July 5, 2020

Happy 4th of July, 2020

Happy 4th of July, 2020
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 5, 2020

For the first time in many years, we stayed home for the 4th of July.  Usually we go to Clear Lake, Iowa. This year with Covid-19 most of the celebrations were cancelled, so we thought it just made more sense to stay home.

We have taken our obsession with puzzles into overdrive and have started buying multiple versions to keep us entertained.  It's good family bonding time, although I do find myself getting a little carried away sometimes and have to drag myself away to go to sleep rather than find just one more piece....

We've been venturing out to new places for our hikes.  This week we went to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to walk alongside the Minnesota River.

When we first moved to Savage, Minnesota back in the early nineties, there was a road that you could drive on to get to Bloomington from Savage.  However it was always washed out when the river got too high so you'd have to drive way out of your way to get to where you wanted to go.

Shortly after we moved in, they opened a brand new bridge on Highway 169 that replaced the need to go on the old road.  They shut it down and converted it into the paths Miss Sheri and I walked along.  Countless times over the past 25 years I've driven on this bridge and thought to myself, I want to go down there and see what it's like now.  Thank you quarantine boredom for giving me the opportunity to knock that one off the old bucket list.

We were amazed and delighted to see there were birds down on the paths also.  I was so worried we'd have to walk along those paths and not having anything interesting to see.

Another thing we've been doing more than usual this summer is getting out on the boat.  Avery has even taken an interest in driving it lately which allows me the opportunity to lay on my butt in the front.  Very nice!

On the 4th of July, we got out on the lake early and waited a couple of hours to get a good spot on the boat parade route.  Lucky we did because it got way more crowded than I was expecting.

The boys brought a couple of friends along for the ride.  It's always nicer to spend the holidays with friends!

The boat parade was fun and we heard from some others there were a lot more boats decorated this year than in the past.  I guess quarantine boredom is getting to other people as well.

There were loud cheers for the float for the 2020 Seniors.  Everyone feels so bad for them that their  final year in high school got so screwed up with the virus.  They seemed to be having a great time in the parade, though!

Our favorite float was the Tiger King entrant.  They had a couple of Joe Exotics on board, several scary looking tigers, and some fun "Don't be a Carole" shirts.  We like clever people.

Our holiday ended with a front row seat to an incredible fireworks display at Watzl's Beach.  Hopefully next year we will be back to normal and have all sorts of options to celebrate again.  Happy 4th of July, everyone!!

June 28, 2020

Hikes and Boats

Hikes and Boats
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 28, 2020

2020 has been a crazy year, but there's been many positives to our situation as well.  We've been doing more hikes and boat rides this summer than I can remember we've done in many years.  The dog has been ecstatic to have so many opportunities to exercise.

We've also been blessed with some really nice weather which makes getting outside so much more pleasant than when the weather sucks.  I guess that's probably stating the obvious though.

One of my favorite things about Minnesota is the sheer number of parks available to explore.  I think we could go hiking every weekend for decades and never hit the same park twice.  

Having so many beautiful lakes nearby is a significant plus as well.

We stopped by the Prior Lake fishing pier on a recent hike and saw this sign about common fish in Prior Lake.  I found that to be pretty neat.

On Friday night, we thought it was time to visit Charlie's on Prior again.  Since it's now by reservation only we found ourselves having to eat pretty early to be able to get in for the night.

Luke was out of town, but Avery, Miss Sheri, and I had a nice time having dinner by the water.

On Saturday, we invited our good friends, Jen & Dan Walters, out for a kid-free boat ride.  We thought it would be fun to just have some parent time for awhile.

Of course we had to drag them out to Mud Bay to check out some hot Heron on Heron nesting action.  I don't think they were nearly as excited to see it as I was.

We also saw a mama and baby soft-shell turtle, but I don't think that was very thrilling for anyone either.

Everyone did perk up a bit when we stumbled across the Prior Lake Association and their ice cream sandwich giveaway.  All it takes is some free ice cream to get everyone all worked up again.

When we got to Candy Cove, Jen decided to get into it with some cranky Canadian Geese.  They were being pretty aggressive and I heard quite a bit of hissing taking place.  I think some of it was even coming from the birds!

June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day 2020

Happy Father's Day 2020
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 21, 2020

Summer is just flying by in Minnesota.  Hard to believe the 4th of July is only 2 weeks away.  We have been enjoying ourselves getting out on the lake as much as we can and taking lots of hikes through the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

We're still being pretty cautious with Grandma Linda.  She still won't come in our house, but we do enjoy her visits on our porch where we sit apart from each other and tell stories to one another.  The stories mostly don't make any sense.

On Tuesday, we went on a boat ride with our good friends, the Korkowskis.  The temperatures were in the nineties so it was a pleasant time to go jump in the lake.

We saw a lot of unique wildlife this week which we're always excited to photograph.  This is a spiny soft-shell turtle which is somewhat common in Minnesota, but we still don't get to see them very often.  Which is why I went out of my way to see this one up close even though not everyone thought that was a great idea.

I thought babies were more of a springtime thing, but we saw a bunch of baby animals this week including one of our favorites, an albino squirrel baby.  I have no idea why they keep reproducing in our neighborhood, but I guess here's proof of another generation to entertain us.

These two little fellas surprised us while we were on our regular walk several times this week.  It seemed like they fell from their nest, but we saw them repeatedly near the same tree so they must be ready to move out on their own.  The gentleman who owned the house where we saw them said they were baby green herons and this is the 4th summer they've been in his tree so the family must like that neighborhood.  In any case, we found them to be pretty cute little scamps.

We also saw plenty of baby birds getting ready to leave the nest on the big nesting tree in mud bay on Prior Lake.  I always screw up my identifications, but I'm pretty certain these are great white egrets.

I'm also pretty confident these are baby blue herons.  Miss Sheri and I really like their fuzzy black hair.  They look like little toupees.

I'm not quite as confident on what these are, but my best guess is some kind of cormorant.  I'm sure one of you bird geniuses will correct me if I'm wrong.

This one has me stuck, though.  I find him to be very cute and my first thought was a wood-duck, but my google searching doesn't seem to match and I'm not finding anything similar by searching for his various colors.  I'm going to just say he's a black beaked, white faced, brown duck and call it good.

Happy Father's Day to all you great dads out there!

June 14, 2020

Exploring Murphy-Hanrehan Park

Exploring Murphy-Hanrehan Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 14, 2020

Minnesota re-opened restaurants for indoor eating this weekend.  We still choose to eat out at the patio when given the opportunity, though.  It's still kind of scary going in public buildings!

We've been doing all sorts of walking lately.  The dog doesn't know what to do with all the extra attention.  He's going to be totally lost if things ever do get back to normal.

On Thursday night, we went to a pool party hosted by our good friends, The Korkowski Family.  Good food, good friends, and a nice pool make for a pretty fun summer's eve!

This crew has the tendency to get a little rowdy, but usually my wife keeps me in check enough to be a good boy.  Usually.

I have driven by Murphy-Hanrehan Park for many, many years but have never stopped by to check out it's trails.  We decided to bring that streak to an end this weekend.

We drug Blue along even though he has been getting walked way too much lately.  He doesn't seem to mind.

We had a very aggressive crayfish try to stop us on the path.  He held up his little claws like he meant serious business.  I stooped down to take pictures and video of him and he eventually backed down and slithered off into the pond.  He looked delicious.

We didn't see many other critters along our walk, but I did catch a glimpse at this frog.  Unfortunately, he refused to engage with me.

On Sunday, we decided to re-visit Murphy-Hanrehan Park again, this time planning to meet with the Korkowskis.  They are old pros at this park so we looked forward to following their lead through the woods.

They told us about this scary troll bridge we'd have to cross and that it was infested with snakes.  I ran ahead on the bridge to capture some photos of the snakes, but the trolls must not have let them out for the day yet so I didn't see any.  Dang trolls.

Luke has been requesting to go fishing lately, so when we arrived home I asked him to go down to the lake and cast out a couple lines.

I didn't expect to catch anything, but we actually pulled out a few in pretty short order.

We ended up having quite a bit of fun in the hour or so we tried it, so I think we will do it again soon.  Some day, we may even have to get brave enough to actually clean a few and cook them!