Smart Geriatric Cat

Well, Black Jack finally figured out why there is a hole in the wall of the basement stairs. Doesn’t he look pleased?

Black Jack Oversees the Basement

Back to Minnesota for Grandpa’s Funeral

I was going to write a post about the midpoint of summer break, and whether or not I was keeping up with my goal of making the summer worth something.

Unfortunately, my grandfather died last week, so instead I spent the week writing his eulogy and attending his funeral.

I grew up with eight grandparents. Mom’s parents were divorced and remarried, and then we had Dad’s parents, and Stepdad’s parents.

As kids we called all of them “Grandma” and “Grandpa” to their faces. But when referring to them privately, we found it hard to keep track of the original six. They became “Grandma and Grandpa,” “Grandma and Grandpa in Florida” and “Grandma and Grandpa Who Shoots Bears.” Once George came into the picture, we were old enough to understand that we could attach last names, and we did so for his parents. Still, even as adult my brother and I referred to our grandparents by their original nicknames.

Three of them have now died. The first two died of alcoholism and lung cancer respectively, so we knew they were sick. “Grandpa Who Shoos Bears” died fairly unexpectedly. He was in the hospital and then the ICU unit, but he got sick really quickly.

My mom and aunts asked me if I would write the eulogy. I was nervous about doing Grandpa justice, but I was also honored to be asked. I couldn’t help much from a distance, and this was a way to do something for the family, to take something off of their plates.

I collected memories from his four daughters and wrote the eulogy, using his nicknames as a running theme. One of my cousins read the eulogy and did a wonderful job with it. My brother made a beautiful slideshow for him—and yes, he found a photo of Grandpa with a bear he’d shot!

Grandpa Who Shoots Bears was a trucker, and his big rig was at the church, which was a nice touch.

With Grandpa’s Big Rig, Good Man, and the Niece and Nephew

We were able to see Grandma and Grandpa Who Shoots Bears at the Fourth of July party, although we didn’t get any photos with them. Originally, I had wanted to go to Minnesota in August, for the State Fair. We went for the party because Good Man insisted it was important to see family.

I’m glad I let him “win” that argument.

North West Company Fur Trading Post

The rest of our visit was full of family. We attended a Fourth of July party, where Good Man got to remeet family he’d met years ago. We hadn’t told anyone we were coming (although Mom spilled it to a few people) so we got a lot of “Oh! I didn’t know you were coming!” looks.

Before we left Minnesota, we took my sister-in-law and the kids to the North West Company Fur Trading Post in Pine City. I’d never been there before, which is surprising since we have extended family in Pine City and visited them often while I was growing up! (Unfortunately, they had bad colds and we weren’t able to see them on this visit.)

The Trading Post had a small museum. Nephew mainly hung out with Good Man and Niece mostly hung out with me. As I was pointing things out in the museum, my sister-in-law said I was “such a teacher.”

I guess it comes out even in the summer!

We took the tour with the reenactors, and the kids had a blast although it got a smidge too long for them. At the end, our guide showed us how to start a fire with flint and steel. That was really neat!

Almost Got It

Feeding a Spark

On Top of the Lookout

In a Wigwam

It was really nice to get to spend time with our niece and nephew, but it did reinforce that we have no interest in having kids, even ones who are well-behaved most of the time. I’d rather be “Aunt” than “Mom.”

Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls State Parks

Good Man and I slept very, very well after our hikes at Temperance River and Tettegouche State Parks.

The following day, we checked out of our B&B, Superior Gateway Lodge. The B&B was incredible, very romantic! It was not right on the water, it was off in the woods. The hosts, Joe and Pat were full of wonderful information (we followed our travel rule and followed their advice), interesting stories, and their breakfasts were amazing! If we ever make it back to Two Harbors, we will stay there again.

Superior Gateway Lodge

Mushrooms

After breakfast, we went to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. I asked the ranger for a shorter hike, since our legs were sore from the nine miles we’d done the day before, and I was a little worried about my plantar fasciitis kicking back in.

“You like hills?” The ranger jabbed her finger at the map.

I hate hills.

“Sure!” I said, “I love hills.”

(If I always avoid hills, I’ll never get good at hills.)

So Good Man and I headed up to Day Hill. On the way there we passed an island with a land bridge. I pointed to it and proclaimed we’d go there first.

Then we saw this sign.

When it comes to rules made to protect nature, wildlife, or a park, I am a rule follower.

No Access

Happy Good Man

We made it to Day Hill, admired the fireplace, took no photos, enjoyed some trail mix, and then walked along the shore back to our car.

I wanted to dip my toes in the water,

Driftwood

Split Rock

Large Rocks

Edge of the Lake

Cold Feet!

After we finished with Split Rock, we went to Gooseberry Falls. It was so busy! It was too crowded, and we were happy to escape the crowds by moving away from the main falls. We went on a rather nice hike, but I didn’t take many photos.

When we rounded a bend, we saw these plants and I wondered if my vision had suddenly gone haywire. The plants were waving in the wind and my vision couldn’t focus well. I felt like I was in a lenticular image.

Lenticular Plants

Tired, but happy, we finally headed back to my parents’ house for the rest of our visit.

Tettegouche State Park

After Temperance River, we headed south to the next state park, Tettegouche State Park.

We went on a shorter hike at this park, about two miles long to a few different waterfalls.

Forest Floor

Good Man

Over Baptism River there was an extremely rickety looking (and feeling) bridge.

Water Under the Bridge

Baptism River

Bridge Over Baptism River

With Good Man

Two Step Falls

Rainbow Spray

By the end of our hike, we’d hiked nine miles total. I know other people hike a lot more than that in a day, but for us it was a record, and I felt like I had “won.” I felt like I’d beaten the lingering pain from my tailbone injury.

We went to a restaurant recommended by the B&B owners, the Rustic Inn Cafe. While everyone else around us was chatting and laughing, Good Man and I just sat and stared at each other. We were bone tired, but it felt so good.

Temperance River State Park

Our full day along the North Shore, we started off by heading north to Temperance River State Park.

Our hike followed the river at the beginning and was very crowded for the first half mile or so. Once we got past the major waterfalls though, the trail was mostly empty.

Yellow Swallowtails

Temperance River Waterfall

Good Man

Wild Roses

Before we started the hike, I’d asked the ranger about the distance to Carlton peak. He said it was about 2.5 miles to the peak. I wasn’t sure if my back could handle that, but I had my hiking poles with me and wanted to give it a shot.

It was much harder than it should have been. And I whined. Good Man said we should turn around, but I refused to. This would be the longest hike post-tailbone fracture, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

We got to the peak, rested, ate some snacks, and then…Good Man checked his work email.

At Carlton Peak Lookout

Muddy Boots

Resting at the Peak

Checking Work Email

Sap

Bending Birches

Up the River

Before heading off to another state park, we paused at an outlook to take some photos.

Slow Shutter

Fast Shutter

Happy to Have Reached the Peak

Last View

Hiking Along Minnesota’s North Shore

Good Man and I took a few days to spend some time on the North Shore (of Lake Superior) together. Our first night in Two Harbors, we walked along Sonju Trail, a walking path along the shore.

It was so cold! There was a stiff wind coming off the lake and I had to borrow Good Man’s jacket because I left mine on the farm. I was worried the rest of our visit was going to be just as cold, but I had a long-sleeved shirt, so I knew I could layer during our visit.

Good Man

Lake Superior

On the Shore

Driftwood

Amanda

On the way down to the lighthouse, we came across two deer just off the trail. They were both about 20 feet away. They saw us, flinched, and then went back to eating. (I know the last picture is out of focus, but I just love the look on its face.)

Young Buck

What Are You Looking At?

We walked down to the lighthouse, the ore docks, and found the old railroad tracks.

Railroad

Ore Docks

Good Man

Lily-of-the-Valley

We headed into Duluth to see if we could find a lightweight coat and to have dinner. We were unsuccessful on the coat front and very much looked like visitors since we weren’t running around in shorts! I guess living Not In Minnesota for the past 14 years has really made me lose my cold-weather roots.

Kiwi Crate Crafting

So before we went to Minnesota, I found something called Kiwi Crate. It’s a monthly subscription of crafts related to one theme and done with an educational slant. Educational and crafty? That’s right up my alley.

Since Good Man and I have sort of been slacking on our auntie-uncle duties, I decided to order the summer series so my niece and nephew could have something fun to do over the summer on rainy days.

My sister-in-law held the box until we got there, and we were able to do one of the crafts with the kids. We tried to steer them toward the same craft, but they were having none of it. Niece worked with me on a lantern (complete with an electric tea light!) and Nephew made the collection box with Good Man.

We were really impressed by the quality of the materials and the kid-friendly instructions and the kids loved their crafts!

With Uncle Good Man

Collection Box

Lantern

Leading the Way

When they were done, we went outside and they found things for the collection box together. There was a brief scare where Niece lost her tea light (because she was running around like Paul Revere) but she found it again on the gravel driveway. I was surprised (and relieved) as how quickly she was able to find the tea light, because if we’d lost it in the grass…

Nephew fell asleep with the collection box (filled with treasures) on his nightstand and Niece fell asleep with her lantern (on) next to her head.

We ordered the kit with the sibling add-on and got duplicates of all materials, which meant each child could do each craft entirely. The kits were a hit, and we’ll probably continue to order them as long as the kids are interested in them.

Each month you get 2-3 crafts with all materials (the first crate in a subscription even comes with scissors) right down to the crayons and tape. The box includes additional “learn more” ideas crafts, and the whole box is packaged in a very environmentally-friendly way. The box ended up becoming the background to play with the puppets which were printed on the back of the “This Month’s Crafts” pages. The kids played with the puppets later and loved them.

I’d never heard of Kiwi Crate before finding the site, but I’m glad we tried it! The kits are aimed at 3-7 year olds and they certainly entertained the kids. If you use my referral link, you and I will both get $10 off an order.

Suprise!

Saturday, June 29th

Stretching myself into downward dog, I heard my sister-in-law speak quietly behind me. “I have a surprise for you,” she said to my nephew.

I changed to a seated position while nephew eyed me shyly from the doorway. “It’s been a long time since I saw you,” I said. “Do you know who I am?” He shook his head and I said, “I’m your dad’s sister.”

His face brightened and he ran to give me a hug. “Auntie Amanda!”

Shortly, Nephew was pulling every toy out of his room one-by-one to show me. While he was doing this, my sister-in-law told my niece I was in the living room. She ran out and hugged me, even though we’ve never met.

“Surprise!” I said. We hadn’t told the kids we were coming to visit.

“Are you sleeping here tonight?”

“Yes, for a few days, and I have another surprise,” I said. Good Man was showering and appeared a few minutes later.

“Uncle!” Nephew shouted. Niece, however, hightailed it back into her room.

“You’re scaring small children,” I said. The dog growled. “And the dog, too.”

Good Man shrugged.

It took nephew a few minutes to warm up to Good Man, but soon he was showing us his toys again.

From the bedroom, a small voice shouted, “Is the strange man gone yet?”

***

We spent that afternoon at Interstate State Park, exploring glacial potholes. Niece wanted to hold my hand, and Nephew wanted to be with Good Man the whole time.

Conquering the Big Rock

Fifty-Cent Trinkets

Glacial Pothole

A Lesson on Leave No Trace

Butterfly Toy

At one point, Good Man took the (slippery, uneven) rock stairs two at a time. “Don’t do that,” I yelled, “Your nephew is going to co—”

Too late. He was also bounding down the stairs two at a time.

Satisfied Grin

Trying for One Last Shot

Try Again…

Finally?