Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Whitewater State Park

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A beautiful warm, spring day today and Noelle, mom and I took full advantage of it. We headed from Galesville into southeastern Minnesota again, but this time a our destination was a different state park: Whitewater State Park. This lovely park is the site of some major flooding just over three years ago. While some evidence of the flood can still be seen, it is still a wonderful place to explore.

We started our hike near the visitor center and soon were forced to cross the Whitewater River on some less- than-ideally placed limestone blocks.
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After crossing the river we started to ascend into the forest and, like yesterday, were treated to some wonderful wildflower displays.
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Pasqueflower

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Soon we reached a ridge with some nice views.
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We would then descend some steep stairs.
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Besides the wildflowers, we saw some other signs of spring along the trail. There were lots of birds including downy and hairy woodpeckers, and yellow rumped warblers. We even saw a few snakes.
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Having descended down to river level we were not quite ready to head back to the car.
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We decided to instead extend our hike a bit by hiking a short loop up to Chimney Rock. The going started out a bit steep, but we soon reached a ridge where we found the aforementioned rock.
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Chimney Rock had a few small tunnels in it. They were almost like little arches.
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Noelle and I explored them a bit.
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From Chimney Rock we descended down to the river, walked the road for a bit and then found ourselves back at the car. It was a great way to spend a beautiful Easter Sunday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beaver Creek Valley State Park

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Today Noelle and I were on a quest to find spring. It's been cold thus far in Duluth and we just wanted to get out and do some hiking. We headed down south to Galesville for the second weekend in a row and headed back into Minnesota for a hike in Beaver Creek Valley State Park.

The drive to the park was pleasant and we surprisingly passed a few snow drifts. We arrived at the park with cool temperatures and an overcast sky. There were even a few drops of rain in the air, but not enough to get us wet. Our hike started out with a bit of an ascent up to the rim of the creek valley. We found a few wildflowers along the way.
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After spending some time on the rim, we descended back down to the creek. In the flood plain of the creek is where we found lots of flowers in bloom.
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Eventually we made our way to an old farm site. The field there had been recently burned exposing an old homestead. There we found some old bottles. One of the more interesting bottles was an old Mountain Dew one.
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Shortly after visiting the homestead we were at the halfway point of our hike and the Hiking Club password. There was an interesting old bridge there and from it we peered down into the creek to see some massive trout.
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Eventually we made our way up a limestone ridge again,
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passing some small caves.
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When we finally returned to the car, we had hiked just over two miles. It was a pleasant hike and by this time the sun was peeking out of the clouds a bit and the temperature was rising. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge

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The calendar says it's spring and while the weather feels more like winter, Noelle, Mom and I just had to get out for a hike today. Originally we had planned on heading over to John Latsch State Park in Minnesota to hike the one and only trail up to the top of the bluff. Time constraints forced a change of plans though and we headed instead to the wildlife refuge.

The main entrance to the refuge was closed by the flooded Mississippi and so we headed to the Marshland entrance and hiked along the bike path/gravel road there. There were lots of birds to be seen from the road. We saw hundreds of coots,
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some geese,
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lots of yellow-rumped warblers, six bald eagles, great blue herons, egrets and some ducks.

We then walked along the closed Delta Road as far as the flood waters would allow, before turning around and heading back to the car. 
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Duluth's Glensheen Mansion

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It was a beautiful spring day in Duluth today and Noelle and I decided to take advantage of it by getting out and enjoying the Lakewalk and the Glensheen Mansion. Neither of us had ever been to Glensheen and so we were excited to check it out. It is currently owned by the University of Minnesota Duluth, but was once the home of Chester Congdon and his family. The tour, while expensive at $15 per person, was well done and interesting. It was also interesting to check out the grounds which include an old clay tennis court, gardens (not much going on there this time of the year), and the now landlocked boathouse.
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We also enjoyed the Lake Superior shoreline of the property and walked on interesting old stone bridge to a cemetery that we've both noticed before from London Road.
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After our tour we went to the Pickwick for a delicious lunch, then walked the Lakewalk to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum. A pleasant way to spend an April afternoon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Ice Dunes of Lake Superior

Walking the Beach

Today Noelle, Parker and I headed over to Wisconsin for a walk along the beach at Wisconsin Point. While not much of the beach was actually accessible, our trip to Wisconsin made for an interesting day nonetheless. Last week's wind storm piled up huge dunes of ice. When I say huge, I mean really huge. Some of the ice was piled up at least 30 feet above the level of the beach. While Noelle looked for interesting natural objects on the shore, I scaled the ice dunes to get a better idea of how sturdy they were and to see if they held any secrets.
Eric & the Frozen Moonscape
That little blip in the middle of the photo is Eric

The dunes turned out to be more like a really short but wide glacier. There were crevasses and the "glacier" even calved into Lake Superior on two occasions, which was actually a bit frightening. Anyway, we ended up walking from lot 8 to the lighthouse.
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We made our way back to the car by way of the paved road.