We’ve learned many lessons in the many months since COVID-19 dominated every aspect of our being.

These lessons combine appreciation, gratitude and acknowledgment. We feel gratitude to those who have helped us through this storm – our family, our closest friends and colleagues – and we’ve learned how much we missed them when we were apart. We realize how precious a hug is.

Peggy Bakken

Peggy Bakken

Another lesson is appreciation for people we never really appreciated before. People we didn’t even notice were catapulted to hero status. I’m thinking of the grocery store clerk, the truck driver and the teams that kept our power running among many others. These people worked day in and day out while we hunkered down in our homes, and thanks to them, we were fed, clothed and warm during some really cold winter days.

Next, lesson three: We all need to take the time to stop and climb the rocks.

We took off on our first family vacation in almost two years at the end of May, our two adult sons in tow. We committed to stop and climb the rocks along the way. So many times over the years we had traveled west, often to Colorado for a week in the mountains. But so many times we didn’t stop to appreciate what there was along the way. This time, we made time.

Mission accomplished:

- Rocks (and a bison herd) at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, on a toasty hot day.

- Waterfall Park at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filled with boulders and cascading waters.

- The rest stop along I-90, where there’s a “don’t miss” statue of an Indigenous woman, called “Dignity.” Rocks and trails can be found along the shores of the mighty Missouri River.

- Badlands National Park – many bizarre sandy, pointed rocks and buttes.

Son Paul described the scene as looking like every surreal planet the Star Trek away teams ever beamed down to.

- The incredible Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Needles Highway (phenomenal!),

1,400 bison and tons of granite to explore.

I realize some of you may not be rock climbers. You might be toe dippers, finding delight sticking your bare feet into Lake Superior or a cool forest stream. Some of you are waterfall prospectors, destination Minneopa near Mankato, Willow Falls near Hudson, or many places along the North Shore. Some of you are plaque readers, stopping at all of the historical markers along the highway. You might be “visit every huge lake in Minnesota” people – I hope you won’t forget Lac qui Parle in western Minnesota – another “wow.”

Many families learned last year that the outdoors had so much to offer as COVID forced them outside. I’m hoping everyone is still out exploring our fabulous state parks and the natural beauty of this Land of 10,000 Lakes.

As you travel this summer, share your gratitude and appreciation for all of those who helped us through this pandemic. And be sure to make time to stop and climb the rocks.

— Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome: peggy.bakken@apgecm.com.

Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome: peggy.bakken@apgecm.com.

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