Sunday, September 28, 2014

Great River Bluffs State Park: September 9th, 2014

The third (and last) State Park visit on our Honeymoon was Great River Bluffs State Park.  After yesterday's two hikes - Frontenac with its many small hills, and Latsch with its one big hill - I was a bit apprehensive about any park that had "Great" and "Bluffs" in the name.  Would we be hiking up yet another giant hill, even if it meant seeing a great view at the top??

Thankfully, the answer was NO!  The bluffs look very impressive (and daunting) from the highway, but the Hiking Club trail starts pretty far up and the hike is fairly level right out to the edge.  This would be a great choice for those who want to hike up on the bluffs but aren't keen on the mega leg and glute workouts required by Latsch and Frontenac.

Nice wide trail, level and relaxing

There are two big bluffs in this park: King's Bluff and Queen's Bluff.  The Hiking Club trail takes you to the edge of King's Bluff.  Queen's Bluff is off-limits except by permit, but we could see it very well from the summit of King's.  It's bald on top like an Appalachian mountain, and has a very steep drop-off.  Apparently it's called a "Goat Prairie" because only goats would be comfortable grazing on the 45% angle of the hill.

Through the cool trees

Great River Bluffs is a "Natural State Park" and much of it is covered by SNAs (Minnesota's Scientific and Natural Areas).  Minnesota's a bit more strict about human activities at SNAs than at State Parks. Usually there are few trails, no amenities, and pets are not allowed.  Even though Thunderdog was chilling at Doggie Camp while we were on our trip, we were happy to see that Great River Bluffs SNA is one of the few in which she would be welcome.

Joe plays with his camera: it's psychedelic SNA time

The view from the top was pretty spectacular.  If you're in the area in the next few weeks, it would be worth your time to head up there: I would bet that the fall colors are terrific.

Queen's bluff on the right, with the Goat Prairie

Upon finishing this park, we had successfully completed the Hiking Club trails of every park on the eastern edge of Minnesota.  From Grand Portage to Great River Bluffs...we've covered them all!

One sad note: our free night of camping (that we received for finishing our 100-mile patch last year) quietly expired yesterday.  We were too busy with Life Stuff to do much hiking this summer, let alone go camping.  Oh well - it will be a memento of our Hiking Club adventures.  43 Minnesota State Parks down, 24 left to go.  And then it's onto the SNAs and the rivers...maybe.  :-)

Total miles hiked today: 2.5
Total miles hiked in 2014: 19.2
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11

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