Big Things : Completing A Big Goal

The image is of a tall fence with a large metal gate. A trail in the green grass leads up to the gate and then disappears off to the right of the image in the background. Overhead there is a clear blue sky with a few wispy, white clouds. Pine trees dot the landscape behind the fence.

#21 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: River Overlook Trail, LaSalle State Recreation Area, Solway, MN

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

Another day of near 100 degree temperatures was ahead of me. I got up early to cover the distance from my campground at Schoolcraft State Park to LaSalle State Recreation Area. Finding the trailhead took me a bit, but I was on the trail a little after 8:00 AM. My chosen route, the River Overlook Trail, is a short out-and-back which packs in a lot of variety and beauty.

The mile hike to the overlook of the Mississippi River starts with a section of groomed trail that leads to a high fence with a large gate. Passing through the gate, hikers enter into a field of small jack pine and prairie flowers. I laughed passing through the gate when I realized the counterweight is a kettlebell! As I followed the trail, a series of interpretive signs helped me understand the gate and fencing around the area. This portion of the park is designate as a Scientific and Natural Area in the northern section of the park. The protected area is to provide an area to rejuvenate a stand of jack pine that was lost more than two decades ago to a blow down. It protects the young trees from grazing deer. It was amazing to learn that many of the saplings now present were started from seeds collected after the blowdown.

The trail continues through another gate and on to an overlook at the confluence of the Mississippi River and LaSalle Creek. The meandering, narrow Mississippi River seems so small in contrast to the width just a few hundred miles away. The overlook is beautiful. I lingered for a bit, but knew I needed to get moving toward my next hike.

As I made my way back to the car, I wished I had more time to spend enjoying the trail views. With more than 11 miles of trails throughout the park, I could have spent the whole day exploring. This is one of those parks that I’d love to return to for more hiking.

The image shows Ruth smiling while standing in front of the Buffalo River State Park sign. A large tree is directly behind her.

#22 of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Muskoda, Old Grade, Wide Sky, River View and Savannah Cutoff Trails, Buffalo River State Park, Glyndon, MN

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

A little over an hour from leaving LaSalle State Recreation Area, I pulled in to Buffalo River State Park. Heading west, I knew I was going to be hiking in the heat of the day on the open prairie. I’d learned from my travels across the state to visit all of our state parks the western side of the state is mostly flat or low rolling hills punctuated here and there with shallow river valleys and widely spaced areas of forest.

The entrance station was closed so I stopped only to pick up a printed map before heading to the campground to find my campsite. Thankfully I’d managed to book what ended up being, in my opinion, the best site in the park. Surrounded by trees on three sides with a view of the Buffalo River down the hillside it was tucked off to the side and away from most of the other sites.

I’d confirmed my hike would be about three miles so I debated if I’d wait to start or hike the prairie section of trail in the afternoon heat. I decided to set up my tent first and then hike. After refilling my water bottle at the campground and retrieving an umbrella from the car, I set out.

The Muskoda, Old Grade and Wide Sky trails offer sweeping views across the wide section of prairie. A gently descending train bed provided a the opportunity to watch a train make its way along the northern border of the park. I was grateful for the umbrella, which offered a bit of relief from the sun, though a hot wind threatened to turn it inside out several times. It was easy to imagine the beauty of the trails in any season. Winter bringing drifting snow and biting cold. Spring offering a long awaited burst of color. Fall the shift to golden browns.

Eventually I turned downhill and toward the wooded Buffalo River getting a reprieve from the sun. The Riverview trail follows the river for about a mile before returning up the hill at the campground. Along the way it passes a man-made swimming beach, empty for the summer.

On my return I retrieved my towel and toiletries so I could partake in a shower. After four hot days the new shower building is a welcome place. Cooled off for the time being, I made dinner, sketched and even headed back for another dousing in the showers. As sunset approached I walked to the entrance of the campground on the border of the prairie trail. I was treated to a beautiful sunset which turned the prairie golden before the sky was rich with the post-sunset purples and blues of the coming night.

The surprising thing about this hike, the final of my goal of hiking all the hike-able Minnesota State Parks, was that I didn’t feel the elation I expected. Satisfied I’d completed the goal, yes. But as I sat there sketching and resting what struck me was how much I would have liked to have shared this last adventure with my hiking friends.

Having completed multi-day backpacking trips I understand the weird let down of completing the trek. The goal accomplished you’re left with the question “what’s next?” floating around. It takes a while for the next adventure to take form. Perhaps my last stop of the trip would provide me an inspiration.

The image shows Ruth on the right with windswept hair and her glasses on top of her head. Over her right shoulder there is a sweeping view of the tops of trees with a lake far in the distance. A low wooden fence is between Ruth and the landscape. The day is bright and sunny with just a few clouds in the bright blue sky.

Trail/Park: Inspiration Peak State Wayside, Brandon, MN

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

Trash Collected: 1.5 pounds

When I’d made plans for this trip, I’d spoke to friends about how I’d end my Minnesota State Parks hiking adventure with the hike up Inspiration Peak. It seemed the fitting end for a journey which had taken nearly five years while providing me a new appreciation for the state I call home. What I found instead was more questions and the weird post-adventure funk that had started the day before.

Inspiration Peak State Wayside is a short jaunt off of Highway 94. Like the other State Waysides, I think it’s sometimes overlooked. There are nine waysides across the state. Five are located along the North Shore, the other four are dotted across the state. They aren’t quite big enough for State Park designation, but offer important geographic, natural or cultural resources. Most have short trails that are under a mile in length.

I’d heard from friends about the view atop Inspiration Peak and have wanted to visit. This trip offered the perfect timing. As I hiked up the short trail to the top, I contemplated this long adventure. I asked myself over and over “what next?”. As I stood alone at the top taking in the the view, I knew in my heart this would not be where I would find the answer. Settling in with that realization, I headed back down the trail to the parking lot. I spent a bit of time walking the parking lot picking up trash, dumped it in the trash bin before buckling in for the ride home. Leaving the park, I focused on the accomplishment of the goal, knowing I’ll find my next adventure soon enough.

Next Post Preview: A long promised gear review makes its debut. Hang in there to see where it rests!

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, Slumberjack 2-person tent with footprint, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, 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 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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