Featured Blogger - Girl of 10,000 Lakes - Jenny Anderson
With a thirst for the outdoors and an appetite for adventure Jenny Anderson, the Girl of 10,000 Lakes, is always hungry for new experiences. Whether making her own maple syrup for the first time, trying her hand at snowmobiling with her husband Nick, or collecting water from a few of her favorite lakes to make the Minnesota Wild's home ice truly "our ice"; Jenny's ravenous craving to taste all of the delicious activities Minnesota offers has yet to be satisfied (much to the delight of her readers). On top of that her special blend of genuine curiosity and willingness to share openly about her own life experiences is the perfect recipe for a blog that unabashedly celebrates the lifestyle of the great Up North. Don't take our word for it though... just ask the good people over at Twin Cities Collective who deemed Girl of 10,000 Lakes the best travel/outdoor blog of 2018. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to present one of our favorite bloggers – Jenny Anderson.
For those who don’t know, what is the story of Jenny Anderson – the “Girl of 10,000 Lakes"?
I'm an outdoor creative who calls Minnesota home. I think my story might seem relatable to some because I didn't grow up doing all the outdoorsy things like most anglers, hunters and others who get placed in the "outdoor" category. I grew up in the burbs of Woodbury and mostly stuck around the metro area until college. I actually didn't discover my love for the outdoors until my mid-20s while living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. That's when I met my then-boyfriend/now-husband Nick. He hates when I give him credit, but he's a huge part of my story! I caught my first walleye on a tip up while ice fishing on Lake Eau Claire with Nick and I remember wishing someone would have introduced me to this sooner. That experience along with a few others ignited a new desire to connect with the outdoors in so many more ways, like nature photography, camping, and hunting. I now use this platform Girl of 10,000 Lakes to inspire others, especially women, to get outdoors, and vibe with folks who either have a passion for the outdoors, are just starting to discover it, or are curious about my next adventure.
What made you take the leap and officially decide to become a blogger?
I launched my blog "Girl of 10,000 Lakes" in 2017 as a way to fuel my passion for creativity and the outdoors. It actually happened during this random weekend when Nick was on a guys trip in Utah. I must’ve been bored? I had been playing around with the idea of an Instagram account and blog for a while. Just needed to pinpoint a niche.
I realized we were spending every weekend fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, canoeing, or going to the cabin. It was content paradise, but we weren’t documenting it all at the time. So I thought up the name Girl of 10,000 Lakes and very quickly grabbed all the handles for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, and the URL. I was relieved to see that no one had taken the name yet!
Combine that with my journalism background. Before we moved back to Minnesota, I was a TV news journalist in western Wisconsin. My days were filled with interesting interviews and sharing the stories of people from all walks of life. I was unofficially on the outdoor beat too. It was an exciting job! But I ended up switching careers when Nick and I moved back to Minnesota. The news industry is competitive here and it was a massive market jump as a reporter. I now do videography for the state of Minnesota. After making the career switch, I almost immediately realized I needed to fill a void. I missed the personal creativity and gratification from my storytelling days, which led to Girl of 10,000 Lakes.
You have an incredible eye for style and design as well as a keen sense for composition when it comes to photography - your Instagram feed is full of well done (and I’m assuming carefully selected) imagery while your blog is rounded out with a more photojournalistic/storytelling vibe. What is your background? Have you had any formal training in design or photography or is this some sort of innate, natural talent of which we should all be insanely envious?
Thank you! Nothing to be envious about! I think everyone has a natural talent that’s just waiting to be discovered with a photography class or two. I do have a BA in broadcast journalism so I spent a lot of time with video cameras and DSLRs. A couple years ago, I took a photography course at the MPLS Photo Center which seriously helped refresh my memory on manual photography. I love investing in courses or watching educational YouTube videos on digital media because I think good videos and photos are everything. Instagram is visual and those tiny squares tell stories. But reality is people aren’t going to stick around to watch or read the stories if you don’t capture their attention in the first few seconds. So I do carefully select the images and plan ahead of time when I can, probably like you! I’m always ogling over your curated photo choices on the gram. Seriously! And although some images are posted in the moment or off the cuff, more often than not I put a lot of thought into it. Instagram is the highlight reel and my blog is the in-depth look with way more photos and of course, the write up that tells the story. And now with Instagram Stories and IGTV, the ability to tell stories through photos and video has totally shifted. There are so many mediums and I’m all about using all the things!
Have you always been an outdoorsy person or is it something that you have developed over time?
I was far from outdoorsy as a kid. Like I mentioned, I discovered this crazy love for the outdoors in my mid-20s. There’s an unofficial name for it. I call it Adult Onset Outdoorsing. Shameless plug, I actually wrote about this in the latest Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine put out by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Check it out if you get a chance!
I moved to the US when I was 3 years old. My parents and I didn’t do a lot of outdoor activities other than the occasional car camping trip. Growing up, I was a total suburbanite and going “out” meant heading to the mall. A basic teenager, if you will. It wasn’t until after college when I took a job as a reporter that I started to learn about hunting, fishing and the state parks system. I covered a lot of stories on those topics. And then I met Nick who was a major influence in getting me outdoors. Some people can cold start a new hobby, but I needed an introduction from someone I trusted and felt comfortable with. For me, that person was Nick. I now can’t imagine a life without Boundary Waters camping and canoeing, ice fishing on Mille Lacs or going to the archery range for fun.
How did you happen to land on the moniker “Girl of 10,000 Lakes”? Were there any other names in the running? If you had to launch things all over again is there anything you would have done differently?
I wanted a memorable name. I also didn’t want to go by my first and last name, which by the way isn’t very memorable as you can imagine. I’m sure I have a list of other contenders somewhere, but the ones I can remember included words like “wanderlust” and “adventure.” Glad I settled with Girl of 10,000 Lakes! It has a Minnesota connection, outdoor theme, and a strong female vibe which was important to me. But if I had to change one thing, I wish I would’ve launched G10L (that’s what Nick likes to call it for short) much sooner, like six years sooner. That’s when I first fell madly in love for the outdoors and of course, Instagram was barely a thing. I would have OG status!
Of the 11,842 lakes in the land of 10,000 lakes how many would you estimate you have visited thus far? And which has been your favorite up to this point?
Oh gosh. I wish I had a better estimate for you but I’m sure I’ve only visited a tiny fraction of that. Once you find a few lakes you really like, you end up just going to those lakes again instead of trying new ones. At least that’s how it is with fishing. I would love to visit all 11,842 though. That would be an accomplishment and I would really be living up to the name! My favorite lake would have to be every lake in the Boundary Waters. I have yet to meet a lake In the BWCA that I don’t like. If you get a chance, visit Ester Lake. We went there this fall and it was unreal. The water had this gorgeous teal and blue tint, the geography was spectacular with lots of elevation, plus excellent trout fishing.
If you had to choose any other topic to blog about besides travel/outdoors what would it be?
You probably know this by now, but I am a total foodie and would definitely be a food blogger. I love traveling and getting my time outdoors, but all of those things usually involve eating too. Girl’s gotta eat! People are always so shocked by how much I can eat. If you saw my monthly bank statement, you’d be appalled by how often I eat out. But my happiness level is probably very much inline with food I eat. I used to down two Chipotle burritos like it was nothing. If I had to be specific about the type of food blogger, I would definitely go with baked goods. I think I found my next niche! I want to try every croissant and galette in Minnesota. I’m drooling just thinking about this.
Last year you had the distinct honor of being deemed the the Best Travel/Outdoor Blogger of 2018 by Twin Cities Collective... what did that kind of recognition mean to you, especially having achieved the honor in only your second year as a blogger?
It’s still mind boggling! I have so much gratitude for the kind folks who thought I was worthy of that title. It was definitely nice to get recognized for all the long days and nights I spent working on blog-related projects. I still think I’m pretty new to the blogosphere, but having the recognition to back it up made me feel like I’m on the right track. It’s easy to question yourself and wonder if you’re doing all of the right things. But I keep reminding myself whether I get recognition or not, I need to stay true to myself and remember my personal manifesto of inspiring others to explore the world around them a little more.
Embarking on a blog seems like a simple step into self publishing, but the grind to always be working on new content can be exhausting to say the least. What lessons have you learned since starting your blog? About yourself? About running a blog? And about planning for and capturing content?
I am super grateful for the opportunities that come with blogging. I mean, how many people can say they visit new cities, stay at cozy cabins, and do outdoor activities as part of their "job?" But it also makes it hard to separate leisure from work. Every cabin getaway, fishing trip, or camping adventure can suddenly feel like "work." I've figured out that it's best to just crank out all sponsored content at a scheduled time. That way, the rest of the day is meant for relaxing and simply enjoying.
I also have a planner for blog-related work and it helps me stay organized. I use it to jot down a shot list, to-do list, blog post ideas, and sponsorship ideas. There are some months when the calendar is jam-packed with trips and projects. It is super helpful to have it physically written out.
Another lesson I learned from blogging is that it's ok to escape from social media once in a while. I used to be so dedicated to getting new content on the blog and social media. It was a little draining. I've since toned it down because you know -- life. And that's ok! I have a family and obligations outside of Instagram and if I skip posting one week, I shouldn't feel guilty about it.
While blogging can in some ways be an isolated personal experience it is also at its heart about connecting with a community and sharing with others. What other bloggers do you look up to or delight in their content?
I've met so many people through the blog world who now feel like friends. I suppose that's part of the gig! You open your life to others and make connections. As far as bloggers I love to follow, there's Ashley Bredemus (@ashleybredemus) who shares about her life on the Gunflint Trail and Kristen Carlson (@missnortherner) who runs a northwoods lifestyle blog in Wisconsin. I've met both of them, which is pretty neat! One content creator I look up to is Kyle Finn Dempsey (@kylefinndempsey). He does a lot of storytelling through videography featuring cabins and I am always so inspired by his work.
Within the past year you have had a number of great adventures, presumably none greater than the birth of your son Harlan (the cutest little dude to ever rock a UNTC beanie btw 😉😁). How is the little one doing adjusting to life as an adventure companion?
Harlan has been one heckuva great adventure! I knew parenthood was going to be both amazing and tough. It has proven to be both. The hardest adjustment was the lack of sleep for all of us in the first few months. Honestly, I could barely function. There was one point where I felt so exhausted, definitely had the baby blues, AND had a social media contract with a brand due. Harlan was about a month old. Thanks to Nick and my mom helping, I was able to pull it off and meet deadline. I realized I needed to slow it down a bit.
But back to your question, he is an excellent adventure companion today. Harlan is now 6 months old. Whether we are on a boat, canoe, the camper, cabin, hiking with a front pack, or whatever the situation — he adjusts! He loves the outdoors like most babies. There’s so much to look at. And gosh, I am super biased but I’m obsessed with him. He’s so darn cute (especially in his UNTC beanie) and in a really fun phase right now. I feel like I can take him anywhere since he’s not really mobile yet, which has made maternity leave much more fun.
In what ways has becoming a parent changed your expeditions? What changes have you had to make to accommodate for a little? What advice would you offer others who find themselves in the same boat (literally 😉)?
We are trying to go by this philosophy where the baby adjusts to our life rather than we adjust to his, to a certain extent. We don’t want to give up the things that make us passionate about life. We just need to do what we love along with our new love.
One overdue change we made is to buy a boat. I think Harlan was around two weeks old when we realized we wouldn’t be able to canoe fish for a while. It was starting to get really nice outside, plus we talked about getting a boat for a while already. So we made the leap from our canoe and got ourselves a fishing boat! Now Harlan has been fishing with us on Lake Superior, Mille Lacs, Bald Eagle, and a few other small lakes nearby. Essential tools: infant life jacket, either the car seat or a bouncy seat that can absorb some of the bumps from waves, an awning for the boat, cold milk for warmer days, rash guard with UV protection, and a Babybjorn or other front pack carriers.
I also am a breast pumping mama. That has made things very interesting. I have the Spectra S1 which can last on a single charge for three days. I have pumped on many different kinds of boats, in the Boundary Waters, at restaurants, and even the DMV. It’s doable! Never say never!
This winter, Harlan will go ice fishing with us. He has his Carhartt winter onesie, a little bassinet that I’ll place next to me in our fish house for overnight trips, and he’ll always have fresh milk since I’m the food source. I’m so excited for this season. It literally feels like Christmas in our fish house aka the Lil Hotdish. It’s toasty, good music, food, we have a mini Christmas tree and twinkle lights, plus we will be fishing with our son. He’ll mostly watch this year, but hopefully still have fun!
Speaking of little ones, your dog – Kiwi the adventure pup – is not exactly the type of canine that comes to mind when one pictures a fearless outdoor companion and yet she seems to be right at home no matter where you roam. How long has the little portaging pupper been by your side and has she always been wild at heart? Is there any part of the outdoor lifestyle she doesn’t particularly love?
Haha! Kiwi is small but mighty. She has been with me for nine years. She is 12 years old now, but even with old age, she loves portaging and exploring all the smells of the outdoors. When I adopted her, she was scared of everything. But lots of love and taking her for walks on nature trails really changed that. She is so good at camping, canoeing, boating, and ice fishing. Just a great companion. She doesn’t like rain though. Portaging or canoeing through the rain is miserable for us, but even more miserable for the little Kiwers. We stick her in our raincoats whole we paddle to keep her from shivering. She’s a champ!
You and your husband took on an epic ice fishing camper remodel, turning a well-weathered, 1960’s era Monitor brand camper into the most charming crank down, tow behind tin tent on wheels – now affectionately referred to as the “Lil Hotdish”. Can you tell us a little about this labor of love? Before embarking on the undertaking had you ever tackled a project like this before? And how does your oft camo-clad husband, Nick, feel about the fashion forward pink and teal color scheme (again maybe not the expected stereotype, yet it totally works) ? 😄
The Lil Hotdish is our home on wheels. We wanted a fish house that we could also use for camping. I checked Craigslist every week for a “fish house camper.” One random fall day, I finally stumbled across a very shabby looking canned ham camper. Everything about it screamed “stay away,” except it had crank downs already installed. Someone had converted it. That conversion is complex and you really need to find someone who knows what they’re doing if you’re going to convert a vintage camper into a crank down fish house. So we drove to Buffalo, MN the next day and bought it for $1500.
We brought it home and discovered every problem possible — from water damage, to a very large colony of carpenter ants behind the walls, the gas heater not working, you name it. It was Fixer Upper fish house camper edition! The only remodeling we had ever done was in our kitchen when we ripped out the backsplash and put a new one in. This Lil Hotdish was a piece of work. We had to rip out walls and floors and put in new ones, insulate, rewire, patch up holes, build and install a sink, and do tons of cosmetic work.
Nick left the cosmetics up to me. I wanted it to still look retro yet updated with more of the farmhouse chic interior. So that’s what I did! Teal, pink, and white exterior, stick on antique wood laminate floors, bead board and really pretty ceiling tile walls, hammered copper sink, light blue walls, and rose gold hardware. It sticks out on the highway, that’s for sure. People have DM’d me claiming they saw us drive by haha. Usually true. And Nick has taken several guys fishing trips with the Lil Hotdish and does so proudly! He’s proud of our work and the fact that it is a cozy, functional fish house. His friends are usually thankful for a place to sleep and fish and hasn’t complained about the style of the Lil Hotdish yet.
Alright now that we’ve established well beyond a reasonable doubt, between your choice of dogs and camper colors , that you are somewhat of a boundary bucking bow huntress, a canoe carrying counter-conventionalist, a style savvy snowmobiler, a frontier friendly fashionista (and that I have an affable affinity for alliteration)... in all seriousness did you ever intentionally set out to bring a twist of modern style to a traditionally conservative, traditionally male-oriented category? Do you feel that women are adequately represented in the realms of hunting and fishing or would you say that there is ample room for improvement?
If I wasn’t an outdoor travel or food blogger, my third choice would be a style blogger. I have always been a “fashionista” as my parents would call me. I’ve continued to stay true to that, even when I’m out in the elements doing my thing. I didn’t intentionally decide to do that. But when I started getting into things like hunting and fishing, I just wore the clothes I already owned. I had a few “stylish” camo options since camo was so trendy. And can’t go wrong with stretchy spandex leggings and cozy sweaters when you want to be comfortable in the Lil Hotdish. You don’t need “the right gear” always. Sometimes you make due with what you have! I think that attitude makes outdoor activities way more accessible for folks who are trying things for the first time.
Let’s be real, hunting and fishing are definitely male-dominant fields. But it is exciting to know women are the fastest growing demographic in both hunting and fishing. That is so rad! I think the field is starting to shift for sure and women are being represented more and more in outdoor industry media. There is always room for improvement though. I really hate when I see memes of camo bikini clad ladies holding guns with sayings like “rack em up.” That’s an extreme example, but it’s that sort of image of “female huntresses” that give us a bad name. I really respect women like Nicole Stone (@nicolestoneoutdoors), Ana Leschishin (@ana_on_ice), Nicole Jacobs Stelmach (@nicolefishing), Krysten Potega (@krystenpotega), and Natalie Dillon (@nattieupnorth). Just take a look at their Instagram accounts. They’re the real deal.
Ok, now for the really hard hitting questions... what’s your favorite fish to catch? To eat?
Ooo good question! Any fish that can go in a taco haha. I love catching trout and they are super easy to cook in a campfire since the bones just slide right out. Otherwise walleye and panfish tacos are the best.
Better Up North game: cribbage or euchre? (Or something else entirely?)
I am ashamed to admit this, but I’ve played cribbage twice in my life and one time for euchre. I really need to take the time to read a manual on how to play both. I know people get really competitive with cribbage, especially while ice fishing. Need to do it! But my current up north go-to games are Heads Up! (an app by Ellen DeGeneres) and Catch Phrase. I also love just listening to music and catching up on life with whoever I’m with.
Best wine for summer dock sitting? Favorite beer in winter for ice fishing?
Summer dock sitting: A chilled Ménage a Trois Prosecco. So good!
Favorite ice fishing beer: Spotted Cow. Light and refreshing!
What are some of your favorite meals to make when camping?
You mean besides s’mores? I could eat that for every meal. But I do love baked trout because there’s nothing better than lake to campfire. Just clean the fish, wrap it in tinfoil with some butter and lemon, and stick it in the embers or coals of the campfire. The bones pull right out and it’s 100% protein. I love pasta sides for side dishes. They’re easy, tasty, and filling. If I want to get fancy, I’ll bring some Shore Lunch and fixing for tacos for fish tacos.
It’s been relatively well documented on your blog and Instagram feed that you have a somewhat prolific predilection for coffee… are there any local roasters from around the state or surrounding territory who have really impressed you? How about restaurants or cafes? Who out there brews it best?
Can’t begin my day without coffee. It’s so strange having a baby because my mornings are all based on his sleep schedule at the moment. Sometimes I don’t have my morning coffee until 10am, which is mind boggling. Other times it’s at 6:30am. But I am impressed with Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. Try the Tree Hugger or Ethiopian. Ethically and environmentally conscious coffee roasters who have also donated part of their sales to Boundary Waters protection, maintenance, and educational efforts.
What one adventure since starting your blog stands out as the most surprising?
We took a ten day road trip with the Lil Hotdish to Wyoming and Montana. I’m surprised we survived! Our camper ended up having to get welded in North Dakota because the frame had a huge crack in it. We noticed it while at a gas station. The tires looked like they were at an angle! That was on our way back. We somehow survived the long journey there. But it was a gorgeous trip all around, from the Grand Tetons to Glacier National Park, and fly fishing on the Gallatin River. Weather was amazing and we got to do some backcountry camping at Glacier. It was the type of long vacation we were itching to do since getting the Lil Hotdish I highly recommend it, but with a camper that isn’t going to fall apart any second!
Can you tell us about some of the new things you have explored and experienced around the state that you never would have tried otherwise?
I have been to so many small towns that I wouldn’t have visited otherwise. I worked with Explore Minnesota last year which brought me to hiking trails in Battle Lake, a corn maze in Rush Lake, some fun local dining establishments in Owatonna and Marine on St. Croix. I went to the Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Luverne last year. It’s one of those cute small towns that feel like home. All places I probably wouldn’t have explored without the blog!
What goals, dreams or ambitions do you have for your site in the future?
I want to continue creating organic and paid content that inspire people but also somehow manage to run Girl of 10,000 Lakes as my full time gig. One can dream! Nick and I also talked about publishing a coffee table book with some of our favorite adventures and photography. That would be pretty neat! I’d also love to lead a group of women on cabin retreats where we get to try different activities like archery, fly fishing, paddling, rock climbing, and ATVing. During the winter, we'd do ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and sauna/hot tubbing. Doesn't that sound fun?!
What has been your biggest frustration since starting out? Biggest triumph?
My biggest frustration has been my own consistency with the blog. I'll have some busier seasons where I'm cranking out so much content, but it gets to be a lot. I'll suddenly hit the doldrums and not feel motivated to write any posts. I think with Harlan in the picture, it has been so much harder too. But I think I just need to motivate myself and put aside time to create content.
My biggest triumph is seeing the impact Girl of 10,000 Lakes has on others, whether it leads them to try new hiking trails, navigate new canoe routes for camping, or try hunting or fishing for the first time. I love hearing back from the ladies who say they went to the Boundary Waters for the first time after feeling inspired by my photos or videos.
Who are your heroes?
Definitely my mom. I have a newfound appreciation for my mom and her role in raising three kids. She worked an overnight job at the post office and somehow was a great mom too. She has been so hands on while I navigate raising Harlan and offers to watch him for several hours so I can nap or get some work done. She'll come over and help me make dinner or clean the house. She even stayed the night at our place when Harlan used to eat every two hours through the night so that I could get one night of solid sleep. Seriously, what would I do without her! She is a super mom and a super grandma.
What adventures are on your bucket list that you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing?
I would LOVE to go fly-in fishing in Canada. I'm not sure exactly where, but somewhere with remote access and trout fishing. Alaska would be amazing too! Oh and I also want to take Nick and Harlan to South Korea, back to the motherland! It's a foodie's paradise and there are tropical cities that look like Hawaii and metropolitan locations with nightlife, mountains for hiking, lakes and oceans for fishing, and I recently learned they even have ice fishing in the winter.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer someone who is just starting out in blogging?
Learn how to edit your photos, whether you take photos with your phone or a fancy camera. Like I said, a good photo is everything! I think at the very least, use Lightroom Mobile since it's free and you can edit on-the-go. Watch a YouTube video on basic editing tools. If I had to choose five things I had to do to my photos before publishing, it would be to raise the shadows, lower the highlights, raise the exposure, slightly raise the clarity, and change the composition with the crop tool if needed.
This one comes from our previous featured person of interest Reece Hickman who would like to know … What drives you to do what you do?
Good question! I think I'm driven by how much of an impact this platform can make. Whether it's my blog or Instagram, I get to communicate with real people who genuinely want to see and learn from my experience outdoors. I always look back at my manifesto of evoking inspiration and wonder through the beauty of the great outdoors. That's what I'm here to do.
I'm also driven by my son. I want him to grow up with the opportunity to try new things, have access to our state parks and trails, public boat launches to take the canoe out, I want him to invite his friends for an ice fishing trip in the Lil Hotdish someday, and look forward to spending weekends at the cabin exploring the woods or relaxing by the dock.
What one question would you ask our next featured person? (Anything you like)
If you could jump into a swimming pool of anything you want (except water), what would it be?
Time to pay it forward... who else would you like to see featured on this blog?
Definitely Ashley Bredemus or Kristen Carlson! You'll love them both!
Thank you so much for your time.
Since Jenny is "all about using all the things," here's how you can follow her in all the places: