First things first: we are scared to death.
|enter the outdoors at your own peril|
The ranger warned us about the Wild Parsnip danger when we stopped in to get the map. "If you get some on you," she said, "You won't be able to go into the sun for three years." I thought, "whaaaaat...." but there's something to what she was saying. If you come in contact with the toxic sap and don't get it treated, you might get a festering rash that will discolor your skin for up to three years, and you'll be super sensitive to sunlight on the rash areas. Not fun.
After her warning and reading the sign on the trail, Joe was apprehensive about it and looked as though Wild Parsnip might be waiting around the next bend, ready to accost him with toxic sap in Super Soakers or something.
|No Wild Parsnip here, but there is a hiking club sign on the power line pole.|
Myre-Big Island is about 1,500 acres of woods and wetlands alongside Albert Lea Lake in southern Minnesota. The Hiking Club Trail covers most of the southern part of the park as well as a loop around the island (really a peninsula) in Albert Lea Lake, Big Island. Some of the trail is on a paved road, some is on the Blazing Star Trail (a paved trail from downtown Albert Lea to the center of the park), some is on a footpath. It's long, we went on a hot summer day, but there was plenty to see. The trail starts literally 20 feet from the Ranger Station, so we had no trouble finding our way to the start of it.
|Blazing Star Trail on a beautiful summer day|
Most of the road walking is on the causeway that gets you across to Big Island. There's a campsite on the island and you have to walk through it, which is always a little weird. We kind of feel like we're being watched, and I'm sure the campers do too. Thing is, this time we WERE being watched. By hundreds of cormorants.
|The trees around the lake were full of them!|
As a kid growing up in Minneapolis, I was familiar with exactly two kinds of waterfowl: the Mallard and the Canada Goose. Every once in a while we'd see a Grebe or a Wood Duck, that was about it. I'd certainly never seen a kind of waterfowl that hangs out in trees. So coming across these trees heavy with large black Cormorants? Pretty cool experience. Joe said that Cormorants were once considered a pesky bird and were driven out of Minnesota. Their problem? They poop everywhere, and it stinks. "How bad could it be?" I asked, as the trail turned to go right underneath the Cormorant-filled trees. I took a breath. "Oh," I said as I wrinkled my nose. Yep.
Albert Lea Lake is supposed to be an excellent place to view migrating birds. I believe it!
We also could make use of a wildflower identification book: there were a lot of different wildflowers to check out, including some that we'd never seen before. Someday we'll read up more on wildflowers so that we are not just able to say, "Oh look at the puffy white one!" or "It's a pretty purple thing! Wow!". I had to look up the names of the flowers below...let's see if we can remember them in the future. I guarantee we'll remember the name of the first one.
|The delightfully named Rattlesnake Master|
|Yellow Coneflower, I think|
|I think this is Prairie Ironweed. Or, the fluffy purple thing.|
|Tall many headed tiny sunflower like thing|
|Prairie Blazing Star and a really huge bee|
|OMG ITS WILD PARSNIP!!!|
Joe ran screaming from the Wild Parsnip. He stopped to take pictures of a few animal friends we passed on the way back to the car: a shy Western Painted Turtle, and a skittish fawn.
|Hello little friend|
|Watched by the fawn|
Despite the scary Wild Parsnip situation, we had a fine time at Myre-Big Island. It's right near the crossroads of I-90 and I-35 (indeed, we could hear the highways at times) so it would be an excellent place to stop if you're on a cross-country trek...especially if you're interested in watching migrating waterfowl. We'll be back!
Total miles hiked today: 6.2 miles
Total miles hiked in 2015: 32.5
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0; Thunderdog - 0
Total ticks in 2015: 9
Countdown to All Miles: 11.2 to go