Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The Glow of Autumn in Northern Minnesota

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”.-  Albert Camus

The magical glow of autumn colors in Northern Minnesota is one of the most beautiful displays of color I have ever seen. Given the fact that we have over 12,000 lakes to choose from in the state, there are plenty of beautiful places to see Minnesota’s fall colors. One of my favorite places to go is about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area (BWWCA) that borders Canada.

The BWWCA is one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States with an area of 1.1 million acres of untouched lakes, streams and forests, and is also one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited. If you are lucky, you may see a bear, wolf or even a moose in the wild and you will always hear the melodic song of the loon, Minnesota’s state bird.

Fall is one of the best times to visit Ely as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and happiness. There is no place I’d rather be than outside hiking in the wilderness taking in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Unfortunately this fall we did not make it up north and instead opted for a visit out east to North Carolina and Virginia. Although we had a fantastic trip with gorgeous weather, we missed the peak colors this year (the leaves peaked about two weeks later than normal given our warm September). It is still beautiful here in Minneapolis yet I am sad to have missed our annual trip up north this fall. To ensure we make it back next fall, we have already reserved our accommodations. In the meantime, I will settle with remembering these lovely photos from our trip last October to Ely.

Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota

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Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota

Exploring the Beauty of Minnesota’s Grand Portage State Park 

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. John Muir

Growing up, I was surrounded by nature. Our home in the suburbs of Minneapolis was on a wooded one acre lot, and we lived only a block away from one of the largest lakes in the Twin Cities. I spent my childhood playing in the woods, riding my bike around the lake or chasing my siblings in the large grassy marshland across the street. In the fall, the biggest chore was raking the thousands of red, orange, and sunflower yellow fallen leaves off our yard and never-ending driveway. In the winter we played in the snow, building giant snow forts at the top of our driveway where all the snow piled up from the plow. I was always outside no matter what the weather, and I strongly believe that my childhood instilled my great love today for nature and being outdoors.

My husband and I have also tried to instill a passion and curiosity of nature in our children. We love to spend time as a family outdoors exploring. Lucky for us, Minnesota is home to well over 15,000 lakes and has over 70 State Parks, 25 State Trails, The Boundary Waters Canoe and Wilderness Area, and tons of regional and urban parks. Those seeking nature are not far from it, even in the city. Just outside my door is the Chain of Lakes, a collection of four urban lakes that are all connected by running, walking and bike paths. They are accessible year-round and even plowed in the winter so I can run through the coldest days of January. I’ve seen bald eagles, wild turkey, deer, egrets, great blue herons, owls, loons, migratory birds and ducks, fox, possums and muskrats all within the confines of the city. It is a pretty remarkable place however it is still a city.

When we want to escape for a weekend, we head north. There are tons of options however we prefer to go to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I have been going “up north”  (as we Minnesotans call it) with my family before I could walk and I’ve continued this tradition with my own family as well.

Over the years we have visited tons of parks along the North Shore however we had never made it as far as Grand Portage State Park on the northeast border of Minnesota. I had heard that the park is quite spectacular and is home to Minnesota’s highest waterfall. During a recent visit to the North Shore, we decided to check out the park and see for ourselves what we were missing. We were not the least bit disappointed. It was stunning.

Grand Portage State Park is located roughly 36 miles north of Grand Marais next to the U.S./Canadian border. It is a stunning drive along Highway 61 affording sweeping views of Lake Superior and the rugged coastline. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The sky was baby blue and filled with powder-puff clouds. The sun was radiant and the wind coming over Lake Superior was gentle and calm.

After we passed Grand Marais, we made a brief stop at the Susie Islands Overlook. The overlook is perched 400 feet above Lake Superior where you can see the Susie Islands, an archipelago of thirteen islands off the North Shore in Lake Superior. The closest island, Susie Island, is located about a half mile off shore.

The Susie Islands Overlook

The Susie Islands Overlook, Minnesota

The Susie Islands Overlook, Minnesota

A view of the Susie Islands

The Susie Islands Overlook, MinnesotaSusie Island was named after the daughter of the Falconer family who had lived on the island and mined copper ore in the early 1900’s. Today, Susie Island is protected under The Nature Conservancy and is home to the Francis Lee Jaques Memorial Preserve. I bet it is a beautiful place given its rugged remoteness.

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My Favorite Corner of Minnesota: The Gorgeous North Shore

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”.- John Muir

Extending for 150 miles along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior from Duluth to Canada, lies the North Shore, a place of unspoiled beauty and pristine nature. Home to a multitude of scenic waterfalls, rivers, state parks and the 310-mile long Superior Hiking Trail, the North Shore is a hikers paradise and offers a treasure trove of opportunities to explore wild, relatively untouched nature.

It is here that the water looks like a vast ocean, and at many points you can not see to the other side to the shores of Wisconsin. The waves can be just as large and loud as the sea, crashing fiercely against the shore at night lulling you to sleep. The fresh scent of pine and morning dew is always present as is the crisp unpolluted air kissing my lungs with unequivocal joy.

The rugged shoreline is the perfect place to build a bonfire at night and listen to the roar of the waves smashing against the shore or to search for agates along its pools of rocks. Sea gulls and occasionally even a pair of loons can be seen swimming along its shore or a distant iron-ore freighter off in the horizon heading out to sea. It is a place of awe and wonder that such raw beauty exists only four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is my special corner of Minnesota where I go to unplug, unwind and embrace the simplest pleasures of all: Solitude and Nature.

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Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

The Sunset Skies of Ely, Minnesota

“Go not abroad for happiness. For see! It is a flower that blossoms by thy door”. – Minot J. Savage

We just returned from a week’s summer vacation “up north” in Minnesota near the Canadian border. We began our trip in Ely, a small town that is known as one of the jumping off points for one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States, the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA). The BWCWA is one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited and its extraordinary beauty and tranquility is unequal to any place I’ve been except the far reaches of Patagonia. Its 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, and 1,500 miles of canoe routes are like no other place on earth.

It was our third visit to Ely at the tiny Northernair Lodge that sits upon Mitchell Lake. As always, our stay was a peaceful, beautiful break away from the stress of everyday life. After a day of hiking around the different wilderness trails, we would grill dinner and then watch the sunset. Every night was magical. Here are a few of my favorites.

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour”. – Walt Whitman

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

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Roses in Bloom at the Lyndale Park Rose Garden

 “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it”. – Mary Oliver

Two weeks ago I went to the beautiful Lyndale Park Rose Garden next to Lake Harriet in Minneapolis to marvel at the beautiful spring flowers. Our summer so far has been temperamental. Wet, cool, thunderous and bursts of sunshine. Coincidently, the weather seems to have matched my mood.  To tame the stirring inside my soul, I have began practicing mindfulness and the art of living in the now. To paying attention to the moment and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It has immensely helped slow down my type-A personality who prefers to be moving all the time, whether at home or on the road.

Like the Rose Garden, I am amazed at the subtle transformation that just a few weeks can bring. Two weeks ago there were no roses in bloom and today it is a brilliant burst of life and color. Similar to my soul, the change of daily meditation and mindfulness has been immense.  For that I am truly grateful.

Take a walk with me through the Rose Garden. Close your eyes for a moment and hear the song of the birds and breathe in the delicate fragrance of the roses.

“You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre – but who shall command the skylark not to sing?” – Kahil Gibran

“The real happiness of life is to enjoy the present, without any anxious dependence upon the future.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca  

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Rose Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota

A Visit to the Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Late Spring

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous”. – Aristotle

I adore the Lyndale Park Rose Garden not far from my home in Southwest Minneapolis, and try to stop there a few times throughout the spring, summer and fall to see what flowers are in bloom. I am never disappointed as it is always so beautiful and peaceful. I run, walk and bike regularly around Lake Harriet which is right next to the Rose Garden yet I rarely take the time to wander inside its lovely gardens. The Peace and Perennial Gardens are my favorites and if I am feeling like I truly need an escape from urban life, I wander behind the gardens into the Roberts Bird Sanctuary where I have seen owls, woodpeckers and even bald eagles.

Early Spring is always a wonderful time to visit as I am craving color and life after a long, cold winter in Minnesota. Unfortunately this spring was wet, cold and difficult meaning I did not venture to the Rose Garden until just this past week. I am so glad I did because the peonies were all in their final stages of color and brilliance. A select few of the roses had bloomed as well.

Rose Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rose Garden, Minneapolis, MinnesotaThe Rose Garden is the second oldest public garden in the United States and was designed in 1908 with row after row of rectangular plots that can fit over 3,000 plants in 100 different varieties. It is run and managed by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board which also maintains Minneapolis’ vast park system that traverses the city and its lakes.

“So come, and slowly we will walk through green gardens and marvel at this strange and sweet world”. – Sylvia Plath

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Ely, MN

Our Local Treasure, The Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools”. –  John Muir

As much as I have traveled to the far corners of the earth, I am constantly amazed at the beauty of my own home, Minnesota. A land of over 12,000 lakes, Minnesota is a nature lover’s paradise that is awash in forests, water, fields and plains, and rugged wilderness. Minnesota is also home to one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States, the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA). The BWCWA is one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited and its extraordinary beauty and tranquility is unequal to any place I’ve been except the far reaches of Patagonia. Its 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, and 1,500 miles of canoe routes are like no other place on earth.

When we were in Ely just two weekends ago, we noticed all the lawn signs up supporting the mining industry. Ely is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range, a group of four large mining areas of iron-ore that dot northern Minnesota near Lake Superior and the Canadian Border. Ely is known for its strong mining and timber harvesting industry (which was established as a clause in the 1964 Wilderness Act that also protects this pristine wilderness). However, it is also known for its strong tourism sector given its prime location as a launching off point into the BWCWA.

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties; Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons

The Iron Range in includes these four major iron deposits: Mesabi Range, the largest iron range, largely within Itasca and Saint Louis counties; Vermilion Range, northeast of the Mesabi, in Saint Louis and Lake counties (Ely); Gunflint Range is in the extreme northern portion of Cook County and extends into Canada; and Cuyuna Range, southwest of the Mesabi, largely within Crow Wing County. Source: Wikipedia Free Media Commons.

What I didn’t realize was the struggle and conflict between conservation and industrial development has been impacting the BWCWA for over a century and once again has come to a head on collision.

Just yesterday, I received my mail and noticed with dismay the cover of the latest Sierra Club Magazine. In the November/December issue (which is not up yet on the website, it is so new), Conor Mihell’s powerful piece Border Dispute: The Fight to Keep a Mega-Mine Away from the Boundary Waters Wilderness opened my eyes to what those signs meant and the impact for both parties, the miners and the environment if the legislation succeeds.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

If the Chilean company Antofagasta is able to renew the federal mining lease, their proposed sulfide-ore copper mine located adjacent to and draining into the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, could make America’s most popular wilderness, its most polluted, argues Mihell. 1.1 million acres of pristine wilderness could be forever changed.

After reading the piece, I realized that I too could not sit back and let this happen. I decided to write this piece to raise awareness of the issue and also use my advocacy to contact the Interior Secretary of the US Government to pledge to protect the BWCWA. (To see how you can help, click here).

Isn’t this a place worth protecting?

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My daughter gazing out at the pure blue water

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My son and our puppy

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Ely, MN

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Have Water Dog, Will Travel

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”. – Rabindranath Tagore

All of my life I have lived near water. Except for a nine month stint in Paris, I have never been more than a couple blocks away from a lake. Water is a part of who I am. The smell of fresh lake water fills me with warmth and nostalgia of a childhood growing up in Minnesota, the land of over 10,000 lakes. It also reminds me of my college years spent living near Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin and my blissful twenties living near Lake Michigan in Chicago. For the past sixteen years living in Southwest Minneapolis, I have continued to live very close to a lake and it is no coincidence given my love for the water that when we finally decided to get a family dog, he would be a true water dog.

Our seven-month old puppy, Winter, is half golden retriever half lab and gravitates towards the water every time he is near it. He first jumped into Lake Harriet when he was four months old and we haven’t been able to keep him out of it since. Summer was easy for entertaining him as long as we let him go in the water. However, when it came time to plan our first family vacation with a dog, we found that our options were a bit limited. First, we couldn’t go too far away from home because we would have to drive and our dog gets carsick. Second, we needed to find a place that would actually take dogs and would be fun for the entire family.

Fortuitously a timely article came out in the travel section of our local newspaper listing resources for finding pet-friendly resorts in Minnesota. We did a search and found the perfect place called the Northernair Lodge in Ely, about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis and near the Canadian border. Better yet, it was right on a lake! We tried it out this past July and had such an amazing time that we decided to go again for the fall colors. We went this past weekend at the peak of fall colors, and Winter was in puppy paradise.

Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Winter swimming in the pool of water

Our mornings were spent leisurely at the beach where Winter dug in the sand and retrieved sticks in the lake. He also enjoyed watching the ducks in the distance. Our afternoons were spent hiking on nearby trails and our evenings were spent once again at the lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

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Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Superior National Forest: Hike to Bass and Dry Lake

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other….again, and again, and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.” – unknown 

There is something truly magical about taking a hike in the heart of fall. The light is so intense, the colors are so brilliant and the air is so pure and fresh, that your lungs are filled with an amazing feeling of abundance and joy. In my opinion, fall is the best time of year to hike and unfortunately the season does not last very long in northern Minnesota. Only a mere two months if lucky.

There are several magnificent places to hike near the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe area in Ely, Minnesota, and one of my favorites by far is along the Superior National Forest trail to Bass and Dry Lake. We discovered this little treasure last summer when we went to Ely for vacation and instantly fell in love with its magical pristine blue lakes, dramatic views, waterfalls and forests.

We rose to a glorious fall day at our cabin on Mitchell Lake outside of Ely. There was not a cloud in the sky and the lake was so smooth it looked like glass. We knew it would be a fabulous day for our hike to Bass and Dry Lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Morning on the stunning Mitchell Lake at the Northernair Lodge

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The leaves were magnificent

We spent the morning taking a kayak ride over to the beaver dam at the edge of the lake. What I love so much about staying at the Northernair Lodge is that it is the only resort on the entire lake and the cabins are small, secluded and tucked away inside the woods. The shoreline of Lake Mitchell is pristine and much of the forest around the lake is protected and undeveloped. It is also only a five minute drive into nearby Ely where there are shops, restaurants and canoe outfitters.

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Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Nostalgic for Fall

The colors have come alive with magic this weekend in Northern Minnesota reminding me of all the fall weekend trips I did as a child up north. It was a family tradition that was so special that I’ve continued it with my own children.

This weekend we drove about five hours north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area. The pristine air, lakes and forests is breathtaking and reminds me so much of my youth growing up in Minnesota.

Fall is the time of year I feel so alive with energy as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and nostalgia.

Here are a few photos from our weekend up north. Many more will come soon. It is way too beautiful here not to share.


“Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower” -Albert Camus

My daughter and I went paddling to the beaver dam at the end of the lake. It was so incredibly serene. All we heard was the sound of the birds. 




And the sunsets were mesmerizing. 



This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic.

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Nature’s mirrors of reflection

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another”  – Mahatma Gandi

This past June, we took a family trip up north to Ely, Minnesota one of the main launching off points to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA). This expansive wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota covers 1,090,000-acres (4,400 km2) of the pristine Superior National Forest and is filled with lakes, streams, waterfalls, forests and wildlife. Its preservation as a primitive wilderness began over one hundred years ago, and its protection was solidified in the signing of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978. Today, the wilderness area is managed by the US Forest Service.

The BWCA is a magical place where you often feel as if you are stepping back in time to an easier, more peaceful way of life. You are awoken each morning to the melodic cry of the loon or lulled to sleep at night by the chirping of the crickets or croaking of the bull frogs. You can easily spot deer and sometimes fawn and if you are lucky you may even see a distant mouse, wolf or a bear. It is a truly remarkable place that has given us so many gifts and with the passing of the US National Parks 100th birthday I was reminded how blessed we are to have such an amazing network of protected parks (both national and state), forests and wilderness areas around the nation.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Sunrise

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Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

A Summer of Minnesota Sunsets

There is something about summer that is truly fun. It is a time of year that I always feel once again like I am sixteen. The warm summer skies and sun make me come alive with energy and a sense of utter freedom that I only feel this time of year. Perhaps it is because after months of being trapped indoors, I can finally be outside for hours and hours every day. Or else it is the warm humid air or the feeling of the silky cool lake upon my skin that bring me back to my amazingly fun days of youth. The smell of lake water a constant reminder of my childhood growing up surrounded by lakes. The fragrance of roses, watermelon, sunscreen and an evening fire.

Summer is the one time I allow myself to truly let go, to dive in and embrace life. To not be stuck inside on my computer but to be outside running, biking, walking, swimming and reading under a big shade tree. To drive with the windows down letting my long hair blow wild, singing to the radio at the top of my lungs.

This summer I took on a new adventure and tried my best to head down to the lake every night and catch the sunset. As long as there were some clouds to add color and it wasn’t raining, I either jumped on my bike or took the dog down to the lake to capture the stunning views of summer’s ultimate gift: Her extraordinary sunsets. For me, this has been a summer of sunsets and here are some of my absolute favorites from my lovely neighborhood lake.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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