A year ago, I was excited about the Minnesota State Parks’ 125th anniversary challenge: to walk, bike, and/or boat 125 miles. I even thought that I’d walk 125 miles and bike an additional 125 miles.
But then life got busy. I took a weeklong master naturalist training, and my weekends after that were mostly consumed with volunteer environmental work after that. Plus we spent months on various house projects.
So I didn’t get all the way to 125, but I did get a little more than halfway there, including visiting several new-to-me state parks and trails. Here’s what happened:
Started out strong on April 3 at Afton State Park (4.1 miles hiking). Beautiful early spring day – in the 60s. Lots of people, still some snow at next-door Afton Alps, very little green.
April 10: Nerstrand Big Woods (4.5 very wet and muddy miles hiking). This was a hike with my friend Sara, and I think it was unfortunately too early in the season to be at this park. Even one week later would have been a lot drier. We saw the waterfall, then hiked back west and did the south loop – first time for me on that path, though I’ve been to this park several times.
April 17: Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail (13 miles biking). Wildflower-lined path from Morristown to Waterville and back, with the sun coming into and out of the clouds the entire time…
…with a stopover at Sakatah Lake State Park halfway through to get our state park passport stamped.
May 14: Rice Lake State Park (2.6 miles hiking). The pictures make it look sunny and pleasant, but that’s deceptive because it was quite chilly – 42 degrees.
burr oak forest:
May 29: Lake Bemidji (4.1 miles hiking along the lake, through the forest, and on the bog loop).
I spent a week in mid-June at Lac qui Parle State Park for naturalist training – and amusingly enough, even though I was there for such a long time, I didn’t have time to hike. Big storms on the first day and the last day. (0 miles)
I drove through the park to see what was there, though. Perhaps the park’s most well-known feature – besides the lake, obviously – is the huge 3D map, which is big enough that there’s an entire building to protect it.
July 10: Biked the Douglas State Trail on the former Chicago Great Western Railway route between Pine Island and Douglas. Much of the trip was through a deciduous forest. It was a nice, sunny afternoon, which was fine in the shade, but in the countryside portion, it was pretty hot. (15 miles biking)
July 24: Drove through Itasca State Park two days after a huge storm (no hiking/biking, though).
September 5: Tried to bike the Gateway State Trail but accidentally ended up on the Brown’s Creek State Trail instead. The easy part was biking downhill into Stillwater, but then we had to bike uphill all the way back – and it was really humid. We spotted Minnesota’s oldest surviving stone arch bridge along the way. (12 miles biking)
September 11: Actually made it to the Gateway State Trail and biked east all the way to the end of the paved portion. (8 miles biking).
November 13: Lake Maria State Park (5 miles hiking) on a solo walk after a stressful week of national politics. Nice reminder that the world is beautiful, and spring will come again someday.
Even with the late push with longer bike trips in the fall, I only made it to 68.3 miles. Rockstar Sara of the Nerstrand adventure, though, completed all 125 miles, and all on foot! I’m looking forward to seeing new parks and trails in 2017, even without a mileage challenge to push me.