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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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Ely: The Start of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

“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

About five hours north of Minneapolis and 14 miles short of the Canadian border lies Ely, Minnesota, population 3,460. Despite being near the notoriously named Embarrass, Minnesota which often wins the award as the coldest place in the US during winter, Ely is a magical place. Laying on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Superior National forest, Ely is one of a handful of launching off points into the some of America’s great outdoors.

Named by National Geographic as one of the 50 places to see in a lifetime, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is blessed with some of the most pure and raw nature you will ever see. Stretching over one million acres of pristine wilderness and graced with over 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, the BWCAW offers over 1,500 miles of canoe routes where you will likely not see a soul except the lone moose, wolf or black bear. The BWCAW has been a rite of passage for many adventurous souls who search for both challenge and peace as they set off portaging through the various pristine lakes and natural beauty of this amazing place.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Sunrise

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Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon: Hike to Hutch’s Pools

Tucked within the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona lies Sabino Canyon, one of Tucson’s most popular parks for exploring the spectacular desert landscape and wildlife of Southern Arizona. Ever since my parents moved to Tucson in the mid-90s, it has been like a second home to me and Sabino Canyon has been my playground. Less than a five minute drive from my parents’ home, Sabino Canyon affords an endless supply of hikes and walks within some of Arizona’s finest scenery.

Over the past twenty years, I have done almost every hike within the canyon countless times with my favorite being the hike to Seven Falls and the Phone Line Trail. This time, I wanted to try something new. My dad remembered that there was a special hike beyond Sabino Canyon into the pristine nature leading out of the park. It is known as the hike to Hutch’s Pools.

There are two ways to get to the trailhead. You can either walk the 3.8 miles one way on the paved road into the canyon or you can take the Sabino Canyon shuttle bus. The hike to Hutch’s Pools is an additional 4 miles behind the end of Sabino Canyon thus 8 miles round trip. Therefore, unless you want a 16 mile,eight hour hike, it is best to purchase a roundtrip ticket on the shuttle and ride it to the start of the trailhead and back to the entrance at the end.

We took the shuttle to the end and got off at stop nine where we started our hike. It was a beautiful day as common in Arizona (it is sunny on average 300 days a year), and we had a picnic lunch packed and plenty of water for our hike.

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

It was the perfect day for hiking to Hutch’s Pools as the temperatures were in the low 70s. If it was any hotter, this would not be a good hike since there is very little shade (unlike the Phone Line Trail). A nice gentle spring breeze kissed our skin and cooled us down. Spring flowers were bringing color into the desert landscape and yellow-brown high desert plains. It was serenely beautiful.

We were on a three-generational hike: My father, my eleven-year-old son Max and me. I had grown up hiking with my dad and am blessed to be passing my love of hiking on to my children. Even a broken arm didn’t stop Max from hiking every day while we were in Arizona.

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

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Mount Rushmore

The Great American Road Trip: Mount Rushmore

A road trip to South Dakota is the real deal and nothing can be more honored or treasured than a visit to Mount Rushmore, an iconic symbol of American freedom and democracy. Inspired and built during the age of the automobile, Mount Rushmore was the brainchild of two men, Doane Robinson, the visionary and Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor.

Robinson had fallen in love with the beautiful grassy plains, rolling hills and epic beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota. He was also passionate about South Dakota’s history and eventually left his law practice to work as the state historian. Wanting to draw more tourists to South Dakota, Robinson came up with the idea of creating a major tourist attraction in the heart of the Black Hills that would draw people from all over the United States to come visit. What seemed like a far-fetched fantasy soon became a reality when Robinson met  renown sculptor Gutzon Borglum who had studied in Europe and was a true genius.

Partnering with Borglum, work on Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and lasted 14 years until Borglum’s death. A team of over 400 workers under the watchful eye and direction of Borglum helped carve the 60-feet high faces of four of America’s most beloved presidents, our founding fathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore

First glimpse of Mount Rushmore

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Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

Reflections on the meaning of Memorial Day

For me, the long weekend for Memorial Day will always symbolize the onset of summer. It is a time when everyone packs up their cars and heads to the cabin “up north” or visits one of Minnesota’s numerous state parks or lakes. It represents freedom in more ways than one. The freedom of summer and of course the freedom that we are so lucky to have living in this country. A freedom that so many brave souls have fought for and died for.

My grandfather, father and two uncles were both in the US Navy. For my dad, it was a life-changing experience. At the tender age of 19, he set sail and saw the world. He told me that he will never forget the time the ship pulled into a harbor in Italy. It was the early ’60s and his young eyes had never left the United States before. He noticed that there was a large mob of Italians waiting for the ship to pull into port. Was it a welcome? he thought surprised.

Slowly the ship moored and once it was fully secure, the desperately awaiting crowd did something that stunned my dad. They ate. What on earth are they doing? my father asked an older, more experienced shipmate. Eating dinner he replied with a deep, shameful look in his eyes. The locals were so hungry that they feasted off the ships garbage for their meal. It was that moment in which my dad realized how truly fortunate he was, and moment that would be passed on to his children over the years.

His three year service in the Navy began a life long passion of travel and seeing the world. A passion that passed on to me and has never left my soul.

Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

A holiday weekend away from home, along the North Shore of Lake Superior got me thinking. What does Memorial Day truly mean? And what does it mean to me?

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Torrey Pines Reserve San Diego CA

An afternoon at Torrey Pines

One of the highlights of our family trip to San Diego was our visit to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Located along the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean between La Jolla and Del Mar lies a treasure: The 2,000- acre Torrey Pines Reserve, one of the wildest stretches of land along the Southern California coast. Named after the nation’s rare pine tree, the Pinus torreyana, this beautiful wilderness area offers several hikes affording spectacular panoramic views of the aquamarine ocean and craggy cliffs leading down to a vast, unspoiled beach. It is also home to several kinds of birds and waterfowl as well as magnificent, colorful wildflowers in the spring.

We headed to the park just as the midday sun was lowering, opting to drive our car up Torrey Pines Park Road to the Visitor Center on top and park there. You can also park your car at the bottom of the reserve near the South Beach entrance and walk up the road to the top of the bluffs- a distance of a little over a mile – but with children it was easier to park on top.

Torrey Pines Reserve San Diego CA

Driving up the paved road to the top of the Coastal Bluffs at Torrey Pines Reserve.

There is a nice visitor center with trail maps near the parking area on top, and on the weekends and holidays the reserve offers guided nature walks as well. Torrey Pines has over 8 miles of trails with many options depending on how far you want to go. You can hike the short half mile Razor Point trail to a gorgeous overlook of a gorge, badlands and wildflowers, or do what we did, simply find your way down to the beach.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve San Diego CA

View from atop the high, coastal bluffs.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve San Diego CA

The Torrey Pine is one of the rarest native pines in the United States.

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Torrey Pines State Reserve CA

Top Five Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

This year for our kid’s spring break, we decided to do something a little different. Instead of spending our entire vacation in Tucson with my parents, we split our vacation in half and spent four days in San Diego and the remainder of the week in Tucson. We had never been to San Diego before and had heard it was a great place to visit with kids. We booked our ticket to fly from Minneapolis to San Diego and return from Tucson, Arizona. Given the high price of airline tickets, it really wasn’t that much different and would save us driving time.

I had high expectations for San Diego and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. It is a fabulous city with tons to do, beautiful weather, excellent outdoor dining and enough sunshine and ocean air to make anyone smile, even a grumpy kid. What I loved so much about San Diego is its ease for pleasing everyone and its endless amount of things to do outside. By carefully planning a trip that involved a little bit for everyone, we all had a fabulous, memorable time.

When traveling with kids, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything that is kid-focussed and kid-friendly. But after you read this post, you will see that you can easily find enough fun for all ages making San Diego the perfect place for a family vacation.

Here is my top five list of what to do in San Diego with Kids:

An evening in La Jolla

La Jolla is magical, simply serene in its beauty and tranquility. And, what can be better than seeing all the mama and baby seals in the wild? The kids loved this place as did I. We meandered along the boardwalk taking in the gorgeous views, watched the seals and their pups and then finished with a spectacular Italian meal on an outside patio near the beach. In my book, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.

A day exploring the San Diego Zoo

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The One and Only Magic Kingdom

There is no one place on earth more magical in the eyes of a child than Disney’s Magical Kingdom. Awash in a fantasy land of every princess, prince and famous Disney character and ride awaits a place that proudly earns the phrase “Where all your dreams come true”.

As an avid normally off the beaten path kind of traveler, Disney World is not exactly on the list. It is very crowded, very expensive and over the top. Yet, as we are passing through Orlando on our way South for a family cruise it was now or never.

I will be honest in admitting that I still remember my favorite rides from over 30 years ago when we drove all the way from Minnesota in our station wagon to Florida. So yes it must be true that in the eyes of a child Disney is pure, simple magic and one of a kind.

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This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: One. To see more entries click here.

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Tucson Arizona Sunset Cactus

The Power of Being Positive

The last two weeks have been extremely difficult. I found myself last Monday on an unexpected trip to address some very personal family matters. Throughout it all- the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs – I remembered one eternal thing: The power of being positive and how being positive impacts your life. How you view what comes your way can make or break you.

No matter how hard life slams you down against the ground, you’ve got to fight back. Life is all a matter of how you deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. Of course it is excruciatingly hard to remain positive when everything turns dark but I’ve learned throughout my forty plus years on this earth that you must. The power of being positive is the only power you’ve got against uncertainty and things you cannot change.

The most important thing I’ve tried to hold onto with all my might is the realization that no matter what —-you must never ever give up. The power of being positive will get you through anything and everything. No matter how hard life beats you up and knocks you numb to the ground. You’ve got to believe.

Arizona Sunset

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.” – Susan Taylor

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Summer memories at a lake in Minnesota

Sometimes even a global traveler like me needs to take time off and enjoy the simple yet beautiful things close to home.

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Minnesota is a beautiful place that has over 10,000 lakes many of them untouched. You can find any kind of lake your heart desires from the urban lakes of the cities, to the many resort lakes lined with cabins and finally to the remote, untouched lakes within the Boundary Waters.

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For four years, we have been coming to lovely Roy Lake in Nisswa, Minnesota and staying at a little red cabin as part of the Grand View Lodge. It is our week as a family to unwind, create memories, and enjoy the lakes, nature and sunsets. It is a tradition that we all look forward to each Fourth of July week.

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A time meant to unwind and forget about life for awhile. A time to relax, refresh and smile.

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And also a time to enjoy the small pleasures of life in Minnesota. A place like nowhere else.

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A time to find beauty and love in the world. And leave all your worries at home.

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Off fishing….. Back soon.

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Tour de Vanoise, France.

In honor of my wanderlust Dad

Annapurna Trek

Hiking the Annapurna Trek, Nepal. 2010.

You taught me to bike, to run, ski and hike

You taught me to dream and to seek the unseen

You taught me to care, to wonder and dare

You taught me to love, to fight but not shove

You taught me to inspire and fulfill my desires

But best of all, you taught me to be me and live life happily.

Here’s to you, Dad!

Tour de Vanoise, France.

Hiking the Tour de Vanoise, France. 2012

Taos, New Mexico

Skiing in Taos New Mexico. 2012

I look back at the last ten years and all the places we’ve been together…Argentina, Australia, Peru, China, Iceland, France, Nepal, India, Ireland, Italy and South Africa. I am forever changed and grateful.

Happy Father’s Day Dad, with Love! Looking forward to our next big hike!  

Related posts: Around the world and back with Dad

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Mothers around the world

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d post some photos of the mother’s around the world I’ve seen. The more I travel and learn about mother’s in other countries through my advocacy work, the more and more I realize that we are all the same. We are all mothers whose number one priority in life is our children. Nurturing, loving, holding, and caring for our babies from the first time we birth them to the time they leave us to start a family of their own. Motherhood is a beautiful thing that transcends boundaries and our differences and instead brings us together.

The mothers I met and saw in Guatemala…

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