Content creator Jenny Anderson is on a mission. She wants to put a new spin on the way we look at outdoor activities in Minnesota. In 2017, she created a blog, Girl of 10,000 Lakes, to inspire people to get outdoors and explore what Minnesota has to offer. As she puts it, “I especially wanted women to feel encouraged and empowered to explore the outdoors … even if they didn’t grow up with that experience.”
Anderson came to Minnesota at age 3 with her parents, who moved from South Korea. “We tried to fit in,” she says. “The outdoors just weren’t a priority.” Only later in life, when she was working as a TV news reporter in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, did Anderson discover her knack for ice fishing. She met her husband-to-be, who introduced her to outdoor activities. “It’s a relaxing form of fishing,” Anderson says. “You’re hanging out in the ice shack, just filling time with people you want to hang out with. Maybe having a fun beverage or hot cocoa, staying cozy.”
For a while, the two of them fished in a pop-out shack. Anderson wanted something more permanent. She turned to Craigslist, looking for a vintage fish-house camper, and found one in Buffalo, Minnesota. “It looked crappy,” she says, “like a piece of junk, to put it lightly.” It was gray, with holes, and termites, and a lot of wood damage. They bought it in cash. After some elbow grease, they named it Lil Hotdish. “It was definitely a labor of love,” she says.
Seeking a creative outlet after moving to Minnesota, Anderson launched an Instagram account (@girlof10000lakes). “I shared my passion, and I think people recognized that,” she says. “At the time, women in the outdoors had just become more prevalent. [The project] definitely was started to inspire other women to try things like ice fishing, hunting, and camping. Now, I have lots of women and men who follow along, who ask me questions.” Her followers have grown to more than 15,000.
What’s next? “I would love to get a book published with our photos and adventures, with the prettiest images of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Midwest. Just showing the adventures we’ve gone on as a family as we experience the beauty of the great outdoors.” And you might see her back on TV. “Ultimately, I would love to get back into broadcasting,” Anderson says, “and report on stories on the outdoor world.”
Minnesota Monthly: What formed your love of the outdoors in Minnesota?
Jenny Anderson: Growing up, I didn’t really experience the outdoors because I came here from South Korea when I was 3 with my parents. When we moved here, we tried to fit in—the outdoors just weren’t a priority. Later on in life, when I met my husband, I was living in western Wisconsin. That’s when I first discovered my love for the outdoors and my knack for ice fishing. It’s a relaxing form of fishing. You’re hanging out in the ice shack just filling time with people you want to hang out with, maybe having a fun beverage or hot cocoa, staying cozy.
Tell us about your Lil Hotdish ice fishing trailer.
We had been fishing in a pop-out shack, and we wanted a more permanent shack where we could stay overnight. I searched [Craigslist] for a vintage fish house camper and was able to find one in Buffalo, Minnesota. It looked crappy, like a piece of junk, to put it lightly. It was gray with holes under it and termites and a lot of wood damage. But the shell and the inside were still original, and that’s what I loved. We bought it for straight cash. It was an eyesore, but we put in a lot of work and we were ready that winter to go ice fishing in Lil Hotdish. It was definitely a labor of love.
How did you start Girl of 10,000 Lakes and build up your audience?
I used to be a TV news reporter in Eau Claire. I worked at the NBC affiliate station doing anchoring and reporting. When we moved here, it was really hard to find a TV job because of the market. I wanted a creative venue of my own, so I started my Instagram (@girlof10000lakes).
I started with my husband as the only person following me. Ultimately, I shared my passion, and I think people recognized that. I think, at the time, women in the outdoors had just become more prevalent. [The project] definitely was started to inspire other women to try things like ice fishing, hunting, and camping. Now I have lots of women and men who follow along, who ask me questions. It’s been fun and I’ve been happy to share what I know.
What would be the dream outcome of your project? A TV show? A cookbook?
I would love to get a book published with our photos and adventures, with the prettiest images of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Midwest. Just showing the adventures we’ve gone on as a family as we experience the beauty of the great outdoors.
Ultimately, I would love to get back into broadcasting and report on stories on the outdoor world.
What are your favorite winter activities in Minnesota?
I think a lot of people associate going to cabins with summer because of the lakes and sunshine, but winter is the perfect time to go. I love to look up different kinds of cabins on Airbnb or Vrbo and seeing what’s out there. The other perk of going to the cabin in the winter is to ice fish at their local lakes. You can use outdoor hot tubs and outdoor saunas. It’s just a really fun time to get out of the house.
Where do you shop locally to stay warm in the winter?
For Minnesota, you definitely need base layers. The more you layer correctly, the warmer you are. I’ve worked with WSI Sports, based in Eagan. They’re local and they make really warm base layers. That’s what I wear ice fishing and skiing, jogging—that sort of thing. I like supporting them because they’re local.
I feel like this must be a time when people are proud to be Minnesotan, because there are so many Minnesota clothing goods and gear companies now. I really like following companies like Up North Trading Company. They sell stuff but they also crowd-source a lot of photos, so they have some of the best outdoor Minnesota photography on their Instagram.
What Minnesota-based makers or creators inspire you?
I follow a number of people who inspire me. One is a writer; his name is Patrick Durkin (@patrickdurkinoutdoors). He’s been a longtime outdoor writer for places like MeatEater and Green Bay Press Gazette. He’s so knowledgeable, and I learn a lot from him.
There’s a gal named Ashley Bredemus (@ashleybredemus), who lives up on the Gunflint Trail. She basically dropped her 9-to-5 job in Florida and moved up to the Gunflint Trail to live near her dad, and they run an all-boys summer camp together. She lives in this cabin that’s not insulated. It gets pretty darn cold up there in the winter, so it’s interesting to see how she survives.
There’s a gal named Ali Juten (@ali_upnorth). She just became a mom, too, and we’re similar in age. She just got a grant from the DNR to teach archery to kids and adults. I think more and more women are getting involved in archery. She’s making it more accessible, and I love following what she’s doing.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to turn their love of Minnesota into a project?
Get out there and do it. I know it’s easier said than done. Honestly, just having the guts to go out and try something new—that’s the first step. The other thing is to find a mentor. For me, that was my husband, or, at the time, my boyfriend, when I first got introduced to outdoor activities. Whether it’s a friend or your local DNR or local regional parks, these are all great resources.
Even on Instagram, just search for outdoor influencers. They are usually more than happy to share their knowledge. A lot of people like to host ice fishing trips. This winter, I’m going on an ice fishing trip with a bunch of girls who I met through Instagram, and I know they’re always looking for people who’ve never ice fished before to come along. We’re all staying at a resort and bringing our own gear, teaching our tips and tricks on ice fishing. It’s just about finding a mentor and getting out there.
Jenny’s Top 3 Minnesota Ice Fishing Destinations
- Lake Mille Lacs
It’s so darn close to the Twin Cities. You can make a day trip out of it. We are able to leave our ice house out there for days and just stay there.
- The Gunflint Trail
You can fish for lake trout in the winter. It’s a lot more fun than doing it in the summer. You don’t have to do the hard work; you have to just be patient.
- Lake of the Woods
I experienced it for the first time last year. If you see it from above, which [I did with my drone], it looks like a shanty town, just a lake filled with tiny houses all over the place.