Thursday, September 22, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Kab Ash Trail, Beaver Pond Parking to Ash River Community

It was another wonderful day to be on the trail. The weather was perfect. There cannot be many weather days like today left on the calendar for northern Minnesota. I made the drive down to the Ash River portion of Voyageurs National Park to hike another part of the Kab Ash Trail.
Trail through moss and pines
This section of the Kab Ash Trail was easy to follow, just like the other sections that I've previously hiked. There are not many wildflowers in bloom anymore, just some scattered asters.
I did see some fall color though.
red leaves
It's definitely not peak color yet, but it is starting to get a bit colorful.
maple on moss

While I didn't see much in the way of wildflowers, the mushrooms were prolific. They were everywhere and in many different varieties. There were white ones, tan ones,
black ones,
black fungus
brown ones,
and many other colors. I also saw some wildlife in the form of the ubiquitous red squirrel
red squirrel
and a black backed woodpecker.
black backed woodpecker
The coolest thing about the hike though, was the different types of micro-habitats that the trail traversed.
hiker Eric
There were open rocky ledges with far views.
There were luxuriant carpets of astro-turf like moss.
carpet of moss
There were red pine forests.
in tree grotto
There were white pine forests. There were also swamps and small meadows.

After hiking for a few hours I found myself at the end of the Ash River Trail. I paused for a rest there,
at trailhead
used the facilities, and then turned around to hike the whole thing back to where I had started. It was a wonderful way to spend one of our fleeting fall days in northern Minnesota.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Photo of the Night: The Northern Lights

Okay, so the photo isn't the best. I'm just too excited not to post that I saw the northern lights for the very first time in my life tonight!
northern lights

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Photo of the Night: Northern Flying Squirrel

flying squirrel 2 
I spied this guy while taking the garbage out tonight. He was one of at least three northern flying squirrels raiding our bird feeders and gliding around. We watched him for quite a while at the feeder. He didn't seem to mind our presence

Friday, September 9, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Kab Ash Trail Loop West of Meadwood Road

Finally made it back out to Ash River to hike another section of the Kab Ash Trail. After all I've heard about people getting lost out there, I was glad to have finally made it to another section to see the conditions for myself. Having hiked it, I can say that the trail is not in as bad shape as I had been led to believe.

The hike began at the parking area for the Beaver Pond Overlook Trail and Kab Ash Trail on the Meadwood Road.
Kab Ash Trailhead
Vegetation hung over parts of the trail, but this section of trail appeared to get enough use that there was a well defined, dirt treadway. I bushwhacked a short distance near the start of the hike to check out a view of the beaver pond that is visible from the overlook. From down below the pond looks more like a meadow.
1st beaver meadow
There were some signs of fall along the walk: goldenrod in bloom
and colorful, fallen maple leaves.
red leaf
However, I was surprised to also find a few bunchberry flowers in bloom.

As I moved farther from the trailhead
trail marker
the treadway of the trail became more overgrown and less defined. Still, there were some cairns
and flagging tape
to mark the way. Only once did I have to stop to look around and figure out which way the trail proceeded. Wildlife encounters only included a few birds and squirrels.
red squirrel
Mushrooms, however, were in ample supply.
red mushroom
white mushroom
another mushroom
I hiked the loop counter-clockwise.
Eric on trail
Some of the more interesting sections of trail passed through some nice red pine forest.
red pines
I also passed another beaver meadow.
beaver meadow

At the next trail junction, I opted to hike .8 mile to the junction with the next loop on the trail system. Rather than continue on this new loop, I decided to save that hike for a different day and continued to complete my original loop. The part of the trail ascended to some dry, rocky ridges that proved to be very interesting.
ridge top
There was even a view down to the surrounding forest.
view 2
Overall, this hike was pleasant, but not too impressive. I think the biggest disappointment is that in a park where 40% of the surface area is covered with water, this hike leads to very few views of water. In fact, one small stream is all the water I saw on this entire hike.

Friday, September 2, 2016

World's Largest Paul Bunyan in Akeley, Minnesota

Paul Bunyan

Itasca State Park: Hiking Club Loop

We packed up camp this morning and headed out for some more exploring. Our ultimate destination was the 3.5 mile Hiking Club Loop. However, on the way to the trailhead we stopped at the impressive Preacher's Grove
walking into Preachers Grove
to admire the large red pine trees
walking in Preachers Grove
and view of Lake Itasca.
Lake Itasca from Preachers Grove
We then headed over to Douglas Lodge to start our hike.

Noelle, Parker and I had attempted to hike this loop before, only to be turned around by the copious mosquitoes. I was hoping that by attempting this hike later in the year, the bugs would not be as bad. The bugs were definitely not as bad as they had been last time we attempted the hike, but they were still there. The hike began on the Ozawindib Trail
Sierra and Mommyon trail
and quickly passed Lake Mary. We found a poor dead mole on the trail
dead mole
and Sierra found the first colorful leaves of fall littering the ground.
Sierra's colorful leaf

At a strange obelisk,
strange marker
we turned right to follow the Crossover Trail to the Deer Park Trail. There were several lakes to stop and admire on this stretch of trail, including Deer Park Lake
lake view 3
and Coffee Break Lake. As we looked into Coffee Break Lake,
distant lake
Sierra found a well camouflaged frog hiking among the lily pads.
Sierra's frog
While it's definitely starting to look like fall in northern Minnesota, there were still a few wildflowers in bloom along the trail.
While Sierra had hiked (and run) about 2/3 of the 3.5 mile loop, she rode in the backpack for about the final mile.
As we returned to Douglas Lodge we had collected our password and emerged from Itasca State Park victorious!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Return to Itasca State Park

After a long absence, Noelle and I returned to Itasca State Park. This time we brought Sierra to explore Minnesota's oldest state park. We did some of the touristy stuff like visit the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
Daddy and Sierra at headwaters
We waded in the not-so-mighty Mississippi's waters
wading in Mississippi
baby Mississippi
and crossed the first bridge to span the river.
1st bridge across teh Mississippi
Sierra crossing the Mississippi
Then we walked the boardwalk trail back to the interpretive center and the car.
kissing bridge

Our next stop was the short Indian Mounds Trail. As soon as we started hiking the trail,
hiking girls
I realized that we'd been on it before. The mounds are impressive, though difficult to see.
burial mounds
We then headed over to the Bearpaw Campground to set up camp. We explored the campground a bit and found our way over to the historic icehouse
ice house
and Lake Itasca. Of course we had to wade in her waters on such a beautiful day.
wading inLake Itasca
Joe Pye weed
Joe Pye Weed booms near the lakeshore

Upon returning to camp we made dinner. For a special after-dinner treat we made s'mores over our campfire.
It was a great way to spend some time together as a family in the great outdoors!