Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jay Cooke State Park, March 25 2012

Today I visited a park I had never been to before: Jay Cooke State Park.  It was about 50 degrees outside, not windy, nice and dry.  A perfect day for hiking in what is turning out to be a freakishly warm March.

Jay Cooke State Park is GINORMOUS.  Joe, Thunderdog and I just did the Hiking Club trail (Joe was on his way back to St. Cloud so it was just an afternoon stop) which was 3.5 miles.  When I got home and looked at the map, I realized how truly gigantic Jay Cooke is.  It is over 8,000 acres of park - and the star of the park is the St. Louis River.

St. Louis River from the Swinging Bridge
There are over 50 miles of hiking trails in this 8,818 acre park.  FIFTY MILES!  There are some State Parks where I am sure that I have hiked every trail - Lake Maria, for example - but it would sure take me a while to get all of Jay Cooke's trails marked off on my map.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to try, though.  I'd like to do the Carlton-Thompson trail that goes over the train tracks by the reservoir someday.  But anyway...back to today!

This picture was not taken today - or by me!  It's from the Jay Cooke State Park Wikipedia page
I realized I didn't have a picture of it once I got home. 
It was built by my favorite public works project of all time - the CCC.

We started off by crossing the Swinging Bridge.  It didn't swing so much as it creaked - Thunderdog really hated it.  I tried to get a picture of her cringing as she crossed the slats, with her toes all spread out as if she were desperately holding on.  Unfortunately, the picture didn't turn out.  Even if it did, I don't know how I'd feel about putting her misery on the internet.

Joe's misery, however, is fair game.
Joe got attacked by some burrs as he took a "shortcut" alongside a muddy path to avoid getting his shoes too dirty.  They were stuck on so mightily that the only way I could remove them was to detach them with a napkin.  They were the only predators we saw today: no ticks out, yet.

High above the river
The first part of the Hiking Club trail took us high up on the ridge above the St. Louis river.  It was amazing: white water rapids, crazy rock formations, trees hanging on to the edges.  The ridge on the far side had to have been half a mile away, at least.  It was interesting to think about what this river would have been like back when it fully filled the banks between the ridges.  Joe and I were impressed by the power of the river and the great views - definitely a good park to visit in the early spring.  The lack of greenery and wildlife didn't bother us much, the river and views were good enough.

The second part of the trail was a bit less exciting.  The Hiking Club Trail is essentially a big loop - the first part of it goes along the river, the second goes through the woods on the other side of the ridge.  It would be nice to come back when the woods are full of life: today they were still in March mode (brown, dead, damp).  

Taking a picture of the Hiking Club Password with my phone - I forgot a pen and paper
This was a new Hiking Club Password for me, so I made sure to get it recorded.  I know that the Passwords are widely available on the internet, but I think it would be fun to actually do the hiking to find them.  Plus, it's the honorable thing to do.  I'm not going to cheat in the Hiking Club!  

All in all, we had a good time.  I'll definitely go back later this year!  It's about an hour from my house, and about two hours from Joe's.  Driving our cars separately from my house, meeting at the park, hiking, and then going our separate ways worked really well.  Except for the "him leaving" part, which will never be a good thing.  :-(

One final note - on the way back to the car I saw a Superior Hiking Trail sign.  I knew that parts of the SHT were located in and around Duluth, but I've only ever focused on the SHT north of Lake County Road 301.  We were tired from the hike and I wanted to get home - so I SAW the start of the SHT Duluth Sections today but did not set foot upon it.  Yet another reason to go back to Jay Cooke, though.

Total miles hiked today:  3.5
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 10.3

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