We stopped at Blue Mounds State Park on the early afternoon of June 2nd. It's in the very furthest southwest corner of the state - just a few miles from South Dakota. Very much a prairie park!
|I'm excited to be back in Minnesota, the greatest state in the nation!|
Blue Mounds State Park's Hiking Club Trail is 6.2 miles long, one of the longest in the entire system. At first, this seemed odd to me. Blue Mounds is essentially a big prairie. Why require people to walk through mile after mile of prairie, when a shorter cut through the grass would do? Well, it turns out that there are four features of Blue Mounds that really should be seen...and they all just happen to be kind of far apart. Fair enough! That's a pretty good reason for a long trail. Plus, it was a lovely day and we really needed to stretch our legs from all the driving.
But, before I get into the dreamy wonderfulness of the park, a nightmare:
Tent Caterpillars are predicted to be a real pest on the North Shore this summer. They haven't been so bad the last few years, but they're supposed to show up en masse in 2013. Now, I'm not sure what the late/wet spring means for them, but I wouldn't mind if they just all crawled away. They're destructive, they're kind of gross, and they turn beautiful trees into nightmarish specters. These were the first I'd seen this year. I hope they are the last.
Okay, back to pleasant things.
|Big Sky Prairie|
That's better. The first Big Thing that the Hiking Club Trail sees is the buffalo enclosure. The first mile or so is a mowed path right along the fence that keeps the giant beasties from getting out and rampaging through the park. We saw the buffalo on the way in, but decided to stop at the viewing platform at the end of the hike. We hiked about two miles along the fence and through the prairie to the second of the Big Things: the Interpretive Center.
|Former home of Frederick Manfred, current Interpretive Center|
This prairie-style house used to belong to famous author Frederick Manfred, but is now a nice Interpretive Center for the park. They have a big stuffed buffalo in there, lots of bird and animal books, and some exhibits. The upstairs "tipi" room has a pretty nice view of the surrounding prairie. Joe and I stopped in there but didn't stay long - it was warm outside, and for some reason the woman in the center had the fireplace going! It was boiling hot in there! So off we went to the next Big Thing.
|Trees so green, the sky so big|
Ah, here we go. We came across a quarry, out of which Sioux Quartzite was procured. It was surprising to come across this in such a flat place. Joe went a bit further out on the side of the cliff than I did. He said that he could hear the people in the quarry talking as if they were standing right next to them. I could not hear the quarry walkers, but I did give a nod to Jadyn the stonewriter.
Remember a few posts ago, when we saw that neat dam in Split Rock Creek State Park? When I said that I'd never seen anything quite like it? Well.
Turns out that the WPA reused their engineering plans. The fourth Big Thing was this great little dam and the pristine blue reservoir behind it. Boiling in the bright sun under the enormous sky, I felt as if I could jump right into the lake and cool off. Unfortunately, out of concern for the upholstery in his car, Joe was not keen on this idea.
The trail SHOULD have stopped right there. We could have turned around and easily gone back to the car, having seen every Big Thing in the park. The Hiking Club Trail builders have a wicked sense of humor, though. The dam is at mile 5 or so...and the trail continues on around the lake for another 1.2 miles. There's not a heckuva lot more to see, unless you're really into birding and just can't get enough of seeing redwing blackbirds. By the time we got back to the Buffalo viewing platform, we were really feeling those 6.2 miles.
But guess what! The buffalo, which had been merrily running around near the platform when we started the hike decided to move about as far away from the platform as they could get while still being in the park. Joe did his best to get pictures, but all he got were little tiny dots in the distance. Huge bummer after the long hike, but I guess you can't really boss buffalo around.
|I think I see a buffalo...or is it an ant?|
One more interesting note: this is the 23rd Minnesota State Park that Joe and I have visited (and hiked the Hiking Club Trail). We are 1/3 of the way towards hiking all 67 Hiking Club Trails - 68 if you count the Winter Trail at William O'Brien. It's hard to believe that we really have hiked 1/3 of the parks...and that there really are 46 more out there! We've hit up most of the ones nearby our houses, so there may be some longer trips out in our future.
Total miles hiked today: 6.2
Total miles hiked in 2013: 35.2
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2013: 6.8
Total ticks today: 2
Total ticks in 2013: 6