A Tale of Two Fish – Garrison, ND/MN

Minnesota and North Dakota don’t generally pretend to be big rivals.  Both are very different, and their viewpoints on one another generally differ depending on what side of the river you’re on.  We share a handful of towns with the same name (Medina, Underwood, Golden Valley, Rogers, Crosby, to name a few), and some might argue that’s where the similarities end. Well that, and some damn cold winters.
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Kensington Runestone, Alexandria, MN

One of the most interesting and controversial curiosities in Minnesota’s history was found on a farm outside of Kensington, MN in 1898. Allegedly a farmer unearthed a rock slab that was tangled in some tree roots and after cleaning it off, discovered ancient runic carvings. The writing, Scandinavian in nature, revealed that explorers had been over here long before Columbus, and had gotten as far as Minnesota.

Unfortunately, there is a sharp divide as to who considers it authentic vs. a hoax.  It seems no notable scholars truly agree that it is real, and most Minnesotans are too stubborn to accept that answer. So, the jury is still out.  The real Runestone is somewhere being studied in Washington currently, but there is a replica at the Minnesota History Museum in St Paul, MN (pictured below).

The Runestone Museum is in Alexandria, MN where you can learn all about the detailed history of this artifact, as well as buy all sorts of trinkets relating to the Viking lore. It sits right next to Big Ole and the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum as well.

While in the area:  Downtown Alexandria has a lot of antique and other cool shops, and there are walking paths around the lakes right in town.

World’s Largest Boot, Red Wing, MN

Red Wing Shoes, started in 1905, was the the primary company manufacturing footwear for American soldiers fighting in World War I. It’s based out of the river town of Red Wing, MN, on the Mississippi River in Minnesota’s bluff country. Known primarily for producing work boots, they have added all sorts of different styles and designs, and have expanded to several other brand names as well.  In 2007, construction began on the authentic, hand built, Guinness-certified World’s Largest Boot.  It is a size 638-D, is about two stories tall, and weights over a ton.  It is located at the Red Wing shoe store in downtown Red Wing, MN.  You can walk right up to it and up some stairs to a small museum on the history of the shoe company. It is made with the same specs as an actual boot, only magnifed by 600 or so.

While in the area:  Red Wing is a very cool, historic river town with a cool little downtown area.  Right past the boot is Barn Bluff, which an easy hike to the top gives you incredible views of bluffs, the river, and the town.  Also just up the road is Treasure Island Casino, and Frontenac State Park is pretty close too.  Just a great area.