Road Trippin’ : Day Two

#31 and #32 hikes of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trails/Parks: Monson Lake State Park and Glacial Lakes State Park

Trash Collected: 0.5 pounds

I want to acknowledge these hikes took place on the traditional territory of the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute and Očeti Šakówiŋ.


Monson Lake State Park

#31hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trash Collected: .5 pounds

Moving along further west my next visit was at Monson Lake State Park. This small park is nestled between Monson and West Sunburg Lakes and is a short 20 minute drive from Sibley State Park. The Minnesota Hiking Club trail here is a mostly flat mile long loop that starts and ends in the campground. The trail offers beautiful lake views between the trees of its shaded route.

This park offered the first of what would be many reflections on the history of colonization of our state. When I read the park map, noting that it was created in memory of the victims of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, I was hopeful to learn something new of the war and that the history would provide insight into both sides of the war’s participants. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. The memorialization minimizes the Dakota lives lost. On learning this, I spent most of my hike in deep meditation of the one-sided history our parks continue to hold. Especially in the current times we’ve been living. I didn’t find immediate solutions, only the slowly growing frustration of unheard voices from the past.

During my hike I stopped frequently to take in the lake views. I stepped ever more carefully as frogs jumped from my path on the damp ground. The path sits barely above the lake level so the ground was moist and slightly muddy in places. The late summer flowers and berries were wonderful to see. Equally disappointing were the portions of lake view completely blocked by the abundant buckthorn choking the undergrowth. I was lucky to see a grey heron toward the end of my hike as it took flight across the lake.

Returning from the hike to my car I had the first deep moment of understanding that much of the issues we are experiencing in the U.S. in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. The issues are, at their core, about BIPOC people who simply want their history, voices and stories to be heard. To be acknowledged even if the history isn’t a convenient narrative. Like all stories there will always be at least two sides, two perspectives. Simple changes at our state’s parks in telling these stories would go a very long way in the work of making them truly feel welcoming for all. In healing the wounds of the past and moving toward an inclusive future.

Glacial Lakes State Park

#32hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Driving to my next stop, Glacial Lakes State Park, I started noticing the signs for the Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway. One of the things I allow myself on these trips is the opportunity of discovery. While I may research where I’m going and how to get there, I leave the history and some of the geographic details to reveal themselves along the way. I am aware that one of the last glacial pushes during the Glacial Age nearly 10,000 years ago, covered many portions of North America including Minnesota. The signs prepared me a bit for what was to come at this park, but not completely.

Thanks to the glacial period, this part of Minnesota has beautiful rolling hills covered with the same mix of prairie, stands of oak and cottonwood and the remarkably abundant lakes the state is known for. After checking in at the park office which I was surprised to find open, I found my way to the parking for my backpack campsite. I’d be spending the night at the Oak backpack site about a half mile from the parking area. I checked to make sure I had my backpack loaded with everything I’d need for the night and tried to block some of the windows on my car from the sun to try and keep the car as cool as I could. The afternoon was a sunny, hot one. I had lunch at the car and filled two water bottles.

The image is of a prairie, green with plants, that has a mowed path running down the center. There are trees in the distance with a blue sky above. A few white clouds streak the othewise clear sky.

I headed out on the High Peak trail toward the site. It’s flat for a bit then begins a gentle climb across the wide open prairie. Thankfully there was a breeze that helped with the heat. I was grateful as the trail headed toward a stand of trees where I discovered my campsite down a short spur trail. The site was large, had it’s own pit toilet, picnic bench and fire ring. Most important to me, the trees again provided the perfect spot to set up my hammock for another night of hangin sleep!

I made quick work of setting up my camp. Knowing that the trail I’d just left to get to the site was the one I’d selected to hike, I also knew that a large section of it would be in full sun so I took a leisurely approach to the afternoon. The overall hike would be about 3.5 miles. I knew I could wait until early evening to get started. Once I felt I’d waited as long as I could, I headed back toward the main campground to hike the portion of the trail near Signalness Lake. From the campground the trail passes a council ring as it drops toward a bog area by the lake. Following the trail further it ends at a picnic area near the group campground. The southern part of the park has a network of horse trails, more backpacking sites and lake access.

The photo shows a panorama of the landscape of rolling hills with a lake in the distance. There is a wooden bench on the right side of the photo and the late afternoon sun is a white circle above it. The sky is clear of clouds and turning a deep blue.

Turning back again toward the main campground, I picked up the High Peak trail, taking the north part of the loop across the rolling prairie. A smaller lake came into view before I rounded the trail near my campsite and headed to the final part of the trail that loops to the highest point in the park at an overlook. The view from the overlook was incredible. The late afternoon sun helped to highlight the undulating hills that were left as the glaciers retreated. Off in the distance I could see Kettle Lake and the backpack site there. The view reminded me of the immensity of the land and how small I am in comparison. I love that reminder when I’m out in places like this that seem to go on forever. I think we need reminders every now and then that our place in the world is so small.

I’d hoped I could be at the lookout later in the evening to watch the sun set, but the heat had taken its toll so I headed back to camp. I made dinner and settled into my hammock for another night of sleep. As I watched the sun set and listened to the sounds of the park settling down I again reflected to the unheard voices of those of the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute and Očeti Šakówiŋ in this region (and the many others across the U.S.) who simply want their voices and stories to be heard. I reflected on what I can do to bring them forward for more to hear. Again, I had no solution. Only more questions and a gratitude for the time and place to reflect.

Next Post Preview: More lessons to pay attention and reflect on come my way on the next day’s adventure.


GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, Columbia® Women’s Arcadia II Rain Jacket, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, ENO DoubleNest Hammock with Atlas Straps, Guardian Bug Net and Pro Rainfly, Slumberjack 2-person tent with footprint, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets.

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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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