Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Exploring from our Minnesota Campground OLA

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exploring from our Minnesota Campground OLA

a barn quilt by the roadside in Hidden Bluffs Country
Our feet were getting itchy so we made an appointment for the Chicago Camping World to finish the job on our RV (one of the benefits of working with a reliable nationwide chain) and proceeded to Hidden Bluffs Resort (after the little pilgrimage to the Grotto) in Spring Grove at Minnesota’s southeastern corner.  A bluff is defined as a cliff, headland, or hill with a broad steep face.  The resort is a small valley surrounded by bluffs that have been hidden by lots of very green deciduous trees.

a bluff by the roadside
We quickly found out that it is a weekend getaway for local families, especially from nearby Rochester. The planned activities were for kids and the amenities were geared for them, too. Even the hot tub was frequently occupied by a family so we went either early in the morning or late at night. Thus, we quickly plotted our day trips in our 8 days here. Our only condition was to have the trips every other day so we can have time for maintenance, housekeeping, computer work, and cooking.

Our first trip was to Rochester, 1 ½ hours away, and to Minneapolis-St. Paul, another 1 ½ hours from there.  The Mall of the America with a theme park, an aquarium, and an entertainment district (my favorite is the amazing Lego Store) is the biggest in the USA, in a southern burb of Minneapolis. With 500 stores and 4.2 M sq. ft. total area (2.8 M of which are leasable), it is the 13th largest mall in the world (China has 4, Philippines 4, Canada 1, Dubai 1, Turkey 1, and Malaysia 1 in the top 12).

Mayo Clinic
In Rochester is Mayo Clinic, in top 3 of 10 of 12 important specializations (1 in diabetes, gastroenterology, and kidney, 2 in gynecology, heart, neurology, orthopedics, pulmonary, 3 in cancer and urology). Only Johns-Hopkins ranks close with 9.  So we went to see the Mayowood Mansion where the Mayos lived and the Plummer House (Dr. Plummer was the 3rd doctor who founded the clinic along with the brothers). Atop the Plummer Building downtown is the Rochester Carillon, a system of 15 bells that play symphonies!  
   
Pine Bend Refinery
This day trip took over 11 hours, 7 for driving alone! On the way to the twin cities we saw a huge unique plant looming larger and larger from the horizon. On our way back, we made it a point to stop to take photos. I found out later that it is the Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount. It is among the top processors of Canadian crude in the US, supplying most of the Upper Midwest and certainly, the twin cities, especially its airport, with its capacity of about 320,000 barrels per day. 

a bear mound
The next day trip was to the Effigy Mounds National Monument, only 2 hours from ‘home’ in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa.  There were about 10,000 mounds at one time in the plains of the Midwest to the Atlantic. The Woodland Period Indians, from 500 BC until early European contact, had regularly constructed them in the shape of mammals, birds, or reptiles but agriculture plowed them under. The monument contains 2,526 acres with 206 mounds, 31 effigies. This park is the largest known collection of mounds in the US.

world's smallest church
From Pike’s Peak in MacGregor, Iowa, you can look out to the Mississippi bluffs and see Wisconsin on the other side, especially the town of Prairie du Chen.  And going back to our ‘home’, we made it a point to make a little diversion to 2 points of interest: the World’s Smallest Church (a Catholic church that seats 8 people) in Festino, Iowa (built in --) and the Laura Ingall’s childhood home at Burr Oak, Iowa. This is the place which inspired many of the stories of her Little House on the Prairie.

Laura Ingall's prairie home

Amish Store in Canton
Around the campground are little towns known as Historic Bluffs Country.  Niagara Cave known for its 60-ft. waterfall is in Harmony, a dozen quaint barn quilts are in Caledonia, and an Amish buggy is the weekend market in Canton. We had a chance to go to Rushford Days, an annual festival with a tractor pulling competition and other never-heard-of games!   At the Houston Nature Park we met Alice, the Great Horned Owl, who ‘works’ with Karla and stars at the International Owl Festival every March!

tractor pulling race
Alice, the Great Horned Owl
As they say, sometimes you do not have to go far from home. Hidden Bluffs Resort had several miles of beautiful hiking trails. One of them ended in a big rock where we found a father-son tandem fishing the clear waters.  Another had a really beautiful scenic overlook of the little valley and the campground. It was T. S. Elliot who once said, ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time,‘ exactly what happened to us!  
our beautiful hiking trail

280 comments:

  1. Hi Carol,

    As usual, very interesting read! Do you know which 4 are in the top 13 malls in the world that are in the Philippines?

    I love that beautiful hiking trail! Did you walk there?

    Looking forward to your next post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. #3 in the world is Mall of Asia (top 2 are in China), then MegaMall, SM City and SM Cebu are the other 3 in the top 12! Yes, we walked the hiking trails twice! It was very pretty...could not includenall the photos. I think I will post a photo a day on FB of the ones I could not include in the post! Btw...let's talk on the phone...want you to bring an author to speak in the Philippines as one of your first events!
    Carol
    Thanks for your comment...how fast! I had just posted this!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As always you share a great deal of history in your cruising. I enjoyed this one especially the information. I think Minnesota is not as bad as I picture it based from my hubby's input. All I know about it is a feed from my hubby. It is the place of giant mosquitoes and that their national bird is the mosquito. Now I must prompt my hubby to include Minnesota in our travel list despite the mosquitoes. It offers more as you have posted, it made me more curious to go see the place.
    Thank you for sharing this one.

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  4. You have such a knack for gathering the best things to see.

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  5. Thanks, Emma...a real compliment coming from Nature Center Magazine! Btw, how do I get the badge onto this blog???
    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  6. Angie, most probably it is because we got there not in the height of summer. But there were some mosquitoes on our second hike through the trails...not bad. So, choose the time of year and choose the right gear...is our motto! Have as much fun in all your travels as we are having. Btw, I might fly to Vegas on the last week of August!
    Carol

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  7. This all looks too good to be true... hope you continue to have a wonderful adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Linda,
    Yes it is! This is our lifestyle now: full time RVing. We park our home at a campground that is part of our nationwide network (so camping is free!), and look for day trips around the area. When the campground has lots of amenities, that's a big bonus! Thanks for your nice wishes!
    Carol

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  9. Carol, thank you for asking about the badge. Go to Nature Center Magazine. Find the badge on the side bar. Click on the code below it and copy it. Then go to the layout for your blog. Click on "Add a Gadget". Then choose HTML/JavaScript Gadget. Paste The NCM code into the content box. Click save and you should be all set. I am sure you will have no problems since you have a few others on your site already.

    Emma

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  10. I love the barn pic, and I want to learn more about the international owl festival. Is it in that small town??

    How many can fit in that small church??

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  11. there are about 3 dozen such barn quilts in Houston County! Yes, the festival is in Houston. And only 8 can seat in the church. Thanks for the compliment!

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