Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Field Trp-Minnesota

Once a year we take a family vacation back to my hometown on Minnesota. Belview, Minnesota to be more accurate, with a population of 496. Belview is a small farming community, much like most of Minnesota, known for its soy beans and corn its a beautiful place to visit if you love small country living, which I do. It was nice to get away for a a couple of weeks from the fast paced city life and simply enjoy the beauty God created.

For my nephew and my eldest son this was the first time they got to ride on an airplane. I wish the experience had been better for them, but we flew Spirit airlines. Suffered through an hour and a half delay sitting inside the plane and our pilot thought he was in a video game dodging make believe flying zombies. My eldest enjoyed all the sideways turns and death defying maneuvers, I did not. Although it did leave us with some good shots.Munchkins favorite is the plane being sideways as shown in the first picture. Mine is the terrified look on my nephews face when the plan turned on the right. My other 2 kids are old pros at flying and love to get on the plane and make fun of me for being terrified of the take off and landing. They tell me I look like I am about to beat up the guys at the emergency exit and leap out. I personally don't think I am that bad.

Once we got to the great state of Minnesota and off the death trap we settled in for a nice 3 hour car ride from the Twin Cities back to Belview. Interesting factoid though Minneapolis, nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States.

Our first stop on our beautiful tour was the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway made of granite outcrop and lush prairie grass. We watch for Dakota skipper butterflies among purple cornflowers. Scan the expansive blue sky for bald eagles (which we see a few) or wait quietly at the river’s edge to catch a glimpse of a deer at sunset. The kids loved watching for deer, but being vegetarians, were upset by all the dear stands once I explained to them what they were.  Another intersing factoid for you, the MN river flows in 3 directions. Yep you read correctly, three. The water flow is dependent upon which watershed the water is in. Depending on the lie of the continental divides, Minnesota waters flow either to Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Pretty neat in my opinion.

Joseph R. Brown Memorial:

Also deep in the river valley is the memorial to Joseph R. Brown, a trader with the Dakota people who was also a drummer boy with the first US Army troop assigned to build Fort Snelling. He married Susan Frenier, a native to the Sisseton tribe, and then helped organize the first Democratic Party in Minnesota. In 1857 he served as chief of Henry Sibley's successful campaign for election as the state's first governor and later played a role in formulating the state constitution.n 1857, Joseph Brown was appointed by Sibley to serve as United States Indian Agent for the Dakota, a federal political appointment. Between 1857 and 1861 the family lived at the Yellow Medicine or Upper Sioux Agency. Brown was responsible for activities at both the Upper and Lower Sioux Agencies, which had been established in 1851 after the signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. In 1858, he led a delegation of Dakota to Washington, D.C. on a visit which resulted in the signing of the 1858 treaty in which the Dakota forfeited their reservation on the north side of the Minnesota River. Brown served as U.S. Government Agent to the Dakota until 1861 when he was replaced by a Republican appointee, Thomas Galbraith, a man who was unfamiliar and unsympathetic with the Dakota people and their needs. Some historian believe that the removal of Brown from the position of Indian Agent was a major factor in the increased tension which eventually exploded into the Dakota conflict of 1862.

Construction of the house began in June of 1861, after Brown had lost his agency position.The house was a three-and-a-half story, 19-room pink granite stone structure built by a crew under the direction of Leopold Wohler and held the Brown's and their 12 children. The house measured 48 feet long and 28 feet wide, and was built into the hillside with a first floor main entrance on the south side and an entrance on the north side opening into the second floor. The length of the house's south side was covered by a wood frame second story porch and a third story open balcony. Extremely impressive for this day and age. It took a year and a half to complete and oddly enough that is exactly how long the family loved in the house before it was attacked during the US Dakota War and the family was captured and the home was burned to the ground while Joseph was out on business related to the steam wagon.  Today this is all that remains the home. 

Fun with the kids:

 I think my favorite part of our trip though was just lounging around the house with the kids, riding ATV's, golf carts, playing put-put, taking long walks, riding bikes and just enjoying nature and each others company. My dad and step-mom have 200 acres for the kids to roam around and explore and they took full advantage. The only place they could not go was through the crops of soy. I loved having my kids in a town were they could run free and explore on their own without fear of something horrible happening to them. One more joy of small town living.

Mississippi Head Waters:
My dad and I thought it would be a trip to take the kids some places I got to go with my brothers when we were growing up. So we headed down the Head Waters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. The Mississippi begins its 2, 552 mile journey into the Gulf of Mexico from Park Rapids, Minnesota. The headwaters are 1, 475 feet above the ocean. At Itasca we can walk across the mighty Mississippi and commune with nature.

A few Mississippi river facts:
Mississippi Headwaters in Bemidji MN

  • The Mississippi River flows south from Lake Itasca, in Northern Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico, in Louisiana.
  • The Mississippi River, at 740 miles in length, is the third longest river in North America.
  • The Mississippi River is a watershed for over 1.2 million square miles.
  • The Mighty Mississippi incorporates tributary rivers from 32 states and two Canadian provinces.
  • The Mississippi and its tributaries drain almost all the plains between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. Its drainage basin is the third largest in the world, exceeded in size only by the watersheds of the Amazon and Congo Rivers.
  • The Mississippi River was discovered by De Soto in 1541.   
  • Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi River is located in the state of Minnesota, 100 miles south of the Canadian border.
  • The Ojibwe people of Northern Minnesota called it ''Messipi'' or The Big River. It was also known as the Mee-zee-see-bee or Father of Waters.
  • At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 1,475 feet above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.
  • Water skiing was invented in 1922 on the Mississippi River in a wide part of the river known as Lake Pepin, between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Mississippi Watch Tower: 

While visiting the Headwaters of the Mississippi River, a park ranger told us about another of the park’s features: a 100-foot observation tower, located in the middle of Itasca State Park.

Thankfully, the trail is shaded, so it’s not as hot as it might be if it was sunny and there were no trees.  Still, it’s all uphill, and somewhat steep at times.  Actually, it’s not so steep as it is relentless: it’s all uphill.An interpretive sign talks about watchtowers and what they were used for.  This can be helpful, as you may have to wait a while to get up in the tower: only 6 people are allowed at a time, so there can be quite a line at times.Once you start climbing, the real fun begins.

1/2 way up
 The stairway goes higher and higher, leaving the ground very far behind.  It’s especially bad after you’ve gone about ¾ of the way up.  I hated the swaying of the tower and it was worse when you looked down. So my advise-don't look down if you are scared of heights! My kiddos were brave, they trekked up barely stopping only to enjoy a quick view, then up again anticipating the top. You can see half way up we are at the top of the tree's. Its a long way up!
One view from top of Headwaters
At the top, you can see in all four directions, forests everywhere, and numerous small lakes and ponds, many with islands.  You can even see the Headwaters of the Mississippi, but, unfortunately, it’s far enough away that you can see where it should be, not so much the headwaters themselves.  Signs on the roof of the tower tell you what you are seeing. The view is stunning and well worth the climb to the top.The view looking down was even more impressive. I was thankful I did not chicken out, but endured.
Another view from the top of the Watch Tower

Paul Bunyan and Big Blue: Bimidji Minnesota

2013: Drizzle, Munchkin, Sparky, Princess and Me
When and where did this mythical Hero get his start? Paul Bunyan is known by his mighty works, his antecedents and personal history are lost in doubt. You can prove that Paul logged off North Dakota and grubbed the stumps, not only by the fact that there are no traces of pine forests in that State, but by the testimony of old-timers who saw it done.

On the other hand, Paul's parentage and birth date are unknown. He is credited with making the Grand Canyon, the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota including Superior, Erie and Ontario when he chased Blue throughout the land. There are those who believe the tales are an exaggerated congregation of actual deeds of ordinary loggers and there are those who believe it is all folklore. Whatever your stance, the stories are truly fascinating.

My brother and I in  1991

Here are a few sites to check out for more information: 
The True Story of the Paul Bunyan Legend
Paul Bunyan
Paul Bunyan Read Aloud Story
Paul and Blue

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