Sunday, April 25, 2010
Banning/St. Croix State Parks
I've been a little bit depressed about my job situation and I decided I needed to get out for a hike to clear my mind today. I packed my pack and headed south to Banning State Park. Noelle and I had visited a few weeks ago and there were some interesting aspects of the park that I had learned about an wanted to see; namely Wolf Creek Falls and Bat Cave. On the drive, however, I got really hungry and decided to head into Hinkley to get some food. This food stop brought me close to St. Croix State Park and I decided after lunch to make this a two park day.
After finishing my Taco Bell I headed into St. Croix State Park to hike the Hiking Club Trail. Almost immediately after entering the park I saw a porcupine crossing the road. After taking a few photos I headed to the trail. The trail at first paralleled the St. Croix River and then looped through some restored oak savannas. The most interesting aspect of the hike came at the halfway point. It is here that I spent some time on an interpretive trail checking out the remains of CCC Camp Yellowbanks. All that remained were the Rec Hall's chimney and some stone stairs and flagstone walkways. There were surprisingly few wildflowers to be seen along the trail. The only ones I saw were some spring beauty.
After the hike I took the back way to Robinson Park in Sandstone, which contains a trail that connects to the trail system at Banning State Park. The trail was quite interesting passing through an old quarry, under a railroad trestle (from which some kid was hurling rocks dangerously close to me until I yelled at him), and between sandstone bluffs and the Kettle River. This time plenty of wildflowers were to be seen including trout lilly, wild ginger and marsh marigold.
There were a few species that looked as if they were about to bloom within the next few days as well, in particular there was trillium all over the place.
I kept hiking along the river and passed hundreds of trees that had been girdled and gnawed on by beavers. Eventually I made my way to the lovely Wolf Creek Falls. From there I hiked a short loop and returned to the falls. I hiked out on the trail I had come in on, this time paying close attention in an effort to find Bat Cave. Sure enough I was able to find a faint path heading up hill to the cave, just a tall, deep alcove in the sandstone. It was gated to protect a bat hibernaculum and was an interesting site. I then headed back to the car and north to Duluth.