Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lac Qui Parle State Park: October 4th, 2014

I had all sorts of lofty expectations for Lac Qui Parle State Park.  For starters, it has a beautiful name: Lac Qui Parle translates to "The lake which speaks", which is in reference to the number of birds that use the lake as a stop on their autumn migration.  It is also a prairie park: I continue to hope for more showcase-the-prairie parks (like Glacial Lakes and Blue Mounds) and fewer showcase-the-things-other-than-the-prairie-in-the-prairie parks (like Upper Sioux Agency).  Unfortunately, Lac Qui Parle didn't stack up.

For starters, it was near impossible to find.  This is a very unpopulated area of the state, and we felt a bit isolated.  "...and they were never heard from again," Joe said as we tried to navigate with our paper maps and spotty cell phone service.  There is road construction on County Road 48 - the one we used to approach the park - and they just decided to take down all of the road signs and leave travelers to use only their wits to find the turns.  When we finally approached the park at the intersection of 48 and 33, we obediently followed the sign that read "Park Headquarters -->".  This took us on a loop around the lake, where we found ourselves in the Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area.  Frustrated, we turned around and disobeyed the sign and finally found the entrance to the actual park.  Once inside we wound up driving all over the place trying to find the WPA picnic shelter, from where the darn trail was supposed to start.  We followed a sign to a picnic area: it was the wrong picnic area.  Once we found the correct picnic area, we were fooled by a WPA-style shower shack in the campground and had to get back into the car to find the actual WPA picnic shelter.

Can you tell this hike was off to a bad start?  Not only were we frustrated about getting lost, we were losing daylight.  We had a hike to complete, and we had to drive all the way back to St. Cloud that night.  We left Thunderdog behind because she's not too keen on spending the day in the car - we were now getting worried that she might have an explosion before we were able to get home and let her out.

Marshy dark forest

The Hiking Club trail is 2 miles long.  It starts at the picnic shelter, and goes in a heavily wooded loop along the Lac Qui Parle River.  It looked like there had been a damaging wind or hailstorm in the recent past - many of the trees were damaged or dead.  Without the canopy, the undergrowth had gone wild.  It felt like a northwoods bog.  At one point we crossed an earthen bridge over the river.  On the lake side, the water was clear.  On the backwater side, it was covered with algae.  It felt like we spent most of the time walking along the algae side.  Not that pleasant.  At least it was late in the season and we were not devoured by mosquitoes...snacked upon, but not devoured.

Lac qui Scummy Backwater

Oh, okay.  It wasn't that bad.  The trail was wide and grassy, and it was a pleasant day for a hike.  At one point the trail actually drifted alongside a prairie, which made me a bit happier.  The low, late day sun was ideal for leaf-peeping and we had the park pretty much to ourselves.

Look - a prairie in a prairie park!  So novel!  The sunset turned the trees beautiful colors, though.

The most frustrating thing about the whole endeavor was that after all of our driving around and hiking, the trail doesn't actually go anywhere near the lake!  We didn't have any time leftover to check out the lake after wasting so much time driving around, trying to find the park.  And, to be honest, when we finally finished the hike we were too annoyed to go looking for it.  We saw exactly seven migrating waterfowl at the park that should be singing with them.  Here they are:

Seven little ducks went out one day

Things that would make Lac Qui Parle better: good directions to get there (not the parks fault); accurate signage within the park (park's fault); and a Hiking Club Trail that gives hikers at least a glimpse of the Lac itself.  That's the showpiece of the park - why not show it off?  Surely it had to have been more interesting than our buggy backwater stroll.

Always jovial, Joe finds something to cheer him up:
a very Minnesotan sign on the picnic shelter.

So: when going to Lac Qui Parle with the intent of doing the Hiking Club Trail:  Find your way to the intersection of 48 and 33.  Turn left at the intersection before the gravel road - if you hit the gravel, you've gone too far.  Turn LEFT when the HQ sign tells you to turn right.  Once in the park, turn RIGHT when the picnic area sign tells you to turn left.  When you get to the campground, ignore the WPA-style shower shack and go to the LEFT to find the real WPA picnic shelter.

And have a better time than we did!

PS - Thunderdog was very happy to see us when we finally got home - no disasters.  Whew.

Total miles hiked today (at this park): 2.0
Total miles hiked in 2014: 23.4
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11


  1. But what if my goose is really dirty? C'mon DNR, have some consideration.

    1. I like imagining a bunch of geese, carrying towels and soap and wearing little shower hats, standing outside the building and honking in frustration.