here, but I’m really not:

OK fine.  I flopped.

Fishing Weekend

I had another great weekend up at the in-laws!  Here’s a view of the docks at Williams & Hall Outfitters:

And the beautiful Moose Lake:

Visiting the in-laws is awesome for a lot of reasons, not the least of these reasons is that the W&H cook makes a lot of our meals for us.  She makes some mean biscuits & gravy!

The in-laws generously gave me the second half of my birthday present, a fishing pole to match my new reel!  I was quite a fisherman growing up and in college, but I haven’t been fishing in a few years.  The last time I went was a complete disaster.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say my old fishing pole is Resting-in-Peace at the bottom of Ensign Lake after I threw it from the canoe in a fit of rage several years ago.

So we spent a morning fishing on Skull Lake in the Boundary Waters.

This next picture is kind of dumb, but I think it’s hilarious because it looks like Mel’s brother doesn’t have a head.

Decapitation, lol.

Here’s our spoils:

I didn’t catch either of them.  Mel and her brother did.

We also went hiking on the Secret – Blackstone – Ennis Lake Trail:

Adventure: Snowbank Trail

My wife and I spent the 4th of July weekend up in Ely, MN with her parents. Our friends b+k came along, so the four of us decided to go hiking. We set off on the Snowbank Trail, not really knowing what to expect. We had asked around to see what people knew about it, but nobody really had much info – including Mel’s parents, whose outfitting business keeps them pretty up-to-date on things like this. The trail was a little spotty – obviously not very well used… Here’s what the trail looked like most of the way – passable but narrow:
The trail wraps around Snowbank Lake and meets up with the Kekekabic Trail somewhere along the way, but we didn’t make it that far. Here’s Snowbank Lake:
Some more shots of the group:

Then we stopped for lunch, which included some jerky:
Then we took a minute to dangle our toes in the lake:
And I fell asleep on a rock using my shoe as a pillow:

Total, we probably only hiked about 4 miles because the trail was pretty slow-going, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

Frontenac State Park

We spent saturday hiking around Frontenac State Park near Red Wing, MN with our friends Paul, Tuittu, and Venu.  The Park includes some pretty tall bluffs that we could hike up and down.  Usually hiking in Minnesota just feels like walking around to us because there aren’t any mountains to climb.  Mel and I agreed that it was the closest thing to a hike we’ve ever found in MN.

After our morning hike, we visited the nearby town of Red Wing (you know, like where they make boots?).  They’re sort of playing up the Historic Downtown thing, so that was interesting to see.  I almost bought a $300 Norwegian Garden Troll, but Mel talked me out of it at the last minute.

Biking the Fernberg & Bass Lake Trail

This weekend, we drove up north to Ely, MN to spend some time with Mel’s family. We drove up early Friday night in time to watch Mel’s record-breaking little brother Matt play in his high school football game. We were disappointed to find out that Ely Memorial High School does not sell hot dogs at their football games, but we were satisfied with the popcorn. Saturday, Mel and I decided to ride our bikes from her home to downtown Ely for some ice cream and then ride back. Round trip, it would be about 38 miles.

View Larger Map

Here’s a couple of photos taken by myself while riding:

We made it to Ely without any problems, but our return trip was frustrated by a flat tire. Luckily, we were near the small town of Winton, and the kind folks at the Winton Liquor Store let us borrow their phone to get a ride home.

While we were waiting, we went across the street to the city park.

After a while, I was tired of the park, so I gave myself a self-guided bicycle tour of Winton, where I discovered the combination Post Office/Fat Chicken Feed Store.

Then I took a photo of the paint peeling off a light post:

And then I took a photo of some berries that Melanie refused to eat….

Then we just started taking stupid pictures of each other (what else can you do when you’re stranded in Winton???)

Finally, our ride arrived.

Sunday afternoon, we all went hiking to Dry Falls on the Bass Lake trail.

I hope you enjoyed the photo tour of our adventure!!!!

Seeking Freedom

I spent the first 18 years of my life living in Nevada and outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and fishing were an important part of my childhood. When I was younger, my family went camping often. As I entered high school, camping with my family became less common, but I went camping a lot with friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Nevada is very unique in that most of the state is public land, and you can camp anywhere you want, anytime. I never paid any fees or bought any permits, and I don’t even know if it was possible to make reservations. I can only think of a few locations with maintained camp sites – and those probably had some fees associated with them, but none of my family or friends would have even really considered staying there. Why stay in an official campground surrounded by other people when you can stay anywhere else in the entire state for free?

To go camping in Nevada, you pretty much just started driving out of town on a dirt road, and whenever you feel like stopping, you park the car and you were at your campsite. If you’re lazy (like I was in high school) you drive about 20 minutes out of town and find a bare spot in the middle of the sagebrush and call it good. If you want to drive a little bit further, you can find some more scenic surroundings – but still everything was free and nobody cared where you were.

Now I live in Minnesota, and I like it here, but I also really miss having the entire state as my playground. Minnesota doesn’t have “no man’s land” like Nevada did. If I want to go camping, I have to plan ahead, make reservations, pay some fees, and camp 30 feet from somebody else. Or at least that’s all I’ve figured out how to do here in MN. Maybe I’m just inexperienced in “camp planning” since we never did any planning growing up. I’m not sure if it’s possible to camp near the Twin Cities anyplace other than state parks or privately owned campsites.

So now I’m trying to plan a campout for 6 people (3 adults, 3 kids) and it’s looking like I will pay an $8.50 reservation fee, an $18 campsite fee, and a $5 vehicle fee. I will only be able to have one tent on the campsite (though I sweet talked the park employee over the phone today and she said she might be able to let me get pitch a second “very small” tent “just for the children”), and any more than a single vehicle will have to park outside the state park. I’ll probably be be able to eavesdrop on the conversation at the campsite 30 feet away. It won’t really feel like camping, with the running water, bathrooms, and showers a few-hundred feet away, and I’ll probably end up getting a little cranky when I see the parks employee making the rounds during the evening to make sure we’re all using appropriate firewood purchased from the park office.

There is little chance I will ever live in Nevada again. I was anxious to leave when I turned 18, and really, there are many places I would enjoy living much more. So I’m better off in Minnesota, for now. But anytime I think about planning a campout, sweet home Nevada starts sounding pretty good again.