Monday, September 30, 2013

Walking in St. Croix Park

Sunday, September 29 proved to be a glorious day in Minnesota. After rain on Saturday -- and much needed rain, so there can be no complaint about that -- Sunday came with beautiful sun.

I was up at 6:15 and on the road about 7 AM on the way to St.Croix State Park, located on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Click here to learn a great deal more about this state park, the largest state park in Minnesota.

The walk in the park was sponsored by the Northstar Trail Travelers , a Volkssports Club which specializes on walks and snowshoe events in Minnesota's state parks.

Traffic was very light on the I-35 freeway going north early on a Sunday morning. In a bit more than an hour I arrived at the intersection with Minnesota Highway 48 and turned east for about 15 miles. Then I found a sign indicating the park was to the right and drove down this country road for about 5 miles. In some ways it made me think of the 3 kilometers before one arrives at Reymontowka.

Soon I started to see signs indicating how to wander through the park to the Lake Clayton Picnic Shelter. I parked the car and walked to a lodge.

Perhaps readers can see there is a bit of smoke coming out of the chimney. Indeed those in the lodge needed a bit of fire since the morning temperature was only 43 (6 C).  Those checking in walkers explained this day brought a choice of a 5K or 6K route, and they were recommending the 5 K route because they thought the 6K route was undoubtedly very wet and muddy from the rain the day before. Well 5 K was my goal anyway because I had to be back in the Twin Cities for a meeting in the late afternoon.

I set out following the blue flag.

It has been a long time since I've done a walk following trail flags rather than street signs -- or having to get out my phone and find my way with Google Maps when street signs go missing!

It was a glorious morning to be walking. I'll just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Along the trail

I found signs marking each kilometer. Each sign gave some information about the history, plants, or animals in the park.

There's always water in Minnesota and this park has plenty. Here's a small pond.

I arrived at this bridge which had a sign that said, "Turn around here."

But first I wanted to see the world from the bridge.

 It always seems to me that the return portion of an out and back trail goes faster. Perhaps that's because one doesn't have to think about the route.

I arrived at the lodge and got out my books. I particularly wanted to do this walk because the postal address for the park, Hinckley, filled in H in my USA A-Z book. I now have only Q and U to do, and have plans for each. In my Minnesota A-Z book I have now completed walks for 17 of the 26 letters. It counted for Pine County in the Minnesota County Book, and I have now completed walks in 25 of Minnesota's 87 counties.

I drove back to Tobie's, a restaurant on the intersection of I-35 and Highway 48. This intersection is at about the halfway mark between the Twin Cities and Duluth, and is a traditional place for stop on those trips. I was glad to be back for when returning from Duluth I stopped here and brought home some wonderful English muffins. I wanted more! I also brought home a loaf the Chippewa Bread. This bread is made with barley flour and includes cranberries and sunflower seeds. It is simply wonderful!

Came home in time to rest a bit and then head off to get some information about going to Bolivia in March, so adventure planning continues.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Walking Along the Mississippi in Coon Rapids

Yesterday brought lovely weather and with nothing I had to do -- it was time to try another walk. I searched the AVA website for a walk I've never done and one that may be disappearing next year. I picked the one that gave information about walking along the Mississippi in Coon Rapids.

Off I went with Google Maps which stopped working! The drive to this start place takes me on highways I don't like to drive. Right now the route is filled with road construction. One has to avoid making the mistake of taking County Road 10 when you really want U.S. Highway 10. And not getting on 694 East when you really want 694 West even though it seems more logical that the lane for East should be on the right and the lane for West should be on the left, and all the roads seem to go in circles and not in straight lines. I pulled off on the Lexington Exit of 694 West to get the Google Maps working again, and then when trying to resume my journey discovered that the ramp to 694 Wast on Lexington is closed. At least Google Maps clicked in and found me another way to continue my route west and I finally got to a little grocery store on Hanson Boulevard.

I was only #11 for this walk. Maybe there are others who have been put off by the drive to this part of the Metro area.

Coon Rapids has always been there. I've never thought about it much. A little Internet research surprised me.With a population of about 65,000,it is the sixth largest Twin Cities suburb and actually the ninth largest city in Minnesota. This suburb got its start as a housing area for construction workers who created the Coon Rapids dam on the Mississippi in the early 20th century. The name comes from the Coon Creek Rapids that appeared in the river where this creek entered the Mississippi. The dam construction took away this feature. It was constructed for generation of electrical power. Now this area is primarily a recreational site. Usually one can walk across the dam, but right now this trail is closed for reconstruction.

And perhaps some readers may wonder what Coon means, for it can be perceived as a word that should not be used in some cultures and some parts of the United States. In this case, it's short for raccoon. This apparently, a common way to reference a raccoon, is only used in the Upper Midwest. I remember that one of my grandfather's summer hobby/work was keeping the "coons out of the sweet corn." The raccoons loved it!
The walk went along a pleasant residential area on flat sidewalks -- perfect weather, temperature about 70 degrees (21C). In about a mile the route turned left onto a trail along the river. This is a delightful walk with lovely views of the river.

I walked to where a construction fence blocked the trail and then backtracked my way back to the spot where I entered the the park. The route then went along Uplander Street to Riverview Park. This park proved to be a collection of athletic fields. As I walked the bike trail around the park, I was thankful I had left this walk for a pleasant September day. This walk would not have been fun during the hot weather we had this summer.

This walk through the residential areas was enhanced by the fun someone or somebodies had with fire hydrants.

If readers are puzzled by the stake coming up from each -- that's to allow the fire hydrant to be found in case it becomes covered with snow during the winter.

Enjoyed an afternoon along the river.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Walking in Alexandria

Last Sunday morning, September 22, was bright and sunny. I looked at Weather Channel on my phone -- 49 degrees (9 C). Brrr-- quite a change from 3 weeks ago when I had to walk at 6 AM to avoid excessive heat.

I had a quick breakfast at the hotel -- not impressed -- the worst breakfast of my travels during the past six months. It didn't help either that a woman at the next table was going on and on about Obamacare -- and how "we are going to have to pay for it." I so wanted  to tell her that she is already paying for it -- with enhanced private insurance premiums so that uncompensated care can be paid for -- with high emergency room payments so that uncompensated care is paid for -- and that we are using our emergency rooms in the United States for primary care --the most expensive way one can possible deliver primary care--but with her size 42 behind in her jeans, I was sure she didn't care for facts -- such as the fact that McDonald's is now posting calories for all its food choices is also part of health care reform.  Was glad to escape out of there!

Now to the walk. Alexandria is the county seat of Douglas County. It was established in 1862, and is named after the Illinois Senator, Stephen Douglas. Most of us, if we know the name at all remember the Douglas-Lincoln debates over the issue of slavery. Douglas County has this name, however, because Douglas was the Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Territories and advocated strongly for Minnesota to become a state.

Alexandria is named after Alexander Kinkaid. He and his brother,William, were among the first settlers of Alexandria, coming to Minnesota from Maryland. Alexandria has a population of around 11,000. The Minnesota Geographic Names text notes that Alexandria has "a multitude of lakes, unsurpassed in beauty and diversity." The area map that I picked up at the hotel shows, within an area bounded by I-94 on the south and the northern Alexandria city limits, fourteen lakes!

I found my way up Broadway and left my car in a parking lot for the Central Trail. This trail is for walking and biking made from a former railroad track area. It extends for many miles across this part of Minnesota.

By the parking lot is Big Ole, the largest Viking in the land.

 To understand how big is this statue note that behind Big Ole are trees, not bushes. Big Ole accompanied the Kensington Runestone to the World's Fair held in New York City in 1965. (Kensington Runestone will be featured in another blog post for it is a whole story in itself.)

The walk route went east along the shore of Lake Agnes. This lake, according the Geographic Names book, is named for "the lady love of William Kinkaid."  This walk was joyful on a bright, sunny morning. The trail is wonderful with many places to stop and rest or enjoy the view.

I walked my way around the east side of the lake and as the route map promised up into a parking lot. I walked along the back side of several buildings and then picked up a bike trail that went further along the east side of the lake and then turned left to wind along the north side of the lake. This part of the walk went along the back yards of homes, many with beautiful flowers.

Ahead I could see the fishing pier on Lake Agnes.

Across the lake I could see a set of white buildings and I knew I had to be there before the walk ended.

The walk led to City Park.

The route map said to walk through the park and continue left as "far as  you feel comfortable." I found that brought me to the convergence of Lake Agnes and Lake Henry.

Lake Agnes is on the left in the photo above and Lake Henry begins on the right side. Lake Henry is named for one of the children of Charles Cook, an early merchant in Alexandria.

The walk now backtracked itself to the Big Ole statue. When I got back to the area of the shops, I walked along the front to learn what they were and, of course, stopped at Caribou Coffee for a bit. I had that in mind when I found the less than wonderful breakfast at the hotel. I stayed quite awhile there, mostly because the book I was reading on my Kindle was so good.

When I returned to the Big Ole area I continued west walking with Lake Agnes on the right side and now Lake Winona on the left side.

 I disturbed some ducks having Sunday brunch.

Then it was backtracking again to Big Ole. I decided to stop at the Depot Express for some lunch.

I mentioned above that the Central Trail is made from an abandoned railroad line. Well, the Depot is just that. I noticed there is a history of the building on the menu and asked the waitress if I could keep the menu a few minutes to take some notes. She said, "I can do better that. I'll bring you an old one."

The menu story tells us the depot opened in 1907. One unique feature is that the foundation was laid by putting  200 pilings 35 feet deep into the soil, preventing the building then from being subject to vibration as trains rolled by. In addition, the construction of the building made it fireproof.

In 1957 the Burlington Northern Railroad renovated the building, putting in new windows and changing the ticket windows from being in exterior windows facing the track to being totally inside the building. But in 1967 all passenger service stopped and freight service, too, stopped in 1976.

The building was shut until 1984 when private buyers bought it from the railroad and renovated into a restaurant. The building is now listed on the Historic Register.

I had good intentions of doing another 5 K through the business and residential areas of Alexandria. However, when I left the restaurant after lunch the wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to walk. Also I knew I had already done the best 5K and readers of this blog know that in the past couple of weeks I have seen many business districts and residential areas of small Minnesota towns. Instead I went to the Runestone Museum, but that is another story appearing later. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Walking in Morris

Since the forecast for last weekend was for sunny weather, it seemed like a good time to do the last two county walks that will not be available next year. On Saturday morning about 8:30 I left home heading northwest again on I -94. I ate a bit of breakfast at home before leaving and then stopped at a McDonald's later for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I got to Morris about 11:30 or so.

Morris is the county seat town for Stevens County, established in 1862. Stevens County is named for Issac Ingalls Stevens who commanded an expedition for northern survey for the Pacific Railroad. The walk map also noted Stevens was considered to be "a gallant leader for the Union during the Civil War." Morris is named for Charles A.F. Morris who was also involved in railroad development. Morris has a population of about 5600 persons.

The walk began from a hotel along Highway 28. I walked along the frontage road and then turned left walking through a residential area of small houses. They appeared to have been built after World War II, when there was a housing boom as soldiers returned home and established families.

Soon the route turned to the left towards the University of Minnesota - Morris campus. But first I found, much to my surprise, a cemetary.
 Soon I saw the sign for the University.

On one side of the street I saw lovely fall flowers.

But on the other side of the street I heard a voice as if through a loudspeaker and noticed a bridal party.

Most buildings on the campus are quite new.

And I liked this windows in this building:

A nearby sign said this is the Science Center.

Walking on I found a old building.

In front of the building is a marker explaining the history of this building. It first began in the late 19th century as a boarding school for American Indian children from reservations in North and South Dakota. It was originally run by a group of Catholic Sisters. The sign goes on to explain the various changes in U.S. policy concerning the purpose of such education.  In 1896 the federal government took over the school, making it one that offered both academic and industrial education. In the early 20th century there began to be a move against such boarding school. This school was among the very first closed and the physical property was transferred to the state of Minnesota in 1909. In that year it became the West Central School of Agriculture, and then in 1960 the school was made into the University of Minnesota- Morris. It now operates as one of 25 public liberal arts colleges in the United States.

Rounding the corner I found another lovely collection of fall flowers.

Nearby I found a memorial garden to those alumni who have served in the U.S. military.

Notice the word, boys, when referencing World War I.

The reference to World War II speaks to men and women. I noticed a similar sign for the Viet Nam War simply says veterans.

I continued on through the campus and then back down the same road. I walked through residential areas and then by the county hospital. Across the street a small house caught my attention with a sign that says Courage Cottage.

The sign in the yard explains it is a home for those needing short term rehabilitation or adults requiring foster care.

The rest of the walk took me through the business district and then back to the hotel parking lot where I had left the car.

I drove back to a the Dairy Queen I had found while walking and had an ice cream. Then I headed back east.

Highway 28 between Starbuck and Glenwood goes along Lake Minnewaska. This is a distance of a bit more than 8 miles. I kept trying to find a place where I could take photos without being on private property. Finally I pulled off the road in Glenwood and went to Lakeshore Drive. I had seen some of this area when doing a walk in Glenwood earlier this year. (See post for May 17.)

Lake Minnewaska is a combination of the words for water and good from the Dakota language. It is a a large lake, covering 7110 acres (2877 hectares). On the shore I found a sculpture of an Indian maiden.

She is waiting for her beloved, Chief Waube Makwa (White Bear in English). He has gone to see the French missionaries on the Mississippi River and the maiden watches for his return each day. This story comes from a book by Alice Otillia Thorson called Tribe of Pezhekee, Legend of Minnesota.

And here is one lake view.

It took only about another 20 minute drive to arrive in Alexandria. I stopped at the start point for the walk there and picked up the map. Then I went to hotel where I planned to spend the night. From there I went to a restaurant for late lunch/early supper. Then I did a bit of shopping at Target. I drove about 3 miles to the start point for the Alexandria walk. Then back to the hotel for a rest before setting out the next morning.

Enjoyed the walk in Morris very much and learning about the history of the Morris campus.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Walking in Elbow Lake

I woke in Fergus Falls to wind and clouds. Should I go do another walk or simply go home? The Weather Channel forecasts said the day would be sunny, but the outdoors really said something different. Well Elbow Lake is only a 20 minute drive away and not much out of the way for going home so I decided to give it a try.

On the way down -- down is how we express going south -- I drove by many lakes. Sometimes there was one on the left, sometimes one on the right, and sometimes one on both sides of the road. 

Elbow Lake is named after a nearby lake which looks like an arm bent at the elbow. It is smaller town yet, with a population of about 1170. It is the county seat of Grant County, named after Ulysses S. Grant.

The walk started from a small motel. I found the door marked Office and a black cat came running and went in ahead of me. I noticed a bell marked Ring for Help and thought I'd ask if the cat should be inside. I turned around and noticed the walk box sitting on a table, and decided I didn't need to bother anyone -- but did need to bother the cat. It thought sitting on my jacket and backpack to be a perfect place.

I found the directions for the 5K walk, picked up the cat, and was on my way. I thought I should make tracks just in case those clouds blew up some rain. I wore my raincoat just in case, and actually it proved to be a very good wind break. The temperature was not quite 60 (15C).

It was hard to follow the route because of how the streets are named in this town. There are avenues with numbers such as 1, 2, and 3, crossed by streets with the same numbers with the addition of direction such as SE or NE. I spent a lot of time looking at the route map and looking at street signs.

I kept seeing the same house, too. -- Well, not the same house, but the same model of house.

 This square house with the little windows on the second floor appeared several times. Cookie cutter homes are not new! I estimate these homes were build perhaps in the 1920s.

Then I hit the street construction which necessitated doing a detour, too.

But here are some views. Pisa may have its Leaning Tower, but Elbow Lake has a leaning barn.

After walking by this barn I ended up walking on a gravel road along the very edge of the town.

I came by a road giving me a view of a lake, but it's hard to see in the weather of the day.

I rounded the corner by where the eagle is.

I have seen many statutes of eagles, but this is the first one I've ever seen that has a nest, too.

Up the hill I found a house that was of a different style.
After this the route directed me through a street area lined with farm equipment and no street signs.

I walked in circles for awhile, ending up on some streets that were at the start of the route. I finally gave up and made my way back to the car. I know I walked 5K, just not 1K at the end that matched the map.

I drove back to Alexandria and had lunch there and then continued on my way back to St. Paul. I still have two walks to do out in this area of Minnesota, but will try to do them with day trips.

Walking in Wheaton

After doing the morning walk in Breckenridge, reported in a previous blog. I drove south for about 30 minutes and arrived in Wheaton.

I crossed the Rabbit River on my way. Yes, it's named after rabbits, the type of rabbit that is white in the winter and brown in the summer. Recently I read that scientists are studying this rabbit to see if it can evolve quickly enough to avoid extinction. The later arrival of winter means the rabbit is now often white and stands out to predators during the autumn season and again when spring arrives early.

Wheaton is the county seat of Traverse County. My Minnesota Geographic Names books tells me Wheaton is named after Daniel Thompson Wheaton, a surveyor for the Fargo Southern Railway. He suggested the name Swedenburg to honor the immigrants from Sweden who settled this town, but the railroad chose Wheaton.

Traverse is named from Lake Traverse. This is a translation from the name given it by American Indians in this area, when they noticed this lake lay traverse to nearby Big Stone Lake and Lac qui Parle.

Wheaton is a very small town, with a population of about 1425. It is a big destination for sportsman who wish to hunt and fish. I had little difficulty finding the start point, a gas station. In the afternoon this is the only place in town where one can get refreshments and residents were gathered there. A group of women were having coffee and chatting at a back table. Near me was a group of men, one wearing a Stetson, so I knew I was getting close to ranch country. They were playing some kind of gambling game -- hope I don't get this establishment into trouble -- that involved shaking dice and then exchanging small coins -- pennies, nickles, and dimes, depending on what the dice said.

I was soon on my way walking through a residential area.

I found a weather station that made me laugh.

Perhaps the writing is too small in the picture. It says:

When Rock Is

WET -- it's raining
WHITE -- it's snowing
MOVING -- it's windy
WHIRLING -- it's a tornado

I continued down the main street of this town and found a store window displaying objects from the historical museum. This is labeled, "Was it the good old days?"

A couple of blocks later I found the museum in what had formerly been the depot.

This, too, had a closed sign. Outside I found an old fire truck.

And something that I realized had disappeared too, a caboose.

This walk was laid out in a series of rectangular shapes. I walked to the southern edge of town and then followed the directions to the eastern edge of the town.

In the middle of the town I got a good view of the grain elevator. I walked beside many, many trucks apparently getting lined up for the harvest season.

On the way back to the start/finish site I walked through some residential areas again and came upon this red house. I would never think of painting a house red, but with the early fall colors on the nearby trees it looked really nice.

Soon I was on my way north again. I stopped in Breckenridge at the Dairy Queen for a peanut buster parfait. I hadn't had one of these ice cream treats in years.

Then it was up the road and turning right back to Fergus Falls again. When I got back to the hotel I was more than ready to kick off my walking shoes and put up my feet for a bit.