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Staying home this summer? Grab a guide to Minnesota travel

May 06, 2018 09:09AM ● Published by Editor

By MARY ANN GROSSMANN - Pioneer Press - May 5, 2018 


News is that gas prices are going to be unusually high this summer. But it’s OK if limited time or a slim budget mean a staycation in Minnesota for your family because there’s plenty to do. Here are helpful guides that will lead you to a lot of enjoyment during your in-state travel experiences (with a side trip to Wisconsin).

18050661gemsonhighway61“61 Gems on Highway 61” by William and Kathryn Mayo (Adventure Publications, $12.95): Up North means famous Highway 61, which runs from Duluth to Grand Portage, passing through Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, Silver Bay, Tofte, Lutsen and Grand Marais, on a stretch of highway that parallels the Lake Superior shoreline.

Subtitled “Your Guide to Minnesota’s North Shore From Well-known Attractions to Best-Kept Secrets,” this pretty paperback with lots of color photos belongs in your glove compartment. Each of the “gems” occurs along the highway, with directions for how to get there and the distance from 61. The sites are numbered, beginning in Duluth.

Some of the sites are familiar, such as Glensheen Mansion in Duluth and Split Rock Falls located 18 miles from Two Harbors. Others are less familiar to those who aren’t regular visitors to the North Shore, including Trail of Whispering Giants Sculpture in the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center in Two Harbors, and Cross River Heritage Center in the town of Schroeder, 26 miles north of Silver Bay, dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural history of the area.

There is a paragraph of background information about each site. For instance, did you know that the Butterwort Cliffs Scientific & Natural Area that lies within Cascade River State Park is home to a variety of rare wildlife, from brightly colored lichens to an unusual variety of insect-eating butterwort plants? Or that Crystal Beach, five miles north of Silver Bay, is a majestic place full of multicolored stones?

If this is your year to explore Minnesota, “61 Gems” is for you.

180506hikingwaterfalls

“Hiking Waterfalls in Minnesota” by Steve Johnson (Falcon Guides, $24): If you are a falling-water fan headed to the North Shore, this is another book you’ll need. It is loaded with information, including a map showing locations of the falls, at least half of which are along Highway 61 from the tip of the Arrowhead to Duluth and south all the way to Albert Lea.

The 63 waterfalls are divided geographically — southern Minnesota, metro area/central region, Duluth area, North Shore, and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and border country. Each entry, illustrated with a color photo, lists the waterfall’s beauty, difficulty hiking to get there, canine compatibility and other facts, accompanied by a half page of specifics you will see during the hike and a full-page map of the area.

180506wisconsinStateParks“Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History” by Scott Spoolman (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $24.95): OK. To have fun, sometimes you have to cross the river. This book is more than a guide to Wisconsin’s parks; it’s also a lesson about how the landscape was formed. The text is divided by geography — the Rift Zone in the northwest corner; Driftless area, southwest corner; carved by water and ice, south-central Wisconsin; glacial showcase, southeastern Wisconsin, and On the Bones of the Land, Northeast Quarter. Maps locate each park, with several pages of text that discuss the area’s geology, illustrated with interesting diagrams.

You could read from this thorough and informative guide while sitting in the park you’re reading about, or study up before you leave.

180506searchingforminnesotanativewildflowers“Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers: A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between” by Phyllis Root, photography by Kelly Povo (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95): While you are out in the fields and woods of Minnesota’s state parks, you’ll be able to find and identify wildflowers if you have this book in your backpack. (Publication date is May 15).

Root and Povo spent 10 years seeking out the state’s native wildflowers for this fact-packed guide. It begins with a discussion of native plant communities with instructions on how to look for native wildflowers. The rest is divided into wildflower seasons at various locations, such as spring in the Big Woods and high summer on the prairie. There are field notes, and each flower is photographed. From kitten tails to prairie smoke, Dutchman’s breeches to butterfly weed, these are flowers that grew here for hundreds of years and are still here, although harder to find, unless you have this pretty/useful book. (Root and Povo will discuss and sign copies of their book at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at Sisters’ Sludge Coffee Cafe and Wine Bar, 3746 23rd Ave. S., Mpls., and 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska.)

180506kidsguidetobirdsofminnesota“The Kids’ Guide to Birds of Minnesota” by Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications, $13.95): Tekiela, a naturalist and wildlife photographer, is author of more than 175 field guides, nature books, wildlife audio CDs and playing cards representing species of birds, mammals, reptiles, trees, wildflowers and cacti in the U.S. So he knows what he’s talking about when he talks to kids about Minnesota birds.

This guide is based on Tekiela’s popular “Birds of Minnesota Field Guide” and features 100 of the most common and important birds to know, with species organized by color. Each bird is described with information about where to find them, calls and songs, how they move, what they eat, nest and eggs, chicks and child care. Sidebar sketches show the shape of each nest and what should go in the feeder to attract that species. Included are easy bird-food recipes such as sweet homemade nectar; bird-feeding projects; building a birdhouse; and creating a bird-friendly yard. If parents or grandparents have woodworking skills, this book gives ideas for keeping the kids busy with a bird-related summer project.

180506111placesintwincities“111 Places in the Twin Cities That You Must Not Miss” by Elizabeth Foy Larsen (Emons, $19.90): As a lifelong St. Paulite, I approached this paperback with skepticism. I thought I knew all about the twin towns. I was wrong. Larsen is co-author of the “Unbored” series of family activity books that helped her enjoy exploring the Twin Cities with her husband and three kids.

Larsen covers the familiar — Cafesjian’s Carousel in Como Park, the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, the Fitzgerald Theater, Stone Arch Bridge and St. Paul’s Union Depot. But she also highlights less well-known places — Fifth Element, a store and performance place in Minneapolis’ Uptown that began as a gathering place for the hip-hop community; Betty Danger’s County Club in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, a restaurant and bar with lots of gimmicks, including a Ferris wheel; Marion and University Avenue, the intersection where gangster Homer Van Meter was shot by St. Paul police, and Guthrie Costume Rentals, a warehouse with more than 709,000 pieces — gloves, capes, frog maskes and more.

If your family is planning to spend the summer at home, this book is for you.

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