I was invited to travel through Minnesota as part of a paid campaign through Explore Minnesota and this post is a part of the output from that experience. All opinions in this post are my own.
One of the reasons I was so eager to sign on for Explore Minnesota’s “Ten Day Minnesotan” campaign is that it was built largely around Instagram. If you know me personally, or you’ve followed me online for any significant portion of time – you know this is my very favorite social network! How could I say no! 😉
One of the reasons I love Instagram so much, is the people and experiences it has directly brought into my life. Because it is a community in the truest senses that a social network can be, it often is the connector that takes me from being a tourist in a place, to being a traveler who meets, and gets to know, locals face-to-face.
This is exactly how my favorite experience during my 10 days in Minnesota came to be.I had posted a few images from the trip and I was a day or two into my explorations, when Michael of Broken Paddle Guiding reached out to me and told me that he’d love to host me on a kayaking trip if I could make the time when I passed through Read’s Landing on my way to Winona.
It just so happens I LOVE kayaking, so of course I said yes. But I also said yes because I knew it would be a great way to make new friends who were from Minnesota and deepen a relationship that began solely on Instagram.
A few messages later and it was all arranged. I would meet Michael and his colleague in the parking lot of Read’s Landing Brewing Company a few hours before sunset and I’d join a paddle with a few other travelers who were visiting Minnesota just like me.
We began on the Chippewa River with a brief lesson in exactly how to kayak, as my fellow explorers for the evening were actually first time kayakers. Then, we set off, as small birds chirped, Bald Eagles kept watch from the highest limbs of nearby trees and the current carried us through the water, under a railroad bridge and out into the mighty Mississippi.
After a bit of paddling and a lot more floating with the fast-moving current, we made our way upstream toward Lake Pepin where the Mississippi River widens significantly and becomes “Lake Pepin” though it’s not actually a lake at all. There, small islands in the river have beaches that face the setting sun.
We beached our kayaks, hiked a short way through trees and brush over river stones smoothed by time and tide, to a sandy stretch where the sinking golden orb of the sun was directly ahead of us.
Michael had come prepared with a cooler full of Surly Brewing Co. beer and we took turns sampling the different styles. From Doomtree, to Furious IPA, to a Cynic Ale (which was my favorite, Belgian in style), we sipped and looked and talked and took pictures. We bonded over a shared love of the kind of exercise that happens when you’re out in nature working for a reward like a can of beer, shared with new friends.
Eventually, it was time to get back in the boats and make our way back to Read’s Landing. But I noticed reluctance in all of us; some hesitancy to leave the beach and end the night.
Darkness fell upon us fast but we made it back to our starting point in time to get off the water before all the light had left the river and I stood for a second, high on the joy of making new friends, exerting a significant amount of energy and being able to connect on a very deep level with a place I’d not known the day before.
The surroundings were fantastic, which is common in a state as naturally beautiful as Minnesota but what made the night as great as it was had nothing to do with the physical beauty. In the end, it was about sharing something, and having that thing bring me closer to other human beings originally through a technology that can sometimes, enable us to be anything but connected.
Not the kind of thing that happens every day! Unless you live in Minnesota I guess 😉