Hiking Club Trail #23
Date: June 16, 2018
Location: Preston, MN
Length: 2.0 Miles
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (there are some pretty large hills to climb - the trail is easy if you don't mind hills)
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 65.1 of 197
Just to annoy all of the people of the state with office jobs Mother Nature is toying with us - beautiful weather on the weekdays, rain all weekend. Not cool!!!
My plan for this weekend was originally Jay Cooke... Rain and flooding up that way. Minnesota Valley... more rain. On a whim I checked the weather for southern MN - HOT but no rain so on a whim we packed up and headed to Forestville/Mystery Cave.
We get there and the Park seems busy - lots of horse trailers and the campground looks full - looks like everyone got the memo that the weather was good down here. To get to the hiking club trail the info says park at the amphitheater - (FYI - there are no bathrooms anywhere along this trail, nor were there any at the park office - in fact for the section of the park that I spent time in I didn't see a single bathroom of any kind - also there is only one bench along this trail and it was closer to the end). We parked the car and as I was checking my pack I was approached by an older man who wanted to pet Penny we got into a conversation and somewhere in all of this on a 90 degree high humidity day I forgot to grab extra water out of the cooler - not the smartest day for me to make that mistake - thank goodness the trail was fairly short and the water that we did have along lasted.
This trail runs through pretty thick woods the entire time - I am sure it is extra beautiful in the fall as the entire canopy looked to be maple trees. Early in the hike we met a kid who had just found the tiniest snapping turtle I had ever seen and was kind enough to ask us if we wanted to see it (I should have snapped a picture). As we got deeper into the woods it looked like this park had recently experienced some flooding a lot of the ground cover was matted to the ground in mud - all pushed in one direction. And the stream that runs through the park was raging pretty good.
Also we seemed to find ourselves in the middle of some kind of horse race along the Hiking Club Trail. Normally I check events in the park but again this was a whim... we were passed by a lot of horses and one guy told us they were doing 50 miles for breast cancer - only problem was a lot of our way finding signage was covered by their signs.
In the end this Park had more elevation than I was expecting (which I like) and it was pretty hot. I will definitely be coming back - this park has a lot more to offer than we saw!
Hiking Club Trail #22
Date: June 12, 2018
Location: Afton, MN
Length: 2.5 Miles
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 63.1 of 197
It was another overcast day but boy was it humid!!!
We had to drop a dog off at the vet today so we had some time before we had to pick him up so we thought we would get in another trail. To be honest I've been saving this park for 2 reasons - 1: it is a fairly busy park and my dog Penny who is doing all the Hiking Club trails gets nervous when she comes across a lot of other dogs on the trails so I was waiting for a weekday and 2: Because I had heard that the trials here were pretty challenging with a large amount of hills.
I like weekday hikes because we were just about the only ones out there - I think the whole time I only saw 5 other people and no other dogs (Yes! less stressful). I was also surprised when the Hiking Club trail really wasn't all that challenging or hilly.
After watching some birds along the short prairie loop (that is part of the HCT but sits just off of it) we headed to an overlook which had great views of the trees and the St. Croix River, headed down a good amount of stairs and followed some paths along streams and into the woods. The trail also went past some of the ski hills then up a very gradual large hill back up to the parking lot.
It was humid and sweaty - the dog enjoyed the fact that there was easy access to the creek to cool off. The day was dampened a bit with a call from the vet telling us that Winston our smaller dog has Kidney Disease...
Date: June 10, 2018
Location: Wild River State Park, Center City, MN
Length: 3.3 Miles
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: NA
WE SAW A BEAR!!! I have a list of wild animals that I want to see at least once in my lifetime and now all that's left on it at least in Minnesota is a Moose.
As we were driving into the visitors center a family on bikes waived us down and told us there was a black bear just off the road up ahead. I have lived in this state all my life and have frequented the State Parks especially the ones on the North Shore and I have never come across a bear. But as I drove away from the family on the bikes, sure as heck there is a bear just sitting on the shoulder of the road eating - he got up and walked away as I stopped the car...
This Park is beautiful but the Hiking Club Trail here does nothing for me. It is amongst the easiest of the Hiking Club Trails in my opinion. Wide mostly flat trails with little elevation or obstacles for half and the other half is on the paved bike path. I have hiked other portions of this park on other trips and the rest of the Park is great!
My Mom earned her 50 mile patch today though - so GOOD day!
Hiking Club Trail #21
Date: June 8, 2018
Location: Little Falls, MN
Length: 2.8 Miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (only because the beginning has slim trails along the edge of a cliff)
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 60.6 of 197
I got off of work a little early on a Friday and the weather at home was great (Saturday looked like rain) so why not find a place to hike. Traffic wasn't too bad going north yet so we packed up the dogs and headed up to Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. As we were pulling into Little Falls the skies were getting dark but my weather app still said no rain so we decided to risk it and head out on the trail. Worse come to worst we are going to get wet... oh well.
Under the heavy tree canopy it was pretty dark but it did protect us from the light rain that started as we started our hike. The Hiking Club Trail starts at the picnic area where there are some pretty cool old WPA buildings - including a water tower built to look like a log cabin. It must have rained heavily there in the days before as the trail was pretty rough in spots as large amounts of mud was trying to dry.
This park is on land that used to be the Lindbergh family farm because of this open fields of wild flowers would sort of come out of nowhere. You would be in the woods, then a field then right back into the woods. We heard a lot of animals near us in the woods - but this forest was thick and I couldn't see any of them...
FYI this park was full of ticks - we hike weekly and I usually find a tick or 2 on each dog - this was 15+ ticks a piece... gross!
Hiking Club Trail #20
Date: June 3, 2018
Location: Albert Lea, MN
Length: 6.2 Miles
Difficulty: Easy: Wide trails, some paved - easy to navigate
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 57.8 of 197
As far as the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club Trails this one is one of the longest at 6.2 miles. But with its length comes a lot of diverse environments, you start on Big Island surrounded by Albert Lea Lake, you go through grassy fields full of wildflowers and also a couple of different kinds of forests.
This park was beautiful - the big puffy clouds set up against the lake and bright green fields made for a pretty spectacular hike. We also came across a lot of wildlife - pelicans, deer, turtles, frogs, lots of song birds and a snake.
The only downfall is that this park is just off of Interstate 35 and for about 1 mile of my hike I could see the local home depot. But all in all this might be one of my favorite parks and would probably be a great park to camp.
Hiking Club Trail #19
Date: May 26, 2018
Location: LeRoy, MN
Length: 1.3 Miles
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 51.6 of 197
Memorial Weekend in MN - it was miserably hot. 100 + degrees all 3 days...
I don't know about any of you but I am not built for temperatures above 85 degrees. But it was a 3 day weekend and I wanted so badly to be outside. Once you start hiking every weekend, sitting on the couch becomes hard. We wanted a short walk because that heat is also not good for the dogs. We decided to head south to Lake Louise State Park - this one is close to the Iowa border. We figured we could hit a couple of Parks we had already done on the way back and get some missed Passport Club stamps.
Lake Louise State Park is on the smaller side but it was beautiful. Nice swimming beach on the lake. Part of our trail was next to the Little Iowa River. It was just a nice short walk in the woods. Saw some wild flowers, some morel mushrooms and a few deer.
The best feature, at least for me were the clouds. There is something different about the clouds amongst the open spaces of Southern Minnesota - I can't get enough!
Date: May 21, 2018
Location: Brown County, IN
Length: 1.0 Miles
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: NA
This weekend instead of doing my normal MN Hiking Club trails - I am in Indiana to meet my paternal Grandfather for the first time (along with my aunts, uncles and many cousins).
See last October I took an Ancestry DNA test - just to be able to see the origins of where I come from - what I am made up of so to speak. There has been a lot of research done on my Mom's side of the family and also on my Maternal Grandmothers side but my Dad never met his Dad so that piece has always been a giant question mark.
That question mark always felt like a challenge to me - a puzzle that needed to be solved, a puzzle that I had very little pieces of.
When the test came back there was a very close match that wasn't related to my Mom so I sent an email and many months later I find myself on a journey to meet the family I didn't know I had. This side of the family settled in Brown County Indiana sometime in the 1700's and have been there ever since so it was great to go and explore that place for myself.
Brown County Indiana is also home to the largest State Park in Indiana and between meeting all the people I got to spend a couple of hours checking out the park and hope to do more the next time I visit.
Date: May 13, 2018
Location: Banning State Park - Sandstone, MN
Length: 5.5 Miles
Difficulty: Easy - Difficult Depending on the Trail
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: NA
I haven't been making much progress on my Hiking Club miles in an attempt to get my Mom caught up to me (I think there are only 4 Parks left that I have completed that she hasn't before we are on to new parks). Banning has been one of my favorite State Parks to date and since we also had my niece along this day decided there was no better place to bring a 10 year old - waterfalls, Old buildings - plenty of things to do.
The goal was to hike the Hiking Club trail and also take the hike out to Wolf Creek Falls. The hike out to the waterfall is more on the difficult side but it would be a bummer to be in this park and not make the trek.
After the winter we had this year everyone couldn't have been more excited to spend the day outside. We enjoyed the hike, looking at all of the rock formations imagining what kind of animals live in the small caves they create. Carlie and I did a little rock climbing, at one point getting to the top where we were greeted with this explosion of fur - it was everywhere - some kind of kill site (my guess - wolf vs. deer). We made it to the waterfall - the trail out there can be difficult and hard to navigate in some spots - I am proud of my mom who wanted to quit but instead decided to trust me and made it all the way out there. On the way back towards the car we stopped by all the old quarry buildings - learning along the way.
It was a great day to be outside!!!
Date: May 6, 2018
Location: Interstate State Park - Taylors Falls, MN
Length: 3.0 Miles
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: N/A
Hiking - I love it but lets face it some trails are easier than others. Sometimes it the day, my mood, the company... some days are just hard. This day was one of those days for a few reasons.
As most of you know - I mostly hike with my Mom. She is legally blind, normally I have no problem helping her through places and I love that she trusts me enough to go out and have these experiences that a lot of people in her situation would be too scared to try. But like I said this day was hard.
I also hike with my young rescue dog, Penny. Penny can best be described as a hyperactive untrusting anxious neurotic - who just wants everyone to love her but is also overly dominant. This sounds bad, I know - it is not that bad. She love to be out hiking she just has high anxiety with other dogs - this anxiety causes her to screech (best I can describe it) and bark and try to yank me closer to the other dog. This behavior of course terrifies people, which in turn makes me anxious. She was in a kill shelter for almost a year - who knows why she has this issue. I am told that the only way to fix it is to keep exposing her to her issues... FUN!
This day was one of the first nice days of the year. We went out early knowing this park fills up fast. I had already completed this Hiking Club trail so we were doing this one for my mom. I knew it would be tough on her but I didn't have a clue how tough. Taking a legally blind person to the edge of a cliff and having her climb over, up and down rocks she sometime cannot see is stressful.
The park filled up quickly and soon we weren't alone on the trails. People were impatient and didn't like waiting the extra time for me to help my mom in some of the more difficult sections and to make matters worse almost every person I passed had a dog sending Penny into waves of panic that got so bad that I would have to remove her from the trial as I saw dogs approaching. Anyone out there have experience with a dog like this? Any suggestions on how to help them?
The weather was beautiful but I prefer the more quiet parks or at least the bigger ones so you have more distance between you and the crowds. Besides on this day people were plain rude.
Hiking Club Trail #18
Date: April 28, 2018
Location: Isle, MN
Length: 2.0 Miles
Difficulty: Easy: Wide trails, some paved - easy to navigate
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 50.3 of 197
This park earns me my 50 MILE PATCH!!! And to commemorate the occasion Penny jumped over a log and quickly dropped a beaver skull at my feet - why is it she can't just bring back antler sheds???
First thing - it is almost MAY and people were out on Mille Lacs ice fishing, some with snowmobiles... this is crazy.
This park runs along the southern shore of Lake Mille Lacs, and a good portion of the trail is paved (not my favorite when my intent is to be off the beaten path but it is nice to have firm ground during mud season). This park is on the smaller side but it is known to have albino deer which makes it unique - I did see some deer but none of the albino.
The hiking club trail makes a 2-mile loop which essentially runs you through the majority of the park - so I probably have no need to revisit but it would be a good park to camp in as it it right on the shores of Mille Lacs.
Because this hike was a short one and because there is hardly any snow remaining on the trails we decided to head over to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and do that Hiking Club trail too (I have hiked that trail before but my mom still needed to). Kathio was filled with wildlife Pelicans, varieties of ducks, geese, loons, deer, snakes... I love this time of year because the Parks aren't full of people yet. So far this park ranks amongst my favorites and I can't wait to get back and try other trails but the one thing I forgot was how hilly the HCT was - so that was a fun surprise.
Overall it was a 6.6 mile day.