Summer Adventure : Golden Hour

A group of yellow cut-leaf cone flowers are glowing in the sunlight of late afternoon. The long stemmed flowers are surrounded by the deep green of forest floor. The sun is glowing in the background.

#27 of my 2022 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Pike Island Loop, Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul, MN

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Wahpekute and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. The Dakota called this place Ha-Ha Mdo-Te which translates to “junction of two rivers.” 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: 0.35 pounds

A field of bright yellow cut-leaf coneflower are set off from the deep green of the forest.

Winter is all around, with snow covering the ground and cold temperatures persist. On a recent hike I was reminded of a magical hike I took in late August last year. After a long day at work, I had a couple glorious hours of sunshine left so I decided to go to one of my favorite parks – Fort Snelling State Park. The park has a special place in my heart. Its history is a complicated mix of joy and sorrow which provides me with much to reflect on.

This particular evening, the park was unusually quiet. As I drove into the park I experienced a bloom of yellow like nothing I’ve ever seen here. Despite knowing I was racing the sunset, I slowed down in awe. Everywhere I looked was capped in the bright yellow blooms of tall yellow cut-leaf coneflower. The plants towered over the understory. I drove deeper into the park, the incredible bloom blanketing every green space.

The next surprise for me would be the redesigned entrance to the parking lot near the park’s visitor center. The new traffic flow has created the feel of a much more intimate space without taking a single parking space. The difference is the driving lane is now offset a bit further from the Wokiksuye K’a Woyuonihan memorial. I appreciated this buffer to this special place. I always stop at the memorial to reflect on the lives lost and to meditate before I head out on my hikes.

The sun was starting to sink lower toward the horizon so I moved on toward Pike Island. The island loop is a favorite and also the park’s Hiking Club trail. I’ve hiked, snowshoed and skied this trail so many times I’ve lost count. It’s an easy loop whether taking the short loop about half-way across the island or taking the longer loop to the Bdote (confluence) of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The trails are wide and easy to navigate no matter what time of year a person visits.

As I hiked the island’s north side trails, the blanket of yellow continued to cover every space in the understory. The plants towered overhead, some reaching nearly eight feet in height. Stopping to take a look back to the west, the setting sun deepened the intensity of the colors, offering a spectacular glow. The river and clouds overhead were glowing in the same yellow as the coneflower. I picked up my pace as I still had over half the loop to cover.

I kept wondering if I’d just missed this bloom in past years when I was traveling or if this was unique to the drought conditions the area is experiencing. The flowers standing tall made me think of the generations of Dakota who came to this sacred place to celebrate life, of those who died on this land in the cold winter of `1862. It was as if the flowers weren’t just flowers, but all of them standing tall in the waining sun.

The sun is creating a flow that lights the cut-leaf coneflower along the bank of the Mississippi River. It's just past sunset.

Turning away from the Bdote, I followed the south side trail which hugs the shore of the Minnesota River. I fell into a quicker pace lost in thought. I was so focused on the movement I almost walked right past the two bucks standing just a few feet off the trail. Stopping for a split second, I acknowledge their presence and then keep moving. A bit further along a young deer stood in the middle of the trail as I approached. I stopped considering if I could pass by, was an older deer nearby who might consider me a threat? I stopped and waited. The deer didn’t move. I spoke loudly encouraging movement. Still no movement. This deer wasn’t concerned about me. Not wanting to scare. I kept talking and slowly moved well off to the side trying to pass. Finally the deer moved slowly off trail.

The sun had set when I got back to my car. I was laughing to myself about the deer and still taking in the last of the golden hue of the flowers as I drove out of the park. The hike had reminded me that finding time to hike at sunset can provide all kinds of unexpected surprises and why I am grateful for having a place like this nearby to enjoy at the last minute.

Next Post Preview: So many hikes so little time to write some days. Will it be a reflection on a special trip from the end of 2022 or maybe something from the 2023 adventures?

GEAR: Marmot Kompressor Pack, Vasque Ultra Dry Waterproof Hiking Boot, SheFly® Go There™ Pant,
SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, 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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