Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: October 19th, 2014

The spring-summer-fall 2014 hiking season comes to a close.  The leaves have fallen off of the trees, the sun sets before most people get home from work, and the nights are too cold for leaving the windows open.  But we're pretty proud of what we've accomplished this year, despite being sidelined by pesky time-consuming things like getting married.  On October 19th, we completed our 50th Minnesota State Park Hiking Club Trail...and got our 150 mile patches.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park has over 10,000 acres and is well-amenitied.  There are over 70 campsites (many with electric, if you're into that sort of thing), a group camp and a horse camp, backpacking and walk-in sites.  There is a huge picnic area, a swimming beach, canoe landings and boat launches, a playground, a sledding hill, an historic site, an archaeological site, and lots of programs.  Mille Lacs is a super-popular tourist lake, buzzing with both water-skiiers and anglers all summer long.  But today, we were just there for the hike.

This looks like a fine place to hike

The Hiking Club Trail starts at the Kathio Landmark Trail parking area, and the first section of this hike follows that trail.  There are plenty of signs to read about the history of the land by Mille Lacs.  We took a short detour to the Ojibwe village archaeological site by Lake Ogechoie.  It's a little off the path, but worth the stop.

I have always found it funny that the great outdoors are managed
by the US Department of the Interior.

Even though it was well past peak leaf and hiking season, this was a fun hike.  We were surprised at how noisy the birds were: perhaps they were all gathering at Mille Lacs before the big flight south?  Lake Ogechoie was filled with swans.

Swan Lake

The leaf-covered ground made for difficult hiking, especially with Thunderdog along.  She gets so excited about being O-U-T-S-I-D-E that she'll pull me all over the place.  Some people have asked why she doesn't get to go with us on all of our hikes.  She loves hiking, but she does NOT love riding in the car.  Since most of our recent hikes have involved long drives, she gets to either guard the house or spend the day playing with her puppy friends at Doggie Daycare.  She gets to visit local parks quite often, but those trips are not very interesting blog fodder.

But today, Thunderdog gets to hike!

Once the trail was complete - hooray! - we started back to the Park HQ to pick up our patches.  Then we came across the trail to the fire tower.  After a brief discussion, we decided to leave Thunderdog in the car (it was cool out, and the windows were down a bit) and us humans would check out the tower.  Despite the fact that we have never ONCE left her forever, Thunderdog began to howl once we were out of sight.  She kept it up for quite a while and we could hear her mournful cries echoing through the hills as we approached the tower.

Up we go!

The Fire Tower is 100 feet tall, and visitors are welcome to climb it during good weather.  Joe was not terribly keen on climbing it (remember Hermann the German???) but I convinced him that the view could not be beat.  So he braved his way up to the top, and was rewarded with hundred-mile views of the surrounding countryside.  It looked to us as though the trees were cheering for the University of Minnesota: maroon and gold, as far as the eye could see.

Rah rah rah for Ski-U-Ma!

So: if you are going to Mille Lacs Kathio, the Fire Tower is worth a stop if you're not scared of heights.  Also, the steps are a bit narrow so if you've got mobility issues you might want to skip this one.  I imagine the view would be spectacular at sunrise or sunset...or during leaf-peeping season.  We were glad to have caught the very end of it.

When we got back to the car, we were met by this smiling face:

"Hi Guys!  Did you miss me?"

And, with that, we managed to complete 50 State Parks and 150.4 miles of Hiking Club Trails by the end of the fall.  We have 17 State Parks and 43.7 more miles to go.  Most of the parks that we are missing are clustered around North-central and Northwest Minnesota, and South-central and Southwest Minnesota.  All will require at least an overnight trip.  You can bet that Joe is already planning for 2015, and getting those last two patches.  The backpack is ready for them!

Six patches down, two to go

Total miles hiked today : 3.2
Total miles hiked in 2014: 40.8
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11

1 comment:

  1. Holy Cow! My girlfriend and I were there the same day as you! It was a fun hike, but the tower was not my cup of tea.