Road Trippin’ : Day Eight

Road Trippin’ : Day Nine

The photo is of prairie grass with a dark brown stem, red and yellow seed pods and flowers set against the background of a green prairie with out of focus yellow flowers.

#43 and #44 hikes of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trails/Parks: Myer-Big Island State Park and Lake Louise State Park

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

Trash Collected: .3 pounds

The image has the small Big Island sign low to the ground and next to a gravel road. The sign is dark brown wood with yellow block letters. Behind the sign are bushes and trees.

Myre-Big Island State Park

#43hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

With a day of crowds all around behind me, I was truly looking forward to moving on to what I hoped would be wide open spaces and fewer people. The drive from Minneopa State Park to Myer-Big Island State Park takes about an hour and a half as one travels through the rolling farmland. The park is located east of Highway 35 outside of the city Albert Lea. Unfortunately I’d gotten going later than I’d hoped. It was another hot day that was filled with nothing but clear sky. I knew a large part of the Hiking Club trail was on prairie and even some paved bike trails so getting going as early as I could would have been in my favor. At almost six miles, this would be the longest hike of my trip. Because of my late start, it would be hot and likely take me longer than I’d anticipated since I’d adopted a slow hiking pace.

The expansive 1,700 acre park offers a wide variety of options for hikers, bikers and boaters. The park has two campgrounds with RV, drive-in, non-electric and backpack sites. Two islands have rustic camping, including sites for groups. Water access is plentiful. But I was here for the trails. With well over 10 miles of trails it’s easy to have them to yourself. It’s also easy to pick from a variety of access points to the trails allowing for those using the trails to really pick a distance to hike a simple task.

For my hike, I drove to Big Island and picked up the Cormorant Trail which heads back off the island into a wooded section on the Plum Trail, Bobolink Trail (near the main campground) and on to the Star State Trail. All along this section I was offered views of the eastern side of Albert Lea Lake. The lake was still and clear which made spotting the resident pelicans easy. The mix of wooded areas combined with the hits of prairie highlight the variety of species that make up Minnesota’s parks.

The Star State Trail is a paved trail which is used mostly for biking, though I did come across a few hikers near the park office. This section of the trails is on open prairie and with the pavement got very hot. I was often distracted by taking photos of the prairie flowers that towered overhead. The sweeping prairie views were becoming familiar, reminding me of the same way that trips to the North Shore of Minnesota can become equally familiar with the rocks and roots found there. It also reminded me of what the vast landscape held prior to settlement. One of my favorite things to consider is what the landscape looked like before the settlers, when the Dakota roamed the land and even in the days before the Dakota arrived.

Rounding the west side of the park, I headed along the Prairie and Great Marsh Trails. These trails are also in full sun with a few treed spots where I rested as I needed. The Great Marsh section leads into another wooded section before connecting with the Monarch and Bur Oak Trails. As I hiked, I thought about the diversity of the landscape and the way the trails flowed from one area to another. It was a delightful way to take in the park on a beautiful fall day.

When I got back to my car, I changed out of my hiking boots and decided to make lunch. The picnic ground is huge and I had a whole section to myself. Other families came and went while I relaxed in the shade as the breeze cooled me down and I journaled about this hike. Knowing I needed to get going again for another hour and a half drive I packed up noting this would be a great park to visit for snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter.

The image has the Lake Louise State Park sign in the foreground, behind it there are low prairie flowers a few trees and a green silo in the back. The corner of a red and tan barn is seen on the right behind a stand of trees. The sky is blue and clear.

Lake Louise State Park

#44hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Continuing on my adventure each day a theme developed. Today it was sunny spots. Lots of them and the late summer heat that often accompanies. I was looking forward to Lake Louise State Park for the camping and the small mile long loop of the Wildwood Loop near the campground. I’d booked a drive-in site and had hoped for some shade. In the morning that would definitely be the case. In the late afternoon my site was completely in the sun. I was already hot and tired so I decided to make another attempt at creating a sun shelter with my car, trekking poles and new Ultimate Survival Technologies Tube Tarp.

As I struggled with the set up in the sun with other campers looking on, I realized this is one of the areas of my camping knowledge that needs extensive work and practice. I’ve been very lucky to not need a tarp shelter for weather issues in the past. But the clock is ticking on that luck. I was eventually able to get a semblance of shade and sat to rest for awhile before hiking. I’ve added tarp practice to my list of learning opportunities for the future.

After a couple hours I decided to set up my tent. Once that was complete I’d check out the Wildwood Loop trail. The connector trail ran just behind my campsite. The trail crosses a short bridge over the confluence of the Upper and Little Iowa Rivers before the start of the loop. I took the western side of the loop, following the Little Iowa River into the woods. I took a leisurely pace, taking photos of the woodland plants, finding some of my favorites including meadow rue and lush green ferns. Coming around the southern end of the loop the trail runs along Lake Louise again. There is a small swimming beach on the lake and a lovely picnic area. I crossed back over the bridge near sunset which was a beautiful time to be there.

Heading back to the campground it was time for dinner. I made myself what I’ve come to call a hiker charcuterie board for dinner and enjoyed the evening, journaling and reading until it got too dark to do either without a headlamp. I headed to bed looking forward to coming day and thankful for another beautiful day of road trippin’ and hiking.

Next Post Preview: The adventure is nearing its end as I head into more familiar terrain and find a respite from the heat of the prairies.

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.


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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