Happy Anniversary….

Al and I have always had an interest in the “Wild West“.  We enjoy watching Westerns, and Al is a huge John Wayne fan.  Al grew up watching TV shows such as; The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, The Cisco Kid………note the common thread!  I reluctantly admit to reading romance novels, ones set in the 1800’s…….ya know, cowboys, Indians, horses, mystery, and love.   Al and I will occasionally listen to these period romance novels in audio form on long travel days with the Rig.

Al and Ingrid get married…..many, many moons ago!

So when it came time to plan our wedding, our thoughts drifted to the perceived romance of times long past, BUT with a contemporary twist.  You see, Al and I like horses but we’re not horse people.  Guided trail rides are the only way we ride horses, and we ride like typical city slickers.  Therefore, a truly western style wedding was out of the question, as well as our venue was in a prestigious Chicago suburb, not conducive for a “western” wedding.

We hired a horse and carriage, complete with driver.  Prayed for good weather, not an easy feat in the midwest for an outdoor wedding.  We kept the guest list to a hundred.  Hired three violinists for the ceremony and a band for the reception.  Al wore tails while I went for something resembling turn of the century, complete with parasol.

As luck would have it, the weather was most agreeable…..in the 70’s, partly cloudy, with a light pleasant breeze.  We could not have asked for a better day or more perfect setting.

Al and I did ALL the planning, organizing, scheduling, arranging, and paying.  A “wedding planner” was a relatively new concept in the 80’s, and since Al and I had been living together (yes, living in sin – not as easily accepted back then as it is now) we paid for everything.  Somehow it seemed inappropriate to ask parents for any assistance.  However, our parents were rather generous and gracious with wedding gifts and had a fabulous time being parents of the bride and groom.

the ceremony

It was a great day.  A day we’ll always remember, but it was just one day.  Marriage is so much more than walking down an isle.  It’s not an isle, it’s more like a roller coaster.  There are fun moments, boring moments, moments of sheer terror, and moments that you think you just can’t take it anymore, but then there’s those special moments, moments that you wouldn’t trade for anything.  Moments that make the ups and downs all worth it.

Here’s to many more years of a fun ride.  Happy Anniversary, hon, love ya!

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Winter Park

Although Colorado is well-known as a winter destination, summer is a fabulous time to visit.  There’s no need to worry about road conditions during the summer like you do in the winter, with the exception for road construction, the occasional rock slide, mud slide, or sink hole….lol.  Seriously summer in Colorado is awesome.

Winter Park Village, Colorado

On a previous road trip, daughter and I found ourselves hanging out in the town of Winter Park.  We’re quite familiar with this town, having spent many a Christmas just up the road at Snow Mountain Ranch.  However, this was our first summer visit.

Hmmmm, daughter and I wondered, “What does a mountain ski town have to offer in the summer?”  First and foremost, relaxation.  We stayed in a condo in the Winter Park Village, at the base of the slopes.  Upon arrival, we spent the next couple of hours sitting on our balcony, enjoying good conversation, drinking a cold beverage, and admiring the spectacular view.

One of those balconies was ours….

The view…..daughter and I are drawn to what appears is a huge concrete gutter twisting and turning up the side of the mountain.  Is this some sort of special drainage for heavy snows?  Nah, I know better, but I’m perplexed.  With uncontrollable curiosity, we rush out of the condo, down the flight of stairs (elevator takes too long) and over to the item in question.  Answer……..oh, how cool…..it’s an Alpine Slide.  We check the hours of operation and decide that’s first on tomorrows agenda.

English: The Alpine Slide on Jackson Hill.

English: The Alpine Slide on Jackson Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Alpine Slide is some serious fun.  You take the ski lift up the mountain, and shush on your little sled down the mountain.  They have two runs; one for newbies who are a bit more tentative and the other for the daring with a need for speed.  Need I tell you which run I chose and which one daughter chose?  Ah, to be young and fearless.  However, my second go (once is not enough) I opted for speed.

a marmot peeks over the alpine slide chute

Winter Park is a small quiet community.  It’s very family friendly and oriented.  The “Village” sits at the base of the slopes and offers condo rentals, restaurants, shops, mini golf, ski lift, AND the Alpine Slide.

Granby Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Grand Lake are an easy scenic drive north of Winter Park. The numerous lakes and streams in this part of Colorado offer a variety of fishing and boating experiences in addition to the plentiful hiking, biking, and horseback riding possibilities.

Marmot

Getting to Winter Park is relatively easy and takes just a couple of hours from Denver.  From Denver, take I-70 west to Hwy 40 north. Hwy 40 and Berthoud Pass have been improved immensely over the years with the addition of guard rails and a third lane.  Three lanes going up and one lane coming down, BUT the folks coming down the mountain can use that center lane for passing.  I think that’s why that center lane is known as “the suicide lane”.  Try driving it in the winter when the road is covered with snow.  Fun times!  Our first time driving Berthoud Pass was well over fifteen years ago, before the third lane and guard rails were added.  Yikes!  It’s much improved since that first visit and summer driving is a piece of cake.

Throughout summer, Winter Park hosts a variety of events and activities.  For the latest and up to date happenings click here.

Estes Park, Colorado

So ya wanna visit Rocky Mountain National Park?  The name Estes Park is synonymous with Rocky Mountain National Park.  This quaint town is considered the eastern gateway to the Park and is the most popular, well-known entry point.  Estes Park is a small mountain town catering to the needs of the many tourists from around the world embarking on a Colorado adventure.

in , USA

in , USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an abundance of lodging (including campgrounds), restaurants, shopping, and sights to see.  The most famous lodging is the Stanley Hotel.  Al and I stayed at the Stanley when we celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Colorado.  Very romantic, I might add.  Oh, and yes, the hotel was built by and named after the famous Stanley Steamer inventor.

The Stanley Hotel is known for its architecture, beautiful setting, and famous visitors.  Most notable;  Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel, turned movie, was filmed at this amazing place.  The hotel is also known for being haunted and has been featured on several shows about the super natural, most recently on the Travel Channel.  Although this historic hotel is haunted, not to fear, the ghosts are considered to be happy ghosts.  No murders or unpleasantries took place here.

Trail Ridge Road – Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular wilderness that has been protected for millions to see and enjoy.  This being said, commercial activity inside park boundaries is extremely limited.  So on any outing or activity, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks.  Please remember to drink lots and lots of water to avoid even the mildest symptoms of altitude sickness.

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States.  It is also one of America’s top ten byways.  This road traverses through the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park to Grand Lake.  My favorite day and one I would recommend;  head out of Estes Park about 8 in the morning.  Dress in layers because it’ll be cool/cold in the morning.  Drive Trail Ridge Road and stop at EVERY scenic pull-out for a photo-op…….destination Grand Lake.  In Grand Lake enjoy lunch, a picnic, ice cream, coffee – whatever floats your boat.  If you stand at the water’s edge of the lake, you can feel the coolness of the water.  Kind of like opening a refrigerator door. Be sure and take a stroll up and down Main Street.  Grand Lake is one of my favorite mountain towns, a town we would frequent every winter during our Christmas vacations at Snow Mountain Ranch.  Although it is much more of a summer destination than winter one.

Al and Bear / Grand Lake, Colorado

After your Grand Lake tour, return to Estes Park.  Once again taking in all the sights.  I’m not sure why, and perhaps it’s just me, but the views from this direction take on a new personality.  So you won’t feel like you’re doing a repeat, not that this awe-inspiring scenery doesn’t need repeating.  Plan on taking the day to do this trip, and don’t be surprised if an afternoon storm rolls in.

Estes Park is a great jumping off point for a Colorado vacation, whether you stay in a hotel or a campground.  I personally wouldn’t recommend Trail Ridge Road for large RV’s, even though we see plenty.  The road is narrow and parking is difficult during busy summer months.  The majority of campgrounds within the park are geared toward tents and small trailers.  Most are not suitable for large RV’s and offer no hookups.  If I were tenting it, I would definitely stay at one of several campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park.  What an amazing backyard to enjoy.  I would also recommend checking out YMCA of the Rockies for lodging options in Estes Park.

No trip to Colorado would be complete without a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.  I’m ready to go back today……

Ouzel Lake and Mahana Peak, Rocky Mountain Nat...

Ouzel Lake and Mahana Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA (misidentified as Bear Lake at source site — compare to photos at http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/?p=625) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daughter and I visit Rocky Mtn National Park

A year and a half after Al and I celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary in Rocky Mountain National Park, I found myself once again suffering from altitude sickness.  No wait.  We were living in a Chicago suburb with a mere altitude of about 600 feet.  Oops, that time my dizziness and nausea was not due to the altitude, but due to pregnancy; planned and wanted, I might add.  And what a beautiful baby she was!

Daughter – Rocky Mtn National Park

When my daughter was three, we moved cross-country to Las Vegas, Nevada.  It was during this drive west, we stopped at a scenic overlook in Colorado.  Numerous tunnels are met when traversing Interstate 70.  The longest and most known is the Eisenhower Tunnel at Loveland Pass, elevation 11,990.  When traveling westbound on I-70, the moment you exit the Eisenhower Tunnel, you are greeted with the most spectacular “Colorado” mountain scene, and it only gets better.  After the tunnel but prior to the Frisco exit is a scenic overlook….overlooking Dillion Reservoir and the Continental Divide.  This scenic overlook is a MUST stop when traveling westbound (not eastbound).  It was at this point, daughter informed us, “I move to mountains when I big girl”.   At the age of three, she was so taken by the view that it left an indelible impression upon her.  And move she did! When she was eight years old, we moved to Colorado Springs.  This move made daughter very, very happy, even though she was leaving friends behind.  Daughter loves living in Colorado.  Over the years, she and I have been known to hop in the vehicle and explore our local Colorado attractions.  Mid July a few years ago, she and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park. We chose to go ‘the back way’.  We took I-70 west, headed north on Hwy 40, and spent the night in Winter Park.  From Winter Park we continued north on Hwy 40 to Granby.  At Granby we headed northeast on Hwy 34 toward Rocky Mountain National Park.  A stop in the small town of Grand Lake, just before the park, is a must. Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 and encompasses approximately 415 square miles.  The Park is home to more than 60 mountains exceeding 12,000 feet in elevation.  Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its majestic mountain peaks, dense forests, rushing mountain waters, delicate mountain flowers, clear lakes, and plenty of wildlife. Daughter and I continued driving on Hwy 34 which turns into Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road is one of America’s top ten byways.  As you travel and gain in elevation, the landscape changes from trees and meadows to alpine tundra.  Although the tundra is too harsh for trees and appears barren at first glance, the tundra is abundant with an array of delicate vegetation.

Daughter as we hike trail near Alpine Visitor Center – folks resting along trail

The Alpine Visitor Center is at an elevation of about 12,000 feet.  Even the fittest of persons seem to get breathless at this altitude.  There’s a large gift shop, restrooms, and snack area, as well as a nearby hiking trail.  Daughter and I have spent the past fifteen years living at 5000+ feet in elevation and are not as easily winded as most of the visitors.  We take the nearby hike to a scenic view-point…. Huffer’s Hill trail is aptly named.  Many tourists can’t seem to catch their breath and return to the parking lot.  Daughter and I walked a steady pace and passed others winded.  Hey, no altitude sickness for this ‘ol’ gal.  Could it be, I’m no longer a “flatlander”?  I even outpaced some high schoolers  🙂

Daughter heading back to the Alpine Visitor Center parking lot

Although Daughter and I were glad we did the short hike, similar scenes can be eyed from easier viewpoints.  Be sure and keep a sweatshirt or jacket handy during your explorations at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Weather can and will change swiftly.  Sunny, summer mornings are often frequented by formidable afternoon storms, complete with high winds and lightning.  So be sure and keep an eye on the sky for severe weather.  If you start your day early, you’ll have a better chance of seeing wildlife and do more activities prior to the storms rolling in in the afternoon….hike early and be off the trails before lightning strikes.  Happy Travels!

Snow still around in mid July

Rocky Mountain National Park

There’s a variety of ways to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.  You can enjoy an abundance of scenic drives, short strolls along a gentle trail, daylong hikes, strenuous vertical mountain climbs, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and biking.  I would caution you to be humbly honest with yourself and your physical abilities before starting out….yes, speaking from personal experience.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

All of Rocky Mountain National Park sits 7500+ feet high in elevation.  Altitude sickness is a common occurrence, even among the young and fit.  My first visit to this gorgeous park was in the late 1980’s.  Al and I were celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary with a trip to Colorado.  My parent’s eagerly watched our son, their first grandchild, allowing Al and me a much-needed break from parenting.  We were young, in good health and fit, but “flatlanders” from Illinois.

Rocky Mountain National Park – Sept.

We stayed at the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  We explored the quaint town of Estes Park, a great jumping off point.  Day two, we embarked on several scenic drives through Rocky Mountain National Park, stopping at the many scenic overlooks and took in the sights.  We had not attempted any hiking at that point, as we wanted to acclimate to the altitude.  It was the morning of day three that I started feeling a bit under the weather.  I was experiencing symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath; textbook altitude sickness, or bite your tongue, pregnancy.  Thank goodness it was altitude sickness……not without experiencing a few moments of terror  stress.  With son having just turned one, I was not ready to venture down the road of pregnancy again, just yet anyway.

The folks at the Stanley Hotel, recommended lots and lots of water with the occasional aspirin to overcome the sickness.  That worked, but I never did gain enough energy to hike.  Exploring by car and taking short strolls to witness the majestic towering peaks and deep valleys did not lessen our enjoyment.

I was overwhelmed and awed by the mountains, forests of pine trees, grassy hillsides, and rushing streams of water.  This was the perfect, most romantic place to celebrate our anniversary…..that is, once the dizziness and nausea subsided 🙂

Twenty years later, we revisit Rocky Mountain National Park. A little heavier, grayer, but more acclimated to the altitude. See age has nothing to do with it.

Chicago – continued

After our return home to Colorado, a neighbor asked me for recommendations and information on a visit to Chicago.  Her husband had an upcoming business conference in downtown Chicago and she was planning on accompanying him.

I was able to quickly compile a list for her to consider.  However, keep in mind a city as large and diverse as Chicago has immense entertainment possibilities.  Here’s a “short” list of things to consider…….

  • English: John Hancock Tower as seen from Willi...

    English: John Hancock Tower as seen from Willis Tower in Chicago, IL, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    John Hancock Building Observatory and/or the Willis Tower……  For a bird’s-eye view of the city, a visit to one of these is a must.  My favorite is the John Hancock Bldg and my dad’s is the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).  The Willis Tower boasts 110 stories and is located in Chicago’s financial/business district, just across the Chicago River from Union Station.  The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor, 1353 feet high.  The John Hancock Building Observatory offers a 360 degree view from its 94th floor.  It is located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile near the shores of Lake Michigan.  The John Hancock Observatory elevators are the fastest elevators in North America; 1,000 feet in 40 seconds. Yes it’s fast and you can expect your ears to pop.  Don’t forget to catch lunch/dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, located lower level of the John Hancock Building….yum.

    English: Buckingham Fountain in the foreground...

    English: Buckingham Fountain in the foreground with one of the Prudential Buildings at the far left and the AON Center (the tallest building) in the background. The top of the John Hancock Center is also visible (the one with two antennae at the top). I took this photo 11 Jul 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • A visit to at least one museum…….  Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium.  These are all within walking distance or a short cab ride near the heart of the city.  The Museum of Science and Industry is also popular with tourists, but I haven’t been there in years.
  • The Theater………Chicago’s theater district has grown and improved over the years and now rivals New York City’s Broadway.  Personally, I’m more drawn to comedy and the improv-based sketch comedy of Second City.  Many of NBC’s Saturday Night Live stars began at Second City.  Some alums include; Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, John and Jim Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd, just to name a few.  So you never know what rising star’s performance you’ll witness.

    Daughter at Buckingham Fountain

  • Buckingham Fountain, Millenium Park, an abundance of Gardens, Oak Street Beach, Lake Shore Drive……..On numerous occasions we’ve been known to visit the city and just hang out, especially on a nice summer day.  Walking, biking, picnicking, sunbathing, there’s a place for all.
  • Retail Therapy…..Water Tower Place is a prominent shopping destination.  It boasts seven stories of indoor shopping.  The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s largest shopping district.  It is home to retail stores, restaurants, museums, motels, and several of the tallest buildings in the United States.
  • Architecture and History…….endless possiblities.  One of my favorite buildings is the Marshall Field’s Building (Macy’s) on State Street.  Beautiful architecture and shopping all in one place, works for me!

I’ve just barely touched on all the things to do in this amazing city.  I know as soon as I post, I’ll remember something else I should have added.  Guess that’ll just give me an idea for a future post.  I’ll add one last photo from Zemanta.  When I came across this photo, I was super excited.  I took a similar photo many, many years ago and with as many moves as we have done, misplaced my copy.  Besides, I would’ve had to scan mine since it was shot with good old-fashioned film.  I’m sure this one is better anyway 🙂

Chicago north from John Hancock 2004-11 img 2618

Chicago north from John Hancock 2004-11 img 2618 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicago – day two

English: A Lake Shore Limited train backing in...

English: A Lake Shore Limited train backing into Chicago Union Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re heading back into the city this morning.  Dad drops us off at the train station since we’re running a bit behind.  We don’t want to miss the express train which will only stop 2 more times between our station and Union Station.  If we miss this train and catch the next, we’ll be stopping at EVERY stop along the route, adding almost 25 extra minutes to the commute.

We’re on a mission today.  We’re off to spend the majority of the day at the Field Museum of Natural History.  This is a great place for people of any age…..young, old, or in between.

As an elementary school child growing up in a Chicago suburb, field trips into the city were always exciting and the Field Museum was a favorite.  The Field Museum has so much to offer and see, I’ll just highlight some of our favorites.  When you first enter the Field Museum, you’re graced with the presence of Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Sue was discovered in 1990 in South Dakota and later purchased by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History in 1997 for 8.36 million dollars.  Sue is just one of many amazing dinosaurs at the Field Museum.

Son in front of ‘Sue’

Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

I’m not sure when the museum upgraded their “Evolving Planet” area, but I’m sure glad they did.  Do any of you remember the show “Friends“, when Ross and Rachel first “hooked up”?  Ross was a paleontologist and their ‘first time’ was in the museum among a caveman display.  They ended up falling asleep and awoke to a group of school children observing them.  Oh how I laughed watching this episode.  Even as a child I thought these caveman displays were lame.  Well folks, no more cavemen.  The cavemen have been replaced with the grandest dinosaur room.  My son and I spent over an hour checking out these bones, and I’m not all that interested in dinosaurs and still found it extremely engaging.  A definite must see.

Our second favorite room is the Hall of Gems.  The gorgeous, huge, and amazing gems on display make the Kardashian’s diamond rings look like trinkets.  Depending on your interests, the Field Museum will have something for you to explore.; Plants of the World, DNA Discovery, Inside Ancient Egypt, Science Labs, all kinds of birds, mammals and reptiles, just to name a few departments.  Their website has the very latest exhibits, as well as a downloadable map of this three-story Museum…click here for more info.

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illi...

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicago – day one

Willis Tower – aka Sears Tower

No trip back to Illinois would be complete without a trip into the “city”.  Fortunately my dad lives within walking distance to the train station.  We catch a morning train and join the thousands of commuters heading to work in downtown Chicago.

Once we arrive at Union Station we need to decide; do we walk, take a cab, or take the water taxi to Navy Pier?  It’s a lovely sunny morning with light breezes and in the 70’s.  Walk we shall.  After 2 days of rain, I’m loving this nice weather.  Our destination is Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue.  Instead of heading straight there, we’ll take a short detour past the Civic Center for a photo-op at the Picasso.

daughter in front of The Picasso

There are more folks running around the Picasso than I anticipated. After some patient waiting, hoping the people would somehow miraculously disappear, I relent and quickly snap some shots.  Not the kind of shots I was hoping for.  I guess this is reason enough for a return visit to photograph the Picasso, hopefully on it’s own without a crowd crawling around.  We head to Millennium Park and after meandering around, we’re off to the Art Institute.  The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit.  It brings back childhood memories of school field trips.  Since daughter took a course at College; Intro to Visual Arts, she has a new-found interest in the art community.  We spend most of our time viewing Monet.  Daughter is well versed in his works and proceeds to brief me on some background and history of Monet’s Water Lilies painting.  Um, perhaps she did learn more at college than the latest brew at New Belgium 🙂  Although I love Monet’s works, I am partial to Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  As a child, I was fascinated by a painting composed of dots.   No brush strokes here.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After almost three hours of admiring these works of art, we need to catch the train back to the burbs.  We enjoy a brisk walk back to the train station with plans to return to the city tomorrow.  The Field Museum is on tomorrows list….top priority.

Millennium Park

Boundary Waters

This trip back to the midwest conjures up memories…..some very fond memories.  Al and I have always enjoyed the outdoors.  We even had an outdoor wedding, complete with horse and carriage, but I’ll save that story for another post.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Al as he portages canoe around rapids

During the early years of our relationship Al worked as a Commerical Airline Pilot and I a Flight Attendant (yes, we met at work, go figure).  More than half our time was spent in airplanes, hotels, eating in restaurants, and living by the clock.  So when it came time to recreate, we wanted nothing to do with planes, hotels, restaurants or clocks.  Thus, we discovered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  The BWCA is located in northeastern Minnesota located within the Superior National Forest and encompasses more than 1,000,000 acres.  This wilderness area also expands into Canada and is known as Quetico Provincial Park.

one of our campsites

What is unique about the BWCA is it’s natural, untouched beauty.  The “wilderness act” restricts logging, mining, and most motorized access.  No motorized access means no boat motors, no roads for vehicles, and no float planes allowed.  Therefore access to this pristine land is restricted to hiking and canoeing.  There are over 1200 miles of canoe routes and 2000+ designated remote campsites.  Camping is restricted to these campsites and are clearly recognizable by the Forest Service fire rings.  Maps are a must.  Don’t count on a GPS. Maps will help find portages, trails, and campsites.

daughter sits on floor in front of me, then son, dog between son and Al – family affair

Every summer Al and I looked forward to our two weeks vacation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and that did not change once we had children.  The kids just went along and had a great time.  Some years we tented it and other years we would splurge and rent a cabin at one of many resorts available, especially when the children were young.  Even on those years we rented a cabin, we would still do a one or two night tent excursion into the wilderness.

Al and 4 year old son head out on a three day
camping and fishing trip into the wilderness.

son proud of his catch

After many visits at varying times of the year, we discovered the end of July, beginning of August was most enjoyable for us.  The mosquitos were the worst in June.  However, in July we did have to deal with those pesky biting deer flies….still preferable to the mosquitos.  September can be beautiful and the fishing good, but be ready for any kind of weather, after all this is northern Minnesota.

The end of July is also blueberry season.  Yummmm……blueberry pancakes become a regular staple.  Our first Brittany Spaniel, Dallas, always accompanied us on our blueberry picking mission with bells on her collar.  Ya see, black bears love blueberries, but they don’t like dogs.  Dallas camped, hiked and canoed everywhere with us.  We put bells on her collar so Al and I could keep track of her while she ran around the dense woods.  The second purpose; so she wouldn’t accidentally startle a bear or other wildlife.

daughter – last month she graduated
from CSU – my how time flies!

The two main communities with visitor services near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are Ely and Grand Marais, Minnesota.  We always went to Grand Marais and up the Gunflint Trail.  FYI….the drive from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Marais, Minnesota should be savored.  The scenery along Lake Superior is beautiful ….. lighthouses, waterfalls, cliffs and rock.  Allow plenty of time for stops along the way.  We so loved the Gunflint Trail, we returned year after year even though we had intentions of exploring the Ely area.  Somehow there was never enough time for both.

Ah, yes what fond memories.  As Al and I swap stories, a family member asks, “What’s so special about the BWCA?”  Well, there’s lot’s of things that make BWCA special, but first; the BWCA is a place visitors can canoe, portage, and camp in the spirit of the French voyageurs of 200 years ago.  It’s quiet, remote, and wild.  The lush, dense forest and crisp, clean waters are like no other place I’ve visited.  I’ll keep looking though 🙂  Oh, how that bucket list grows!

Japanese Gardens

Ah, what to do when you’re stuck in a place not of your choosing.  If it weren’t for family, I would not visit Rockford, Illinois.  So as the saying goes, when life hands ya lemons, make lemonade.  Thus goes the quest for worthwhile reasons to visit Rockford.

Although Rock Cut State Park is enjoyable, Rockford’s hidden gem is the Anderson Japanese Gardens.  For the past several years, the Japanese Garden has been a regular stop for Al and me during these family visits.  Unfortunately, time did not allow us the luxury of a visit during this particular trip.  However, last fall we did make the time.  We started with breakfast in their restaurant followed by a self-guided tour of the gardens.  And no trip would be complete without time spent in the gift shop.

The Anderson Japanese Gardens is an authentic and award-winning Japanese Garden maintained by the highest of standards.  It is a place of peace and tranquility….an environment of healing, renewal, and inspiration.  It evokes calm.  This is a place for a slow stroll through the beautiful gardens, not to be rushed.  So if I have to be in Rockford, Illinois, I’ll be sure to make time for this hidden gem.