Monday, August 27, 2007

First Family Camping Trip

My hubby and I had bought a tent at Venture's going-out-of-business sale over a decade ago, vowing to some day "rough it" in the "wilderness" with our children when they were older. We both enjoyed tent camping while growing up, but trying to find a happy medium of where to actually pound our pegs looked dubious. That is, until we visited Hok-Si-La in Lake City, MN.

"I like what I see!" said my hubby. I agreed. "Really? Do you really think this is doable for you? We can get you an air mattress, and a warmer sleeping bag. You really like this?" This doubt comes from a decade of declines partly due to my chronic (myofascial) pain, allergies, and fibromyalgia (all well managed, now), but more because of over-crowded, noisy campsites we had looked at in the past. In my opinion, when you're trying to get away to relax and unwind, you need more nature and less civilization.

A week later, we were back at this beautiful park. The time had come! It was to be the first tent camping experience for our family of five, and we were all excited! Fido came along with us and was on cloud nine--he'd never gone anywhere with us, except to the vet's--oh, and to puppy lessons (to train the kids more than the dog, mind you!).

We had a beautiful view overlooking Lake Pepin (aka the Mississippi River). Gulls, bald eagles, and fishing herons entertained us while we ate at our campsite. There were lots of frogs, too, and fish were active and visible, as you can see in the top left photo.

The weather was warm, and even hot, in spite of it being overcast the first two days. The predicted thunderstorms were nothing more than a few distant rumbles accompanied by a light shower that lasted maybe an hour. The third day was absolutely gorgeous, and none of us wanted to leave. We can't wait to go back! --LKR

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Territorial Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

We have four ruby-throated hummingbirds fighting over food and territory in our yard, this year. I don't know why they do this, as we go out of our way for them so they won't. We have a bunch of large hummer and butterfly friendly gardens for them to choose from, as well as four hanging baskets full of tempting petunias. Two neighbors also have feeders up, and this August we added a second feeder on the other side of the house. Still, they fight in the gardens, at the baskets, and around the feeders. But we still love them, and their antics! They will surely--and sorely!--be missed when they head south for the winter. --LKR

Sunday, August 19, 2007

He's the Fairest of Them All

We just got back from a few fun-filled days of camping in MN. Being continually surrounded by nature without interruptions from the phone and computer--or being enslaved by the clock!--is really so liberating! I'm always so much more focused on the Lord Jesus when out observing all His glorious creations, which is why I believe I prefer being outdoors.

He is also the
best Artist, and I really love being alone with Him to delight in the works of His hands. Take a close-up look at a flower, an insect, or anything else that He has made, and you'll see what I mean. I love macro photography as well as viewing things under a microscope for this very reason. It's all so totally cool to see such tiny detail in things you'd never expect, going beyond what the human eye can naturally see or what the human mind can fathom.

The hymn below is a favorite of mine from childhood that gives total expression to how I feel when surrounded by His creations.

Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be Thine.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Red Wing, MN

We had a lovely lunch at the Smokey Row Cafe in Red Wing, which is north of Lake City where we were vacationing. Their River City Days was in full swing, but we decided to tour the town, instead. My hubby, of course, had to stop at their Caribou Coffee, and I, of course, had to get out of the van to take a few pics of the building, a former train station.

This town, which stretches along the Mississippi River, has a Menard's, Walmart, and Target. I'm sure there's more, but that's what I remember seeing. Having lived near big cities my whole life, it's seemed strange not having larger stores in several near-by towns out here in much of WI and MN.

One evening, we ate dinner at Applebees which had a cool steamboat shoe in front of it. In fact, there were lots of decorated shoes sprinkled around town, just like Chicago's bears and Eau Claire's hands. It's very fitting since Red Wing is famous for the shoes made there.

We later found out that as of February, 2005, Red Wing is also home to the largest leather boot, built by the Red Wing Shoe Company. According to the Guinness World Records, it stands at 16 ft, is 20 ft long, 7 ft wide, and weighs 2,300 lbs!!!

Was that made for Paul Bunyan??? --LKR

National Eagle Center

Want to see eagles up close and personal? Then come visit the new National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN! Meet Harriet, Angel, and Columbia, three educational eagles that reside in this large structure. All three of these residents can be seen clearly, as they are not in cages.

While the National Eagle Center's grand opening isn't until September 29th and 30th, you can still see many things there, now.

Sit in on a classroom session and learn interesting facts about the golden as well as the bald eagle. While we were there, we got to watch Harriet munch on lunch as we asked questions after their informative talk.

Did you know:
* A bald eagle's egg is white, while a golden eagle's is speckled brown.
* Bald eagles are opportunists. A dead rabbit, snake, or even deer(!), is welcomed fast food to them.
* Eagles will protect their prey. If you see an eagle in the road with roadkill, slow down, stop, or swerve if it's safe to do so. These birds will not leave their food, and many have been killed or injured because of this.
* Lead, the size of a pinhead, can and will kill an eagle in a matter of days. Fishermen and hunters, please take note!

At the center, you can also learn about other endangered or protected animals and what you can do to help save them from extinction. Triumphantly, the American bald eagle has officially been taken off the endangered species list as of June 2007, and with concerned citizen's efforts, other species may, too!

There are indoor and outdoor observation areas for viewing eagles. Come between November and March and witness hundreds of overwintering eagles flying, fishing, or perching above the icy waters. The waters don't freeze over, here, due to the Chippewa River's convergence slightly north on the Mississippi River. These majestic raptors are truly awesome!

The National Eagle Center is now located on Pembroke Ave. Follow it down to the river and you'll see it on the left hand side. Visit their website for more info at:

Other interesting and informative sites on eagles:
Hope Rutledge's beautiful site:
Journey North:


Wabasha, MN

In southeastern, MN, right along the Mississippi River is the oldest community in the state. Historic Wabasha, which was established in 1830, is a quaint little town that is part of the Great River Road Bluffs Region.

Wabasha is famous for being home to the movie, Grumpy Old Men, as well as it's sequel, Grumpier Old Men, in the 1990's. It is also home to the new National Eagle Center, the perfect site since hundreds of eagles overwinter here from November to March.

Recently while visiting this town, we stopped for lunch at the Flour Mill Pizzeria, and ended up next door at the Chocolate Escape which ironically was the old home for the Eagle Center we had come to see!

We are hoping to come back this way in the fall to view the tree-lined bluffs cloaked in their fall colors, as well as to see a larger gathering of eagles. --LKR

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yellow Water Lilies

These yellow water lilies along the Mississippi River between MN and WI were so beautiful, I wanted to find someplace to stop to get a better shot. (It didn't happen... .) They brought back a flood of memories of canoeing through white lilies on Saranac Lake (upstate NY) on the way to Middle before reaching the locks. --LKR

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jake the Snake

This particular post is not for the squeamish. It features photos of a feasting snake, and may be upsetting to some folks.

Jake is my son's little Fox (aka Pine) snake. A friend from a local church had found two Garter as well as two Fox snakes in a fence post hole, and rescued them. They were newly hatched and, oh, so adorable! He was giving them away to anyone who wanted one, and releasing any unclaimed. I did my best to sway my hubby in favor of this sort of pet. He gave in to the majority, and we happily brought him to his new home!

Jake is now about a year old, and has grown a lot. He has shed his skin several times, and has nearly quadrupled in size. He now eats up to five pinkies (baby mice) weekly. I've bought Jake fuzzies, but have yet to feed him these larger frozen (but well thawed when offered) mice. My sister and I agree: We love snakes, but just don't like what they eat. We've had mice as pets, and have both rescued and fed baby mice milk with eyedroppers.

Up here in the Land of Curds and Whey (aka Wisconsin), Fox snakes are abundant. In some states, they are considered threatened which is largely due to habitat loss. Their homes are farmland, prairies and wooded areas.

Unfortunately, snakes are still feared and largely misunderstood.
Most snakes of the world are non-venomous and are actually valuable creatures that keep the rodent population under control. While I worked at Beaver Creek Reserve, a beautiful specimen was brought in during our staff meeting by two police officers. A concerned citizen spotted it on a playground and called it in. It had been rattling it's tail and a few people feared it was a Rattlesnake, even though one hadn't been spotted in the Eau Claire County area in a long time. (It would be a rare sighting.) Fox snakes will rattle their tails when frightened, and also may produce a musky smell from scent glands at the base of their tails.

Below are photos of Jake eating. It's taken me a while to actually
get my "nerve" up to watch him eat! --LKR

Lake City, MN

Recently, we spent a few days vacationing in Lake City, MN. This beautiful little town is located along Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River. Lake City is the birthplace of water skiing, and it has the largest marina of small boats on the Mississippi.

We stayed in the AmericInn and enjoyed the pool and hot tub after spending time sightseeing in near-by towns from Red Wing to Wabasha.

One evening, we ate dinner in town at Port of Call. It was a little on the pricier side, but well worth it. I had broiled Cod, and our engaging waitress made sure to keep gluten off my menu.

Walks along the water were quite enjoyable. We saw dramatic fog as well as gorgeous sunny views. Beavers, ducks, gulls, and of course the bald eagles were there to entertain us further.
We want to go back and explore it some more! --LKR

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Frontenac State Park

Frontenac State Park towers 350 feet above the Mississippi River. The view from the top is absolutely spectacular!

We took lunch with us, one day, and picnicked at the top. It was thrilling watching eagles and
other raptors soaring above us as well as over the water!

We came here two times while staying in Lake City, MN. Hiking down to the shore was very steep, and I'll just add that going down was much easier than going back up! However, it was well worth the effort!

We made it worth our while and stayed down by the shore and explored. The longer we could put off going back up, the better!

There are also more horizontal trails, but we didn't do them--yet! I want to go back!

A really nice thing about purchasing a permit for the state parks in MN is that they are good for a year from the month you pay for it.

In some states like WI, you buy them for the calendar year which makes it harder if you don't start going to the parks 'til the summer months. --LKR


Saturday, August 4, 2007


To my delight, dragonflies are plentiful in our yard in Eau Claire, WI, just as they were back in Villa Park, IL. We have Lowes Creek very close by, here, and plenty of insects for them to feast on. This is great, as long as they don't go after any of our butterflies!

If you click on the picture, you can see this dragonfly enjoying his newly caught meal. He is perched on top of one of our dead trees that we lost over the winter (due to a dry fall where the ground didn't freeze...). --LKR