October 26, 2016

Interstate State Park

The outdoors of Minnesota in October are scattered with colors of orange, gold and red. People from all over the country come to Minnesota to view the foliage - and a number of different drives through the state have been designated as some of the best to see fall colors. The State of Minnesota DNR created a fall color finder that is updated regularly with weekly top picks of where to see the best mix of colors.

During a weekend in October, Matt, Rio and I headed to Interstate State Park, which is near Taylors Falls, MN, not only to see the fall colors, but to go for a hike!! Interstate State Park is located on the St. Croix River. The park is unique because at least 10 different lava flows are exposed in the park, along with two distinct glacial deposits, and traces of old streams, valleys and faults.

Rio really wanted to go cliff jumping, but Matt and I told her she had to follow the rules...

The colors were in full glow and during the hike, Matt and I took every opportunity to stop and take in the beauty around us. God really put together a nice landscape for us to enjoy, right?!

There were three trails for hiking, which all totaled to about a four mile hike. Most of the hike was flat, but parts of the trail was rugged with a number of steps.

The end of the hike was flat and lead us to Taylors Falls...

...where we happened upon the oldest existing public school house in Minnesota!

Once again Rio was a champ on the hike. Her energy has us convinced that she is a three year old dog in a 12 year old body. However, she was happy to be back in the car and slept most of the way home...

I say "most of the way home" because Matt and I stopped for dinner at Bricks Neapolitan Pizza in Hudson, Wisconsin on the way back to Chaska. Rio kept a watchful eye on passer-byes from the front seat of the vehicle while Matt and I enjoyed a delicious appetizer of asparagus wrapped in mozzarella and prosciutto, drizzled in a balsamic reduction...

...and a campagnola Neapolitan pizza. The crust was wood fired in an 800 degree oven and topped crushed tomatoes, prosciutto, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh basil. #yum

Matt and I both agreed that Bricks is one of our most favorite pizza places EVER! We will be back.


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 02, 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!


Happy May!

This image was made with the Font Candy app. My new favorite!

Cheers to May...and Spring...and (hopefully) warmer weather.

April 24, 2016


As a local resident and employee of the county where Prince passed away, I thought I better comment on his passing...

Carver County has been in the news quite a bit over the past few days since the passing of Prince, who was found dead at Paisley Park in Chanhassen Thursday morning. Paisley Park Studios was built in 1988 and looks like nothing more than a big white building that somewhat resembles a prison or large manufacturing site. Since living so close to Paisley Park for the past year, I have quickly learned quite a bit about Prince. Interestingly, Prince often times hosted pop-up concerts at Paisley Park that went unannounced until just moments before the start. The dome on top of Paisley Park would turn purple and the first people to arrive at the studios would be let into the concert.

(Photo of Paisley Park courtesy of The Star Tribune)

Chaska is the only city in Carver County with a police force, so the Carver County Sheriff's Office has been in charge of the investigation. A press conference was held at the Carver County Government Center, my place of work, on Friday; news stations from the nation and across the metro filled the parking lot.

I am taken aback by how many coworkers and fellow Minnesotans are mourning the death of a local hero who took the world by storm in the early 80s, using his unique musical gifts to tell stories of love, politics and life. The city has paid tribute to Prince since his death. The I-35W and Lowry Avenue bridges, Target Field and Target headquarters have been lit purple... 

(Photo of the I-35W bridge courtesy of The Star Tribune)

...First Avenue, a downtown music venue where Prince played regularly early in his career and occasionally made surprise appearances throughout his career, has hosted block parties every night since Thursday...

(Photo courtesy of MPRNews)

I must admit that I am quickly becoming more of a Prince fan than I ever was and find myself constantly humming Purple Rain...Purple Rain...Purple Rain...(are there really any other words to that song???).

Rest in peace and purple, Prince.

April 22, 2016

A beautiful day on our bikes

Hold on to your shorts...this is a long post with no pictures. But, I promise you, it is worth the read.

The forecast predicted temps in the high 70s last weekend, so Matt and I took full advantage of the warm, spring day. We decided to hop on our bikes and head to Minneapolis. Now that we live only a couple yards away from the Minnesota Valley State Trail, we were able to get to the city completely mostly by trail. With only a few hiccups along the way, we found ourselves sitting down for dinner around 6:00 PM Saturday evening. 

The Minnesota Valley State Trail is a multi-use trail ideal for hiking, biking, horseback riding, mountain biking and snowmobiling. The trail is natural surface from Belle Plaine to Chaska where it parallels the Minnesota River and is paved from Chaska to Shakopee. This trail continues through the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington, which is an unpaved mountain bike and hiking trail. Plans are in place to pave this existing trail, but recently, there has been extensive controversy about this idea. I am all for paving the trail in order to create better trail connections to Minneapolis. Read “In Defense of a Paved Minnesota Valley State Trail” by Monte Castleman of Streets.MN, an organization created to better inform and engage the public on transportation and land use issues in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.

Anyway…………………..just outside of Shakopee, we rode on the newly finished 101 bridge trail which connects to the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail. However, this trail is washed out due to past flooding (Matt and I disagreed as to whether this trail was really washed out. Let’s just say the one who works in Public Health for the County may have been correct). We ended up having to take a round-a-bout-extra-7-mile-very-hilly-route to the Minnesota River Bluffs trail. Oh well…the day was nice. The day was nice.

Once on the Minnesota River Bluffs trail, we enjoyed a lovely 13 mile ride into Hopkins. We rode this same trail last fall. You can read more about that ride here.

From Hopkins, we chartered new territory to the Cedar Lake Trail, which passes through Hopkins and St. Louis Park. According to traillink.com, the paved Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail occupies an abandoned Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway (and later Chicago and North Western Railway) corridor. The right-of-way was abandoned in the early 1990s and acquired by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), who installed the trail. 

Traillink.com states that the 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway follows a former railroad corridor through south Minneapolis, and heads west from the Mississippi River to the neighborhood of West Calhoun in the scenic Chain of Lakes Area. The paved pathway is only 1 block north of the Lake Street corridor and runs parallel to the road for most of its route. The trail provides a safe alternative for cyclists and pedestrians to travel on the busy street.

A few miles onto the Greenway, we exited onto Bryant Street and then rode a couple blocks to Lyndale Avenue for dinner at The Lyndale Tap House. A quick glance at our watches phones told us that it was around 5:30 PM…the evening was getting short. We had ridden our bikes 35 miles in about four hours…not exactly enough time to eat dinner and ride home before it turned dark (we didn’t bring headlights/headlamps…duh!). So, we decided that instead of riding back to Chaska, we would catch the Southwest Transit bus back to Chaska at the West Bank terminal. The West Bank is in the heart of the University of Minnesota campus, another 6 miles on the Midtown Greenway and Hiawatha Bike Trail. We had plenty of time to eat and catch the 7:22 PM or 7:42 PM bus.

Dinner was excellent. We both enjoyed burgers and a salad while sitting outside, people gazing at all of the Midtown commotion. We paid the bill and then got back on our saddles for the last leg of our ride. We arrived at the terminal just in time for the 7:22 PM bus but saw nothing. Then, 7:42 PM rolled around and still did not see a bus. Little did we know that the Southwest Transit Bus system does not run on the weekends…whooooooooooooooooops!!!!

Foooooooooooortunately, Uber has an XL service that transports people…and apparently, bikes. My fear was the that driver was not going to drive us to Chaska, but I think God was watching over us when we found out our driver was from Eden Prairie and heading home for the night.  With a $15 credit in my account for getting my mom to join and ride Uber, we paid a cheap $21 fare back to Chaska.

What could have been topped off by a really long night was another day filled with new experiences and adventures together. Matt and I cannot wait to see what the rest of Spring and the Summer season hold for us.


April 12, 2016

Celebrating 70 years.

On March 22 was my grandparents 70th wedding anniversary. Last weekend, Matt and I headed down to Sherburn to help them celebrate the feat.

It was a great day with my parents and my mom's family. I was especially pleased to enjoy a piece of delicious red velvet cake from The Chocolate Season for dessert. Yum!

For the sake of this blog, I decided to do some investigating about the headlines and highlights of 1946, the year my grandparents were married.

  • The president was Harry Truman
  • The U.S. population was 141.3 million (The population in 2015 was 321.8 million) 
  • Life expectancy was 66.7 years 
  • It's A Wonderful Life hit theaters 
  • In January was the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly
  • The Philippines gained independence from the United States
  • Winston Churchill presented his Iron Curtain speech
  • The Saint Louis Cardinals won the World Series
  • North Carolina got defeated (again) in the NCAA championship by Oklahoma A&M
  • Cannes Film Festival debuted in France
  • Tupperware, credit cards and waterproof diapers were invented

April 09, 2016

Way over due.

Almost six months have passed since I last blogged. After moving to Minnesota and after Matt moved from Alaska to join me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue writing on a regular basis...mostly because I felt as though nothing really compared to my adventures and travels in Alaska. While somewhat true, when I was reminded to pay the $10 fee to keep my blog active, I knew I needed to keep this blog going. Too many moments have been shared on 3000 Miles North that make it difficult not to continue. Plus, I have found it enjoyable to have a platform to share what is happening in my life with my family, friends and followers. 

So, onwards and upwards. Here we go again...