River Walking

Post Preface

Knowing the right timing for posting about my hikes is difficult right now. I recognize that many are taking a step back to do some hard anti-racism work right now and that posting about hikes may seem insensitive. I also truly believe in the healing power that comes from nature. I was asked in February on a hike what I think about on my solo hikes. What goes through my mind depends on the day, the trail and my emotional state. So the answer is complicated. This post, which I started back on May 23, doesn’t capture my ponderings of the day, but I will be adding my trail thoughts into future posts as much as I’m comfortable sharing. Sometimes the thoughts that start on one hike are still working through several hikes later.

In the meantime, if you are interested in exploring the healing that the trails can provide you, I’d suggest that you check out the work that Kenya and Michelle are doing at We Hike to Heal and the Outdoor Journal Tour. These ladies are helping people find healing in the outdoors via reflection journaling and discussion events. I’ve done work with them in the past and am looking forward to doing more in the future. Additional resources are also available with the 52 Hike Challenge. The challenge is part of my journey in hiking. I highly recommend both organizations. And if you are able to support them, please consider it.

Finally, if you like what you’re reading here at Ruth’s Blue Marble, I’d love for your help in sharing it with your family and friends. Shares, likes and comments are greatly appreciated.

Photo of a landscape filled with trees in the foreground that have patches of mud and standing water. Beyond the treelike there is a marshy area and the water of the Minnesota River. It is daytime and partly cloudy.

#21 of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Long Meadow Trail, Mississippi Valley Wildlife Refuge

Trash Collected: 0.9 pounds

I want to acknowledge this took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux).

So much has changed since I took this hike at the end of May. As I sit to write this it’s apparent how much I’VE changed. This was a wonderful day. Cool and sunny. I knew there would be potential for muddy spots due to recent rains. It was one of the few hike I had taken after COVID-19 descended on us and before the death of George Floyd. What I do know is that walking along the Minnesota River Valley always brings something unexpected making each hike in the same park unique.

The image is of a 52 Hike Challenge Adventure Series 2020 patch. The patch is round in shape with a green stitched border. In the center is stitching that reflects cliffs, trees and the sun in browns, green and orange. It is held up in front of a background of trees and grass.

If you’ve not been to the Mississippi Valley Wildlife Refuge, I’d highly recommend a visit. I’ve posted before about the various locations where you can access the park (Getting to Know a River). My favorite way is the access at the Visitor Center on the northeast end of the park. From the visitor center on the bluff you descend to the river valley. Along the way there are several side trail options, including an overlook to the north end of the park. I’ve made the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers part of my routine as I work to complete my 2020 52 Hike Challenge Adventure Series list. I’m behind on my goal, but giving myself the grace that 2020 has many challenges that have pushed their way ahead of this one.

On this visit as I headed from the overlook trail that wraps around and meanders through the trees, I happened across a pair of deer who pretty much ignored my presence. I stopped to let them pass across the trail and into the woods beyond. In moments they had disappeared into the forest camouflaged by their coloring against the trees and muddy spots. I reminded myself that I was passing through their home.

Hiking down into the river valley I’m always blown away by what I see from when the river floods the area. Vegetation and debris holds the memory of the water flow. It also stands firm against the rush. When the water recedes large trees often are wrapped by smaller trees. Standing water creates the most glorious mud puddles. The interesting thing with mud is to see whether or not hikers are prepared for it. Often they aren’t and either widen the trail by walking around it or create what are known as social trails. While both seem to be a solution to the problem of wet feet, the best option is to walk through, which is my favorite option. It’s funny how my trip to Isle Royale three years ago completely changed my perspective on hiking in mud. I don’t even really bat an eye now. And there is a slightly irreverent chorus of “Mud? You haven’t seen mud! This is nothing!” that plays in my head every time I slog through it.

As I hiked, I reflected on the temporal nature of the river and the surrounding flood plain. Rivers have this remarkable way of shaping what’s around them by the sheer force of their flow. They create beautifully placed piles of debris, creating sculptural effects that artists often try to replicate. They shape the land and refresh the soil’s nutrients. But most of all they remind us that the flow washes things clear, sometimes when it’s most needed. That being open to change and possibility is really important.

As I headed back toward the trail head, I came across a dad and his exuberant daughter who were out for what looked to be a short hike. On their approach I’d donned my mask and slowed to give them space. But lovely little Clare with her sequined purse was having nothing of distancing. She too slowed. She asked if I was out for a hike. She asked if I’d be her best friend. I asked her in return why I should be her best friend. I’d caught her off guard so I continued, would it be because we both liked going for walks in the woods? She readily agreed. I also asked if her dad would be ok with us being friends. His reply, that of an exhausted dad was that “she is best friends with everyone.”

As they moved ahead, I continued to give them more space, but reflected on the interaction which left me smiling under my mask. Both for my new-found (and soon to be lost again) trail friend and her beleaguered dad. We’d all come to the trail for something and with a little luck we’d all found what we were seeking.

Next Post Preview: I’ll be sharing a bit about my volunteer experiences these past few weeks with Mississippi Park Connection and the National Park Service.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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