Before the weather turned back to winter conditions this week I took a short hike at one of my favorite places, The National Wildlife Refuge along the Minnesota River Valley.
The temperature hit 70F (Obviously that is not today as a howling blizzard is going on outside the hotel window), I decided that I would start the day with a hike at William O’Brien State Park located along the St Croix River. Then follow the St Croix River to Hastings, Minnesota where the river finally enters the Mississippi River. I would find a couple of new treasures along the way.
On Saturday (30 March) I was on a time schedule, I had to meet a friend in Hinckley mid afternoon. I had Wild River State Park on my “to do” list last year, that didn’t happen and so I was pretty determined to hike it this Spring.
The weather was crystal clear blue sky, temperature in the low 30s F with a wind chill of low 20s F. That didn’t stop me from hiking. After layering my clothes, I headed North to North Branch, Minnesota.
I have never driven highway nine before and was surprised at the size of some of the farms along that road. It is always fun for me to experience a new part of Minnesota.
As I got closer to the Park I had to turn North in Almelund. I almost got the feeling I was on the wrong road. It seemed pretty remote, no traffic, very little besides the occasional farm. I drove three miles, the road ended at Wild River State Park entrance.
I stopped at the visitor center where they were producing maple syrup. I have seen the maple trees tapped before but it was interesting to see the cooking process. I talked to the volunteers who were watching the cook down by keeping the wood stove fueled.
The visitor center has a wonderful deck overlooking the St Croix River Valley. Without the leaves on the trees you can see far down the St Croix River. The sun was wonderful on the deck and I sat and soaked it in for awhile.
This State Park hosts a variety of terrains. The bluffs have a wonderful grassland that on Saturday held migrating blue birds. The bright blue males popped out of the brown backgrounds of tall grasslands.
The real reason for stopping at this park was to check out future kayak/canoe possibilities. Currently the road is blocked due to Spring flooding on the St Croix River.
I hiked the short trail leading into the river valley at the site of the old Nevers Dam.
The trail is an old hand built dam that crossed the St Croix River in order to control the flow of pine logs down the river. Built in the late 1800’s it saw the millions of board feet of timber pass down river to the saw mills located at Marine in St Croix and Stillwater.
The long dike trail is high and is a great place this time of year to see wood ducks and geese that are swimming in the marsh’s created by the St Croix River overflow.
When I got to the end of the trail there is a wonderfully built deck that looks over the river. On that day I could see chunks of ice floating past as the Spring melt cleaned the landscape further upriver.
I would recommend this out of the way park and its remote trails to anyone wanting to escape the Twin Cities for the day.
©️ The Cedar Journal, 2019, all rights reserved.
Ahhhh, sun and near 65F temperatures. It breathes energy into my existence. When I am in Minnesota it is constant movement. Hotel to lodge; hotel to cabin. Finally I am in one location for a week.
I am already sick of all the driving. Get in the car to go to the store, get in the car to do laundry, get in the car and drive for miles to go hiking. I am sure I will miss all of it once I am back in Europe!
So, I was off to hike the River trail yesterday at William O’Brien State Park. This two mile hike runs along the St Croix River. I have hiked this trail in the Spring and Summer before but never when the ice is flooding the river.
The first thing I spotted when entering the park were two eagles flying right over the park office. Always a good omen for a cool hike.
The road to the river was closed to traffic so hiking down the closed road was easy. The shady part at the bottom of the hill was snow/ice packed so I hiked off the side of the road.
I saw two older gentleman who were at the end of their hike and heading back up hill. They mentioned that there was water over part of the trail but noted that my Lowa hiking boats should handle it fine.
I started on the trail and was rewarded with the sounds of melting running water everywhere. From the smallest dripping to the rush of a stream coming down the slope finally ending into the St Croix.
I love hiking this time of the year. Without the leaves on the trees you can see things that are hidden at other times of the year. Holes where animals have spent the winter, mosses, fungi and best of all the ice flow coming down the river.
The slow moving violent cleanser of yearly snow melt. The river carrying items along the way as it heads to its destination of the Mississippi River.
As I listened to the flow move through the river landscape it was was noisy one minute as the ice moved and pushed, then suddenly silent as it would reach a place where it would jam.
The two mile hike was rewarding in experiencing the river in a new way.
Things I saw on my hike.
– ice flow down river
– black and red squirrels
– 12 hiking humans (not at one time)
©️ The Cedar Journal, 2019, all rights reserved.
I have been reading the book Between The Waters, by Larry Luukkonen this fall. It details the northwest trails and the portages from Lake Superior at the mouth of the St Louis River to Big Sandy Lake and the entrance into the Mississippi River. The first major portage for loaded canoes was the Grand Portage.
Being blocked from Hell’s Gate most people would rejoice. I was disappointed.