Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo Park Reserve in Lake Elmo, Minnesota is a 3.5 square mile park with 80 percent of the area reserved for preservation and protection. The plan is to have this area revert back to resemble what it was like before settlers arrived in the mid-1800’s. The wildlife includes lots of birds – I saw a bluejay fly across our path – and fox, weasels, rabbits, and deer.

Camping options include Primitive, Rustic, and Modern sites.

The park also includes a very large swimming pond and playground, a boat launch, cross country ski trails, equestrian trails, and hiking. We opted for a hike in the woods.

Sunfish Lake Park

The City of Lake Elmo in Minnesota purchased 254 acres of land in order to keep out new housing developments in the area. The result is Sunfish Lake Park, a “regionally significant ecological area” including a 17 acre prairie restoration project. The park is home to over 13 species of birds with declining populations, deer and other small animals. We came across a deer staring right at us as we strolled through the woods.

The park is lush and green this time of year.

We were looking for the Sunfish Lake and it did not disappoint.

On the way back we stumbled on this nest that must have fallen from a tree.

The Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center is also on the grounds and includes this oversized birdhouse.

The Little Laugh

Minnehaha Falls

When I see the word Minnehaha I always think of a little laugh. However, Minnehaha is the Dakota word for waterfall. After the publication of the epic poem The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855, Minnehaha falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota, became a big tourist attraction. Longfellow never made the visit.  In the story, the warrior, Hiawatha, falls in love with a Dakota maiden.

From the water-fall he named her,
Minnehaha, Laughing Water

In the poem Minnehaha is translated as “Laughing Water”. This came from a translation by Mary Eastman in the book Dahcotah, which she published in 1849.

In 1889 the area around Minnehaha Falls became a Minneapolis City Park. A sculpture of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha sits on a small island within the creek and bears the inscription “Over wide and rushing rivers In his arms he bore the maiden”.

The sculptor, Jacob Fjelde, was a Norwegian immigrant who settled in Minnesota around 1887. The sculpture was originally exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893. The Expo celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World.

Longfellow’s poem is purely fictional. At the time it was published it was very popular, although there were also racist negative reviews,

As an Indian Saga, embalming pleasantly enough the
monstrous traditions of an uninteresting, and one may
almost say, a justly exterminated race, the Song of
“Hiawatha” is entitled to commendation…Hiawatha, we
feel, will never add to Mr Longfellow’s reputation as a
poet. It deals with a subject in which we of the present
day have little interest; a subject too, which will never
command any interest upon its own intrinsic merits.
These Indian legends…are too clumsy too monstrous,
too unnatural to be touched by the Poet.”

The New York Times, December 28, 1855

However, it endured to become a part of American culture spawning musical pieces, artists renderings, parodies, and Disney cartoons (like it or not).

Longfellow used the trochaic meter instead of the iambic that is more comfortable for English speakers. It has a rhythm that is more common in languages like Finnish. Apparently Longfellow thought this imitated the rhythms of the speech of the First Peoples. If you read it aloud or recite it, it can lull you into a meditative trance.

In Minneapolis you will find Minnehaha Falls, Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Creek, Minnehaha Academy, Minnehaha Avenue and Hiawatha Avenue. And not far from Minnehaha Falls is Lake Nakomis, named after Hiawatha’s grandmother.

Minnehaha Park is on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning it is thought to be worthy of preservation. Whether you like the poem or not, it is a beautiful place to visit. Yesterday was our first hot day in Minnesota for a very long time. It seemed like everybody was out enjoying it. I managed to get a few good shots of the falls.

This is what it looks like in winter:

Lapham Peak in the Snow














Kettle Moraine State Forest in eastern Wisconsin covers 30,000 acres.

A long time ago, the area was covered in glaciers.  A moraine is an accumulation of glacial debris, such as rocks and silt.  Kettles are landforms molded by melting glaciers.

Lapham Peak was formed about 10,000 yrs ago by a glacier which made it the highest point in Waukesha County with a elevation of 1,233 ft above sea level. At the top is an observation tower (45 ft tall).  In the late 1800’s the Federal Signal Service Division of Telegrams and Reports established a signal station on the peak to receive meteorological observations from Pike’s Peak, Colorado.  Increase A. Lapham collected the data and relayed it to all the Great Lakes ports to warn them about approaching storms.

Lapham Peak now encompasses over 1,000 acres of cross country ski trails and other recreational activities.

As we entered the area we came upon a deer standing stock still looking right at us as if we had lost our mind.  It was beautiful.










This is what 12 degrees F looks like.


The Rainbow Family Gathering takes place the first week in July at one of the National Forests in the USA.  It is a giant peace gathering where people come from all walks of life to camp in the woods and meditate, dance, pray, coexist, and be one with nature.  I attended one of these gatherings at the Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina in 1987.

I arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee, at about 11 pm after having spent two hours in the Memphis airport.  I was meeting a friend coming in from a different part of the country and she showed up about midnight.  I was tired.  My friend Sheila’s bag did not show up.  It was still in Chicago.  It was 1:30 or 2:00 am before I finally got to bed.  After returning to the airport to pick up the lost luggage, and last minute organizing, we finally got on the road about 2:30 the next day.

The drive was a feast for the eyes.  We climbed up mountains around turns exposing beautiful views.  Every thing was lush and green.  At about 4 pm we found the turn-off for the gathering and cars parked by the side of the road for miles.  And lots of policemen.  Sheila dropped me and our gear at the bridge to the camp and went off to park the car.  Policemen kept their eyes on everybody.

Once I hit the bridge a man with a gold star on his forehead and a big grin helped me to get the packs to the other side of the bridge and told me there was a shuttle up around the corner.  He said “Welcome Home, sister!” and gave me a big hug.  I sat down on the bridge and waited.  It took Sheila about 45 minutes to return.  We waited a while longer and then a big school bus showed up.  We piled luggage and people onto it like a Latin American mountain bus.  All jammed in.  As we went up the mountain every so often the bus driver would yell,  “lean left!”, and we would all lean.  I was sitting next to a woman who had just driven straight through from Madison, Wisconsin with her 5 year old boy.  She had a t-shirt on that said ‘The Women of Isis’.

We went pretty far up this mountain on the bus.  Finally we stopped and unloaded and walked about three-quarter mile up the road to where  the trail starts.  For about the last quarter mile there were “cars” parked all along one side of the road with people living there.  This was call the Bus Village.  To the right of the road was a large meadow and to the left a very muddy steep trail.  Onward and upward with a backpack, a tent, and a sleeping bag on my back and only my tennis shoes on my feet.  Tents were on both sides of the trail in the woods all the way up.

After a while we came upon the main Meadow where the Council was discussing whether kitchens should be allowed to serve meat.  We rested for a bit and continued up the slimy muddy trail.  We had to cross two small streams and maneuver a lot of muck.  After a while we came to another smaller meadow.  I thought I was doing to die.  I was so hot and thirsty.  We stopped and drank a bunch of water – all we had.  Sheila decided to go do some scouting while I stayed with the gear.  I just sat in the meadow and people watched.  At the top of the meadow was the Jamba Kitchen serving the evil meat.  Over to one side was an area marked off by rocks to be a communal gathering fire area.  Over to the other edge was a large encampment with people’s clothes hanging on a line and pretty soon I noticed a man sitting on the ground busying himself with domestic matters and right next to him was a wheel chair. People had carried this man up the mountain in his wheelchair.  I watched him and his woman round up four “volunteers” to carry him down the mountain.  Amazing.

There were all kinds of people in various stages of undress.  One thing I noticed was there were a lot of topless women but very few who were totally nude while there were a lot of nude men.  After a while Sheila came back and said we should go check out another trail.  Off we went further up the mountain.  Later when we checked the camp map we discovered that we weren’t even on it.  We had gone so far.  But, we found a nice place by a stream and pitched our tent.  By the time we were all set up it was 8 pm.  A long day.

Next morning we got up and made hot chocolate and our neighbors came over to make tea with our hot water.  After breakfast we slid down through the mud and slime to the main Meadow where the Council was again meeting.  On the way there we passed through the Trading Center where people had wares displayed for trade.  Stones, jewelry, scarfs, tie die, food, cigarettes.

We sat down to listen to the Council.  A man was standing and told the story of how this particular gathering came to be.  The State tried to get an injunction to keep us away and ordered a court appearance.  Meanwhile the Rainbow Family filed with the Federal court to have it go there instead.  The State court took one look at them and told them they should be in Federal court.  The State and the Rainbow Family were told to get together and work things out because although the Federal judge upheld the laws about mass gatherings, he also relayed that they were really un-enforecble.  So the State came up with 23 rules we had to agree to.  They were almost all thing the Rainbow Family do anyway.  Be careful of the water, the trees, the land, fire, etc.  One rule said they had to put a sign up a the bottom of the mountain stating:   “Caution!  A permit is required for more than 5,000 people to gather and no permit has been obtained” or something like that.  The Council member said they were erecting a big colorful beautiful sign and right next to it they would put up the First Amendment.  There was much discussion on the whole thing.

We wandered around a little, listened to some music – guitars, even a piano, singing, all real mellow.  Back at our tent, I could hear the stream flowing, trees rustling and every so often people would wander by.  The drums were always beating in the distance and every once in a while the conch would sound.  I could hear the rain approaching through the forest.  It rained off and on most of the time.

The next day a sanitation inspector and several men from the forestry service came to inspect the campsite.  They checked kitchens, water supplies, latrines, etc.  They seemed like friendly people.

On July 4 there was a big celebration. From dawn until noon there was a silent vigil for peace throughout the camp.  We made it down to the main Meadow about 1 pm when the chanting was just ending and the raising of the Rainbow American Flag took place.  Then the music started and everybody danced and danced.



This last weekend I went to my son’s last regatta of the season.

On my way down to the water through the woods I heard something I had trouble identifying.

KAthump  KAthump  KAthump

I was looking around trying to find the source when Whoosh!   A deer went whizzing by in front of me.

KAthump  KAthump  KAthump

And quickly disappeared from view.

Smiling, I proceeded on my way.

It must have been a good omen.  My son made it to the finals and it was a beautiful day!