#6 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: Ritter Farm Park, Lakeville, MN
A day off from work during the week provided an opportunity to visit a park new to me. I had heard of Ritter Farm Park through several members of the Women Who Hike Minnesota chapter. An errand would take me to Lakeville and close to the park. I made sure I had plenty of time to take in both park and the beautiful day. Minnesota has been in weeks of frigid weather, much like the rest of the U.S. The sunshine and temperatures above freezing were a welcome reprieve.
Finding the park, which is just off Highway 35 was easy. The entrance to the park is well marked. Driving past the dog park near the entrance, the road weaves to a large parking area punctuated by the Ritter Silo. The park’s history as a family farm spanned nearly 100 years, ending with the Ritter family. Purchased by the city, it is the largest of the city’s parks.
I was quickly impressed with the park’s wide trails which can be used by hikers, horse riders and skiers. Separate trails for snowmobiling are also abundant, connecting the park with the nearby city of Lakeville and local farms. As I was gearing up to hit the trail, several people who’d been skijoring were finishing up their experiences. There were also many others with their dogs out to enjoy the mild day.
Seeking out solitude, I took a small loop off the south side of the lot near the park pavilion first. The path lead me toward the shores of Lake Marion before looping north. A large picnic area offers beautiful views of the lake. Beyond the picnic area the trails head north and west into the wooded areas west of the lake. The trail took me back toward the silo. I crossed the parking lot, took a slow walk around the silo taking pictures as I went. Then in the snow a small piece of paper caught my eye. I bent to collect it, slowly unfolding the wet sheet. What I found was to be my reflection for the remainder of my hike. The paper read:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what his good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lady, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and wee with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.Romans 12:9-18
I would later compare this with my grandmother’s King James edition bible to find, as I expected this to be an interpretation of the verses, as all publications of tend to be.* The point of the message was not lost on me. It’s been the work of most of my life. Be Kind. Love Each Other. We are humans first and are more the same than we are different. It’s our experiences that create our differences. All the more poignant considering the past year. I tucked the damp paper carefully into my pocket.
With over eight miles of trails I knew I could spend a couple hours hiking. Ultimately I chose trails that would take me on a broad and winding loop around the park. Plenty of time and space to reflect on the message I’d just discovered. For the most part I had the trails to myself, crossing paths with just a few hikers. It was the immersion in the woods I needed. Along the way I spotted a bird’s nest tucked into the branches just off the trail, the nest of the eagle pair that calls the park home and the tracks of nordic skiers and skijor pairs.
While the park bills itself as an easy hike, in the quickly softening snow it was more like a hike in sand. I had considered my snowshoes, opting for my micro spikes instead. It wasn’t long before I pulled those off since they were caked in hard packed snow. Walking with the snow caked into the spikes was like hiking in wobbly platform shoes. The reality was the trail would have been better suited to my basic Yaktrax Pros. I stopped and sat to the side of the trail, deciding to take them off. Another person came by asking if I was ok, to which I laughed and showed my feet. We talked briefly about the conditions not being right for the spikes as I removed them. I continued along in my boots, sliding partway down some of the bigger hills and trying not to slip on my way up. It was a workout my body needed. I knew I’d feel the effects afterward.
The trail on the west side of the park moves between wide open spaces and deep, mature wooded areas, including a stand of beautiful pine trees. I noticed that several of the stands of trees, no matter the variety, were obviously planted by the families who worked the land, the trees in tell-tale neat rows rather than the randomness of natural growth. All providing shelter from the wind and, in winter, from blowing snow.
As I passed through one stand of trees I noticed a munition box hanging from a branch just off the trail. Going closer I realized I’d discovered a tribute geocache. I tried for several minutes to open the box, ultimately unsuccessful in the effort. I’ll have to wonder what is inside the box and perhaps try again on another visit.
About two hours from the start of my hike, I rounded a bend to find myself near the prairie restoration area near the parking lot. I’d covered just over four miles, getting warm enough to shed my down hoodie, shifting to my hardshell jacket. Climbing into my car, I set my micro spikes near the heat vent to dry them out and had a snack before heading home.
This is a park I’d like to visit again in the spring or late fall. I’d expect the park to be equally beautiful as it was on this adventure. Until then I’ll be grateful for the precious hours away from my regular schedule, the opportunity for reflection and the solitude the hike provided.
*From my grandmother’s bible:
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to what is good.
Be kindly affections on to another with brotherly love; in hour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to me of low estate. Be not wise in you own conceits.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Next Post Preview: Let’s talk hard shell jackets. I just purchased a replacement for a jacket I’ve had for a long time. Find out how I made my decision.
GEAR: Oboz Bridger 7″ Insulated Boot, Kahtoola Microspikes, REI XeroDry GTX Rain Jacket, REI 850 Magma Down Hoodie, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.
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