Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wild River State Park & Minnesota's Interstate State Park

Noelle and I had days off together which will be a rarity this summer and so we decided to go on a little road trip for our days off despite a forecast of rain. yesterday we headed south out of foggy Duluth and headed for the warmth of east central Minnesota. It turned out to be more than warm though. More like downright hot.

Our first stop was Wild River State Park, where we hiked along the St. Croix River to the Old Nevers Dam site. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom. The usual spring varieties including trillium and columbine were seen. We also found a large eagle feather along the trail.

From the dam we hiked back to the car along the paved Old Logging Trail. Parker did a great job despite the heat. We got into the car and turned on the air conditioner for the first time this year. Our next destination was Minnesota's Interstate State Park. We got a campsite and set up camp before walking the River Trail to the world's highest concentration of potholes.
We spent some time poking around there before heading into Taylor's Falls to The Drive-In for rootbeer floats. We returned to the campground via the Railroad Trail.

It rained pretty hard last night with a fair amount of thunder and lightning. When we woke up this morning it was sunny though, and so we decided to hike the Sandstone Bluffs while the tent dried out. The hike was scenic but quite buggy. It's definitely mosquito season in central Minnesota! We returned to the campground to pack up our stuff and then hopped in the car and into Wisconsin. We stopped by the St. Croix National Scenic River visitor center in St. Croix Falls to check things out.

Finally we went for a short and buggy hike at the Sandrock Cliffs area of the river near Grantsburg, Wisconsin, before returning to Minnesota for the drive north to Duluth.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost Creek Falls

Noelle and I headed over to Cornucopia, Wisconsin again, this time to hike to the small but beautiful Lost Creek Falls. The hike began by following a grassy snowmobile trail, but soon the path became more defined and the wildflowers quite numerous. We saw trillium, lady slippers, blue-bead lilly, and a few others. The falls were in a nice secluded location; a little sandstone gorge decorated with flowers and moss.

It was a short hike, a round trip of only about 3 miles, after which we drove to the mouth of the Brule River and took a chilly walk along Lake Superior. It is cold along the lake, but interestingly just about 100 miles away temperatures are in the mid-90s.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Itasca State Park

I Just got back from Itasca State Park for my Naturalist Corps training. The park is big, old (established in 1891), and full of interesting plants and sites of interest. While I didn't have a whole lot of time to explore the park, I did get to check out the Headwaters of the Mississippi River.
In addition I saw many interesting wildflowers in bloom. Trillium, wild ginger, yellow lady-slipper and the rarest orchid in Minnesota the Ram's head orchid. I plan on visiting again, preferably at a time when I can return with Noelle.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Amnicon Falls State Park Revisited

Noelle and I decided to head back over into Wisconsin to revisit the beautiful Amnicon Falls State Park just outside of Superior. Conditions today were once again close to perfect weather-wise. It was about 70 degrees and sunny with dark blue skies. It was a much different scene from our last visit in January with Noelle's mom.

The falls were flowing really good. There's still a lot of water from the rain we got last week. It was nice to stroll around and see, hear, and smell all that the northwoods had to offer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Mainland Seacaves

Today Noelle and I took a pretty, scenic drive over to Bayfield, Wisconsin. We went to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore visitor center in town, which was closed, before having lunch. From there we made the drive along WI-13 back towards the small town of Cornucopia (home of the northernmost post office in Wisconsin). We parked in the parking lot on Myers Road to go check out the mainland sea caves.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. While it was a little bit chilly right at the lake, it was generally warm and sunny. We first checked out Myers Beach, walking along the shore for about a quarter mile. Then we headed back to the parking lot to begin hiking the actual trail. While the trail was a bit muddy, we got to see lots of wildflowers in bloom. After about two miles we started to get some Lake Superior views and then a few views of the famous sea caves.

It was nice to get some views of the caves from the trail, but to truly appreciate them you need a kayak, or a thick, solid layer of ice. Last winter the ice never froze thick enough to allow over ice travel. I'm hoping for a different story this coming winter though.

After our hike we went over to Corny to check out a display of old, decrepit fishing boats. We then stopped at an intriguing little park called Twin Falls Park. We could hear a large waterfall there but could only see a small one. After our short hike we returned to Duluth.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Walking to Wisconsin

Since I moved to Duluth in October, I've been wanting to walk across the Bong Bridge into Wisconsin. I don't know what it is about walking on these big bridges but there is something that I find really appealing about it. Two Decembers ago Noelle and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. When we lived in Kentucky and would visit Cincinnati we would park in Newport or Covington and walk across one of the bridges, usually the Roebling Bridge or the Purple People Bridge, into town. I've always wanted to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia as well, but never had the opportunity.

If you're curious about the name of the bridge, it is named (like half the public structures in Superior, Wisconsin) after Richard I. Bong, a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII, who was known as the "Ace of Aces" having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during the war. The bridge is 11,800 feet long and was opened on October 25, 1985.

I decided that today was a good day for my bridge walk. It was warm, not very windy, and since I'm not sure what Noelle would think about the idea, she wasn't around to tell me how dumb the idea is. So I set off into West Duluth and parked my car off Michigan Street in the Lighthouse for the Blind parking lot. There were great views from the bridge and I was not the only person crossing it by means other than a car. There was one other pedestrian, a jogger who I passed twice and three people on bicycles making their way across state lines.

After the bridge walk I decided to explore the area around Wade Stadium a bit. I found a weird pedestrian tunnel that led to a pedestrian bridge over the interstate. The bridge led to the CN Railroad yard and the ore docks. There is an old visitor viewing platform there that is now closed to the public, but I walked over to the docks (possibly illegally though no one stopped me) to see them working on the Arthur M. Anderson.