Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 in Review

One more post to do before we kick 2013 to the curb and start planning and DOING in 2014.  Here we go!

2013 by the numbers:
  1. Joe and I visited 20 Minnesota State Parks this year. We hiked 18 Hiking Club trails, for a grand total of 55.2 miles - earning not only our 75 mile patches but our 100 mile patches - woo hoo!!!  
  2. We didn't do a lot of Superior Hiking Trail hikes - just under 20 miles - and most of the new ground we covered was in the not-very-exciting section between Duluth and Two Harbors), but we were pretty busy with all of the Hiking Club trails and out-of-state trips...
  3. which we visited three National Parks, one National Monument, a National Forest, and a really impressive City Park in Colorado.
  4. We accumulated 54 ticks while hiking in 2013.  Another year, another low number!!  As with 2012, I can remember single hikes in which I accumulated more ticks than were accumulated all last year.  Perhaps bringing Joe "ticksbane" along is good luck.  Great reason to keep him around!

Favorite Hiking Club Trail:

Joe: My favorite hiking club trail this year was Glacial Lakes. The trail checks off a lot of Minnesota must-haves: Lakes? Check. Prairie? Check. Forest? Check. Bucolic farm views? Check. High points for scenic vistas? Check. A very scenic and well rounded hike.

Honorable mention: The Split Rock Loop. It's not a hiking club trail, but it's a fantastic north shore hike!

Sun setting on Glacial Lakes State Park

Elly: Joe and I are in agreement here. I love prairie hikes, and it was sheer luck (or bad navigation) that landed us there right before sunset. Hiking in the low, late-day sun with the fall-colored grasses waving was just about perfect.  I'd been to Glacial Lakes State Park before and would go back again in a heartbeat.

Honorable mention:  The Crags in Colorado.  It's not even in Minnesota but it was great!  It was also a treat to go hiking with Mandy, Mark, and Maggie at Afton State Park.  Maggie's first Hiking Club trail, definitely not her last.

Least Favorite Hiking Club Trail:

Joe:  Crosby Manitou State Park. Maybe this park suffered from the weather we hiked in, or the season, or the fact we hiked it right after visiting Colorado. No matter, I'm judging it worst of 2013 anyway! There's a few scenic views, but the difficulty of the trail greatly exceeds the rewards from the scenery. Any other north shore park and many sections of the SHT are better choices for a hike.

Dishonorable mention: Lake Carlos State Park. Come for the other facilities, and stay for the other facilities. Not much of a hike.


Elly:  Lake Carlos State Park.  Hmm, what happened at Lake Carlos?  We were devoured by mosquitoes, nearly run over by a lawnmower, people setting off fireworks, the constant drone of motorboats, the blazing sun, and a kind of dull path to hike.  This hike may have fallen victim to bad timing: it was the Fourth of July (second in a row with "least favorite hike!") and it was quite warm out.  But, even if it were a glorious fall day, it probably just would have been a "meh" park.

Awesomest Waterfall:

Joe: Our hiking was quite waterfall deficient compared to 2012. I guess that's what happens when you finish all the north shore parks. Still, we saw a few, and this one on the Split Rock Loop is the clear winner.

Pretty Waterfall

Elly: Clearly the best waterfall was Joe's Waterfall at The Crags in Colorado. Yeah, it was not a banner year for waterfall viewing.

Most Exceeded Expectations:

Joe:  Soudan Underground Mine State Park: The hike itself was nothing terribly special, but the mine tour was fantastic. One of the most unique experiences you can have at a MN state park.

Interstate State Park: This is not the place to go for quiet contemplation in nature. Still, it has an amazing mix of recreation and natural beauty and feels like a couple large north shore parks smushed together and crammed into a small regional park footprint, which makes for an exciting park experience.

Side note: In 2013 it felt like we did not spend as much time in 'impressive' state parks and instead visited a lot of parks created to provide recreational outlets for the local populace. Nothing wrong with that and it's always fun to visit different parts of the state. Still, most of the great experiences we had this year were out of state. To avoid disloyalty to Minnesota, I'll just mention one of those: Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Incredible scenery, fantastic hiking, and a very easy drive from Minnesota. We're going back!

The good, good badlands.

Elly:  Interstate State Park was kind of a carnival of outdoors activities.  Hiking, climbing, canoeing, swimming, touring the potholes - it was kind of overwhelming.  I thought it would have been neat to grow up with such a wealth of outdoor activities nearby.  And there was the Spider Tunnel to separate the Frightened Little Boys from the Brave Brave Men.

Glendalough State Park was a beautiful little park and I enjoyed that Annie Battle Lake was a no-motor lake.  I'd go back there someday - it looks like a nice place to camp.

Side note:  Joe's right, we did visit a lot of smaller parks that had more of a "local park" feel.  But that's okay - we found a couple of gems.  I agree that the real star of the year was Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  I never would have believed that a long weekend in TRNP would have been more amazing than a week in Rocky Mountain National Park - but it is what it is!

Totally Not Worth It:

Joe: Other than Crosby Manitou State Park, there weren't really any stand-out hiking disappointments in 2013. I've got to give a shout out to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park here though. Definitely not worth the expense! Next time we'll stay at a normal hotel and just pay for a guest tour!

Too expensive!  No ghost encounters!  No HGTV!

Elly:  Okay, in my humble opinion, it is ALWAYS better to have gone out hiking than to have stayed home on one's butt and stared at the television.  However, I would probably not sing the praises of hiking any boggy park (Moose Lake, Crow Wing, Lake Carlos) during the mosquito Human Hunting Season.  

Hello from Thunderdog!

What a great year.  Thanks for joining me & Joe and Thunderdog on our journeys.  We're going to settle in for the upcoming cold weather - coldest in 17 years, they say - and dream of warmer days and beautiful trails.

Hey Joe, it's 2014!  Let's go for a hike.

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