Spring Creek Prairie

Spring Creek Prairie

I love the sights and sounds of a good prairie walk. Spring Creek Prairie in Denton, NE, is a 850 acre tall grass prairie reserve. I walked through wetlands, woodlands, and of course the prairies. The insects were in full voice. The wind was strong the birds were hunkered down. I was hoping to see a bobolink. ☹️ It was hot and humid, I walked a little less than anticipated.

Des Moines Botanical Garden

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is an innovative escape in downtown Des Moines. With a mission of exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants the garden inspires and engages visitors through education, experience and exploration. Featuring 10 distinct gardens, including a water garden, conifer garden, rose garden and iconic geodesic-domed conservatory with tropical and desert plants.

Bridges of Madison County

Madison County is the Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa, with the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley. Madison County originally boasted 19 covered bridges, but just six remain today, five of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest.

You might recognize these bridges in the movie: Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

There are several stories about Devils Tower. This one is my favorite: Seven little Kiowa girls were out playing, spotted by several giant bears, and were chased. The girls prayed to the Great Spirit, and sure enough the ground rose beneath them towards the Heavens. The bears tried to climb the rock but only managed to leave their deep claw marks on the sides. The girls reached the sky and were turned into the constellation Pleiades.

Today, visiting Devils Tower offers a journey full of Native American cultural discovery. The area is still an active, sacred location and is considered a place of spiritual significance and cultural history by over two-dozen Native American tribes! The monument is off limits to climbers during the month of June to respect the tribes’ cultural traditions and rituals that are still performed there. Some of these include sun dances, vision quests and prayer offerings.

Willow Falls

Willow Falls, located in Willow River State Park, about 10 miles northeast of Hudson, WI is an impressive waterfall. At least 100 feet wide, consists of several drops, the largest of which is about 15 feet high. This is a good sized river and creates an impressive display as it tumbles down on its way to meet the much larger St. Croix River.

In 1924 a dam was built here which diverted all the water from the main falls and drowned the upper drops. In 1992 the dam was removed, restoring the falls. It also restored the impressive gorge. There are still some remnants of the old dam, such as the main pipe through which the water was once diverted, but for the most part the area has been returned to its natural state.

The falls are easy to find. There are a set of trails that lead to the falls. See the park maps for details. The shortest walk to the falls is less than 1/4 mile on a paved but very steep trail down into the gorge. There is a bridge across the river just below the falls.

Glensheen Historic Mansion

Glensheen

It’s one of the most popular attractions in Minnesota, but Glensheen Mansion has a darker past than most historic homes you’ll find in America.

The 39-room mansion and estate on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth will be forever associated with the shocking events of June 27, 1977, when mining heiress Elizabeth Congdon was smothered in her bed and her night nurse Velma Pietila was murdered with a candlestick.

I found many items inside that caught my attention

Here a few favorite exterior shots.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

I love walking around arboretums. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, MN, welcomed, informed and inspired. The best part for me, was their reciprocal membership. I got a solo membership in Minnesota, and can now visit Gardens across the USA. Next garden stop: Des Moines, IA.

Mall of America

Mall of America

Mall of America was never on my bucket list. It’s a bit too commercial, crowded and over stimulating for my senses. It took a hot and humid day in Minneapolis to get me to check it out, and perhaps enjoy some A/C. My first surprise was that the Mall was decidedly uncrowded. I enjoyed walking several “cool” miles inside without any hustle or bustle.

SEA LIFE Aquarium

My favorite part of the mall was the SEA LIFE aquarium. There were thousands of sea creatures including sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, jellyfish, seahorses and more!

St. Paul Cathedral

The commanding site of St. Paul’s Cathedral sits on the edge of a bluff. In a biblical context, it can be seen as permitting the House of God to look down, literally and symbolically, on moneychangers (as represented by downtown St. Paul) and Caesar (as represented by the state capitol).

The interior abounds in color—marble, metalwork, stained glass, and painting. There are at least twenty-five varieties of marble on display from nine countries. Their colors range from radiant red (Rojo Alicante from Spain in the Sacred Heart Chapel) to deep green (Tinos from Greece in the vestibules) to a black flecked with gold (Portora from Italy in the baldachin columns.)

An unusual feature of the cathedral is the Shrine of Nations: six chapels arrayed in a semicircle behind the altar, installed 1926–1928. These commemorate ethnic groups that contributed labor and money to the Cathedral project: Irish, French Canadian, Italian, German, and Slavic. A sixth, of St. Therese, represents other ethnic groups in general. Each contains a central statue of a patron saint, two flanking stained glass windows, and, in the floor, a circular slab of marble from the country.

Willow Falls

I really enjoyed sitting and watching the activity at. Willow Falls, located in Willow River State Park, in Hudson, WI. In 1924 a dam was built here which diverted all the water from the main falls and drowned the upper drops. In 1992 the dam was removed, restoring the falls. It also restored the impressive gorge. There are still some remnants of the old dam, such as the main pipe through which the water was once diverted, but for the most part the area has been returned to its natural state.

Most entertaining was a barefoot young man who crossed the falls back and forth a couple of times. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He slipped a couple of times, but never fell. I wondered why he would do this. Finally he climbed out of eyesight so I took this as a good time to start my hike out up a very steep trail. Much to my surprise, the young man overtook me on the trail as he ran up, now wearing running shoes, leaving me in a cloud of dust. Perhaps all the falls traversing was in training for an Ironman event.