"Normal" Is A Dryer Setting

Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum

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Devil’s Kettle

We need the tonic of wildness. ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Four times a year I slip out over my lunch hour to have my hair cut. This may not sound like much, but for me it is a wonderful indulgence. I go to Urban Village SalonSpa, which is nestled in the heart of Cathedral Hill. My hairdresser and I have been together for seven years, and she is the only person in the entire world who is capable of taming my fine, frizzy hair into layers of manageable waves.

Over the course of our relationship, my hairdresser and I have discussed several subjects, ranging from our mutual love of cats to new recipes we tried to how both of us grew up near farmland in the Midwestern United States. One topic she mentioned that I found particularly intriguing is a geological mystery tucked away near the northernmost part of Minnesota’s North Shore: Devil’s Kettle. In addition to seeing an amazing natural phenomenon, my hairdresser recommended this as a must-do on my next trip Up North due to rumors that this remote area was a gangster hideout in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Devil’s Kettle is a gigantic sinkhole located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, Minnesota. Judge C.R. Magney State Park, located 14 miles northeast of Grand Marais on Highway 61, has the Brule River flowing through the middle of it. Over the course of 8 miles, the Brule River drops 800 feet, creating several waterfalls. At Devil’s Kettle, the Brule River forks at a rocky outcrop of rhyolite, creating side-by-side waterfalls. One half of the Brule empties into nearby Lake Superior. The other waterfall is where the intrigue begins – the river pours into the kettle but we have yet to determine where it comes out.

As curiosity is part of human nature, we like to try to explain what we do not understand. An abundant number of theories exist about Devil’s Kettle, including underground caves, rivers, fault lines, and hollow lava tubes. Each theory, however, fails the test of reason due to both lack of evidence and the geology of the area. Rather than copy what others have written before, I included some websites at the bottom of this post for additional reading about the how and why of this phenomenon.

Tim and I decided to have an adventure last August during our annual trip to Grand Marais, and we checked out Devil’s Kettle. Devil’s Kettle is about a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area at the park entrance, and there are signs along the path and places to rest. While the hike is not a long one, and the path is well-maintained, there are a couple of staircases along the way. Recommended items for the hike include trail shoes, mosquito repellent, a wide-brim hat, water, and sunscreen. We also do a tick check each time we finish hiking through the woods.

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When we were half a mile from Devil’s Kettle, we arrived at the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls is easily accessible from the hiking trail, and you can walk down on the rocks by the Brule River. Tim and I took video of the Upper Falls, several photographs, and climbed around on the rocks for a while. You can pull up the videos we took by clicking on each of the following three pictures.

Upper Falls

Click on the picture to see video of the Upper Falls.

When Tim and I hiked the last half mile to Devil’s Kettle, my favorite part was hearing the waterfalls before actually being able to see them. Devil’s Kettle can be viewed only from a lookout point at a distance from the waterfall, probably to prevent visitors from throwing objects into the sinkhole or falling in themselves. Devil’s Kettle was beautiful, mesmerizing, and large. How often in our lives do we have two waterfalls in a single line of vision? The water was flowing so quickly and with such force that I did find myself wondering where all of it goes.

Devil's Kettle

Click on the picture to see video of Devil’s Kettle.

We also took a close-up video of the double waterfall to see the split more clearly.

Devil's Kettle close up

Click on the picture to see Devil’s Kettle close-up.

Can’t get enough waterfalls? Mother Nature Network has a must-see list of 14 amazing waterfalls located all over the world. If you are in the northeast United States, Niagara Falls is definitely one to visit. Having been on both the Canadian and American sides of Niagara, while both are breathtaking, I tend to agree with the common opinion that the Canadian falls are the better ones to visit. Next on my list are Havasu Falls located in Grand Canyon National Park. My boyfriend suggested we go as part of a romantic Western getaway, and I can hardly wait. However, while he lived in Grand Marais for a few years after graduating from college, he has never explored north of the town. When I found this out I told him that we should put Devil’s Kettle on our list of places to go and have an adventure in our own backyard.

Here is additional reading for more information on the mystery of Devil’s Kettle:

I hope you have yourself a happy exploration!



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Chicago’s Museum Campus

Everything remains to be discovered, nothing is commonplace, and all seems new. ~ Steve Goodman, MacArthur Field Biologist, The Field Museum, describing Madagascar

Chicago as seen from Museum Campus.

Chicago as seen from Museum Campus.

Tim and I are at the end of a second full day spent in downtown Chicago. We scored a hotel deal on Michigan Avenue, which placed us literally across the street from Museum Campus. Grant Park made for a lovely walk to and from the museums each day, and we are also almost exactly in middle of the Lakefront Trail, where you can walk, run, bike, relax on one of its several beaches, or go for a swim in Lake Michigan.

For those of us who hail to Chicago from out of town, figuring out where to go for what and how to get there can be confusing. Here is some information for getting around Museum Campus and the surrounding neighborhood. Everything is in walking distance except for Chinatown, which is about two miles south.


What’s on Museum Campus anyway? Museum Campus is home to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Plantarium. If you are a member of a science museum in your hometown, you may have reciprocity at one or more of these Chicago museums, which means free admission to the general exhibits. Since I have a family membership for the Science Museum of Minnesota, Tim and I received free admission to the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium. Here are links for each museum:


The Field Museum

The Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium

The Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium


Chicago is a big city. Here is a map showing where Museum Campus is located. The best intersection to use when walking to the museums is Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue.


Alright, you’re here. Now where do you stay? There are several lodging options available on Michigan Avenue, including

Facing north on Michigan Avenue. Grant Park is on the right.

Facing north on Michigan Avenue. Grant Park is on the right.


A day of walking makes one work up quite an appetite. If you’re in the mood to dine out, there are several restaurant options in the Museum Campus and Grant Park area. Here are a few that run the cuisine gamut:

If you’re in the mood to drive, Chicago’s Chinatown (http://www.chicagochinatown.org/) is two miles south of Museum Campus on Michigan Avenue. From Michigan Avenue, go west on Cernak Road and you will see the parking lot on your right when you reach Wentworth Avenue. Parking in the Chinatown lot costs only $2.00 for three hours when you eat at one of the restaurants. Tim recommends the Three Happiness Restaurant, which is across from the parking lot and has Sesame Chicken, which is one of his favorite foods of all time.

The Lakefront Trail:

The Lakefront Trail.

The Lakefront Trail.

A walk or run along the Lakefront Trail is always nice. You can also bike on the trail, and the bike paths and pedestrian/running paths are clearly marked. Museum Campus is located almost exactly in the middle of the trail, which starts at Kathy Osterman Beach and runs 18 miles along Lake Michigan until it ends just north of Rainbow Beach. As you may have gathered, the trail is scattered with public beaches along the way, where you can sunbathe, play in the lake, or build a sand castle. To access the trail, walk across Lakeshore Drive at any major intersection, such as Roosevelt Road or Congress Parkway.

Sundries & Supplies:

If you find yourself in need of an extra tube of toothpaste, craving fresh fruit, or simply looking for an inexpensive source of food, there is a Jewel-Osco grocery on the corner of Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue. This grocery also has a pharmacy, and the second floor sells wine and spirits. Parking in their lot is free as long as you can find a spot.

The corner of Roosevelt and Wabash also has

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Starbuck’s Coffee
  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop
  • Subway Sandwich Shop
  • Gas station

Walk about four blocks further west on Roosevelt Road and you will find a Target which also has a pharmacy and a grocery section.

Emergency Care:

Do you have a headcold? Did your toddler slip and skin her knee on the sidewalk? Eat something that didn’t quite agree with you? Not to worry, there is an urgent care clinic a few blocks further south of Roosevelt on Michigan Avenue. South Loop Immediate Care (http://www.southloopurgentcare.com/) is open from 9:30am-7:00pm Monday through Friday. You can make an appointment online or walk-in. If you need to fill a prescription, you can do so at Jewel-Osco or Target. There is also an independently-owned pharmacy two doors down from South Loop Immediate Care on Michigan Avenue.

Tim and I hope that you have as much fun as have if you choose to venture to Chicago’s Museum Park. The Grant Park area of Chicago is extremely walkable, with shops, restaurants, and Lake Michigan all within a mile. Happy travels 🙂 .

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The Long Drive Home

Time and health are taken for granted until they are depleted. ~ Denis Waitley

This morning the phone rang off the hook at 8am sharp. I ran to answer it because I was letting Tim sleep in until 8:30. I knew who it was, even before I looked at the Caller ID. My father was calling to let me know that high drama was about to ensue this weekend concerning my baby brother’s wedding, my mother had absolved him from all grilling responsibilities, and to ask me where I had gotten the notion into my head to drive around in downtown Chicago.

All packed and ready to go. Pickles and presents for my parents.

After giving my father words of wisdom (NOT) about how to undramatize the impending wedding drama, reassuring him that my sister’s boyfriend is fully capable of operating a grill, and if it would make him feel better I could show up with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and telling him that Tim and I really won’t be doing THAT MUCH driving in Chicago, just a lot of sightseeing, he told me to give him an Estimated Time of Arrival, that he loved me, and that he wants me to drive safely. I told him I love him too and that we will see everyone tomorrow. My brother’s wedding is important not only because, well, it is his wedding to his girlfriend of the past eight years, but also because it will be the last time that our entire family is together for quite a while. My brother is in the Air Force, and after a stint in Texas this summer he will most likely go to Turkey for an indefinite period of time. It is strange to think that after this weekend I will not know when or where I will see him again, or when all of us will be reunited.

See ya Minnesnowta…crossing the St. Croix River into Wisconsin.

After hanging up the phone I went back to my neverending list of What Needs To Be Done Early In The Morning Before Departing On Vacation, woke Tim up, and told him to hop in the shower. Nine hours later, as I type from our hotel room in Rockford, Illinois, he is sound asleep and I am nursing a glass of wine. Today is Day One of our vacation, the main goal of which is to see my baby brother happily married off this weekend at the lovely Lakeside Park and Rose Garden in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The majority of our vacation will be spent hanging with the fam. The last couple days will be spent in Chicago, where Tim and I will be staying one night in Chinatown and touring the Mythbusters exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry the next day before driving back to Minnesota.

Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille in the Wisconsin Dells.

So what did Tim and I do on Day One, once he decided to rise and shine? We drove from Stillwater, Minnesota, to Rockford, Illinois, stopping a little over halfway to hang out in the Wisconsin Dells area over lunch. I needed to buy him a short-sleeved dress shirt for The Big Wedding, so we headed to the Tanger Outlet Mall, which is conveniently located right off I-94. Before shopping, we ate at Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille, which has an excellent lunch buffet for a reasonable price. I also printed a 10% off coupon from their website before we left, so Tim and I saved even more money. The lunch buffet has salad, fresh fruits and veggies, soups, pasta, and several pizzas to choose from. My favorite is the pickled cucumbers and red onions in a dill cream sauce – yum! If you have small children, or children trapped in adult bodies, you can also ask Buffalo Phil’s to seat you at a train table, where a train delivers your drinks and food for no extra charge.

Wisconsites love their cheese chalets.

After lunch Tim and hopped over to the outlet mall, and between Gap and J. Crew we found what we were looking for. Tim started begging me to say that we were done and could leave, and I told him  he was starting to sound exactly like Daniel who shops exactly the same way – get in, get out, and do the least amount of work as possible. On our way out we passed a cheese chalet and I asked Tim if he wanted to go in for a gander. I expected him to say no, but surprisingly he said yes. While Tim is not big on shopping, he is big on cheese. Wisconsin has cheese chalets that pop up along the highway every 20 miles or so, and you can tell when one is coming up by the billboard that says nothing but “CHEESE”. Only in Wisconsin. I will have Tim snap a photo of one on the way back.

After visiting the cheese cornucopia, Tim and I drove the remaining two hours to Rockford, where we are spending the night. Tomorrow we will drive the rest of the way to my parents’ house, stopping in Valparaiso, Indiana to eat at Schoop’s Hamburgers and possibly running around the Indiana Dunes for an hour or two depending on the weather.

Jusqu’à demain!