This last weekend I drove something like 1600 miles, and spent three days on the road.
I took a truck that we sold back to Iowa, and then I flew back to Salt Lake. In three nights, I had no more then 4 1/2 hours of sleep per night, and I spent most of the time driving. I circled through Wyoming, across South Dakota, into Minnesota and then down to Iowa. On the way I stopped at Martins Cove WY, Edgemont SD, Wounded Knee SD, and St Cloud MN.
It is sort of comical that this was the same truck that I drove back from New York earlier this year, and I stopped at most of the same places. It is a different time of year though, and I was in a much different frame of mind for this trip then I was back then. It made for a very different experience, and even with the sleep deprivation, I had a wonderful time.
The most memorable was my stop in St Cloud. The hotels were all full, so I drove out of town a ways and stayed in the back seat of the truck in some field. I had a good sleep, and the next day then I drove right over to St Johns Abbey.
St Johns is a Monastery/University about ten miles outside of St Cloud. It sits on 2,480 acres of prairie and forests with lakes and wetlands scattered throughout. Trails abound, and it is a wonderfully peaceful place to retreat. Although I liked it when I was there in April, I absolutely fell in love with it this trip. The fall colors and leaves turn the place into something of a fairyland. Originally, I was going to try and stay at the Abbey Guesthouse for two nights, but it didn't work out. I ended up wishing that I had tried a bit harder to make it all happen. As it was, I was there for about three hours. I wandered around to the far side of the lake (Lake Sagatagan) and visited the small Stella Maris Chapel on the far side. It was cooler weather, but nice with a light jacket. The wind would blow along and stir the leaves up around me, and I watched as families wandered around the trails, the children kicking the leaves as they went, laughing and playing.
I sat on a log next to the lake and the tall grasses rose all around me. The gentle sound of the breeze rustled through them. Out on the lake a sailboat drifted along, the sun wandered in and out of the cloud cover, and I was consumed by a sense of calm euphoria. I wished that I could stay, but I had to leave before it got too late to drive to Lake City, Iowa.
My opinion of Minnesota is drastically changed though. I was there in April and I didn't really care for it. (It was cold and still pretty dead a the time.) This time, as I drove along freeways and looked at the vibrant colors, I decided that I loved it. So the time to go there is in the fall. It really is beautiful. And as far as a retreat goes, St Johns is really nice if your looking for something woodsy, but a bit more civilized. (Beds, showers, etc. They even have meals if you want them.)