Tuesday, April 10, 2012

River Bluffs Regional Park: April 8th, 2012

Ah, Easter. What better way is there to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than going for a hike and trespassing on an industrial site?

Joe, Thunderdog, and I set out for River Bluffs Regional Park. It's a park in St. Cloud, and it's been under development for a few years.  It is being funded by the Legacy Amendment, which I think it just awesome.  Good use for the money!  Last year they finished a swanky new road that goes from high up on the bluff down to the riverfront, complete with boat landing and parking. There's a few places to park at the top of the bluff - that's where we parked - and a semi-tended path through the woods.

We then darted down a steep path to river level, found a path leading off to the left, and followed it.

Soon we found ourselves on a clearly mowed path, surrounded by dense thickets of young trees.  The path followed the river; we stopped a few times to let Thunderdog run around in the water, Joe skipped some rocks, I looked out at the far bank.  With the exception of one tended yard far upriver, there were no signs of human development.  How lucky we are: a prime stretch of the Mississippi, within city limits, left virtually wild.

As we walked along, a second body of water appeared on the left.  We were now walking on a narrow causeway: where were we GOING??  The path showed no sign of ending, despite the fact that it looked like we were heading out onto a peninsula. 

It was really pretty.  There were plenty of islands in the river (part of the Beaver Islands group).  It was easy to imagine how wild this place would be during bird migration season.  Hey, if I were a goose or a duck, I'd totally want to rest overnight here.

After a while, we figured out that the large body of water on our left was actually a lake.  From the looks of it, it was a man-made lake; perhaps it was a harbor?  We vowed to do a bit of research but haven't gotten around to it yet.  There were some sandy beaches that could have been used to moor boats bringing supplies for the nearby construction businesses.  Speaking of those construction businesses...

It wasn't too long before we left the idyllic riverside and found ourselves on the wrong side of a large barbed-wire fence.  Although we started the day on the right side of the law, we must have followed  path that we weren't meant to follow.  Being Easter Sunday it was deserted, but that didn't help our plight.  We were stuck.  We COULD turn around and go all the way back, but that's so BORING.

We found our way to the main gate, but it was (of course) closed and locked.  The gate was about six inches off the ground.  I tried to squeeze under, but it was no use.  We started to consider our options when Joe pointed out that the ground looked lower on one side - and that I should give it another try.

Now, Joe's a tall guy, but I'm the one that is bigger around...thanks to a big pair of knockers.  If I could get under the fence, he could.  So I got on my back and shimmied under, and stopped when I got to my boobs.  A deep breath and...I was through!  I was free! I did a little dance to celebrate the fact that I had successfully jailbroken myself.

Once I was under, it was Thunderdog's turn.  She was pretty skeptical and it took about four tries before she crawled under on her stomach.  She seemed pretty proud of herself, too.  Isn't it sweet!  Puppy's first trespassing experience.

Then Joe shimmied under.  Luckily, I caught him in the act with my camera.  Just in case we get into trouble for trespassing:  "No sir, we only went under the gate in order to get OUT of the construction area.  Honest!"

We walked down the road, not exactly sure where we were.  The Country  Club was on our right, and there were actually golfers out so we decided not to press our luck any further.  We veered to the left and found - of all things - a hiking trail.

Or, I should say, a Biking trail.  We were in the St. Cloud Compost site.  It didn't smell to composty, thanks to the cold weather, no doubt.  We found the start of the Mountain Bike trail, and followed it back to the bluff.  About halfway down the trail we found the most remarkable thing: a Christmas Tree farm, apparently allowed to go a bit feral.  Many of the trees were 12, 15 feet tall.  There were some missing ones (probably cut to fulfill their holiday destinies) but for the most part, we were in a very well-organized pine forest.  It was very cool.

Once through the Christmas Tree forest, we scrambled up the very steep hill to get to the top of the bluff, where we hoped to find my car.  This was the sort of environment we started in - lots of birch trees. It was tough going (steep and lots of leaves to slip on), but we were jazzed from our cool hiking trip and also interested in getting home.

When we got back to the car, I found the first tick of the year on Thunderdog.  Well, we knew this would be coming.  So begins the Tick Count along with the Miles Hiked count.

Awesome time hiking and exploring without ever leaving the city.  Joe's all about this sort of outdoor activity...we'll have to do it again soon.  There are plenty of hidden places in the world to explore.

Total miles hiked today:  4.0

Total miles hiked (in 2012): 23.8

Total ticks today:  Joe - 5; Thunderdog - 6; Elly - 2

Total ticks (in 2012): 13

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