Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Minnesota

State 21:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state is

Minnesota

Minnesota became the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. The capital is St. Paul.

Our first visit to Minnesota can be described in one word – SNOW. It started snowing shortly after we left Wisconsin one morning in early April. As we traveled west on I-90  we crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota with the wind blowing snow horizontally across the interstate. It was so bad we pulled off the interstate and spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express in Winona. I will be forever grateful to the kind employees who put us up in a downstairs room with our Labrador Retriever. There was a restaurant in the hotel and they even had an indoor pool so we were roughing it in style.

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Crossing the Mississipi River to Minnesota in a snow storm
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Snowing over the Mississippi River
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Terrifying icy road conditions in Minnesota – at times we couldn’t even see the road
Icy trees beside the interstate
Icy trees beside the interstate
Overnight Camping at a Holiday Inn Express

The next morning the hotel let us have a late check out so we could wait until the roads were safe enough for travel. Later that day we checked into Blue Mounds State Park and we were the only campers in the park. With snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing the water was turned off and the dump station wasn’t operating. It was a great adventure!

Camping in the snow at Blue Mounds State Park

20070413MN-(6)The weather was much better on our other visits to Minnesota. During our stay at Temperance River State Park on the Minnesota North Shore we enjoyed wandering around Split Rock Lighthouse and on the huge boulders beside Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota's North Shore
Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota’s North Shore
Minnesota’s North Shore
Island in Lake Superior on MInnesota's North Shore
Island in Lake Superior on MInnesota’s North Shore
Minnesota North Shore

20100606Minnesota-North-Shore-(89)We loved visiting the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park so much we camped there twice.

Mississippi River Headwaters in Itasca State Park
Mississippi River Headwaters in Itasca State Park
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Walking across the headwaters of the Mississippi River
Mighty Mississippi River near the headwaters
The mighty Mississippi River near the headwaters
Walking across the Mississippi River near the headwaters
Walking across the Mississippi River near the headwaters
Sunset over Lake Itasca
Sunset over Lake Itasca

We made several visits to the St. Paul area to visit family. While there we visited the Mall of America and the Minnesota Arboretum.

A trip to the Spam Museum and the Green Giant Statue were on our bucket list as we traveled through Minnesota.

Some of the wildflowers and wildlife we found in Minnesota.

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan

Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch

Last summer as I was browsing through some blogs I stumbled upon a post on Winged Beauty Butterflies that mentioned Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, a butterfly habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. The next time we were visiting near there I stopped by the habitat and fell in love with it. I posted about my first visit to the habitat at Wandering in the Briar Patch.

My latest visit to the habitat was this past weekend in July, 2016. While I was wandering through the garden I had the pleasure of meeting Virginia Linch, the woman with the vision to create this magnificent butterfly habitat. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she gave me a tour and introduced me to many of the native Georgia nectar plants that I wasn’t familiar with. She also knew where to look for caterpillars and showed me some so tiny I would have never seen them if she hadn’t pointed them out.

The blooms were vibrant throughout the garden.

Mexican Sunflower
Mexican Sunflower
Blooms in the Briar Patch
Blooms in the Briar Patch
Bee on Black Eyed Susan
Bee on Black Eyed Susan

I could see swallowtails, monarchs and other butterflies landing on the blooms but none would stay around long enough for me to get a picture. A Viceroy landed on the ground in front of me and paid no attention to me at all.

Viceroy in the Briar Patch
Viceroy in the Briar Patch

This Gulf Fritillary wasn’t shy.

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary

I would never have spotted this Giant Swallowtail caterpillar if Virginia hadn’t pointed it out to me.

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

You can see how small it is compared to Virginia’s hand.

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

There are benches for resting and even a new porch for sitting.

Porch sitting in the Briar Patch
Porch sitting in the Briar Patch

Thank you Virginia for giving me a tour and for all of your hard work!

Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch is Certified Monarch Way Station No. 9045 and is also an official site for geo-caching.

Florida’s Tallest Waterfall

Florida's Tallest Waterfall

When I first read about Florida’s tallest waterfall at Falling Waters State Park my first thought was “I didn’t know there were ANY waterfalls in Florida!” I had to see it with my own eyes.

So off we went to Falling Waters State Park to check it out. The campground sits at 324 feet above sea level on top of one of the highest hills in Florida.

An easy trail down the hill leads to a small pond and boardwalk trails to the waterfall and around several sinkholes. We observed the 73 foot tall waterfall from a platform above the falls but construction on the platform near the bottom of the falls prevented us from seeing the water dropping into the sinkhole at the bottom.

Florida's Tallest Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park
Florida’s Tallest Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park

The trails meander through a long leaf pine forest with southern magnolias scattered among the pines. A few wildflowers blooming along the trail let us know that spring was almost here.

Boardwalk trail at Falling Waters State Park
Boardwalk trail at Falling Waters State Park
Carolina Jessimine
Carolina Jessimine
Wild Azalea
Wild Azalea

While exploring the trails we did some more geocaching and found two in the park. We’re getting better at this!

A Zebra Swallowtail became fascinated with my shoes when we stopped to take a break along one of the trails.

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

We continued our quest for good local food and stopped at the Main Street Market in downtown Chipley for some Plant City strawberries. These wonderful, sweet strawberries are only available for a short while and although we had been getting them at grocery stores I had to have some more. While we were there I was thrilled to see some Florida Honeybells. These strange looking orange citrus fruits are sweet and juicy. The also have a  very short season so of course I grabbed some of those, too.

Florida Honeybells
Florida Honeybells

Falling Waters State Park is located south of Chipley, Florida just a couple of miles from I-10.

My review of Falling Waters State Park can be found on Campendium.

A few days in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia

Fall was in the air when we arrived in Virginia. In just a few days we went from hot and muggy to crisp and cool. Our shorts and tee shirts were traded for jeans and sweatshirts. The air conditioner was turned off and the windows were open to let the fresh air in. And the best part was campfires at night.

We love to stay at Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin, Virginia when we visit our daughter’s family. We had a great time hanging out with our grandkids in their new home and meeting their two new kittens. Watching our granddaughter’s swim team practice and our grandson’s soccer game were the highlights of this trip and the reason we came up here.

Morning walk at Claytor Lake State Park
Morning walk at Claytor Lake State Park

 

 

Sadly, we couldn’t spend every minute with the family so we spent some time exploring the area. This was our fifth stay at Claytor Lake and wandering on the many trails in the park is always one of my favorite activities.Trail at Claytor Lake State Park

Trail at Claytor Lake State Park

Wildflowers in the woods at Claytor Lake State Park
Wildflowers in the woods at Claytor Lake State Park
An early morning walk in the woods
An early morning walk in the woods

One day we decided to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In order to get to our destination, the Rocky Knob Visitor’s Center at milepost 170, we had to drive about 30 miles on a narrow country road through beautiful farmland. After a stop at the visitor’s center to get my National Park Passport stamped we had lunch in the picnic area. A narrow one way road winds through the picnic area which has picnic tables scattered around the hills.

Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

After lunch we enjoyed our short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views from the overlooks were spectacular

Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter's Center
Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter’s Center
Buffalo Mountain from the Saddle Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway
Buffalo Mountain from the Saddle Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway

We only drove about ten miles on the parkway before exiting to the town of Floyd for a return visit to the Floyd Country Store. I posted about our visit to their Sunday Jam Session in this post from 2013.

Floyd Country Store
Floyd Country Store

Saturday morning before driving to Roanoke to our grandson’s soccer game I walked down to the lake to watch the start of the Claytor Lake Triathlon. An 80 year old man, his 50 year old son and his grandson all participated in the event. After watching the swimmers take off, I walked to the beach to see them exit the water and run to their bikes to begin the bike race.

On our last morning at the state park I woke up to see four deer in the campground.

Deer visited the campground on our last morning at Claytor Lake
Deer visited the campground on our last morning at Claytor Lake
Two fawns in the campground
Two fawns in the campground

On Sunday afternoon our daughter’s family came out for a visit. So much fun sitting by the fire, going for a walk, playing ladderball, and sharing a meal of burgers, hot dogs and of course  s’mores. A perfect end to our stay at Claytor Lake.

Wandering in the Briar Patch

“Skin me, Br’er Fox,’ sez Br’er Rabbit, sezee, ‘snatch out my eyeballs, t’ar out my yeras by de roots, en cut off my legs,’ sezee, ‘but do please, Br’er Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,’ sezee.”

– – from the story “How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox”  in the book “Uncle Remus: Being Legends of the Old Plantation” by Joel Chandler Harris.

When I was a child, my family spent a week every summer with my grandmother in Eatonton, Georgia. Back then, U.S. Highway 441 was a major north-south route through Georgia.  The highway went through the downtown of many small towns and Eatonton was one of them. From the highway travelers saw the statue of Br’er Rabbit which sits on the courthouse lawn (the picture in the header above shows Br’er Rabbit is still on the courthouse lawn today).

Times have changed and these days a bypass goes around the town. Travelers who take the time to get off the bypass and explore the downtown area will find two interesting museums, a butterfly garden that is a certified Monarch Way Station, charming shops and an award winning restaurant.

Although I’ve lived most of my life in coastal Georgia, my roots are buried deep in the red clay of Putnam County in middle Georgia. My mother grew up on a dairy farm in Putnam County and after she and my dad retired there in the early 1970’s  my children got to spend their childhood visiting Eatonton, the county seat, each year. I still go there several times a year.

Joel Chandler Harris and the Uncle Remus Museum
Brer Rabbit stands in front of the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, GA
Brer Rabbit stands in front of the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, GA

Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the Uncle Remus stories was born in Eatonton in 1848.  Harris first introduced the characters of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear in a newspaper column. The column was so successful he later published several popular books of the stories. The 1946 Disney movie “Song of the South” brought these characters to life on the big screen.

Uncle Remus Museum honoring author Joel Chandler Harris in Eatonton, Georgia
Uncle Remus Museum honoring author Joel Chandler Harris in Eatonton, Georgia

A visit to Eatonton wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Uncle Remus Museum located in Turner Park, three blocks from the courthouse on Highway 441. The building housing the museum was created from original slave cabins from Putnam County. Two cabins were moved to the museum location and combined to make the two main rooms of the museum. Later, a third room was added from a Putnam County plantation home. In these rooms are many first editions of his books, interesting displays of artifacts from the 1800’s, and shadow boxes with wooden carvings of the characters.

Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, Georgia
Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, Georgia

The day I visited the museum I was greeted by Georgia, a delightful and enthusiastic volunteer who entertained me with many great stories. The Uncle Remus books were printed in at least 27 different languages and the museum has visitors from all over the world. In one of the display cases are several books published in other languages that were sent to the museum from visitors when they returned home after visiting the museum.

Georgia Writer’s Museum

In addition to Joel Chandler Harris, Eatonton is also the birthplace of Alice Walker, award winning author of “The Color Purple”. Flannery O’Conner’s home was in nearby Milledgeville.

The Georgia Writer’s Museum features permanent displays celebrating these three authors. In addition, there are books on display from many of other Georgia authors.

Again I was greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer who walked with me through the museum and told me some interesting stories about the authors.

Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch

A fairly new addition to the town is a beautiful butterfly habitat created by local volunteers. The garden is Certified Monarch Way Station No. 9045 and is also  an official site for geo-caching. When I visited there in August, 2015 several varieties of Swallowtails kept me entertained.

I created a Mesh gallery of the garden. Click the right arrow on each photo to advance to the next picture.

Smith’s Coastal Grill
Smith's Coastal Grill, Eatonton, Georgia
Smith’s Coastal Grill, Eatonton, Georgia

Of course we have a favorite restaurant when we are in Eatonton.  Smith’s Coastal Grill, located on Jefferson Street just a block from the courthouse, was recently named one of the 100 Great Plates in the state of Georgia and is featured in Georgia Eats, the Official State Culinary Guide for the state. They won this honor for their amazing fish tacos. Other favorites are shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and Key Lime Pie that rivals any you could get in Key West.

Right next door to the restaurant is Smith’s Sweets with coffee, homemade pralines, pastries, ice cream and if you get there on the right morning, delicious chicken biscuits.