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!