Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All Good Things...Itasca State Park: September 6th, 2015

We end at the beginning.

Itasca State Park was Minnesota's first State Park - and only the second one in the United States (Niagara Falls State Park came first).  It was created in 1891 to preserve and commemorate the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi.  Our friend Schoolcraft, that whimsical namer of places, determined that Lake Itasca was the true Headwaters in 1832.  There's been plenty of controversy about that (there are small streams in the watershed that drain INTO Itasca) but it'll probably always be Lake Itasca that people flock to in order to dip their feet into the beginning of the greatest river in the USA.

Itasca is worthy of several blog posts, especially since we spent several days there.  For this post we'll focus just on the Hiking Club Trail.

One more time!

The Hiking Club Trail in Itasca doesn't hit any of the Big Deal Sites in the park.  It follows a few woodsy trails just south of the tip of the East Arm of the lake: the Ozawindib Trail and the Deer Park Trail.  The trailhead was actually right next to the Douglas Lodge - which is where we stayed!  More about that in another post, too.

Dodging puddles

We were there for three nights, and I think it rained every single one of them.  At least the rain didn't start until the evenings...but it made for muddy trails.   That's alright, we're used to them by now.  It was fairly hilly but we're still in pretty good shape what with the 5k training.  Our glutes and quads were up for it.

Lovely Myrtle Lake

The trail passes by many smaller lakes of the park:  Myrtle Lake, Mary Lake, Allen Lake, Deer Park Lake.  It felt more deciduous-y than northwoods-y, and we didn't see that many animals.  Certainly none larger than a squirrel.  I suppose that's what happens when you have over 500,000 visitors a year trampling through the park.

Blue sky, sky tinted water.

To be honest, the Hiking Club trail was not the highlight of the trip.  It was kind of boring compared to the rest of the park.  But it was the last one!  Our Hiking Club Trail Quest had come to an end!


Upon completion of the trail, we hotfooted it on over to the Ranger Station to claim our prize.  We were done!  We didn't expect a ticker-tape parade or anything, but we kind of expected the Ranger to know what the Hiking Club was!  He didn't know much about it and told us that we would have to go the DNR Headquarters in St. Paul in order to get our final patches.


Luckily we live in the Cities, so on September 8th we took the light rail on over to the DNR HQ and took one last hike for the Hiking Club.  They were much more helpful there, and we emerged victorious.

We are the champions!

Total miles hiked at the park: 3.5 miles
Total miles hiked to the DNR Headquarters: 2
Total miles hiked in 2015: 45.7
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0; Thunderdog - 0
Total ticks in 2015: 9

Countdown to All Miles: 0 to go


  1. Yay! Congratulations, you two! It's been fun to read about your adventures.

    Pretty shortly after Sarah and I started dating, we went to Itasca to camp for a weekend. She saw it as a "camping test" as I had just recently finished my time as a Boundary Waters guide. It was May, chilly, and rainy the whole time. We got a little hiking in, but also got in burgers, beer, and a baseball game in Walker. She passed the test, and it's still a trip we laugh about.

    I'm looking forward to see what you have to say about the lodge, as it is something Sarah and I have talked about for a special occasion.

    1. Thanks! We've had a lot of fun doing it. I think it was just a stroke of luck that I started blogging about the Hiking Club right away - and we kept going with it. That was a rare bit of foresight on my part.

      We liked the lodge! We stayed in the "modern sixplex" buildings, which are very near the classic lodge and cabins. Joe insisted on AC. We were amazed that we could get a suite on Labor Day weekend...I guess we have the late Labor Day to thank. Most schools were already in session.

  2. Congrats! First time commenting though been enjoying the blog for a long time as I'm working on the club as well (50 miles soon). Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks! And congrats to you on the upcoming 50 - the Hiking Club is a lot of fun and you have some good hikes ahead of you.

  3. I only found your blog a few months ago, but I found it to be a valuable resource as I made my push to my goal of "All Miles" before winter. It was good to know what to expect from Old Mill (I waded more than hiked). Only five more parks for me, 11 miles (all north shore, and I have a reservation in October). Now I know to head to HQ when I'm done! Thanks

    1. Hey thanks! I was lucky to actually live on the North Shore - it made getting to all of those parks pretty easy. If this extended summer keeps up you'll have some fine weather for the October hikes.

      I could swear that I'd seen the big All Miles patch at other parks that we'd visited, but it's good to know that they just might not have it. The DNR HQ itself is kind of neat (although I would not want to sit at the desk right beneath the taxediermied flying owl) if you live in the cities and actually drive in.

  4. Just found your website! Thanks for compiling all of this- we are relatively frequent MN state park visitors but we don't really stray too far from the twin cities or Duluth area. We are planning a 7-10 day excursion next summer to take advantage of North-Central MN and this is going to be a valuable source for identifying which are the must-see parks :)