Outdoor bits: Our favorite Minnesota spots

Mississippi River 

One noticeable characteristic of my hometown, Monticello, is the Mississippi river winding through it and continuing on into Monticello’s surrounding towns. I didn’t realize how much diversity there was in the various parts of the river until I kayaked it one day with my dad and his friends, whom I refer to as my Dad Squad.

Bethel BitsWe dropped our kayaks in the water at Ellison park and concluded our journey in Elk River, the next town over. The beginning of this trek was in a wide, deep part of the river with water moving quite swiftly. The rushing current helped us move at a faster pace when we were paddling, but it also allowed for us to relax and take in the scenery around us.

There were trees on majority of the banks, some standing tall on slanting banks and some sweeping right over the water on flatter banks. Birds flew over us and glided from trees. One area even includes a massive eagle’s nest. Occasionally, there would be a dog running in a yard or with their owner in more developed areas on the river.

After awhile we would hit areas where no houses could be seen. Just the winding river and the landscape around it. Some of these areas include shallow water that can be somewhat difficult to maneuver if you aren’t paying attention. Some of these areas present forks or separate passages to take, most of which eventually come back together, but are still fun to explore and meander through.

On this specific first trip, the weather was warm for the first half of the trip, but we paddled through light rain the next quarter of the journey. Surprisingly, it was refreshing and created an even more unique way to see the river.

20170210_holmberg_mugshots_petterson_11We made it to our destination and pulled our kayaks up on the shore to grab a quick lunch because kayaking all day can actually be pretty tiring. This spontaneous kayak trip gave me a new appreciation for the Mississippi and refreshed a desire in myself to do more outdoorsy activities.

“We definitely need to do that again,” I told my dad.

And later that summer, we did. I discovered even more different things the second time and even had a slightly different experience doing basically the same exact endeavor. Kayaking the river will always be something I enjoy doing, especially as an adventure with my dad, and I am already excited to travel the river again this upcoming summer.

Sam Petterson


Post Road

A 39-space cell phone lot on Post Road where drivers waited to pick up air travelers became my outdoors place (when it was still Northwest Airlines).  
My dad and I would go there a few times a month in the summer to lay on the hood of the car and watch the planes take off. Every time we pulled up and parked, I felt the the warm breeze waft over my face as I opened my car door. I smelled a mix of gasoline and grass as I would make my way to the hood of the car. As my dad and I laid there to wait for the planes to takeoff, I would smell the scent of my dad’s cologne and the smell of salt from the
sunflower seeds I was spitting on the ground.

The lot was a place where people would throw their cigarette butts or old water bottles. There might be luggage tag or two hanging from a crack in the sidewalk. I always found myself searching for what I could find on the ground. I mostly looked for coins, but it fascinated me to see what people left behind. One time, I found a pendant that fell off someone’s necklace. Being the inquisitive child I was, I wanted to know that person. Where did they get the necklace? Where did they travel to? Were they looking for this pendant now, or is it an non-issue for them? Essentially, what is their story? Even when I watched as people greeted their families, I wanted to hear their conversation, because I wanted to know how great their trip was too. So many questions bombarded my mind, and now I see that inquisitive nature I had come full circle, because I’m pursuing journalism. Who knew that a childhood place could lead to a career choice?      

My favorite part was watching the planes take off. I learned their pattern. The plane would start by backing slowly out of their space, and then the plane slowly moved on the tarmac following a winding course. When they reached the end of the course where they were directly in front of the runway, their speed increased. It was such an abrupt movement. The plane raced down the runway and before long it is flying upward into the air.

This process always fascinated me because I wanted to know what was happening inside the plane to make the planes take off like that. I also wanted to know how the planes stayed in the sky. The first time I went to Post Road, I got scared because I thought the plane was going to fall out the sky. Then my dad explained aerodynamics to me, I still didn’t understand, but it calmed me down in the meantime. I also envied passengers on the plane. I wanted to be like them and go in the air. I wanted to be above the clouds and feel as if I could touch the heavens. I wanted to look down and see the world down under resemble dots. I wanted to travel new places and explore their food, land, and people. But when I was younger, I lived vicariously through the passengers of that day. I attribute my itch for travel the Post Road. After college, that’s all I want to do is be one of those passengers that I wanted to be when I was young. I want to look out my window, and hope a child is there, like I was enjoying the scenery, and imagining a day when they too can fly high in the sky.  

20170210_holmberg_mugshots_gaines_13The biggest reason I appreciate Post Road is because I grew closer to my dad. My dad worked a lot when I was a kid, so taking the time to go to Post Road with him was a treat. We would talk about our week, I would ask endless questions about planes and his job while he patiently answered them, and we’d end by playing some sort of game in the parking lot. Sometimes we’d go and we’d just sit there. No need for talking. Just the act of sitting on the hood of the car in silence as the warm air hitting our faces and the zoom of the airplanes filling our ears sufficed. I think I learned the art of silence during my time at Post Road. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything, you just need to listen. Listen to the world going on around you: cars, planes, people, laughing, people arguing, kids staring in amazement at the airplanes, your heart beating faster as a planes takes off. Everything adds up to a moment that you just want to pause forever.

To some, it may seem like an old lot, but Post Road represents a place where everyone can be a part of life in the sky. The airport is a hub where many things are happening. Many people are leaving and many are going, but no matter how you use the airport, you always have to come home. Post Road is a place where your family members wait for you with open arms and hear of the places you traveled that you can add to your sense of home.

My dad once told me at Post Road, “Whenever you’re ready to travel, I’ll be right here waiting to pick you up.”

—CeCe Gaines