November 2021 : Long Awaited Hikes

#38 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Prairie Loop, Hiking Club and Villa Maria Loop Trails, Frontenac State Park

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Trash Collected: 0.1 pounds

More than two years after we connected via our leadership with Women Who Hike, the opportunity to hike with Felicia Hokenstad. I was so excited to finally meet her. She’d recently moved to Minnesota and was busy getting acclimated to all the hiking trails we have to offer. I suggested we meet at Frontenac State Park since it’s been quite a while since I’d been to the park and the day looked to be perfect to hike one of the few trails I’d yet to complete.

The Prairie Loop Trail is located to the south of the park entrance. On previous visits it had either been so hot I simply didn’t want to hike the distance in the exposed sun or, in winter, so open and windy I was not up for the chill. The early November weather was just right for the hike. We fell quickly into conversation thanks to the fact we’d both been following each others social media accounts.

Heading down from the bluffs to the prairie we joked that we’d need to go back up the bluff again eventually. Going down is always the easier part. The trail did not disappoint. This late in the season the grass stood nearly six feet tall, leaving us marveling it can grow so tall. We came to a spot overlooking Pleasant Valley Lakelet and stopped to listen to the geese which permeated the air. Obviously enroute elsewhere, they had stopped here and had so much to say.

Further along the trail we found a duck blind style overlook with great information detailing the many birds which call the park home. Not considering myself much of a birder, I realized as we talked that I can identify many more than I give myself credit for by their appearance. Bird calls is a different story. Our conversation turned to which ones we are each familiar with and interest in learning more.

We took a break on the east side of the prairie before crossing back over the road and into the wooded section of the park. Slowly climbing to the bluff again we stopped at an overlook called Eagle Point to again rest. The view from the point is beautiful, encompassing the park, Old Frontenac and the St. Croix River.

The remainder of our hike seemed to go quickly and before I knew it we were back at our cars. Saying goodbye, I was so grateful for the chance to meet Felicia in person. This day had been a long time in the making and I was filled with gratitude.

#39 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Hiking Club Trail, William O’Brien State Park

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Trash Collected: 0.1 pounds

Over the Thanksgiving week last year I had the wonderful opportunity to have both my son and my brother visiting. After three long years since the last time we’d been together it was a day I wanted to savor. I’d asked them for only one thing – to go on a hike with me. I’d chosen the location, I’d drive. They both readily agreed despite the fact it would be much colder than both are used to for their outdoor adventures these days.

While I would have loved to go further away, I’d decided to take them to William O’Brien State Park. About an hour drive for us, we were happy for the sunshine and to be together. It was one of the best hikes I’ve had in a long time. To have them both to myself and share one of the parks I enjoy was truly special.

The day was perfect despite the cold. We took our time hiking across the Wetland Trail, through the forested Woodland Edge Trail and back. Along the way we laughed at the shelter on the Woodland Edge trail which appeared on the brink of collapse with a stiff wind. I shared my story of the shelter I’d stayed next to at Maplewood State Park a few weeks earlier. We kept moving to stay warm. I stopped off and on to take photos, Zach doing the same with his film camera he’d brought along. Turned out he was using some very old film we’d found when I was going through my old camera equipment. He knows it might not even work, but was going to try anyway. I remembered how using old film myself in college turned up some interesting results.

Crossing the rail line as we headed back east toward the visitor center we stopped for a few photos. The view of the park’s wetland area from this vantage point is one of my favorites. Whether in the summer with the rich greens or in winter with the lack of leaves there are window -like views which stop me in my tracks every time. Hiking down the hill we crossed the open wetland area again, passing a small pond with a beaver lodge.

The trail again climbs up again before making a final decent to a small loop trail near the visitor center. Having completed all but one small portion of the Hiking Club Trail, we headed back to the car and off down the highway that hugs the river in search of lunch. I don’t know if my brother and son knew how grateful I was for this afternoon together. The time together is precious and I cherish each minute of it.

Next Post Preview: Fast forward to an overnight get-away for hiking and camping where I tested out some new gear and skills.

GEAR: Oboz B-Dry Bridger Mid Waterproof BootMountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Light Jacket, Mountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Pant, Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer, Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, Columbia® Women’s Arcadia II Rain Jacket, REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, and 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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