St. Croix State Park
Hiking Club Trail #16
Date: March 24, 2018
Location: Hinkley, MN
Length: 4.0 Miles
Difficulty: Intermediate: Only because it was winter and there was a lot of ice and snow
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 46.3 of 197
As my Mom and I are both approaching patches (25 miles for her 50 miles for me) we were hoping to get in 2 hikes this weekend - this was the only one we did - the ice is real people!
4 miles in the ice and a few inches of snow can be pretty exhausting - some days those 4 miles can feel like 10... this was one of those hikes.
I feel like this hike just didn't start right. We pull into St. Croix State Park - stop at the Ranger Station hoping to get our stamps for the Passport Club, the office is closed, no big deal usually there is a stamp outside - it is nowhere to be found and I am one of 4 people out there at that time looking for it. Never did find it so I am one stamp short in my Passport book. So I am not super thrilled with this park at this point but it it time to go hiking. This park is huge with over 100 miles of hiking trails - so my expectations are high - the big parks usually have their sh!t together.
Even the map is hard to read - because it shows the whole park and all of the trails it is hard to zero in on the section you need but, I drive to the lodge where our hike is supposed to start and I see no sign of the hiking club trail signs anywhere (usually you can see them from the parking lot if you are in the right place). I know my hike is supposed to start to the right of this lodge so I head that way and I swear it was a quarter of a mile before I saw a hiking club sign and for the entire hike they are few and far between - some of them even had directional arrows pointing the wrong ways.
We get out of the car to the strong smell of burning brush - I am guessing there was a prescribed burn a few days earlier because this hillside to the river was charred the entire length of our hike and was still smoldering in places.
The path takes you along the bluffs of the St. Croix river and through a wooded area. You come to the ruins of the old CCC camp and then loop back and follow a paved (ice) path back. There are stunning views a long the way and some pretty interesting things to learn through the informational signage at the CCC camp.
Side note: Grouse are assholes! They seem to hangout along the sides of the trails but they are so camouflaged I never see them then right as you approach where they are "hiding" they fly out abruptly right in front of you and scare the crap out of you. This is not my first experience with this it happened at at lest 3 different parks in the fall and this weekend it didn't happen just once it happened twice. Now my dog is in a crazy up roar then just to add to it 4 deer cross our trail right it front of us. Penny was exhausted from the excitement of that by the time we got to the car!
All in all this park offers a ton of trails and I can't wait to get back and check some of them out.
Fort Snelling Round 2
Date: March 18, 2018
Location: St. Paul, MN
Length: 4.3 Miles
Difficulty: Easy: Flat wide trails, snow and ice make everything more difficult
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 42.3 of 197
This hike doesn't add to the mile count for me. As I stated in an earlier post my Mom finally decided to join the Hiking Club as well - we gave her credit for all the HCT miles she had done with me before she joined but, I am currently at 15 parks and she is at 8 so there are a few hikes I will be doing again - this is one of them.
More time to spend outside - I'm ok with it.
I was on the lookout for the "Piebald" Deer that people have been seeing a photographing in the Park - I didn't see it this time but I did see around 12 white tailed deer. And a kill site (lots of fur!) I am guessing it was deer vs. coyote - I am glad that all that was left of the carnage was fur...
This park has a winter only version of their HCT - the normal HCT is a cross-country ski trial in the winter. The winter takes you through the interior of the island following the power lines for a lot of the hike. It does reach the point where the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers converge - to my surprise when we got here there were over 18 boats on the river in that spot fishing. Lakes are still mostly frozen over so are rivers and there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground so I found it rather odd that there were so many boats running up and down this stretch of river.
The hike brought a lot of deer and woodpecker sightings. But I am going to have to return to get a glimpse of my Piebald Deer!
Rice Lake State Park
Hiking Club Trail #15
Date: March 17, 2018
Location: Owatonna, MN
Length: 2.4 Miles
Difficulty: Intermediate: Only because it was winter and there was a lot of ice and in spots knee deep snow.
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 42.3 of 197
I think I might be may have been overly cooped up this winter - because if it above 30 degrees all I want to do is be outside. We are just in the middle of the transition of the ice/crunchy snow covered ground season to the mud season (Spring has many transitions in this part of the midwest!) Neither of these sub-seasons are particularly easy to hike in (ice and mud are slick) and they aren't particularly pretty - everything is kind of brown but seeing all these parks in different stages is kinda fascinating to me.
So this park is kinda tucked right in the middle of farmland - for part of the HCT trail you are following a path on the edge of Rice Lake and across the lake you can see the silos of the neighboring farms. We were literally the only people at this park - ALL DAY! I can imagine what this park looks like in the summer when the lake is thawed and judging by how crazy my dog was with her nose to the ground - there must be an abundance of wildlife (I saw deer, turkeys and bald eagles on the drive to and from the park but nothing there).
The HCT starts by the boat launch, runs along the lake though the campgrounds, past the playground, into the woods, out into a field, then back into the woods. The parts of the trail had very little snow, quite a bit of ice and was transitioning into the mud phase. Once we got out into the field we were into knee deep snow and that is where the hike got much harder. So this hike was a pretty good workout.
Without snow I would assume this trail would be pretty easy.
After this one I think we both earned a trip to the A&W for burgers and Root Beer!
Minneopa State Park
Hiking Club Trail #14
Date: March 10, 2018
Location: Mankato, MN
Length: 2.7 Miles
Difficulty: Easy: Well packed snow, mostly flat, what hills there were had ice
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 39.9 of 197
Winter hike #2 in the books - I really enjoy the fact that there are no people on the trails in the winter but until I buy some YakTraks I will be sticking to the flat trails in the winter!
On this trip I finally convinced my Mom to join the hiking club - WIN! She can do this - even if she needs a little help along the way! Also with her joining and me knowing I am going to have to back track and hike a few parks again, we both decided to join the Passport Club as well (not sure why I didn't join this before - better now than never I guess) $14.95 gets you a Passport book and Trail Log book for you to write about all of your adventures. Every state park has a stamp and you get pins and free nights of camping as you fill your book.
This Park is weird - it is split in 2 - the ranger station and waterfall (and very few hiking trails) then a short drive away you find the buffalo enclosure, windmill and Hiking Club Trail. I don't like the set-up but I'll get over it!
My SUV is in the shop so of course I enter the Park with the muddiest roads and parking lots that I have ever seen with a Chevy Malibu. I honestly thought it was going to be stuck in the parking lot when I came back from my hike, but I got it out of there but in desperate need of a car wash.
Stopped at the first section of the Park to see the waterfall... Minnehaha is cooler in the winter in my opinion - I will have to come back and see it in the summer.
Then we headed over to see if we could catch a glimpse of the buffalo as the road through the enclosure is closed for the winter. The heard was hanging out right by the entrance - probably waiting for food.
If we wouldn't have seen the buffalo there we would have had plenty of chances along the hike - the hiking club trail runs along the full length of one side of the Buffalo enclosure. The trail basically runs along the bluffs of the Minnesota river to the right and the buffalo enclosure to the left. This hike was nothing special (at least not in the winter) - you do have a good view of the river in a few spots. For me this park was more about the buffalo and that was for sure the highlight.
Winter has been long - it was nice to be outside!
My Mom also had her first bout of snow blindness - with her vision there is always something new. About 2 miles in she tells me everything she is seeing is purple - that can't be good... thank goodness the path is flat and has very little obstacles. Note: We need to look into better sunglasses for her.
Hiking Club Trail #13
Date: March 2, 2018
Location: Marine on St. Croix, MN
Length: 2.6 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate: Well packed but snow trails are more challenging and slippery than dirt
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 37.2 of 197
This winter was long and cold and it didn't seem to stop snowing except for when it was really COLD... I hadn't been outside much since my last hike in December - I can almost feel myself rotting away in front of the TV. I started that new job I had been looking for, right before Christmas. Life is busy again - it is time to start making the most of my weekends and days off!
I had some vacation days (already) so I took one and decided I would try this winter hiking thing. I didn't know what to expect but, the temps were in the 30's and the sun was shining so why not? I wore my normal hiking boots the trails were well packed. My mom decided to come along (still won't join the club) and of course Penny. The dog has cabin fever and needs to be outside more than I do!
We came out of the parking lot and I read my map wrong - made a wrong turn and we walked about a half mile down the wrong trail until I realized my error. Once on the right trail it takes you onto the road (they close down durning the winter) this road is a big hill that I was't looking forward to having to walk back up in the snow. Once you get to the actual trail into the woods it is wide and well packed and mostly flat. It follows the St.Croix river, past some camp grounds and picnic shelters then heads up to Lake Alice.
I don't know why I have always been hesitant to hike it the winter - everything is beautiful and clean, quiet and it is fun seeing all the animal tracks in the snow. I will definitley be doing more winter hiking in the future!
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
Hiking Club Trail #12
Date: December 10, 2017
Location: Onamia, MN
Length: 3.2 Miles
Difficulty: Easy/Intermediate: Well packed flat wide dirt trails - the back half of this trail is pretty hilly
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 34.6 of 197
Took a break from the snow by driving North today... haha you don't say that too often!!!
I knew I liked this park the second we drove up - why? not sure, just a good feeling I guess. We pulled in stopped at the Ranger Station for a map - I think we scared him, we were the only ones in the Park that day and he didn't seem to expect anymore people.
When it starts to get cold the parks are empty - which I love. Now I am starting to contemplate winter hiking - I must have lost my mind!!!
It was 25ish degrees - if you wear the right layers it is perfect weather - make sure you bring a backpack you will surely end up taking layers off as you start moving. My phone wasn't too keen on the temperature though - good thing I had hand warmers in my pack. If you place them on either side of your phone in your pocket, the battery won't die.
The hike started with a red squirrel taunting Penny - chirping at her, running across the path in front of her then up a tree and down another and back again. It was pretty funny. The trail takes you past the sites of ancient Indian Villages with a lot of informative signage along the way - this Park also has a long history, it is worth the trip just to learn about it.
The lakes and streams were coated with ice but there was no snow on the ground - it was quiet and it was beautiful a great day just to be out and clear your head.
This is another park I will need to revisit as they have over 30 miles of Hiking Trails - until next time Mille Lacs Kathio!!!
Fort Snelling State Park
Hiking Club Trail #11
Date: December 3, 2017
Location: St. Paul, MN
Length: 3.0 Miles
Difficulty: Easy: Well packed wide dirt trails
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 31.4 of 197
Sometime between by trip to Nerstrand in late October to now time got away from me... Halloween, Thanksgiving, the start of the Christmas season - it was time to get back outside.
Fort Snelling State Park isn't too far from the International Airport in St. Paul - which puts it right in the middle of the Twin Cities, this park is highly used and often swarming with people (and their dogs). This time I braved taking Penny along because A: she is hiking all the parks with me and would have to do it sometime B: She needs the exercise and C: She needs the exposure to other dogs even though it can stress me out.
The trail starts at the visitor center (I swear there were 100 dogs - fine probably 8 but it might as well have been 100). It follows a short path in the woods over a bridge and onto Pike Island - the trail continues along the perimeter of the island where you will see the convergence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. As we got down the trail a ways there were less people and dogs and the hike became much more enjoyable. There are hollowed out old trees big enough for grown adults to stand in, there is usually quite a bit of wildlife in and around the park, this time we saw 2 bald eagles perched in the trees on the cliffs overlooking the river and a few white-tailed deer near a clearing by the power lines (nothing close enough for pictures as all I had with was my iPhone).
The history of this Park is long - Generations of Dakota people lived in villages along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers that meet in Fort Snelling state park, long before Europeans arrived. The river confluence was believed to be the place of origin and center of the earth by the bands of Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan Dakota, the "Dwellers by Mystic Lake." By the late 1600s, Europeans had visited the area. In the 1820s, historic Fort Snelling was built on the bluff above the two historic rivers to control the exploration, trade, and settlement on these waterways. 2012 marked 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Fort Snelling State Park was an important location during this time.
Overall it was kind of a gloomy December day but it was good to be outside because the snow will fall soon and the days spent outside will be numbered.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Hiking Club Trail #10
Date: October 23, 2017
Location: Nerstrand, MN
Length: 2.2 Miles (Hiking Club Trail)
Difficulty: Intermediate: (HCT) leaf cover hid a lot of roots and rocks, some hills
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 28.4 of 197
I think at this point I am scared that winter is coming - hiking almost every day, trying to take in all that remains of fall!
Nerstrand attempt #2 - this time on a weekday so hopefully we won't run into 1,000 dogs like last time. We were just about the only ones in the park this time - just how I like it!
But because this is attempt #2 of the season we are here later into October than I wanted to be. Most of the color is gone but if this is what it looks like when most of the leaves have fallen this park must be spectacular in the Peak season - I must come back next year!!!
This time my Mom and Winston came along - I think she is getting more comfortable out there but she still won't commit to joining the club...
The highlight of this hike happens fairly early on - Hidden Falls, a small waterfall tucked away in the forest - when there with no people it is magical (I really like waterfalls!). From there it leads across the river into the Big Woods forest (this park was created in 1945 to protect what was left of the MN Big Woods). It leads up hill - you travel over a lot of roots and rocks and with this being late fall they were all covered with leaves - watch your step! I found a lot of variety of mushrooms along the way.
From what I read this park is covered in wildflowers in the spring... all the more reason to go back.
Hiking Club Trail #9
Date: October 22, 2017
Location: Marine on St. Croix, MN
Length: 6.0 Miles (Hiking Club Trail)
Difficulty: Intermediate: (HCT) Steep hills, Wide Grassy Trails
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 26.2 of 197
We left knowing we would receive our first patch - 25 miles, I don't know if that is what made this hike so good or if it was the fact that it was a nice day towards the end of October and there was still a little color left out there.
But this hike was great! Somedays you just start out feeling better and that is the way you want to approach a planned 6 mile hike. 6 miles is not the furthest I've hiked by any means but it is still a pretty good distance. This time I left my mom at home (she said 6 miles was too much) - brought a friend and 2 of my dogs.
Up until this point I have avoided bringing Winston along because he is little and old (13 Years) and I wasn't sure how well he'd do. But this time he begged so much when we were leaving that I gave in figuring if he got tired he would fit in my backpack. He did great and walked the whole 6 miles with ease... maybe I should bring him along more often.
The path is mostly wide and well packed it leads from the visitor center parking lot away from the river, out under a railroad bridge, into the woods, into the prairie to the highest point in the park, into the wetlands where you see a lot of beaver dens, then back to the prairie and into the parking lot. This trail has something for everybody. The trail does get pretty hilly through the prairie sections and some of them are quite steep.
We stopped in at the Ranger station to get our patches - Penny got one too - after all she is hiking all the miles as well! I am pretty proud of this accomplishment - now onto 50!
I love William O'Brien I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area!
NOTE: Both dogs must have gotten into a deer ticks nest - luckily Winston is light colored cause they were easy to see (I must have found 9 ticks between the 2 of them - GROSS!) We told the ranger when we went in to get our patches and she said the ticks have a resurgence in the fall...
Sakatah Lake State Park
Hiking Club Trail #8
Date: October 15, 2017
Location: Waterville, MN
Length: 2.2 Miles (Hiking Club Trail)
Difficulty: Easy: (HCT) a few hills - the acorns and hazelnuts on the ground were the biggest hazard
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 20.2 of 197
We started out this day intending to go check out the fall colors at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - my mom grew up near there and had never visited... We got there and it was packed with people and just about every single one of them had a dog. Normally this wouldn't be a problem - I love dogs. But Penny has a crazy amount of dog anxiety - that I can't seem to figure out how to help her control. She was a shelter dog before I rescued her - she has her issues. I try to socialize her but this was going to be WAY too much - so turn to plan B, Sakatah Lake...
This Park wasn't my favorite - it was small (only 5 miles of trails), there was nothing special to look at, the trails we super easy and it runs along a main road for much of the hike, so instead of hearing nature you hear traffic noise.
It was pretty enough but I feel like I saw the whole park - it was nice to be the only ones in the Park though.
In the end this one was more of an obligation hike for me - just one to check off the HCT list.
I do have to remind myself though that not all these parks will be large, not all of them are going to have impressive features but I do have a large appreciation for the natural environments that MN is preserving for us and that I have the ability to see the beautiful scenery and wildlife step-by-step!
This is my quest to find my place beneath the stars - outside the confines of my office and without the pressures of everyday life.