We spent last Saturday watching the 10-year-old Granite Falls Mini-Watts baseball team at a tournament in Redwood Falls on Saturday. Starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until late afternoon, it was a relaxing day of watching those youngsters learning the fine points of playing baseball. A lot of credit has to go the folks who organize the summer leagues and also to those who coach and encourage these youngsters. They seem to take the ups and downs in stride and always seem to find a way to make everything a teaching moment.

They also do a good job demonstrating how being a good sport is the best part of the game. There is baseball in the future with these youngsters. Let’s hope they’re still playing the game when they’re in high school in just a few years. * * * * * * While Redwood is only 40 miles away it seems much further, thanks mostly to that most boring of highways, the 15-mile stretch of Highway 19, from the junction with Highway 67, just north of Vesta, all the way into Redwood. Pounding that pavement early on Saturday had the advantage of having the road to ourselves but, still, we were more than glad to get to the ball park and after the tournament, we were eager for an alternate route home.

At first I thought we’d take the road into Belview and north, down into the river valley toward Sacred Heart. But, when the sign pointing toward North Redwood came into view, I couldn’t resist and turned northward and down into the valley and then along the Minnesota Valley Scenic Byway, often referred to as the Sioux Trail, along the north side of the river in Renville County. This stretch of the road between Fort Ridgely State Park and the Chippewa County line on Pete’s Point Road, is mostly a gravel road, except around Morton (the only town it goes through between Granite and New Ulm) where it climbs onto Highway 71 and highway 19 and a couple of other short stretches.

It’s a well maintained route but is a slower drive, going through the middle of several farm places and along historic sites and historic markers along the way. It also goes by the stone ruins of the Joseph R. and Susan F. Brown house, located at one of the very few state wayside parks. Joseph Brown’s impact on the lives of the Dakota and on the early settlers here is hard to understate and his wife Susan was a mixed blood relative and confidant of Dakota leader Little Crow. The large three story house was built into the south-facing hillside in 1861. The Browns and their large family lived in the house for less than a year before it was destroyed in the 1862 U.S./Dakota Conflict. Their story is one of many along the way. The Scenic Byway designation for the route has made possible several new informative signs at historic sites along the way, adding some very good historical interpretation to this gorgeous route. We stopped at a few other historic sites and other interesting places along the way and also checked out several of the river crossings between Renville and Redwood counties.

There were folks fishing here and there and campers scattered around the string of Renville County parks along the river. It seems like every twist and turn along the route shows a new view of the beautiful valley and the many small streams that rush toward the Minnesota River. It was a great way to spend the end of a relaxing day. I urge all of you to find the time to take that drive and check it all out. We all need to learn more about our wonderful and scenic part of Minnesota. * * * * * * Western Fest is here and that makes it the best weekend of the summer. The many activities starting on Wednesday and continuing through Saturday make it a great celebration. Plenty of former residents and former high school graduates will be around and lots of other visitors from points near and far will be in the area for the busy weekend. Check out the paper and the schedules to see what all is happening and join the fun. _________