Friday, October 24, 2014

Whitewater State Park: October 11th, 2014

Continuing our leaf-peeping trip to Southeastern Minnesota...

Whitewater State Park is gigantic, crazy busy, and super amenitied compared to it's tiny neighbor, Carley State Park.  We were stunned by the sheer number of visitors we encountered at the park entrance.  It also seemed like there were two dogs for each person - it made us miss Thunderdog, who was at doggie camp for the weekend.  Whitewater is definitely a "destination" to which we'll have to return someday.

The Hiking Club Trail is only 2.2 miles long, but it was a very impressive 2.2 miles.   The park is located in a deep valley (carved out by the Whitewater River, natch) and we were prepared to hike up to the top of the limestone bluffs and back down again.  There are some very, very steep steps and a ladder right at the start of the trail.  These weren't just a flight or two of stairs - this was a LOT of stairs.  It was similar to some of our previous climbs (ahem, Latsch and C.R. Magney) and we were pretty winded by the time we reached the overlook.  Be warned.

Up Joe goes

We weren't sure how Thunderdog would have felt about the ladder leading up to the overlook.  There was a "dog path" alongside the ladder (just a dirt path that would have been too steep for most people) for the larger pups, but we saw several dogs being carried up to the top.

Speaking of the top - check out the view: ah!  Fall colors, ahoy!  See the slanted cliff across the valley?  I got out my binoculars and was able to see people hiking on a path along the ledge.  We definitely will return someday to check out that path.

Fall colors in full swing.

The hike got easier once we reached the top of the bluff.  At least - easier in terms of elevation.  The path itself was kind of tough to follow given the carpet of fallen leaves, but we had no real trouble.  The trail was surprisingly varied: deciduous forest, limestone cliffs, meadows, overlooks, cedars.  It was great!

Leafy path

Limestone cliffs

This park has a lot going on.  Neat hiking trails, two huge campgrounds, several group camps, a group center (barracks for over 100 people, kitchen, etc), ballfields, swimming beach, historic sites, cross-country skiing, and - of course - excellent fishing.  The Whitewater River is spring-fed and remains at a steady temp of about 48 degrees year-round - thanks to the caves like Mystery Cave.   We will have to go back someday to check out the other hiking trails.  If we were camping, though, we'd probably stay at the mellower, smaller Carley State Park and just pop on over to Whitewater during the day.

Spring-fed river

One more interesting thing about Whitewater State Park: there is a tree by the Whitewater Valley Visitor Center that I'd like to learn more about.  It is this pine, with a birch/aspen growing out of the top of it.

Here it the tree...
...and here is the deciduous tree growing out of the top of it.

Several years ago I visited Olympic National Park and learned about Nurse Trees and Logs.  Basically, one tree becomes the "ground" for another.  I wonder if this is what happened to this tree at Whitewater?  I would like to learn more!

A couple of notes about this hike: the ranger suggested that we start at the picnic area/nature gift shop.  We did, and that's where the zillions of steps were located.  If we had started at the OTHER end - at the visitor center - we would have gone down the steps instead of up them.  Just a thought if you are thinking about hiking this trail and have strong opinions about stairs.  Also - the map shows just the ridge portion of the trail.  You will have to walk back 1/2 a mile or so on the road, which is not marked.  After climbing up and down a giant ridge, though, you'll be in the mood for some nice flat pavement.

Total miles hiked today (at this park): 2.2
Total miles hiked in 2014: 27.4
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11

1 comment:

  1. That spring-fed river photo is gorgeous! Looks like it was a beautiful day!