Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bluffside Park: Lower Loop Hike

It was raining (and even snowing a bit) this morning, so we spent a good portion of the day cooped up in the house. After about 1 pm the sun started to pole through the clouds a bit though and so Noelle, Mom, Sierra and I opted to get out of the house for a bit.

We headed back over to Winona. This time we would explore Bluffside Park a bit. Today has been much colder than the previous few days and so we were bundled up a bit. Still, the colorful leaves made for a nice walk in the woods. We didn't walk too far, just most of the lower loop trail. I believe it is marked as the "Rollers" on the trail map. We probably spent about an hour and a half hiking.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden

Today Noelle, Mom, Sierra and I headed up Wisconsin Highway 35, through the town of Fountain City and over to the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden. The sculpture park is the work of the late Herman Rusch, who was a farmer, played the fiddle for local dances and created some interesting art. Noelle, Mom and myself had last visited back on June 11 of 2011. However, this would be Sierra's first visit. While we had a difficult time convincing Sierra that she would like this place, once we got her there it was obvious she enjoyed it. Here are some photos from our visit:

After our visit of the sculpture garden, we headed back into Fountain City for lunch at the Monarch Public House. The Irish food was delicious and their own brewed beer wasn't bad either. Fittingly, I opted for the Prairie Moon Red Ale. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sugarloaf Bluff Hike in Winona, Minnesota

Last night we made the drive from the Falls down to Galesville for the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) Weekend. Today was forecast for beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures. Heaven knows we haven't had much of those lately and so I made an effort to get out and enjoy it before the onset of winter.

I made the drive across the river and into Winona. My plan was to look for a birthday present for Noelle and also explore Sugarloaf Bluff, a prominent landmark above Winona. The birthday gift mission ended up being a fail, but the hike up Sugarloaf Bluff was a success. The hike starts near Edina Realty
and heads into the woods.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are in full color right now. Perhaps just past their peak with many littering the trail.
As I approached the crest of the bluff,
views opened up down into Winona
and out to the Mississippi River.

After one final ascent, the distinctive bluff was suddenly right before my eyes.
I enjoyed the view for a bit and then retraced my steps back to the car.

Update: October 19, 2018

After yesterday's hike up Sugarloaf Bluff, I decided I wanted to share the experience with Noelle, Sierra and Mom. After our visit to Prairie Moon and the Monarch we headed back across the river for my second hike of Sugarloaf. It would be everyone else's first.

Today's hike started under an overcast sky.
We made our way through the colorful forest

and up to the crest.
By the time we ascended to the bluff itself,
the sky was clearing nicely. The girls posed for a couple photos

and we watched some climbers for a bit
before descending down to the car for the drive back into Wisconsin.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Superior National Forest: North Dark River Trail

After my short hike on the Sturgeon River Trail today, I was in the mood for another short walk. I opted to hike the North Dark River Trail as last week Noelle, Sierra and I had hiked the South Dark River Trail. I crossed the Dark River on a bridge
and shortly thereafter found the parking lot and trailhead for the hike. It was a pleasant walk in the snowy woods along the edge of a small canyon carved out by the Dark River.
There were a few side trails that led down to the river
and lots of overlooks of the gorge through the trees.
I made my way to an old road and then made a left onto it to get back to the trailhead.

The road passed through a pine plantation on the way,
before leading me back to the start of the hike.
It was a short but interesting hike.

Superior National Forest: Sturgeon River Trail, South Loop

With an early winter settling in over the Northland, I wanted to get out for one more hike in the woods without snowshoes strapped to my feet. I decided to head down to the same area Noelle, Sierra and I had hiked last week to check out the Sturgeon River Trail. Today's forecast called for temperatures just above freezing and clearing skies, so I was a bit surprised to be driving in snow and freezing rain. In fact, I happened upon an accident where a van was being pulled out of the ditch.
I made it to the trailhead
without incident and hit the trail.
Sturgeon River Trail is a series of loops. I would be hiking the southernmost loop.
Immediately, it was evident just how quickly winter had overtaken fall. Colorful leaves littered the snowy trail surface.

Soon enough I found my first view of Jean Lake.
I would have intermittent views of the water throughout the middle portion of my hike. I also got some occasional views of beaver ponds
and other swampy areas, marked with the presence of tamarack trees
and alders.
I passed some grouse hunters and soon after made my way to the Adirondack-style shelter
above the shores of Jean Lake.
I ate a snack there and then finished up my hike with a return to the car.