Friday, August 26, 2016

Hayes Lake State Park

If I had thought the mosquitoes at Old Mill State Park were bad, it was nothing compared to the show of biting insects at Hayes Lake State Park. It's a shame too, since the park is very pretty and features the very photogenic Hayes Lake. I managed to complete the Hiking Club trail there, but just barely.

I realized how bad the bugs were the second I stepped out of the car into a buzzing swarm. Still, I headed over to the trailhead of the Pine Ridge Interpretive Trail.
start of trail
Immediately a view of  Hayes Lake presented itself,
view of Hayes Lake
complete with wildflowers decorating her shore.
black eyed susan
Then the trail headed into the woods, the cool, buggy woods.
the buggy trail
There were interpretive signs, but the prospect of standing still and donating my blood to the bugs kept me from reading them. When I reached the swimming beach I decided to take a plunge in the water to escape the mosquitoes.
going for a swim
The water was cool and refreshing, but as soon as I made my way back to the beach I had to deal with the pesky mosquitoes again.

I enjoyed a few last views of the lake
Hayes Lake view
and then decided to hike the road back to my car. I figured there would be fewer bugs in the sunny center of the road, right? Wrong. They were still bad. I stopped to take a quick picture of this fringed gentian
Fringed Gentian
and then made my way back to my vehicle as quickly as possible without running. In the few seconds it took to get into the car, literally about 20 mosquitoes followed me inside. I spent the next 5 minutes squashing the little buggers,
dead mosquito
some of which stained my car's upholstery with blood. I had itchy welts to scratch all the way back to International Falls; reminders of my trip to Hayes Lake State Park. 

Old Mill State Park

I left Lake Bronson State Park and moved south to Old Mill State Park yesterday afternoon. I arrived at the park, made camp and then headed across the Middle River
Middle River
to the nearby mill
Larson Mill
to explore a bit.
joe Pye weed
Joe Pye Weed
The mill is not powered by a water wheel, but a large engine. I guess at one time there was a water powered mill at the site. Besides the mill, there was a cabin representative of what early settlers to the area might have lived in
inside cabin
and a garden outside featuring day lilies.
day lily
It reminded me of the type of cabin one might expect to find in the Appalachians.

Back at camp I ate a cold dinner since I forgot to bring my camp stove and then read in the tent before retiring to sleep. This morning I awoke and broke down camp before heading out to explore the Hiking Club trail.
Start of hike
The Hiking Club trail was pleasant, especially the prairie portions.
trail through prairie
There were lots of flowers in bloom among the grasses, including closed gentian
closed gentian
and fringed gentian.
Fringed gentian not quite in bloom
The trail also passed through some aspen clones that were visually pleasant.
However, lots of mosquitoes lurked in the wooded portions of the trail. It was so bad I struggled to enjoy my hike, stopping only to check out an interesting feather I found
and some snowberry.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lake Bronson State Park

It seemed like a long drive from Zippel Bay to Lake Bronson State Park. I drove through the towns of Warroad and Roseau before finally arriving at the only state park in the tallgrass aspen parklands biome. I immediately headed past a cool, old water/observation tower
to the picnic area where I ate lunch and then hit the trail.

start of hike (2)
I am very impressed by this park. It's a place where the prairie meets the northern forest. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom,
another goldenrod
and at least one was getting pollinated right before my eyes!
bee and flower
unknown flower
in bloom
There were also some really nice views of Lake Bronson.
Lake Bronson view
tree and Lake Bronson
Lake Bronson is unusual in Minnesota in that it is not a true lake. It is a reservoir built in the 1930s to protect area farmers from drought. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through fields of big bluestem grass
walk through the prairie
waving in the breeze.
the bluestem prairie

After completing the Hiking Club trail I wandered over to a different part of the park which once housed the camp for a Works Progress Administration crew during the Great Depression.
Camp Bronson
There's not much left of the camp, just a concrete floor. Then I headed over to the Bronson Cemetery.
bronson cemetery
Its not a maintained cemetery anymore, more like some scattered graves in the middle of the prairie.
 lonely grave

After leaving Bronson Lake State Park I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I'd like to come back and visit again with Noelle and Sierra. They've got two campsites on an island in the lake. I think it would be fun to bring the canoe and camp on an island!

Zippel Bay State Park

I awoke early this morning and finished packing my car for a quick, 2 day roadtrip. With Noelle and Sierra out of town I figured this was a good opportunity to log some Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club miles in the northwestern part of the state. After a quick breakfast I hit the read headed west into dark, menacing-looking clouds. I drove through the small towns of Birchdale and Baudette (with its famous Willie Walleye statue),
Willie Walleye
before arriving to shores of Lake of the Woods at Zippel Bay State Park.

I immediately got out of the car and headed over to the beach. It was a chilly morning, yet I arrived to find a lone bathing suit clad girl on the sand.
chick at the beach
After surveying the view, I headed over to the start of the Hiking Club trail.
start of hike
It immediately headed back to the beach
Lake of the Woods
and followed the shoreline of Lake of the Woods west for about a half mile. I was surprised by the number of shells washed up on the shore.
It almost felt like walking the ocean beach. Eventually the trail veered into the woods among the birch, aspen and goldenrods
teepee on beach
before ending rather abruptly at a rock jetty that protects the navigation route into Zippel Bay.
navigation light

I found the Hiking Club password there and then started to make my way back to the car in a light drizzle.
walking on beach
There were lots of shells and even a poor dead crayfish washed up on the beach.
I arrived at my car just before the rain started to come down a little bit harder for my drive further west. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Photos of the Day: A Girl and Her Frog

Frogs have always been Sierra's favorite animal. So you can imagine her excitement when a gray tree frog visited our home today.
a girl and her frog
gray tree frog on chair
The frog hopped and stuck to her playhouse and so Sierra was inspired to come up with a list of things that she needed to keep the frog as a pet.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Paddling the Rat Root River and Rat Root Lake

Today's forecast called for winds in the 5-7 mph range. Having not been out on the water in a while Noelle, Sierra and I decided to take the canoe out for a paddle. I didn't want to be out on Rainy Lake in even a 5mph wind and so we headed down to my town of Ericsburg to paddle a section of the Rat Root River and Rat Root Lake which I figured would be somewhat sheltered from the wind.

We arrived at the boat ramp which is just off of Koochiching County Road 119, just before a bridge crosses over the Rat Root River.
Rat Root from bridge
This boat ramp does not seem to get nearly as much use as many of the others in this area. I would guess, however, that there is some use during the duck hunting season. We put in among the blooming asters
and goldenrods
and then headed into a world of cattails. We were aided by a gentle breeze at our backs as we paddled the river
Rat Root River
and into the first section of Rat Root Lake. Then the water started to get a bit choppy. Our destination had been a picnic site along the banks of the river, but the water got so rough and the wind so strong that we ended up turning around at a solitary boat dock in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

The paddle into the wind was not much fun at all. It was hard work and Noelle and I realized that if we stopped to take a break we would get blown back in the direction from which we had just come. Finally we made the turn from the lake into the river and nestled in among some cattails to eat lunch on the boat.
stopped for lunch
After having eaten lunch and taken a break from the wind we resumed our paddle upstream on the Rat Root River. We paddled through some scattered beds of wild rice
paddling through wild rice
wild rice
headed back to boat ramp
and were quite relieved to be back at the boat ramp. Our shoulders were sore as we hoisted the canoe on top of the car for the drive back home.
interesting plant