After our exciting few weeks in the wilds of Western Canada, we prepared for a return to the United States and a reintroduction to developed society. We transitioned slowly, though, with two nights camping in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota before heading into real modern civilization. Despite growing up in Minnesota I’d never been to the Boundary Waters, which is a travesty. It’s an area best explored by canoe or other watercraft, but we reserved two nights at a remote campsite accessible by car and hoped to do a bit of hiking (without high expectations – the number of lakes scattered through the area make hiking fairly difficult). What we hadn’t realized is that we had reserved a walk-in site (whoops), but after three or four trips with our cooler, our camping gear, and everything else, we were happy to have a site away from the rest of the campground and with our own private bit of lakeshore (and our own little “latrine,” surprisingly luxurious as far as campsites are concerned). We managed a good day hike on a small trail connecting a series of small lakes, though the trail appeared to be rarely-used (and similarly maintained) and provided us practice in skills including slogging through bogs and climbing over downed trees.
After two nights in the Boundary Waters we headed east to Lake Superior, where we marveled at how ocean-like it seemed and how absolutely, positively, painfully cold the water is (see Brett photo, below). When we made it to the lake we first drove up the shore to Naniboujou, a classic old resort where my family stayed a number of times when I was a kid. We ate a late lunch in their spectacular dining room, our first walleye meal of many in the weeks to come, and visited a few places along the shoreline as we drove south to Duluth. Along the way we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse, a famous Minnesota historical site that I’d never seen (or perhaps have forgotten from childhood). We then spent a night in Duluth at a lovely bed and breakfast (with the most incredible shower we’d ever experienced – imagine tiny jets of water hitting you from all angles from all over the shower … and that you’ve been camping and thus haven’t showered for three days) before heading down to the cities.
Our time based in Minnesota has been busier than expected, full of friends and family and lakes. After just a few days in town we drove down to Chicago to spend a few days with friends from college and for Brett to check in with Northwestern, one of many potential schools for next year. After a few days stuffing ourselves with pizza and burgers and cuban sandwiches and the sights of the city we headed back to Minnesota, stopping for a night in Madison to see more friends from college. Highlights included beers at The Terrace (an important thing, we’re told), a visit to the overwhelmingly large and fantastic Madison Farmers’ Market, and a trip to the National Mustard Museum, where we stuffed ourselves silly with mustard (you can taste ALL THE MUSTARDS!) before heading back to Minneapolis.
Thus far, highlights of our time in Minnesota have included a full (very full) day at the Minnesota State Fair (I wrote about it on my food blog, here), lots of walking along rivers and around lakes, harvesting grapes at my cousin’s vineyard, a fantastic birthday dinner at Butcher and the Boar, a lovely birthday party with friends and family at the vineyard (I wrote about that too, here), another amazing birthday dinner at The Bachelor Farmer and drinks at Marvel Bar (another post about that here), a Twins game with my dad, an afternoon wandering around the sculpture garden (and the Walker’s new Turrell, underground like they originally wanted at Pomona), and a fantastic day trip down and back up the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, through the small towns where my grandmother grew up and where I’ve been going since I was a kid. We also had dinner with our new friends, a wonderful, welcoming St. Paul family we met at our campsite in Jasper, of all places. Overall the local food, beer, and wine have been amazing – walleye and local apples and the sweetest corn I’ve ever had, a huge variety of new microbrews, and the always-wonderful bottles of wine from my cousin’s vineyard.
We also flew back to LA for almost a week for Erin and Mike’s wedding, which was one of the most gorgeous and fun things that has maybe ever happened in the history of the world. It felt strange to be back in LA – sometimes like we’d never left, sometimes like we’d been gone for years. But our time was full of wedding events and wedding errands and spending time with other friends in town, so we barely had time to think about the fact that we were there before we were back on a plane to Minneapolis again. (And the second we were stuck in LA traffic, both Brett and I experienced severe “get us OUT OF HERE” feelings … I guess we’re not acclimated, anymore.)
When we returned to Minnesota it was absolutely, without a doubt fall. The leaves have started to change, the temperature decreased about 30 degrees, and the air has transformed into the magical, crisp, clear, cure-all air of fall. I’m really sorry I didn’t get good pictures of the trees around here these days, because they’re breathtaking – but we’re sure to see more of that in the coming month. From here we head north yet again, across the upper peninsula of Michigan and back into Canada. A few days each in the big cities of Eastern Canada, a few more on Prince Edward Island, then down into New England for a fairly full tour of our friends’ homes in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Then back across to Oregon, hoping to arrive in Eugene one month from yesterday. More on all of that to come, surely.
p.s. GO DUCKS!