Latest Hikes Look Back

Prairie landscape covered in snow with a trail sign marking trail options.

Where exactly did that time go? It’s December and the past month or so has sped by bringing with it the cold and snow of a Minnesota winter. My gear includes more layers and I’ve even broken out the snowshoes for the first trip on the trails. It’s also brought a need to take a break from writing to focus on the stuff of life. I’ve presented a session on trip planning at one of our locally owned outdoor retailers and started looking toward 2020’s adventures.

I’ve also been reflecting, as I do each December, on all the experiences that got me here. Back in October I quietly completed my 2019 52 Hike Challenge. That didn’t mean I stopped hiking. Here’s a recap of a few of my recent hikes:

#57hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Lawrence Unit, Minnesota Valley SRA

There is something quite lovely feeling you have a place to yourself. I find when I hike on cold days, I often end up being able to take in the solitude in a unique way. My trip to the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area was one of those days. Quiet. Simple. Relaxed.

I love hiking along Minnesota’s rivers and lakes. This year has presented many challenges to that with high water flooding many of the trails I would normally frequent. Then along came the cold and things start to firm up. It had been awhile since I’d been to this park. Not much had changed with the exception of a closed trail closest to the river. So I opted for one that does a weaving path through marshy and boggy woodland. My adventure took me on a northeasterly path to the Strait House at the north end of the Lawrence Unit section.

With the cold, many areas that would have been muddy were frozen with ice in the most beautiful wavy patterns. In some places the water underneath had sunk into the ground or drained away leaving stained-glass-like spots that caught my breath. The ground was crunch and uneven. I watched an owl take flight from a tree as I got close, but lost it as it flew through the dense woods.

I took in the walk across a prairie area on the north end, finding myself standing outside the Strait House. It’s obvious the former museum hasn’t been open in a long time, it’s windows covered in cobwebs and dust, the interpretive signs inside visible from the windows as I circled around before heading back toward my car. Along the way, I chose to walk roadside collecting garbage from the wide swath of mowed grass. I ended up being thankful I had both my Deuter Dirtbag and my United By Blue / REI OptOutside bags to carry what I found to the park recycling and garbage bins.

#58hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Pike Island, Fort Snelling State Park, MN

I want to acknowledge these hikes and volunteering took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux).

With the colder weather it’s been a bit easier to navigate the trails at Fort Snelling State Park. I’m reacquainting myself with my beloved park after the long summer waiting for my favorite trail on Pike Island to reopen.

A relatively fresh snow provided just the impetus to send a shout to my hiking buddies for a quick, very last minute hike. I was thrilled to be joined by Jen. We hoped to break out our snowshoes, but ultimately decided to skip them.

We headed for Pike Island where we found snow people here and there out enjoying the trails too. Jen and talked about the spiritual connection we have with the park. One that has a rich history and is significant to the Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan Dakota as their place of origin. We each have our own rituals here that acknowledge both our own connection and that of the tribes who were here long before our own ancestors. The park’s history also includes much darker periods and I reflect on those each time I visit.

As always, the hike left me rejuvenated and grateful. For the special place and the friendship I share with Jen.

#59hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, MN

Timing is everything and sometimes a group hike doesn’t work out. I’d spent the day before getting my holiday decorations in order, missing the opportunity for a sunset hike at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve with a few of my hiking friends. But it reminded me that it had been a while since I’d last been at this park. It’s a wonderful park that doesn’t get a ton of foot traffic and offering lovely views across rolling land dotted with wooded areas.

I got a mid-day start, knowing I’d only hike for an hour or so. The drive itself is an easy one and I usually land at a trailhead with a large parking area, latrine and water pump. Before I headed out on the trail, I made a stop at the latrine. Opening the door, I immediately noticed that the toilet paper rolls were shredded. An obvious indication that critters were nesting for the winter somewhere. But as I got closer, I discovered that there was a mouse tucked up in the second roll with a toasty next of TP all around. This my lady friends, is yet another reason to carry a Kula Cloth!

I spent the next hour or so enjoying a quiet time on my first snowshoe hike of the year to take in the expansive views and time to think about a few things that had happened the week before that were on my mind. It’s one of the things I like best about hiking solo. I can take time to process whatever floats into my mind, to find a solution or make peace with what’s bothering me. As I was finding my way back to my car, I stopped to chat with a woman who was curious about my snowshoes and trekking poles. I left the park more settled with my thoughts that had been floating around, for that I am most thankful.

GEAR: Oboz Women’s Bridger 7″ Insulated Waterproof, Patagonia Womens Down Sweater Jacket, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Lhasa Lite AS trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets

*To find out more about Leave No Trace (LNT) principles,
check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
or on the Stewardship Resources page.

Copyright Ruth Wikoff-Jones, | No Use Permitted Without Prior Permission

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