October 19, 2016

Cascade River State Park.

The North Shore is a beautiful place...that is what I have heard since moving to Minnesota. "You have to go!" "You and Matt would love it up there!"

So...last spring, Matt and I made it a goal to visit the North Shore this summer and in August, Matt and I finalized our plans. After contemplating a few places to explore, and limited by just a few camp site options, we decided on Cascade River State Park, which is roughly ten miles south of Grand Marais. 

Matt and I loaded up the car and with Rio in tow, left mid day on a Friday for a long weekend of camping and hiking. After roughly six hours of driving, with some road construction and pit stops in between, we arrived at Cascade River State Park just before dusk. Matt set up the tent and started the fire while Rio and I walked around the campground to find wood and sniff, sniff, sniff.

We had packed all of our food in the car with the goal of not having to eat at a restaurant the entire weekend (a bonus to car camping = soooo much more space for food than backpacking!). Our Friday night meal was cooked in foil packs over the camp fire. We had sausages and potatoes in one packet and zucchini, peppers and onions in another packet. There is something really great about eating food cooked over a fire...in aluminum foil...and having no dishes to clean!

Saturday morning we woke up and Rio was ready to hike!

We enjoyed some breakfast (yogurt and granola) and hot coffee. We planned to hike the Cascade River Loop of the Superior Hiking Trail, which is roughly 8 miles. The weather was a little gloomy and drops of rain started falling just as we started the hike. However, once we got under the trees, we felt no rain. The hike brought back so many memories of the hiking we did in Alaska...but without the mountains in the background. :-)

Rio showed no signs of her age. We figured she hiked double if not triple the distance we hiked because she likes to run back and forth along the trail. Silly dog!

The river was rushing with water, which made for some really beautiful sites along the trail...

The first time I saw this mushroom, my heart dropped to my stomach because it looks so much like bear scat!! Psych!! We saw many more of these 'shrooms along the hike.

Halfway done with the hike...you'll notice Cascade Park on the sign.

After we finished the hike, and since it was pouring down rain, we opted not to sit in our tent and instead, head to Grand Marais. First stop = coffee at Java Moose

We then decided to drive a few miles on the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway. The Gunflint Trail is a remote wilderness road that winds through a thick, undeveloped boreal forest of pine, aspen, birch and rare maple stands. The Gunflint Trail is approximately 55 miles and borders the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Rio decided to sleep during the drive...

Sunday we woke up to blue skies and temps in the low 60s. We decided to work our way back to Chaska by visiting a few more State Parks along the way. Most of them were very busy with people, but we decided to stop for an extended period of time at Jay Cooke State Park, which is just south of Duluth, MN.

Rio was ready to hike again!

Breathtaking, right?!

After another few hours of hiking and three hours in the car, we made it back to Chaska. This picture is of Rio the NEXT day. I think she was exhausted!!

Both Matt and I agreed that we are looking forward to the many adventures Minnesota has to offer us. I can not wait to explore again!


May 2, 2016

May Day bike ride.

With blue and sunny skies this past Sunday, Matt and I once again hopped on our saddles for a ride around Minneapolis. We decided to navigate parts of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway system, which is a series of park areas linked by bike trials that takes a roughly circular path through the city. Instead of leaving from Chaska, we began our ride from The Depot in Hopkins, so we could spend more time riding around Minneapolis. 

From Hopkins, Matt and I rode on the North Cedar Lake Trail to the Kenilworth Trail, which connected us to the Byway in downtown Minneapolis. The Kenilworth Trail took us right past Target Field, where the Twins were getting beat by the Tigers. Ho hum...

More about the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway system…

According to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation website, the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is part of the Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways Program, which recognizes and supports outstanding roads. The Grand Rounds is one of the country's longest continuous systems of public urban parkways and has been the preeminent urban parkway system for more than a century. 

The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway system consists of seven segments that total about 50 miles. Matt and I rode on most, if not all, of four of the segments…

Downtown Riverfront (1.2 miles): This segment lies along the Mississippi River...

...and includes Saint Anthony falls and the historic milling districts. Saint Anthony Falls was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River and is the 17th largest waterfall on Earth, 5th in the United States. 

The Byway follows West River Parkway on the west side of the river and leads to the Stone Arch Bridge, a railroad bridge turned pedestrian and bicycle bridge and the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire length of the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River (9.2 miles): Extending from downtown to Minnehaha Park, some of this segment was under construction, so we took a detour through the west bank of the University of Minnesota. This detour brought back small reminiscences of our ride a few weeks ago….

Minnehaha (12.6 miles): This segment includes Minnehaha Park, where we spent some time walking around and viewing the Minnehaha Falls. Matt and I were impressed how busy the park was with families picnicking, riding bikes and walking around. 

This section becomes Minnehaha Parkway after crossing Hiawatha Avenue and follows Minnehaha Creek to Lake Harriet. We decided to stop for some homemade ice cream at the Grand Ole Creamery on Cedar Avenue. 

There were lines out the door, but the wait actually was not long. There were over 20 flavors to choose from, but Matt settled on Coffee Break and I chose a combo of Coffee Break and Coconut Chip.

Chain of Lakes (13.3 miles): This section includes routes around Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake and Lyndale Park. This lake parkland is collectively called the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional ParkWe made sure to loop completely around Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles before passing by Brownie Lake and connecting back on to the Midtown Greenway and the North Cedar Lake Trail to Hopkins.

Upon arriving in Hopkins, we stopped for pizza at Pizza Luce. With a number of locations around the Metro, the pizza has been coined as "Minnesota's best pizza." Matt and I shared a meatball appetizer and a Spanish Chicken pizza on thin crust. We both agreed the pizza was delicious...Matt even said it might be the best pizza he has ever eaten!

Matt rode his single speed bike, and I rode my 35 pound Raleigh hybrid. The total time from when we left Hopkins to when we were seated at Pizza Luce was 7 hours and 30 minutes. We put just under 40 miles on the bikes and ascended roughly 4500 feet. Not a bad day!