If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last year of seemingly endless waiting is time keeps marching forward. The earth continues its move around the sun and the days pass, sometimes too slowly, others much too fast. The month of March seems to have marched right past me. That’s not to say I wasn’t getting outside. I did. Even though I’m working I made time to get myself onto trails closer to home. When the volunteer crew at Coldwater Spring stopped meeting for the winter, I took on the responsibility of monitoring a plot of trees at Crosby Farm Regional Park as part of the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change research project.
Here’s a recap of my March hiking adventures and my hope it will remind each of you how important it is to find the time as well as to be generous with yourself when your movement toward a goal seems less than you want it to be.
#7 of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: Crosby Farm Regional Park
Trash Collected: 4.6 pounds
It was time to check on the Adaptive Silviculture project trees and to hunt for the infamous sculpture of Zarah created by Zach Schumack and his art collective Leonic. I’d been hearing news stories about Zug Zug and Zarah for weeks and knew Zarah was somewhere at Crosby Farm Regional Park. A bright sunny morning greetted me, making this exploration of some additional trails plus those I’m familiar with even better. Following a section of the trail along the Mississippi River, I quickly came on interesting sights. A up-ended tree with a thick cable attached to it’s base, part of a charcoal grill discarded along the shore. I gathered up the grill base and rack along with a bit of trash, knowing I’d be carrying it with me for my entire hike.
Continuing along the trail I took in the solitude of the day. Beavers have been very busy felling trees along this part of the river the last few years. One of my favorite observations from this hike was Fort Snelling State Park’s Pike Island appearing across the river as I hiked. Seeing it from the opposite side of the river is a reminder to change your perspective every once and awhile.
The next thing I knew, I was coming up on the sculpture I’d been seeking. Zarah was sitting in an open spot just off trail. The snow around the piece had melted leaving the base exposed. While the effect would have been more striking with snow on the ground, it still was interesting to see. As I took photos of the sculpture, a mom with her baby in a sling on her chest walked by. I commented to her that she looked like a modern day Zarah.
I took my time getting to the trees, making my slow, winding path among the plots. The fencing being in good repair, I was able to make my way back up the main trail collecting additional trash along the way. The morning filled me with gratitude for the time in the woods.
#8 of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: Pike Island Trail, Fort Snelling State Park
Trash Collected: Thankfully none!
After having visited Fort Snelling State Park on a recent weekend day and finding it too busy for my comfort, I decided to try a Monday. A series of slow starts on errands left me arriving at the park in the late afternoon. The parking lot wasn’t full, there were fewer visitors as I started toward the Pike Island trail. The weather had been warm over the last few weeks so I expected to find a combination of snow, ice and mud. Knowing the north side of the island would be more likely to be icy or muddy, I headed that way first so I could tackle what I encountered with a fresh attitude. I found the trail exactly as I expected. Snow, ice, mud and more mud didn’t phase me as I walked right through it all. My hike across Isle Royale back in 2017 and the miles of mud did their trick in making realize that the best way to deal with mud is to embrace it rather than avoid it. Besides, it’s kind of fun if you approach it like a kid!
Along the north side of the island the trail hugs along the Mississippi River. As I walked toward the eastern end I could see Crosby Farm Regional Park across the river. Eventually I caught sight of the Zarah sculpture I’d seen on my previous hike, the square looking more like a block of ice from the distance. The sighting helped me better understand the locational relationship between the parks.
Normally I’d take a break here and there on my hike. This time I chose to keep moving as much as possible. While I know the trails well and have hiked them after dark, I wanted to see how fast I could complete the loop and see if I could beat the coming sunset. The benefit of keeping moving was being able to watch the sunset as I hiked west. The sun always seems to pick up speed as it heads toward the horizon. The beautiful glow deepening as it set was spectacular. As sunset the island was quiet, giving me time to reflect on the opportunity to hike on this land. I thanked the spirits for the land, the hike and the ability to enjoy it. I made my way home to clean my muddy boots, again appreciating the opportunity to feel the earth beneath my feet, breathe the fresh air and listen to the sounds of nature.
#9 of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: Crosby Farm Regional Park
Trash Collected: 3.6 pounds
The ground was still soft underfoot due to the warm weather melting the snow cover. On the way past Crosby Lake toward the tree plots the wind was solid and cold. I love the beauty of the lake during winter, but the wind crossing the ice picks up a damp that chills to the bone no matter how many layers I put on. I brace myself for it each time I go to check the tree plots.
The walk to the plots is always faster and closer than I expect, even after having made this walk all winter long. I made my way around the plots, checking the fencing for signs of holes, downed branches from the surrounding trees, considering if the weekly route around the plots will cause trenching over time. I make a mental note to ask about trenching in my weekly report. Everything looks the same so I move on to a short hike on one of the nearby trails before heading home and then off to work.
As I move along the trail, I keep an eye out for any trash. This hike yields a variety of cans, glass bottles, and plastics. I discover a single shoe slightly off trail and wonder if it got stuck in mud only to have it’s owner hopping on one foot toward the paved trail or if it was lost from a surreptitious camper’s backpack. Either way I collect it in my bag. Further along I find something that looks like two cucumbers or squash discarded and now just a skin with a watery inside (yes I poked at it with my boot). Both are bleached so knowing what they were before isn’t in my abilities today.
Back at the parking lot I weigh my trash bag, dump it and head for the car. I contemplate how traveling the same trail multiple times is never the same experience. There is something new to be found in the familiar places. I remind myself the importance of not growing tired of “sameness” because it is, in fact, never the same. The place has changed, I have changed. In those changes is the opportunity for surprise and adventure.
#10 of my 52 Hike Challenge
Trail/Park: Point Douglas Trail, Battle Creek Regional Park
Trash Collected: 2.9 pounds
Every now and then I get an extra special hiking experience – hiking with the man I love. Don’t get me wrong, he loves the outdoors. But he’s not much of a hiker really. A slow, short stroll in the woods or around a lake is about all I can muster out of him. But this day he offered himself up for a hike somewhere within the metro. I considered carefully the best park, picking a trail I’ve not experienced myself. I knew it would be paved. It would be an “out and back” so we could turn around at any point. An added bonus would be the opportunity to see a waterfall.
I’d followed the adventures of one of the ladies in the Minnesota Women Who Hike group and her daughter who went on a waterfall journey last year. They had a goal of finding 67 Minnesota waterfalls. Battle Creek Regional park had been one of the parks they’d visited on the trail to finding them all. The one on this trail is short in height and man made, but who’s keeping track when you can hear the gentle fall of water?
We bundled up for the windy, chilly day and hit the trail in the late morning. Setting off from the parking lot off Upper Afton Road we zipped up our coats and were blasted by the wind. The park is fairly open in this part of the park near the small lake. Across McKnight Road we ambled along the trail as it follows Battle Creek. The area is wooded which provided a break from the wind. It’s always surprising to me how simply getting on a trail with water and woods can make you feel like you’ve left the city. We took our time. I stopped here and there to point out buckthorn (my hobby after months of cutting it out at Coldwater Spring) or an interesting find. I picked up garbage.
We were able to get just past Ruth Street before hitting a trail closure which forced us to turn around. I’m appreciative of John’s infinite patience with my hiking. I thanked him over and over for suggesting the adventure. For coming along. It means the world to me to share hiking with the people I love.
It made me think about the people I encounter who don’t have a hiking buddy. Who’s significant other, family and friends think their hiking is a bit crazy. I had some of that in my life. With time I looked outside of my immediate circle and found a new group of friends. What have you done to find friends who share your passion? Share your challenge in finding a group or who shares your hiking passion in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.
Next Post Preview: As I near the end of my personal Minnesota State Park challenge, I get a weekend of double delight.
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