An Unexpected Invitation

The image is taken from the top of Mount Chastity, also known as John A. Latch State Park. The image shows a view over the St. Croix river on a cloudy day. Below the trees on the bluff a road disappears into the background. Across the river, islands on the Wisconsin side of the river can be seen.

#24 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: John A. Latch State Park, Altura, MN

I want to acknowledge this hike took place on the traditional territory of the Sauk and Meskwaki, Wahpeton, Waazija (Ho-Chunk / Winnebago) and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

There are times in life when an unexpected opportunity presents itself and we chose to embrace it rather than shy away. Times when our plans have us headed in one direction, but life takes us in another. The day after I’d spent exploring the eastern side of the St. Croix River, ultimately landing at Merrick State Park, I planned on returning home on the western side of the river. I love both routes, which travel through river towns and those special views of the river bluffs unique to the area.

As I left behind Winona, Minnesota with a delightful cup of coffee and belly full of bakery (one must be fueled properly for adventure!), I considered stopping briefly to see if I could locate a Minnesota Hiking Club password I was sure I’d missed at John A. Latch State Park. In my mind I had this idea it was located somewhere at the bottom of the stairs rather than up top of the bluff. The passwords are often in incredibly obvious places making them easier to overlook than one might think.

I pulled into the parking lot, hoping out of my car to explore the area at the base of the staircase leading up the bluff. No luck. I looked at the stairs, thinking “not today” to myself. The 580+ steps to the top of the bluff is its own kind of adventure taking patience, water and, for me, stopping a few times on the way up. The one time I’d done the hike with my son it also took a bit of convincing myself to keep going because of my fear of heights. Once was enough I told myself, deciding if a password existed at the top, this would be one I would not have in my collection.

Turning back to my car, a woman parked next to me rolled down her car window. She asked if I was planning on doing the hike. I replied with my mission of finding the password and I hadn’t planned to go up. The next thing she said gave me pause. She told me she wanted to do the hike, but not alone. It stopped me in my tracks. How many times have I considered hikes I wanted to do, but knew they should or would wait until I had company? More than I readily admit. Besides, doing something hard is always better with company. In this case it’s also a bit safer too.

I looked back at the base of the staircase for just a moment, sighed and told her to “give me a minute” so I could grab my water bottle. Up we went along with her dog. We took breaks. We talked about her daughter attending college nearby. I told her about Women Who Hike and the Minnesota State Parks I’ve visited. We got to the top of the Mount Charity and she helped me look for a password sign. We followed a narrow path along the bluff until it was blocked with downed trees and I new it was time to head back to the car.

I’d confirm later there is no Hiking Club password at the park, only the Passport Club stamp at the trail sign. In the moment I learned to embrace the serendipity of the moment by taking an unexpected invitation. Parting ways this lovely lady thanked me over again for being willing to help her accomplish a hike she’d wanted to do for some time. Driving home, I considered again how lucky I have been to have others help me along and to now be returning the favor for someone else.

Have you taken an unexpected invitation or helped someone follow a passion you share? I’d love to hear about it. Drop a note in the comments with your experience of someone helping you along the way.

Next Post Preview: Heading north for my annual fall adventures along the North Shore of Minnesota, I manage to find a hike with just enough challenge for me, yet easy enough to entice my sometimes reluctant love along for the view.

GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, 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”.


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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