Hike #2: Fort Snelling State Park

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” – Henry David Thoreau

Highlights

  • Distance: 3.o miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Terrain: Woodland floodplains
  • Wildlife Spotted: Turkey

My second official hiking club trail was Fort Snelling’s Pike Island trail. The trail itself is approximately a three mile loop along the outskirts of Pike Island. In order to reach the trail head you must drive through the park until you are almost directly under the Snelling-Mendota Bridge, which, incidentally is the highlight of the hike. It was under this bridge that I was struck with determination and decided to complete the 68 hikes before I turn 30.

Fort Snelling Woods

The trail itself was nothing spectacular.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proud Minnesotan, through and through. Home of 10,000 lakes, Paul Bunyan, Spam, the late Prince, and of course the, “Ya you betchas!”. I was the easy target and the butt of many jokes from friends throughout college (let’s be honest fellow Minnesotans, we secretly love it). At the end of the day though, floodplains can be quite boring.

Figuring I must be missing something, I attempted to navigate my way down to the river bank, hoping to find some hidden gem. I stepped down towards the water confidently, but quickly found myself in a panic, my mind conjuring up images of quicksand. My brain scanned every episode of Xena: Warrior Princess and Beast Master from my childhood, trying desperately to remember how to escape this deadly sand. That’s when I remembered that oftentimes, and especially in Minnesota, silt lines riverbanks. I stopped sliding towards the water after what felt like an eternity and assessed the situation. I tucked my tail between my legs and scrambled back up towards safety. Nope. Definitely no hidden gem.

I went swiftly on my way, shaking the excess mud off of my shoes as I walked, resembling a character straight out of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. I made it back to my car without further incident, only stopping twice to snap some pictures.

Fort Snelling Snap

Hike 1: Frontenac State Park

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” – Henry David Thoreau

Highlights

  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Terrain: Wooded ravines and prairies
  • Wildlife Spotted: Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures
  • Must See: Eagle Point

Located just outside of Red Wing, this was my first “official” hiking club hike. Well, actually, to be completely honest, I hiked it twice. Here’s the thing. When you hike the club trails you look for a sign with a “password” on it. The first time I hiked it alone and COULD NOT find the sign.  Luckily for me this park is absolutely gorgeous, so I was able to convince my parents to come down with me a few weeks later to “check out the views” (read: find the password for me).

We pulled up to the park office and my mom and I went in while my dad waited outside with the dog. In an awkward but typical fashion I admitted to the park ranger that I was unable to locate the password the last time I was there, and asked if the signs were hidden. With a look that was somewhere between disbelief and pity, he explained to me that the signs are in fact in plain sight, but added (for my sake) that the sign could have been covered by tall grass. We would later find out that it wasn’t covered by tall grass. At all.

We drove up the steep hill to the main parking lot and headed out on the trail.  Visitors are treated to an absolutely beautiful view from the get go, tempting adventurers to forgo the hike and bask in the picturesque view instead.

Frontenac

The view of Lake Pepin & the Mississippi (located about 50 feet from the parking lot)

We continued on our adventure winding down a wooded ravine which bottoms out and opens up to a fairly flat prairie. But of course, you have to make your way back up.  The path that leads back up is lined with a stunning army of oak trees- which almost distracts hikers from the incline. While the climb is not steep, it is constant and lengthy, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself sweating and out of breath! Once you read the top you can choose to continue straight ahead, or turn to the right and check out Eagle Point. Now, as I mentioned before, I did a lot of hiking the year previously, and out of all the state parks I have visited thus far, Eagle Point is by far my favorite view!

Frontenac Oak

Army of oak trees lining the incline

Eagle Point looks out (once again) over Lake Pepin/Mississippi River, and is home to the embarrassingly visible hiking club password sign.Unlike the view from the parking lot, however, Eagle Point has a quaint and cozy feel to it. An oak tree lazily sweeps out over a small wooden bench as the sunlight dances through it’s leaves.  While it would be easy to fix your eyes on the view ahead, don’t forget to look up to spot the soaring bald eagles and turkey vultures as they circle, search, glide, and eventually dive towards their prey.

Eagle Point

View from Eagle Point – Frontenac State Park

After getting our fill of the view (as if that is even possible), we continued on, climbing only a little more, and  finishing the trail by walking through an hilltop prairie. This park is a must see, whether you are part of the hiking club or not. I cannot wait to come back  and check out the views in the fall!

 

MN Hiking Club Commitment

“I am learning to trust the journey, even when I do not understand it.” – Mila Bron

It was about a year ago when I first discovered my love for hiking. I had just finished my fourth year of teaching and yet had never had a summer off. I savored every grading and lesson plan free moment…for about two weeks- and that’s when boredom struck! I decided to go for a walk and explore my new neighborhood. As each day passed I seemed to wander farther and farther away, hiking miles after miles. Yet somehow, I was still, completely unaware of the Minnesota Hiking Club.

Fast forward to this year when I discovered the Hiking Club. It is this wonderful thing where you get “credit” for your hikes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love hiking-the peace and quiet, the wildlife, and of course, the incredible views- but seriously, why not get a badge while you are at it?! It goes like this: Minnesota State Parks have 68 designated trails that are deemed “hiking club” trails. As you hike along the designated trails you collect passwords and collect cumulative miles. Once you reach certain “mile”stones, you earn patches/badges. You can stop by any state park office and purchase a Hiking Club kit for $14.95. Each kit comes with a booklet where you can write down your passwords and keep track of your mileage.

Hiking

Now it wasn’t until I was hiking my second trail that I had my epiphany. So often I think we get stuck in this race that we call life. We put time and energy into one thing, complete it, and then we are on to the next. We graduate high school, go to college. We graduate college and get a job. We get job and ask ourselves, “What’s next?” Nowadays it seems absolutely terrifying if there isn’t a “next”. It’s almost like we don’t know how to just enjoy life. We get so focused on career and relationship goals that we don’t set any goals for ourselves. That’s why I decided to set a goal…for me. Just me. Over the next two years and nine months I am going to complete ALL 68 Minnesota Hiking Club trails! AKA one of those “do this before I turn 30” goals.

I’m excited to have something that is mine. Something that excites and rejuvenates me. Now, it’s not a life changing or momentous goal, but I don’t know that everything in life needs to be. For now I’m just going to enjoy the journey!