Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Big Bog State Recreation Area: July 17th, 2015

After our trip to the Little Bog of Lake Bemidji State Park, we were a bit worried that Big Bog State Recreation Area would be just more of the same.  Bog walk, bog flowers, bog plants, bog birds, etc.

Nope!  It was a completely different experience.  First thing that happened is that we went to the wrong unit of the park.  There is a Southern Unit just north of Waskish on 72.  It had the brown sign and it said "Big Bog State Recreation Area", so we pulled in and headed up to the Ranger Station.

"The Hiking Club Trail's at the Northern Unit," said the Ranger.  "But you can check out our fire tower while you're here."  He gestured towards the back door, and lo!  A fire tower!  It was time to climb!

We climb it because it is there.

We had an amazing view from the top of the Fire Tower of Red Lake - the largest lake entirely within the state of Minnesota - and the Big Bog to the north.  Joe had the Eyes of Fear as we climbed the tower, but it was worth it.

Upper Red Lake - a big flat lake.  It is very shallow compared to most lakes in MN - a max depth of about 15'.

Joe has the eyes of fear.
Elly does not mind heights.

After checking out the tower, we got back in the car and completed the journey to the Northern Unit of the SRA: Ludlow Island.  The Hiking Club Trail was two miles long - a mile in, a mile back - and it was entirely on the Big Bog Boardwalk.

The Big Bog Boardwalk, leading through the trees and into another world.

Right away we could see the difference between this bogwalk and the one at Lake Bemidji. The bog at Lake Bemidji was just a small part of that park.  We were able to get close into the plants and examine it on a small scale.

Oh, okay, Joe got close into the plants here, too.

The boardwalk is higher up at Big Bog, and it is perforated so that the light can get through, the air can circulate, and flowers can poke through.

Joe captures a pretty flower on the path

At over 500 square miles, Big Bog State Recreation Area is the largest peat bog in the lower 48 states.  And boy, did it feel like it.  The walk out into the bog and onto an "island" in the middle of it was only a mile long, but it felt like we left the world.  We were able to get down close and view the flora and fauna of the bog at Lake Bemidji; at Big Bog we were just tiny little people all alone in the true wilderness.

Click for larger picture, obvs

European settlers did their best to drain the bog, but were completely unsuccessful.  In the picture below, you can see where they chopped down the trees and tried to build a ditch, but the bog was too thick.  Finally they said "Screw this!" and left.  The bog is now recovering, home to the animals and birds, swallowing the settler's efforts back into the muck.  It's mind-boggling that people ever had to cross these bogs on foot.  But at 500 square miles, one might decide to brave it rather than go around.

Careful now!  Or Hobbits go down to join the dead ones, and light little candles of their own.

The stillness and quiet is all-encompassing.  It is absolutely worth the trip to go out on the Bog Walk and experience a whole different world.  Surrounded by waving grasses, tamarack, black spruce, sedges, shrubs, clouds, water, and cool damp bog air...it's like nowhere else I'd ever been.

Quiet path

It was pretty amazing.  There was just one problem, one small annoyance...black flies.  Oh, they were AWFUL.   Black fly bites are worse than mosquito bites in some ways - they actually hurt, but they don't itch.  And Black flies don't seem to be as repelled by bug spray.  I'd recommend visiting Big Bog State Recreation Area during the early bug-free season, or perhaps in the fall.  I am not sure what it's like in the winter...probably beautiful and silent.

Total miles hiked today (this park): 2
Total miles hiked in 2015: 17.3
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 1; Thunderdog - 0
Total ticks in 2015: 9

Countdown to All Miles: 26.4 to go

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