You know what it feels like. Facebook, Twitter, and a constant onslaught of email and text messages. The petty frustrations and problems of work. Your shoulders are up, your energy level is down, and you can't quite remember how you got so busy. These are the stresses of modern life, and a good long hike in the wilderness is the perfect break.


I learned this when I was a little girl, and we didn't have computers, let alone Twitter. I grew up in the high desert red rocks and ponderosa pine mountains of northern New Mexico. When I was eight, my father, who taught me to love skiing and fly fishing, took me on a backpacking trip. We carefully selected our food, packed and repacked our packs, evaluated our route, and then struck out on our adventure. I suspect we only walked a mile or two, but it didn't matter. I knew we were in the wilderness, and the experience lit up my imagination. 


My father and mother imbued in me a love of the outdoors, and a curiosity about that place where the pavement turns into dirt road, the road turns into a path with grass growing down the middle of it, and the path disappears around the corner. As hectic as my life is today, I regularly seek out these places.


I've lived in Minnesota for over 30 years with my husband Archie and our two sons, who now have partners of their own. When I ran for Lt. Governor in 2014, I fell in love with Minnesota again, and our remarkable, gorgeous, diverse landscape, where the northern forests meet the Great Plains. We have Lake Superior, the world's largest body of fresh water; the Mississippi River, our greatest river; the Boundary Waters and Voyageurs National Park; and countless bogs, abundant scrub oak and pine, lakes,
and streams.


In a moment of enthusiasm and pure love of the landscape during the campaign, I decided that as an antidote to the more challenging aspects of helping to lead the state, I would make a point of visiting Minnesota's state parks. Making this commitment has been one of the best decisions I've made.


This year, we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Minnesota State Park System, and the creation of Itasca State Park - Minnesota's first - at the headwaters of the Mississippi. The visionary leaders who over time have protected and conserved Minnesota's natural bounty deserve
our thanks. 

Minnesota was ahead of the times. Itasca is not only Minnesota's oldest state park, but also among the oldest state parks in the United States, predating the creation of the National Park Service by nearly 20 years. Over the years, Minnesota's state park system has grown to 74 parks. Today most Minnesotans live within 30 miles of a state park. 


Our state parks are living monuments to what makes Minnesota exceptional. When you visit a state park, you see our commitment to conservation, clean air and water, and habitat preservation. When you talk to a naturalist or ranger in our visitor centers or on the trail, you see our commitment to research and education. And when you hike along trails that are increasingly accessible to everyone, you see the basic Minnesota values of equity and
coming together. 


As President Franklin Roosevelt put it, "There is nothing so American as our parks. The fundamental idea behind the parks is ... that the country belongs to the people." On the 125th anniversary of our state parks, we should not take these riches for granted. 


I have been hiking Minnesota's parks with my family for over 30 years. 


In September, we visited spectacular Tettegouche State Park to see the High Falls on the Baptism River. 


After I hiked for 20 minutes, my energy level rose, my shoulders dropped, and the frustrations and distractions of modern life receded. We saw brilliant yellow and red mushrooms, the feeding line where deer keep the birch trees pruned, and a spectacular ancient pine tree. I snap a picture to put on Facebook later. And I took my state park passport in to the visitor center to get it stamped. 

Tina Smith is Minnesota's 48th Lt. Governor. Protecting Minnesota's environment and natural resources for the next generation is one of Tina's core values. In her free time, Tina enjoys biking, hiking, and cross country skiing with her family.