Ice, Snow, and Fish

It was cold. Below freezing. Negative numbers. Cold in any temperature scale.

I prefer summer. We enjoyed 3 summers in a row (with a little springtime on the edges) while traveling the world, so why am I standing outside on a frozen lake?

Way black in the planning stages of our round the world trip, we asked Boy where he wanted to go on our travels, and at 7 years old, he named 3 things, one of which was Ice fishing. We did not make that stop while traveling and I’ve been delaying, hoping he would forget. But, he did not. So, making good on that long ago request, here I am, on a frozen lake with my now 11 year old.

We flew to Minneapolis from Dallas on an uneventful flight connecting through Chicago. No weather delays, but a sprint to our connection gate was still required due to regular travel hassles. This wasn’t our first visit to Minnesota, and we stayed downtown, in a place we had stayed before.

This trip was different, however. To begin with it was cold. Did I mention that? We stopped at the downtown Target store and bought an inexpensive sled and some long underwear. Properly layered, and barely able to move, we drove about 2 miles out of downtown to Theodore Wirth Park. A city green space and golf course in the summer, Wirth Park becomes a winter sports headquarters when the snow and ice arrive. We rented snowshoes for a trail hike and spent hours on the free, sledding hill, located on the 10th green.

The sledding hill

The Wirth Chalet, a place for trail maps and equipment rentals

Skis, ready to rent

Statues in the park

In a fortunate turn for ice fishing, the weather in Minnesota was well below 0 degrees F for nearly 10 days before we arrived. It was -10 most of our days, and dropped to -20 overnight during the time we were there. Except for a few flurries, it did not snow during our visit, but previously fallen snow was still on the ground.

After our day of sledding and snowshoeing, we FINALLY went ice fishing. We drove to Lake Minnetonka, just outside Minneapolis. I was most nervous when I had to drive my rental car out on the ice. Though I didn’t fall through or slide away, I never felt completely secure when I found out the ice was only 18 inches thick. Surely it should be 5 or 10 feet thick before people drive on it, right?

Our guide, Dan, provided all the gear and expertise. This included the hut, a semipermanent building, think small mobile home, with a hole in the floor. It was rather comfy, and heated. We sat on chairs and were effectively indoors to catch our fish. It was even equipped with an underwater camera, so we could see when the fish were interested in the bait. This increased Boy’s success rate exponentially! He caught dozens of fish. We released them all, as we had no plans to cook any fish in our hotel room. Boy worked on a Boy Scout fishing merit badge, and even I caught a couple of fish.

After some success indoors, we tried fishing outdoors and Boy drilled a new hole in the ice with the help of our guide. It was tougher work without the underwater camera, and was extremely cold, so after 20 minutes or so, Boy decided inside was better.

The shelter

Driving and parking on the frozen lake

Drilling a new hole, outdoors

A new hole in the ice

We finished our Minnesota trip by warming up at the INDOOR amusement park at Mall of America. I could finally feel my fingers!

Right, ice fishing is off the list. Now, let’s plan a warmer trip. Northern Lights and an Ice hotel can wait.

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Glen Rose, Texas

Our home for 3 days in June, was Glen Rose, Texas, a town about 45 minutes South from Fort Worth, Texas.
We splurged on this outing and stayed at the the Lodge at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a safari park.  

The Texas landscape was reminiscent of  South Africa, and seemed to be quite well suited to the antelope, zebras, and giraffes that called it home.  Our behind the scenes guided tour included a visit to the Wildlife Center breeding program for cheetahs, prairie chickens, and wolves.

Not quite like our African Safari, the stay still allowed us an early morning drive through the safari park and a chance to feed some giraffes.  

We enjoyed the hot breakfast overlooking the watering hole, but the best wildlife spotting was at sunset from the deck at the Lodge.

After a rest, we went into town, checking out the old courthouse and town square, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants, like the Shoo Fly soda fountain and Pie Peddler pie shop, where we picked up some desserts.

The next day, we stopped for snow cones before swimming in the river and climbing on the rocks at Big Rocks park.

Prehistoric Texas

About 1 1/2 hours South from Dallas, on highway 67, we came to Glen Rose Texas.  Our first stop, Dinosaur Valley state park.  

The park is known for dinosaur footprints found in the rock of the Paluxy river bed.   The state park has a number of hikes, all less than a mile long.  Though the short, well cleared trails, are suitable for all ages, they are still rocky and have a number of stairs.

With summer in full swing it was HOT. Stretching our legs after the drive, we appreciated that the first hike took us to the Blue Hole, a swimming hole from the 1800s.  Near the edge, were 3 clear footprints. Hidden in the winter, the lower river level in the summer exposes them, in about 4-5 inches of water.  We left our shoes and socks in the bank and waded in to get a better look.  Boy took the opportunity to go for a full swim and play with some other kids in the cool, clear water.

Other short hikes took us to the Ballroom site and the main site where tracks were first discovered. The Ballroom has hundreds of footprints.  When we were there, they were in about 2-3 inches of water, so we waded out for a good look.  Boy loved splashing through the shallow water and Mom slipped and managed to get quite wet, as well.

The next day, we returned to the area for a stop at Dinosaur World, a series of nature trails enhanced by lifesize statues of dinosaurs.  There is also a dinosaur themed playground and a small museum with fossils and animatronic dinosaurs.  The highlight for Boy was the fossil dig.  Included in the child admission, the fossil dig is a sandbox, studded with real, small fossils.  Children are given 10-15 minutes to dig through the sandbox and choose 3 fossils to keep.  The trails in Dinosaur World are paved, and it is an easy stroll for strollers or wheelchairs.  It would have been a big hit with our boy at 5 or 6 years old, or if we had a wider variety of ages and mobility in our group, but at 11 years old, the admission, at almost $13 a person (in 2017) was a bit steep for the excitement level.  Dinosaur World is across the street from the Creation Museum, according to its website, a museum dedicated to the story of biblical creation and a place to see how dinosaurs and humans lived side by side prior to Noah’s flood.  We did not visit.  


On our way back to Dallas, we drove through Waco for a stop at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  Declared a National Monument in 2015, the park has had lots of new construction of a visitors center and signage from the National Park Service.  The enclosed dig site shows the excavation of a number of mammoth fossils in situ, where the animals were buried after a flash flood.  We checked out the Junior Ranger program and had a chance to touch and examine skulls and teeth models with rangers at the visitors center.

The Junior Ranger guide


The dig site


Our fossil identification guide, and a snack:

Day of the Dead in Texas

A short jaunt to East Dallas, a part of the city we had not yet explored, brought us to the Mexican markets and grocery stores.  It was an excellent opportunity to check out the preparations for the Day of the Dead celebrations.  Starting with breakfast tacos, we then moved on to holiday treats.

  

Boy really liked the sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, as he had just read about them in Ray Bradbury’s Halloween Tree.

 
A bit of art to finish the day.

  

Grapes in Texas

In France, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, Oregon, and South Africa we visited wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards this year, so, when we saw that we were in Texas in time for the Grapevine Grapefest, we knew we could not miss it.  Boy is an expert on grapes, now, and the event promised a free kids activity area.

  

To avoid the 90+ F/ 35+ C temperature, we got there in the morning when the gates opened.  We enjoyed the festival music and food, playing some games of skill to win a few prizes before trying any wine.  The event featured areas spotlighting Oregon wines, Argentinian wines, and USA sparking wines from various regions.  The main area, however, was the Texas producers.  We wandered through the festival and sampled a variety of Texas wines.  Many were very sweet, as Texas wines traditionally have been, but some winemakers have been experimenting with Spanish varietals to make a dryer wine.  After our year of vineyard experiences, we decided Texas wines were not our favorite, but we still found a glass to enjoy with lunch.

Hot in Dallas, Texas

Arriving in Texas during August, the hottest time of the year, with temperatures well over 100 F/40 C, we started with some indoor fun.
Our first stop was Legoland Discovery Center, at Grapevine Mills Mall.  We had visited Lego Discovery Centers in other cities, and Boy loved the rides and building areas.  The Dallas one had all this, plus an outdoor water playground, where children could splash, climb and build with oversized Lego bricks in the water.  So, I guess we did go outside after all.

   
 

Later, we headed to downtown Dallas to check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
   
On the way in, we stopped at the musical garden to play a few notes and play leap frog over the child sized beasts.

    


No surprise here, the museum has a large geological section and exhibit on oil and gas, so important to the local economy.  

  
Boy loved the exhibit on the creation of the universe, as well as all the dinosaurs.  We spent hours playing with the robots in the hands on technology section, and we found a few books for the reading list.

  
  

Exploring with Lewis and Clark in Nebraska

We found ourselves passing through Nebraska on our way to Missouri for a visit with friends.  This took us through the Missouri River Basin, site of the Nebraska City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trails and Vistor Center.   The center focuses on the naturalist reports and specimens collected by Lewis and Clark during their explorations.  Models of the river boat and tents used by the explorers and full size examples of the animals and plants they collected are displayed.  On a tight schedule, we weren’t able to hike the trails, but did spend some time checking out the museum at the visitor center.  A children’s trail through the exhibits led to punch card stations.  A completed punch card meant you were eligible to receive an embossing of the Jefferson Peace Medal, carried as a gift by the famous explorers for Native American tribes they met along the way.

 

There was also a child sized prairie dog town, where children could climb through tunnels and pop up out of prairie dog holes.

  

A copy of the boat used by the explorers on the Missouri River

  

The Visitors Center

  

Thankfully, they also had a map made by Lewis and Clark.  We were able to check where we were.  Hope we can make it to Kanzas!
  
 

Boy did some reading about the explorers’ path.