#37 and #38 hikes of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trash Collected: 0.4 pounds
Split Rock Creek State Park
#37hike of my 52 Hike Challenge
Arriving at Split Rock Creek State Park in the late morning, I knew that this short 2.5 mile trail would be relatively easy so I could take my time exploring it. The park was established in 1937, includes a beautiful hillside filled with wildflowers and a Works Progress Administration dam and bridge which created the only lake in Pipestone County. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I parked near the swimming beach and headed south along the shore of Split Rock Creek Lake toward the dam. The trail heads across the dam and completes a lollipop loop. There is also a beautiful bridge that carries vehicles past the park on County Road 54/Bertha Avenue. The trail is well maintained crushed rock. As the crushed rock gave way to a short cement paved section I noticed the neat footprints in the walkway. Curing cement obviously didn’t get in the way of the wildlife!
Heading back from the southern loop, the trail goes through an oak woods, winds up to the flowered hill and back into the woods on the north end near the small campground. The hills and woods were filled with orange and yellow flowers resplendent in their early fall bloom. As I circled back along the lake noting the downed trees that looked like boats on the water, I thought how much I’d like to return to this park in winter for a snowshoe. It would also be a nice day trip for anyone camping at Camden or Lake Shetek State Parks since it’s just an hour drive from either.
Lake Shetek State Park
#38hike of my 52 Hike Challenge
Driving into Lake Shetek State Park there were hints all around that I was going to like this park a lot. The park is truly beautiful. It’s an approachable and accessible park that has been well cared for and is obviously a favorite of many. The translation of Shetek in the Dakota language is “pelican” which is due to the pelicans that make the park their home for the summer. It’s also the headwaters of the Des Moines River, which I learned from the interpretive section of the park map.
I had reserved cart-in site off the Monument Trail. I wasn’t sure if I could hammock at the site so decided I’d take the walk to the site to check so I didn’t take gear I couldn’t use. I was excited to find the site would allow me to hammock thanks to two trees which bordered the camping pad. I headed back to my car, collecting a cart on the way and loaded it with the few things I’d need for the night.
The path to the sites is wide, flat and well maintained, making it completely possible for someone with mobility challenges to enjoy a few of the sites that sit on the lake or just across the trail in the woods. I also noticed that the camper cabins, which are located near the trail are all easily accessible as well. Camping for ALL! I took my time getting my hammock hung and spending time enjoying the view of the lake. I had decided to that I’d hike in the late afternoon. Just sitting and relaxing was wonderful. I needed it.
After a while, I opted to follow the Monument Trail to the Lake Shetek Monument near the park entrance and Boy Scout Camp which is also on the lake. My approach to learning when I’m traveling is to let things reveal themselves as I go. I don’t do a ton of research before I go, choosing to do follow up research based on my observations. Sometimes I may miss things, but I appreciate being in the moment and the way that I come to places with no preconceived notions. I share this because I approached the monument with an open mind and curiosity. What I found continued the theme that was revealing itself on this trip – The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
The trail to the monument follows the lake shore and is beautifully forested. The monument itself is in a clear, mowed area just off the lake and close to the entrance to the Camp Shetek Boy Scout Camp. As I began reading about the monument that stands more than 20 feet tall, I was yet again saddened by the one-sidedness of the monument. The southwest portion of the state figures heavily in the conflicts of 1862. Most historical signage I’d come across at the parks felt to me as though the losses of Dakota and many other native lives had been minimized to further justify the events of that year. This monument is dedicated to a small group of 15 settlers who died during the conflict. I struggled with the size of the monument, with the fact that we know so little about how many of the Dakota died. Again, those voices from the past kept pushing themselves into my awareness. I headed back to my campsite, reflecting more on what I’d just learned. I sat again with the knowledge for awhile before deciding to head out toward the Loon Island Trail.
Walking toward Loon Island, I was able to get a look at the main campground. It’s expansive and has lots of options. The Picnic Trail follows the shore of the lake and through the picnic area which includes more of the beautiful stone structures I love. Again the wide crushed rock trail is easily navigated on foot or on wheels. Closer to the Loon Island causeway, the trail winds through the woods. I was excited to see an owl that I’d startled take flight down the trail and into the woods.
At the causeway, I was surprised to see that the wide, accessible trail continued across the water to the island. Crossing the causeway in the late afternoon sun, I continued my slow walk. I took in the afternoon sun, the light breeze keeping me cool as I moved along. All the way my thoughts were about Mom. I thought how much she would have enjoyed this trail. She could have come with me on this hike the whole way. Rounding the island I was so excited to share this trail with the members of the Women Who Hike Minnesota group. I had remembered one of our members who hikes with a family member who is in a wheelchair. Everything about the park makes it relatively easy to navigate on wheels.
On my way back through the woods and picnic area, the owl again took flight moving deeper into the woods. A doe and her fawn were carelessly moving across the picnic area. Taking in these moments of wildlife was so special. I again felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Back at the campsite, I was so grateful for the continuing breeze that made the site and trails bearable. The lake got busy with boaters as the evening turned to dusk and a party was going on across the lake that kept me awake for awhile. As the dark closed in, I fell soundly asleep in my hammock as it swung in the breeze. I felt so at peace and wished I could stay longer. But there are more parks to explore and hiking partners to meet on the coming day.
Next Post Preview: The adventure continues with the addition of my hiking friends Jen and Lynae. We take in two parks, a storm and several hours of the most wonderful wandering conversations.
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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