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From his computer screen in Fresno, Calif., retired teacher Patt Dodds is embarking on quite a trek: He's visiting all 87 Minnesota counties for his new blog, everycounty.org.
The blog is lovely, with nice photos, fun facts and maps -- all culled from the Internet.
"It takes me about three hours of on-line research per county and I'm doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so it should take me about seven months to get from Kittson County in the northwest to Houston County in the southeast," Dodds, 62, tells Escape Artists.
Why is a Fresno guy who grew up and worked at two newspapers in Iowa so obsessed with Minnesota?
About eight years ago, in the pre-blog era, he and his son visited all 99 counties in Iowa. He'd been to the Twin Cities and Rainy Lake and "thought it would be fun to virtually get to know the state better. It's frustrating to only hit the highlights so I'm digging a little deeper."
To wit: He points out that Baudette was rebuilt after a 1910 fire and the Northwest Angle that juts up into Canada ended up in Minnesota because of confusion about the Mississippi River's origins during 1783 Treaty of Paris talks.
He's three counties into his tour with 84 to go, but Dodds is looking ahead.
"Texas has 254 counties," he said.
It's been a wilder summer than usual at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. First up, a wildfire that came within half a mile of the center. Then a different kind of tension: On July 30, the introduced two wolf pups, Luna and Boltz, to the so-called exhibit pack, Aiden and Denali. All four wolves now roam the 1 1/4-acre main enclosure at the center. The young female, Luna, caused a stir when she temporarily refused to submit. You may cheer her feistiness, but that kind of rebelliousness can cause trouble for a new, young thing. Fortunately, she settled in, coaxed into submission by Aiden, who stood over her, nipped at her and put a leg on her back. She's a pro by now at submissive greetings, meaning that she'll roll on her back and look up at a more dominant wolf, but she'll growl if another threatens to take her food. That's my kind of wolf.
The pup's names, by the way, are the result of public opinion. After a naming contest, the staff chose four names per pup, which the public then voted on.
Knowing that not everyone can make it to Ely, the staff does everything in its power to enhance a virtual visit. Go to their site for diaries of each wolf, live cams and videos, including a detailed look at the day the pups were introduced.
It's not at all unusual to find yourself saying "Oh, I've always wanted to do that" upon seeing a mention of someplace like the Taylors Falls' Folsom House, the Split Rick Lighthouse or even the inside of the State Capitol.
Well maybe this could be the year, especially with our way-extended warm season. And it doesn't hurt to have a prodder/planner along the lines of the Minnesota Historical Society's 2012 travel map.
Available free via the society's web site, the map highlights more than a score of sites around the state, and could be especially useful in planning a double-dip trip such as Le Sueeur's W.W. Mayo House and St. Peter's Traverse des Sioux (below).
Or perhaps just something closer to home that you've been meaning to check out for years or even decades.
Delta made an unpopular decision when it pulled two McDonald's outlets in concourse G at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Delta controls vendors in the concourse; the Metropolitan Airports Commission has the rest of the airport. There's no Egg McMuffins to be found. Read all about it.
I was thrilled to see snow falling this morning. Conditions are ripening for my upcoming cross-country ski weekend. If you have a snow-centric getaway planned, you can get an up-to-date look at snow depths across the nation at this page of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's website. To get a sense of snow depths and conditions on state trails around Minnesota, go to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
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