There’s something magical about winter, and with our anniversary in December we wanted to go somewhere that still felt like winter—not an escapist trip to the tropics. We finally settled on Maine as somewhere we’d never been to before that we could feasibly get to for a short trip.
I took two weekends in October for solo trips to Minnesota State Parks, first venturing to the far northern edge of the state and then going to the southwest corner. With apologies to a friend with a family tradition of state park trips in October, we’ll dub this my Parktober experience.
I’m a big fan of the fall—the changing colors, the crisp air, the lack of bugs. It’s a wonderous time to get outside and explore. I also like checking out parks I haven’t been to, trying to find something new and different. So this year I booked two separate trips to places I haven’t been before. In the process I probably tried to cram in more parks than I should have, but it’s hard to pass one up when you’re so close and might never get back there.
The summer of vacation continued in August with a trip just me and the kids to Colorado. We met my parents for a few days in Estes Park, by way of South Dakota, then came home through Kansas for a couple days.
These family trips are always quicker than you want, but there were some great moments.
We took an abbreviated family vacation this year to Madeline Island and the larger Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The islands, featured in The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich, are something I’ve wanted to visit for a while. Unfortunately, the only way to really see the islands is from the water. We finally had a chance to do that on this trip, which was truly a trip of islands.
We had some cell phone mishaps on the way that required a detour to Duluth, but we did get to stop at Pattison State Park in Wisconsin for a couple of worthy waterfalls.
This week I took a solo trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the badlands of North Dakota. I’ve been to the more famous badlands of South Dakota several times, but I’d never been to the ones in North Dakota. They have the similar look of bleak, eroded buttes, but there’s more green in North Dakota. It’s an awe-inspiring landscape that sneaks up on you after the flat dullness of the prairie.
This summer during my annual trip to Kansas to spend time with family, I took a trip of my own to Colorado. I have a hard time resisting the mountains, and this year I caved. But I took a detour on the way to out to visit two historical sites. It was a tour of tragedy.
On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse passed across the continental United States. The last solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979 (the year I was born), and the last one that went through the middle of the country was 1918.
It’s not quite a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it’s pretty close. We’ve got a string of upcoming total solar eclipses in the U.S. in 2024 and again in 2045 (and one in 2099 that will go across Minnesota, if you plan to still be around then). You can certainly travel the world to chase down eclipses, but it’s still a pretty rare event.
Monday’s total eclipse lasted a total of two minutes and thirty seconds, so it’s definitely a short-lived moment.
Last summer I read Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass and learned about the wonders of a total solar eclipse. So I planned my summer vacation with the kids around this event, knowing it would be worth the effort.
And it totally was.
This is just before totality. You can’t tell from the picture, but the light is starting to get weird:
This is during totality. The sky looks bright in the background, but it’s twilight. The kids are freaking out. Lexi: “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!” Milo: “Oh my freakin’ Thor!”