Monday, September 5, 2016

Minnesota - #46

We spent 5 nights in Minnesota - 2 nights on Lake Superior and 3 nights in Minneapolis.  Minnesota was so much greener and so much more humid than North Dakota.

Two Harbors, Minnesota on Lake Superior

Driving all the way to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota added a lot of driving to our trip.  We could have driven 3 hours from our hotel in Bismarck to the border, took a picture, and moved onto the next state, but Lake Superior looked pretty and laid back so we went for it and drove 8 hours to the lake.  We spent two nights at Grand Superior Lodge.  It was a neat place to stay.  There were beach fires with s'mores every night, free bike and canoe rentals, lawn games, and views.

After driving all day, we spent the first evening exploring the resort and enjoying the lake views.  We ate dinner at Betty's Pies.

We got up the next day and explored the area.  We started at Goose Berry Falls State Park.  We hiked and then waded in a calm spot in the water.  There are 5 or so waterfalls in the park.  They were pretty, but they don't really compare to waterfalls in Montana.  The state park was crowded and it was hot and humid.  I'm used to my chilly and sparsely populated Montana (I think I write that every time we travel.)
Next we visited Split Rock Lighthouse State Park just up the road.
The state park offered hiking and swimming.  We didn't pack swimsuits, but that didn't stop us.  By the end of the stop, all the kids had stripped down and swam in their undies and Matt went swimming in his shorts.

The little cove we found was gorgeous.  The pebbles were smooth and warm.  The water was cool.  The view of the lighthouse and island were pretty.  We ate a picnic lunch and then I laid down in the pebbles and soaked it all in while the kids and Matt swam.
Our third stop was Palisade Head in Tettegouche State Park.  It's a huge rock formation that stands over 300 feet about the lake.
These pictures don't even come close to showing how tall this rock formation is.  It was definitely a place to hold tight to your curious children.  There was a rock climber while we were there.  He's in both of the pictures above.  It helps give a little perspective.  I really liked Palisade Head.  It was pretty and terrifying to look down. 
We spent the evening enjoying the resort.  We rode bikes, swam, played lawn games, and ate our share of s'mores.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

On our way to Minneapolis on Tuesday, we drove through Duluth.  I loved the look of Duluth.  It was a gorgeous, clear day.  The lake was sparkling.  There was good music on the radio.  The roads were smooth.  The city was surrounded by green hills.  But then we remembered what winter must be like here and we remembered we were probably there on one of the nicest days of the year.
We visited the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth.  We got in free with our science museum pass and wow, it was sad.  It flooded a few years ago and they haven't quite recovered from that.  It was a good, free way to spend a few hours, I guess.  It was hot and humid though.
We checked in early to our hotel in Minneapolis that was attached to the Water Park of America and across the street from the Mall of America.  I know this was Willa's favorite stop of the trip.  She LOVES waterparks.  I thought we'd explore downtown Minneapolis, but we didn't.  We spent our time at the waterpark, IKEA, the mall, and the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Our hotel had a little bunk bed room for the kids with its own TV.  They LOVED this room.
And the waterpark downstairs was wonderful.  As hotel guests, we got in 2 hours before the park opened.  That was the best!  We ran around both mornings we were there and rode everything and played around without lines.  It became painful after the crowds arrived to wait in line so we left when it got busy and returned again in the evening after the crowds left.
We didn't take any pictures around Minneapolis/St. Paul.  We swam, we shopped, we went to the science museum and we enjoyed the food available in a big city.  We went out for Thai and got Indian take out.  Yum-O to both meals!!  And we crossed the 46th state off of our list!!! Two more to go in the lower 48...

North Dakota - #45

We did it!! We spent our summer vacation this year visiting the last 4 states in the Lower 48 on our list.  North Dakota... Minnesota... South Dakota... and Nebraska.  I admit I had a hard time getting excited about visiting these four states.  Matt had 11 days off in a row - which never happens.  I felt like I was wasting his time off driving all over these states.  But we decided to go for it and finish our goal.  And like most family vacations, we had a great time.

First up was North Dakota.  We left Great Falls on a Saturday morning and headed 6 hours down the road to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND.  AKA The North Dakota Badlands.  Huh?  Never heard of it!  But it's a national park so it must be worth the stop.  Right?

It was!  The park was beautiful.  Matt spotted a bison right after we entered the park and then we stopped to watch prairie dogs in a prairie dog town.

As we were watching the prairie dogs, a group of wild horses came up over the hill.

And then a coyote joined the party!

We saw so much wildlife during the first 30 minutes inside the park, we could have packed up and headed home and would've been satisfied!  We moved on down the road to see what else was waiting to be discovered.  We drove the scenic loop in the South Unit and made a few stops...

 to hike,

soak up the views,

and watch bison.

 After visiting the park, we drove another 2 hours down the road and spent the night in Bismarck.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend Trifecta

Summer is finally here.  Well, almost.  Willa has 2 more weeks of school.  But the weather has started to warm up and everything is green again.  Winter in Montana is great, but summer is glorious.  We took advantage of a nice, three-day weekend and played.  Three days and three adventures...
Rafting the Dearborn River
Matt floated the Dearborn River last spring and thought it was so pretty, he wanted to share it with us this year.  You can only float the river during a short window in the spring when the water levels are high enough.

I was a little nervous to bring the kids.  The float is an all day commitment.  We put in around 9:30 am and didn't finish until after 7:30 pm.  We were slowed down a couple hours by a friend that came along in his own raft.  He stopped a lot to fish and fell behind us.  The kids were great.  I think the first hour was the hardest.  The kids settled in to the day pretty quickly and they all took naps in the afternoon.


Montana sure has grown on me.  I really didn't know if I would like living here.  I love living in a state where it is super easy to spend the day in the middle of nowhere. 

Hiking in the Bridger Mountains

We also spent part of the weekend hiking in the Bridger Mountains.  The plan was to hike to Fairy Lake near Bozeman, BUT the road was still closed for winter.  The road closure turns an easy 1.2 mile hike into an 11 mile hike.  Needless to say, we didn't even try to get to the lake... another day... when the road is open.  Willa has been an awesome hiker since she was little.  Clark finally turned a corner.  He loved the hike and lead the pack with Willa.  Oliver is still young and wanted to be carried.  I'd say he hiked half of it.  We went about 2 miles.  It is such a pretty part of Montana.

Museum of the Rockies
We spent Sunday night in a hotel in Bozeman so we could visit the Museum of the Rockies on Monday.  Willa and Clark ranked the hotel as their favorite thing of the weekend.  So silly.  The "dinosaur museum" was a close second.

A museum full of dinosaur bones found right here in Montana.  What could be cooler than that?  It's not a huge museum, but it didn't disappoint.  The bones were really cool to see.  We've been watching dinosaur documentaries on Netflix lately so it was fun for the kids (and me) to see so many bones and fossils up close.

My favorite part of the museum were the T-Rex and Triceratops skulls lined up from baby to adult.  It was really neat to see the changes that happened as they grew.

There is also a planetarium.  Matt made sure he saw all of the shows.  Oliver only lasted one and was a little scared during parts of it.  Willa and Clark watched 2 of the 3 shows.

 Such a fun weekend with three fun adventures.  Bring on summer!!