"But Michele!" Joe says. "We need to get our 150-mile patch so that we can have another ornament!" Far be it for me to squash his Christmas hopes and dreams...so we're taking some long drives in order to scratch off a few more parks before the weather turns super-cold.
That is how we wound up driving about 7 hours round-trip for a grand total of 4.2 miles of Hiking Club Trails in western MN: Big Stone Lake and Lac Qui Parle State Parks. More prairie parks, hooray! We listened to music and playoff baseball on the way out and back. Pleasant drive!
|And it was a beeeeeeautiful day|
Big Stone Lake is the headwaters of the Minnesota River. If you go north a few miles, you'll come across yet another Continental Divide - we've been to a few before - and Traverse Lake, the source of the Red River of the North. On the other sides of these lakes you will find South Dakota. This is all in that weird little knob that sticks out of the west side of Minnesota. This is the most westerly park in the state, and you can gaze at a bit of the Big Sky that you'll see on the great plains.
|Joe looks across Big Stone Lake and ponders the Western Sky|
To get to the trailhead, you have to make sure you visit the Bonanza area of the park - the larger, more amenitied side of the park is the Meadowbrook Area. Oh, and make sure you start at the Boat Landing. There is a parking lot at the picnic area right in the middle of the trail - if you start there you'll still get the password, but you'll miss most of the hike. Once you've got the right trailhead, follow the trail along the lake and over the little creeks tumbling down to it.
|Starting the long, long journey to the Gulf of Mexico|
There was even a waterfall. Not sure who Benkowski is/was, but without the sign we might have missed the falls altogether. This part of the hike - the turnaround, it's a lollipop loop - goes very close to the Bonanza Educational Center (a nature center that is not part of the State Park). Maybe Benkowski works there.
|Joe looks at the waterfall|
The lake itself looks like a great place to be on a warm summer day. It was a bit cold when we visited, but word is that it's an excellent fishing lake. It was very quiet at the park that day. I don't think that we encountered anybody else, with the exception of some people in the parking lot who looked like they just stopped in to use the restroom.
It was just a super nice day for a hike. I wasn't even annoyed that, yet again, a "prairie park" was actually a "not-prairie-in-the-middle-of-the-prairie park". The trees and grasses were turning, the weather was warm enough to hike without a coat, and the sun was shining.
On the way back I picked up some acorns, and I also found a woolly bear caterpillar. For you who are unfamiliar with the folklore about this fuzzy little guys:
In Minnesota (and many other parts of the country/world), it is rumored that you can tell how severe an upcoming winter will be if you look at the center (brown) stripe on a woolly bear caterpillar in the autumn. If the stripe is thick, it will be a difficult winter. If the stripe is thin, it will be a mild winter.
This guy's brown stripe wasn't that big. Maybe we'll be in for a milder winter than last year.
|O Woolly Bear Oracle, tell me what the future holds|
Total miles hiked today (at this park): 2.2
Total miles hiked in 2014: 21.4
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11