Roseville, Minnesota: Gateway to the Twin Cities

Continuing my “Midwest Summer Tour”, the Twin Cities of Minnesota was on my list of places to check out this summer. The nearby town of Roseville promotes itself as “perfectly positioned” near the Twin Cities, but I was skeptical. 10 minutes from downtown? My Chicago brain refused to believe any suburb could be conveniently located to the downtown area, but I decided to give it a shot. Hey! What do you know, not every metro area has gridlocked, soul-sucking traffic like Chicago! Much to my surprise, I was able to reach many spots within St Paul and Minneapolis within 10 minutes of my Roseville hotel, and I also found some fun things to do right in Roseville! There are tons of options for lodging, dining and shopping right in Roseville, many of which are also dog-friendly!

Bent Brewstillery

Roseville’s Bent Brewstillery started with a Mr Beer hobby kit and has grown into an award-winning operation. They offer a rotating selection of craft brews and spirits, including Poitin, which is a potato-based spirit. The owner, Bartley, has taken an innovative approach to business with unique ideas like partnering up with a local restaurant to use their potato peels to make the Poitin. Bent Brewstillery is dog-friendly (no kitchen) but they also have a rotating schedule of food trucks outside so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. The brewstillery also has a calendar of special events, such as a visiting astronomer the weekend I visited. Bailey enjoyed the backroom tour while I enjoyed sampling each of the spirits!

Bartley, owner of Bent Brewstillery giving us a back-room tasting

Rosedale Center

If shopping is your jam, you will probably make a beeline for the Mall of America in nearby Bloomington. I consider shopping to be more of a chore, so visiting Mall of America is about as appealing to me as Disney World. That said, I had errands while I was in town (I like to take advantage of free parking and light traffic when I’m not in Chicago!) and found nearby Rosedale Center. I was pretty stoked when I found out there is no sales tax on apparel in Minnesota, so it was a great place to stock up on some basics.

Reservoir Woods

Reservoir Woods is one of many parks within Roseville city limits, with several multi-use trails throughout. Finding the main entrance was tricky, and we ended up coming in through the back. In hindsight, I wish I had printed out a trail map so I would have been more comfortable exploring. We stuck to the main paved trail, but saw several single-track trails veering off into the woods. There is also an off-leash dog-park here. This is a great, quick escape for a dose of nature as you hardly even realize how close you are to homes and streets.

Reservoir Woods, Roseville

Minnehaha Falls Park

Located in Minneapolis, Minnehaha Falls is a great urban oasis. The main attraction of the park is the 53-foot waterfall. There is a trail along the river and spots where you can soak your paws along the way, which was much-needed on the 90-degree day we visited. The park also features a wading pool, disc golf course, volleyball courts, public art, historic sites and the Sea Salt Eatery. Pay lots are readily available and inexpensive.

Mill City Museum

With temps soaring into the 90’s, it was time to let Bailey chill in the A/C while I explored downtown Minneapolis a bit. I headed to the Mill District and the Mill City Museum. The whole neighborhood is a restored industrial area which now includes the museum, a waterfront park and some cool loft apartments. The museum entrance ($12) included a ticket to the Flour Tower, where we ascended the old grain elevator and were treated to animated scenes from the history of General Mills when the elevator doors opened on each floor. The museum also had interactive exhibits for kids and a great gift shop full of local specialties. (I’m a sucker for museum gift shops!)

The observation deck also provided excellent views of the Mississippi River, and the Stone Arches Bridge.

Night Photography

I love night photography and the Twin Cities were a great place to give it a go. The skyline and numerous bridges are so photogenic, and I felt pretty safe walking around at dusk with all of my camera equipment. Many people stopped to chat, mostly about my dog, of course. (Story of my life – everyone knew an Airedale in their youth, apparently!)

Residence Inn Roseville

I stayed at the Residence Inn, Roseville for the weekend. I love extended stay hotels because I feel like I could totally just move right into one! (I actually did live in one for 5 weeks when relocating to Chicago and I was in no hurry to move out!) The Residence Inn is pet-friendly and didn’t prohibit leaving B alone in the room, as many hotels do. The pet fee is $75, which is high, but as an extended stay, it’s a reasonable fee if you are staying several nights. In addition to the indoor pool, the hotel also has a nice outdoor area with grills and patio furniture. Rooms here are slightly less expensive than staying downtown, but once you factor in free parking, it’s definitely a great deal!

Have you been to the Twin Cities? What’s your favorite spot?


Roseville Minnesota

I was a guest of The Roseville Visitors Association. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

Canoe Camping in the Boundary Waters

In 2013, I had the opportunity to join 4 paddling friends for a 6 day canoe camping excursion in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota.  This had long been a place on my “bucket list” so I was fortunate to garner an invite on this annual tradition with experienced backcountry paddlers.

Our trip leader, Bob, has done countless trips to the Boundary Waters over the years, including many with Big City Mountaineers, so we were in good hands for this trip!

Boundary Waters Trip Planning

Planning for the trip began in January – we gathered a few times to discuss meal planning, wine preferences, route planning and our personal goals for the trip (stargazing and photography for me)  There were many tasks to be delegated – buying dehydrated food, making GORP, buying stove fuel, water treatment, sunscreen, bug spray and many other items we would need for our 6 day wilderness excursion.  We also had to agree on a route fairly early in the year so that we could secure our wilderness permits and canoe reservations.  This is key as they only allow so many travelers to “put in” and “take out” each day on each lake, so it’s important to know which lake you are applying for, and always have a Plan B!

After a packing party a few nights prior to our departure, we were ready to hit the road!

Boundary Waters Packing Party

What to pack for 6 days in the backcountry?  Not much, when there are portages involved!  This is my clothing for the entire trip:

Boundary Waters Packing

Getting to the Boundary Waters

On departure day, we gathered in the Western Chicago Suburbs early in the morning for the 8 hour drive to Ely, MN.  After a few stops, lunch at Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe in Chippewa Falls, we arrived in Ely in time to do some last minute shopping and grab our final civilized meal.  It would be dehydrated meals from here on out!

The outfitter we used for this trip was Canoe Country Outfitters.  While this was not a guided trip (which are available for a much steeper price) we still relied on the outfitter for canoe rentals, permits, shuttle, satellite phone rental, as well as lodging the night before and after the wilderness trip.  We provided our own food, paddles, life jackets and maps.  A guided trip would provide all of these, in addition to a rugged outdoorsman cooking savory meals over a campfire each night.  We had Bob for that!

Bright and early on a Friday morning, we loaded up our shuttle van and headed to the put-in on Lake One.  Last call for flush toilets and running water!  Months of planning were about to pay off.  I’ll admit to a slight case of nerves as well – I get them before every backcountry trip – what am I doing here, am I in good enough shape, are my paddling skills up to snuff, will my dog eat the adorable Schnauzer she’s staying with, etc, etc….but it’s all good once we hit those glassy Boundary Waters.

Ready to launch - Lake One

Boundary Waters Canoe Camping

On day 1, we paddled through Lakes 1, 2,3, 4, on to Lake Hudson and finally to Lake Insula.  We had our first portages with a full load of food and gear for the next 6 days.

As the backpacker of the trip, I was designated as the food mule, meaning I got to carry the portage pack containing the huge blue bear vault.  This job was NO JOKE!  That pack was flippin’ heavy, and lacked the internal support frame like a backpacking pack.  I pretty much had to hunch over to keep from falling backwards!

Boundary Waters Canoe Camping

Sometimes portages were to get us from one lake to the next.  Other times, like the picture below, were to portage around rapids.  This wasn’t a whitewater trip!  Each portage involved unpacking the canoes, splitting up the gear, loading up our backs and two lucky paddlers got to carry a canoe on their head!

Day 1 Rapids we portaged around (Leigh - iPhone photo)

Since Bob had so much BWCA experience, he knew which campsites to aim for, and each campsite was magnificent!  We usually arrived at camp in early afternoon, where we would beach the canoes and set up camp.  Each site had a fire ring and a pit toilet off in the woods, as well as plenty of room for our two tents.

Boundary Waters Camp Life

Everyone is dying to know – how and where do you go to the bathroom?  While many backcountry trips involve a shovel and a cathole, places like this with designated campsites would quickly turn into a mine-field, so pit toilets have been installed.  Still fairly rustic, and the more popular sites can get quite “full” if you know what I mean!

Once camp was set up, it was time for happy hour.  Just because we’re camping, it doesn’t mean we can’t be civilized!  Cheese, crackers and wine?  Yes, please, we’ve earned it!

Happy Hour at Camp One on Insula after a very long day!

After happy hour, we usually broke off for some alone time – swimming, reading, napping, hiking around the island or peninsula we had camped on.  We took turns with dinner duty and dishwashing each night.  Most dinners consisted of a soup mix like Bear Creek, with pouch chicken and dehydrated veggies.  For this trip, we used a JetBoil Group Cooking System.

Gourmet cuisine, foil pouch chicken not shown :)

After dinner, it’s time to hang the food bag from bears, which was no small task! Yes, I stood there watching while everyone did the heavy lifting.  Somebody needed to document, though!

A 4 person job!

I mentioned earlier that one of my goals was stargazing.  Sadly, hours of paddling and fresh air day after day meant I was never able to stay up late enough to see the stars!  That’s pretty much the story of every backcountry trip I take!  We portaged a tripod all over for nothing.

Day 2 we paddled across Kiana and camped on Lake Thomas, then on to Hatchet and Ima the next day.  Day 4 took us through Jordan, Cattyman, Gibson, Ashigan and Ensign.  Day 5 we explored Splash, Sucker and camped on Newfound Lake after a pit stop in Canada.

Day 5 (Leigh - iPhone photo)

One of the more interesting tasks in trip planning is calculating things like how much toilet paper you’ll need.  You don’t want to carry too much stuff, but you also don’t want to run out!  We weren’t quite sure of our supply, so the sidetrip to Canada was partially so we could “borrow” some TP from the ranger station.

After our last night on Newfound, we paddled out to Moose Lake and stopped for a photo opp at the Boundary Waters boundary.

Day 6 (Leigh - iPhone photo)

Here we are, back to almost civilization, haven’t seen a hot shower in 6 days, and we all cram into Bob’s Jeep Liberty for the short drive back to Ely.  High five, we did it!

We did it!

Back to Civilization in Ely, Minnesota

Once back in Ely, we took turns showering, watching a week’s worth of dirt swirl down the drain.  The rest of the group was ready for some lunch and shopping in the small town of Ely.  Me?  I’ve been sleeping on the ground for a week, humping a crazy heavy portage pack and sitting in a canoe….I’m heading to the SPA!  Before we even got to town, I was searching Yelp for the Pebble spa, which I’d seen when driving through town at the beginning of the week.  I booked a Hot Stone Massage for that afternoon.  Talk about an amazing treat to cap off the week!  The spa is in an old house in the center of town, with a super cute boutique store in front.

(Image Credit: Pebble Spa)

I stumbled out of the spa after an incredibly relaxing hour on the massage table, rejoined the group for some more shopping, then off to a steak dinner and early bedtime.  The next morning we hit the road at dawn for the 8 hour drive back to Chicagoland.

I can definitely see why some people return to the Boundary Waters year after year – I hope to return someday, but in the meantime have so many other places to explore.

This time, I would have 1 quick day at home to catch up on laundry and work, unpack, repack and head west for a Colorado backpacking adventure!  Back to back backcountry vacations?  Awesome!

For more photos, click here!


Boundary Waters Pin