History and Beauty : Road Tripping Again

Image is of the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park sign which has an eagle's nest with tree branches of green. Above the name of the nest an eagle is in flight. The sign looks like an oval medallion mounted on a dark brown wooden background. there are trees and a road in the background.

#16 of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Hiking Club Trail, Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

I want to acknowledge this hike took place on the traditional territory of the Mdewakanton, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Sometimes an adventure drops in your lap in the most unexpected of ways. I’d been on the waitlist for one of several sessions to renew my Wilderness and Remote First Aid certification with the Hiking Dude. His classes fill quickly so snagging a spot seemed unlikely. Then, as I cleared my plate of a large responsibility, an email came notifying me a spot had opened up.

To be honest, when I’d clicked that waitlist link, I’d not really looked at where the course was being held. The date worked so I’d added my name to the list. Now the email had arrived for a course in Deer River, MN. As I went to register, I thought to myself “where the heck is Deer River, MN?” Before I committed, I consulted a map. Much to my surprise the location was in the middle of a road trip I’d been trying to figure out how to accomplish. The dates would allow me to take a week off of work, do some hiking, get the course completed and do a bit more hiking. It was mean to be so I signed up and started my planning.

As I started out on this road trip I took in the fact I was coming to the end of a long hiking project. I’ll get to that soon enough. Driving a couple hours from the Twin Cities, I made the commitment to myself to slow down and savor these hikes. To take in the parks and all they have to offer. Ironically, with the same wild abandon of my planning the trip in the first place, the name of the first park hadn’t really registered with me – Charles A. Lindbergh State Park. I arrived with simple curiosity only to connect the park’s namesake is that Charles Lindbergh, the one who flew the first trans-Atlantic flight in the famous Spirit of St. Louis monoplane. It had never occurred to me he had a connection to Minnesota.

It was late morning when I arrived to set out on the Hiking Club trail. The trail, which is fairly flat, loops around the property donated by his son to the state. Along the way I was treated to several of the WPA-era park buildings, including a beautiful water tower. I startled a pair of white tail deer who disappeared into the woods with a speed that, had I not seen them take off, would have had me wondering what the noise in the woods was. Rounding a bend I came to a field where I watched a hawk circling in flight and a few monarch butterflies that had arrived with the early summer heat. Nearby was the field where Lindbergh landed his plane.

As I hiked, I noted how many parks in the state border on the Mississippi River. This park sits just south of Little Falls on the western banks of the river. Most of the Hiking Club trail misses the river though, showcasing the Lindbergh family history and following Pike Creek’s winding path. I also made a side trip through the campground to check out campsites for a future visit.

Climbing into my car I pondered the previous experiences I’ve had in the many parks across the state. Each one has brought something unexpected. This one was no exception. I was excited to see what the next park on the trip would bring!

#17 of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Red River Oxcart Trail, Crow Wing State Park

I want to acknowledge this hike took place on the traditional territory of the Mdewakanton, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

The hikes at the start of this trip also had one thing in common, all sitting near the Mississippi River as it weaves its way across Minnesota on the long journey to the Mississippi Delta. In most places it’s not terribly wide. The banks of the opposite shore sit close to one another. My next stop, Crow Wing State Park, sits on the east bank of the Mississippi, just north of Camp Ripley.

On my arrival at the park, I stopped at the park office to pick up a park patch, check with the ranger about what I might keep an eye out for, and check in for my campsite. He told me I’d picked the best campsite in the campground! We chatted about trail conditions. He noted there had been a bear hanging around a week or so earlier, but it hadn’t been seen recently. He reminded me to keep my food in my car, which I explained I always do. That lead to a discussion of Leave No Trace Principals and the inconsistency with which park goers are aware of how to leave minimal impact. I also confirmed if hammocking was allowed. Not every park allows it so I like to make sure before I set mine up. With my check-in complete, I headed for the campground to park my car.

I’d have to agree the site I’d picked was perfect. It overlooked the Mississippi and was set a bit away from the other sites on either side. It also looked like I wouldn’t have neighbors for the night, which was just fine.

Keeping my slow hiking approach, I started on the Hiking Club trail at a leisurely pace. A trail near my campsite took me to the trailhead for the Red River Oxcart Trail. I wandered up a staircase to a beautiful overlook of the Mississippi River. A little further along I came to Father Pierz Chapel, a lovely A-frame chapel situated on the grounds where Father Pierz once had his mission in the mid 1800’s. I took the trail further to other historic sites and then turned back to follow the trail toward the Old Crow Wing Townsite.

These days the site townsite is mostly empty of buildings. A sweeping boardwalk gives an impression of wandering on the town’s original boardwalk, with interpretive signs providing context for the views and history of the town. Further up the trail there is a low spot in the river where oxcarts were able to ford the river, bringing goods to Crow Wing and near the confluence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers. Past the ford, the trial loops back along the Mississippi and then to the campground.

Sitting back at my campsite, I was pleasantly surprised at the quiet of the park. Watching the sun set through the trees, the ranger’s comment about the beauty of the park rolled in my head. He was right, I’d truly gotten the best campsite in the park.

Next Post Preview: My next stops on the road are tied to Minnesota’s long and sometimes contentious mining history.

GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op Rainier Full Zip Rain Pant, 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, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season 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 or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


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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