Category Archives: Vacation

The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Last week my wife and I went on vacation to San Francisco. We were there to catch a U2 concert, which was amazing. We also took in lots of other sights. But my favorite—no big surprise—was Muir Woods.

It’s an incredible place filled with 500-year old trees that tower more than 350 feet above the quiet forest floor.

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Colorado Vacation

Rocky Mountain National Park West GateEarlier this summer we took a much-needed vacation. It’s hard to believe it was this summer… seems like so long ago.

But it was so good. We met my parents in Nebraska and dropped the kids off with them for a week of grandparent bliss in Kansas. We went on to Colorado.

Kevin & Abby with the RMNP SignAbby and I spent about four days in Rocky Mountain National Park. Growing up my family made it to Grand Lake, Colo., and Rocky Mountain National Park every summer. In 2002 Abby and I took a vacation to Colorado and loved it.

So it was glorious to go back.

We spent our days doing, well, nothing. We read lots of books. I went on a few mountain runs. We grilled out and watched Buffy and checked out the wildlife. There was lots of sitting.

Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years before we do it again.

National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Hendricks Boys 1986 (Rocky Mountain National Park Style)Last week I picked up the National Parks documentary by Ken Burns from the library. I heard about it when it was first on PBS, but who has time to sit down and watch 12 hours worth of documentary on PBS? I’ve been watching it for the past week and falling in love (again) with America’s best idea, the National Park Service.

It’s amazing what it took to create the National Parks. It started in the 1860s with the preservation of Yosemite and officially began in 1872 with the world’s first national park, Yellowstone. The idea of preserving something for the people was a uniquely American idea. But that doesn’t mean it came easily. People fought against the National Parks, not just in the 1800s, but even recently.

And once we had the parks, we had to fight even harder to save them. The idea that the animals should run free and wild wasn’t a natural conclusion. It was something people had to fight for.

After watching the entire documentary and learning about the history of the parks, I learned a few things.

First, practically every park was saved because somebody stood up and demanded action. They rallied the troops and wrote letters and raised money and did the hard work that had to be done to save a section of land from developers. It’s hard to find a park that was saved without a fight, without somebody wanting to develop the land and somebody else wanting to save it for our children and our children’s children. We owe much of our national heritage to these kinds of heroes. And not just national parks. If there’s a state park or beautiful city park in your area, somebody had to fight for that. Be thankful.

Kevin & Abby with the RMNP SignSecond, we stand on the shoulders of giants in terms of accumulated knowledge. I kept finding myself dumbstruck by the people fighting against the parks and the silly things people would do in the parks, from exterminating predators in Yellowstone to grazing sheep in Yosemite. There was no understanding of the value of nature or the way an ecosystem works or that feeding a bear isn’t good for the bear. These are simple ideas that seem like common sense to me. But I realized that’s because I was raised and taught those ideas. Nobody had those ideas 50 years ago and it seemed like a good idea to throw out food so the tourists could watch the bears. Rather than be frustrated with our ancestors who didn’t know anything, I’m grateful for my inheritance of accumulated knowledge and wisdom.

Third, I want to go back to the National Parks. Growing up we spent nearly a decade doing the traditional summer vacation and hitting up the National Parks of the American West. We hit Rocky Mountain National Park nearly every year, but each year we’d go somewhere else different and I’ve racked up quite a hit list: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley (which isn’t actually a National Park, but a Navajo Tribal Park), Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelley, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, Whitesands and probably more (and OK, some of those are National Monuments or whatever other designation they have, but they’re still in the National Park system).

In 2003 Abby and I went back to Rocky Mountain National Park and it was the greatest camping experience of my life (and campfires weren’t allowed thanks to a wild fire raging nearby). I want to take my kids to the National Parks, just like my parents took me, and my grandparents took my parents.

Discovering Mankato

This past weekend Abby and I left the kids with the grandparents and went to Mankato, Minn., for a weekend away. We also took part in the inaugural Mankato River Ramble bike ride. It was a great bike ride with gorgeous fall colors and actually got me to explore Mankato for the first time. I’ve never been to Mankato before (except for maybe driving through on the way to somewhere else), but I was floored by the beautiful river views and waterfalls. I love discovering gems like this so close to home.

Growing up as a kid vacations were mostly lengthy affairs that involved loading up the family minivan and driving across the country. We’d see incredible sights but it also took an incredible effort. While I loved those vacations, it’s also left me with the idea that I have to go across the country to see amazing sights. I never quite realize what’s in my own backyard, which is something I’ve been discovering about the Twin Cities and Minnesota since I first moved here more than a decade ago.

Mankato was no exception. We came across not one but two incredible waterfalls (OK, water trickles—it’s been dry lately) and according to the map there are a few more in the area. At times it felt very much like Kansas, with flatness stretching as far as you could see. Our hotel seemed to be on the very edge of city as developments gave way to corn fields. Pickup trucks also ruled the road. But then there were rolling hills and curving rivers—yes rivers, with the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers, as well as a number of tributaries.

On Saturday morning we took a drive along a river bottom road with signs warning about flooding, falling rock and minimal maintenance. It was beautiful. And empty. We came upon the Minnemishinona Falls and found the place deserted. Didn’t see a soul the entire time we wandered around the footbridge and among the rocks. Later in the day we explored downtown, which didn’t exactly sport a shopping district as advertised, but did have a few unique shops (Mary Lue’s Yarn and Ewe and the Sticks and Stones boutique earned a thumbs up from Abby). We also wandered around Mankato State University just for kicks.

Minneopa FallsOn Sunday we biked through Minneopa State Park along with the other 1,500 Mankato River Ramble riders and took in the Minneopa Falls. Another trickle, but incredible just the same.

We drove home Sunday afternoon (with a stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store) and I couldn’t help but feeling like we’d only scratched the surface of Mankato. There were paths we didn’t follow, restaurants we didn’t get to try and one strange glassed-in door of an old house we never did figure out.

Speaking of old, Mankato also has the history as well. It has the dubious distinction of being the site of largest mass execution in U.S. history when 38 Dakota were hanged for their part in the Dakota uprising of 1862 (303 were sentenced to death but President Abraham Lincoln pardoned 265). This little historical rabbit trail brings up a number of interesting details, including the story of Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple who argued for leniency, an unpopular stand (to say the least) among settlers who were being slaughtered and wanted justice.

I imagine we’ll come back to ramble around Mankato another time.

 

Camping Again

Memorial Day CampingMemorial Day Camping

Over Memorial Day weekend we went camping. The last time Abby and I went camping was nine years ago. Kids and dogs will do that to you.

A group from our church goes camping together every Memorial Day weekend, so it was a great way to get back into it and introduce the kids to the experience of camping (and introduce us to the experience of camping with kids). Not only did we have friends to distract the children but we were only an hour away from home if anything (weather, bugs, children…) made the trip unbearable enough to pack it in.

We planned on staying Saturday through Monday but left on Sunday night, more to preserve sanity than from actually losing it. Milo didn’t go to sleep until 11 on Saturday night and was up by 5, so he was running on fumes. We opted to end on a high note.

The weekend was a blast. We didn’t do much of anything, but we had fun doing it. With everything that’s been going on we needed a vacation. Which is a bit sad, because we can’t do something like that without thinking about what could have been.

We were also able to introduce Lexi and Milo to smores. Milo loved them. Lexi just wanted to eat uncooked marshmallows. Throwing stuff into the river was a prime attraction. Milo enjoyed trying to jump over tent stakes. Lexi loved playing with the big boys (there were half a dozen teenage guys on the trip; the closest in age to Lexi was 10). Lexi was mad on the way home because she wanted to go camping for four days, not two. Back at home on Sunday night when we put Milo to bed he asked if he could sleep in a tent again.

Lexi also declared that rule #3 of camping is you get up really early so you can sing and dance in the sun: ‘La la la!’

I guess we’ll have to go camping again to hear the first two rules.

California New Year

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to California to cover the Foursquare NextGen Summit ’07.

I got out to Anaheim about 12 hours late thanks to the vomit-thing the rest of my family succumbed to. Thankfully my bout with it was the shortest and about 15 hours after I stopped throwing up I was able to jump on a plane. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but a job’s a job and it all worked out in the end. (Plus my new flight meant running into Josh and Steph at the airport–well, I didn’t actually run into them, more like caught up with them in security since they were slowed by dog and child and I skipped ahead in line thanks to flying first class–another bonus to buying a ticket hours before you go when all the coach seats are soldout.)

Continue reading California New Year

Christmas 2007

Yesterday we returned to a snowy St. Paul and finished up Christmas 2007. We had three Christmases and one birthday party in three days. Whew. I also managed to take 381 photos, which I’m slowly trying to get online.

Maybe it’s the multiple Christmases (you can add a fourth Christmas when you include the one we had with my family in Thanksgiving), or the traveling and not being at my own house, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m an adult now, but Christmas never quite seems as magical as it did when I was a kid.

Thankful to be Home

Hendricks Family Take 5700 miles, 12 hours, 4 podcasts, 2 half-listened-to audio books, a lot of U2 and one puking incident. It’s been a long day, but we’re finally back in the Twin Cities after three days in Kansas (and two on the road). Lexi did great, except for the whole not sleeping well Saturday night and throwing up on the ride home. But what parent hasn’t had to clean vomit out of a car seat? I remember throwing up myself in a car seat in our old Ford pickup and my dad having to clean it up. What goes around comes around, so to speak.

It’s no secret that I love going to Kansas, and this trip was no different. We were able to spend a lot of time with family. My immediate family–my parents, my brother and his wife and daughter and my wife and daughter–were all together for the first time since my niece, Charlotte, was born. The girls had a blast together and when Lexi woke up on Friday and my brother and company had taken off, the first thing Lexi said was “Charlotte?” It took a few hours to convince her that Charlotte and Uncle Rick and Aunt Limor had gone home. And then to convince her that they had gone to their own house, and not our house.

Continue reading Thankful to be Home

No Place Like Kansas

After a delayed flight, Lexi and I returned from our daddy-daughter weekend in Kansas the other night. She slept most of the flight down and mostly entertained herself on the flight back (to the point that I could sit next to her and read a book without constant interruptions), so my worst fears weren’t realized.

Though sitting in the airport before we left was interesting. She insisted on pushing her stroller around the waiting area. Then a guy wanted to sit down and moved her teddy bear, Pinky. Lexi took interest and noticed the guy’s bag of chips. She asked for one, the guy looked to me to make sure it was OK, and then pointed the bag to Lexi. Sucker.

She ended up eating the rest of the bag (after one melt down when I dragged her away to change her diaper and another near melt down when I was going to insist she eat fruit snacks but the chip guy couldn’t handle the melt down and insisted I let her have the chips. I gave in, mainly wanting to keep Lexi in a happy mood for the flight, but also for the sake of the chip guy who wouldn’t understand that I was trying to teach Lexi that she can’t always have what she wants and that you shouldn’t eat an entire bag of a strangers’ chips. And more importantly, the chip guy wasn’t prepared to put up with her melt down in order to teach her those concepts. That’s my job, which I prefer not to inflict on strangers if I don’t have to.

Continue reading No Place Like Kansas