Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota State Parks’

Master Naturalist

December 14, 2008
Field trip to Interstate Park

Field trip to Interstate Park

I started the year looking for an opportunity to learn more about nature. Signing up for a college-level class was a possibility, but I couldn’t imagine enduring freshman biology. Then I stumbled across the Minnesota Master Naturalist website. Perfect!

For 11 weeks in the spring I learned about Minnesota’s natural history. The idea behind this program is that graduates will volunteer 40 hours per year toward environmental causes (education, stewardship, science, and/or administration). The official slogan is “Explore. Teach. Conserve.” Right up my alley and just the impetus I needed!

There is an article about my class in Mankato’s weekly for farmers, The Land.

Ten fun activities from the Minnesota Master Naturalist course:

  1. Searching for delicate spring ephemerals at Interstate Park.
  2. Searching for scat at Fort Snelling State Park and learning that rabbits eat their scat.
  3. Watching a classmate get dressed up like a beaver to discuss adaptation.
  4. Watching a fish dissection and learning that fish have a swim bladder to control buoyancy.
  5. Tasting sap straight out of the sugar maple, and then having homemade maple syrup on top of ice cream, thanks to a classmate.
  6. Learning to identify trees by their branches and bark before the leaves bud out.
  7. Learning about the oak savanna and prescribed burning at William O’Brien State Park.
  8. Discovering, by digging through the sludge in Snelling Lake, that lots of tiny creatures live in our wetlands.
  9. Collaborating with classmates to create a tree identification guide for a small park.
  10. Having that AHA! moment. Why wait until summer to visit our parks? Each season has something unique to offer.

The master naturalist course was a great experience which will evolve with my pledge of volunteer service.

Tidbits of Minnesota State Parks

November 16, 2008

Some of the best things about each of the Minnesota State Parks that I have visited…


Get a workout hiking the rolling hills of this nearby state park.


Seeing remnants of the sandstone quarries makes hiking through this park especially interesting, as if the wild and crazy Kettle River wasn’t enough.

Beaver Creek Valley

This lush, green park in bluff country has fly fishing opportunities.

Picnic area at Cascade River State Park

Picnic area at Cascade River State Park

Cascade River

I love the isolated picnic area nestled among the cedar trees on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s a great place to relax for hours, gazing at this ocean-like lake.

Fort Snelling

The Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet in this metro area nature retreat.

Bird blind at Glendalough State Park

Observation blind at Glendalough


Although I didn’t spot any wildlife, I think it’s cool that the park has observation blinds.

Gooseberry Falls

Walking amidst the waterfalls is great fun!


This is the place to see potholes galore and learn about glaciers. It’s worth a trip over to the Wisconsin side too.

Lake Itasca

Lake Itasca


I love canoeing with the loons on peaceful Lake Itasca. My favorite kind of lake is long and narrow, so Lake Itasca fits the bill with three separate “arms”. The giant red and white pines are the signature of this park.

The massive, rugged rocks of the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke

The massive, rugged rocks in the St. Louis River are a memorable site from the swinging bridge.


The double waterfall is the draw to this park, but I really enjoyed walking through the oak savanna littered with big boulders.

St. Croix

This is an all-around great park with 2 rivers and lots of trails.

Sakatah Singing Trail

Sakatah Singing Hills Trail

Sakatah Lake

Biking or walking the tunnel of trees of the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail is very pleasant. We also saw wild turkeys in the park.

Red pines at Scenic State Park

Red pines at Scenic State Park


This park has the beauty of Itasca without the crowds. Hiking the Chase Point Trail along the high narrow peninsula is awesome if you love red pine and cedar, like me.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The lighthouse in the distance with birch trees in the foreground is a picture-perfect scene.

Temperance River

If you’re visiting the North Shore it’s worth stopping to hike along the river gorge and enjoy the many waterfalls.

Tettagouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park


This park offers beautiful trails high on the rocky cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. I can’t imagine any better vistas of Lake Superior.


Believe it or not, there are no mosquitoes here in the middle of summer!

Wild River

Cross-country skiing is lots of fun here.

William O’Brien

On a hot summer day there’s nothing better than canoeing the St. Croix and stopping at a sandbar on or near Greenberg Island. My dog thought that running and jumping through the ankle-deep, warm water was pure joy, and I would have to agree!

Where to Go?

November 13, 2008

Have you ever wondered where to go camping or hiking? I figure you can’t go wrong with any of the Minnesota State Parks! I joined the Passport Club and look forward to getting a stamp from each of the 70+ state parks and recreation areas. (I have 6 so far. Too bad I can’t count the parks I’ve been to before getting my passport. I guess I’ll have to go again!) It also sounds fun to complete the list of selected hikes in their Hiking Club. Support our parks by joining one of these clubs for $14.95 each. Learn more about the Hiking and Passport Clubs.

A Tent

November 7, 2008

Campsite in Glendalough State Park, before the flood

Our tent served us well for 14 years. Then a major rainstorm left us all wet, so we thought it was time for a new tent.

We bought a Kelty Traildome 4 and tried it out one weekend. This 4-person tent was too small for the two of us and the door was difficult to zipper shut, so we took advantage of REI’s generous return policy, feeling a little guilty about returning something used.

Then we gave a cheap tent a chance—a Coleman on sale for $70. But a light rain in the morning left my sleeping bag wet. And a light breeze caused the tent to nearly collapse. Luckily, Sports Authority also allowed us to return a slightly used tent.

So we decided to look at the really nice tents next, but ended up going a little overboard. More about that later…

A Canoe

November 3, 2008
H is parking the new canoe

H is parking the new canoe

A few years ago my husband and I decided to buy a canoe. I dutifully did my research first—learning about gunwales and thwarts, tumblehome and flare. I didn’t even know the difference between bow and stern before this! We couldn’t afford the lightweight material of Kevlar, so we went with the next best thing—Royalex.

The criteria for picking out a canoe boiled down to what was the least likely to tip over. We test-drove some canoes at the REI and Midwest Mountaineering demos. We rocked the boat and leaned way over the side. If I screamed because we came too close to rolling over, that was not the boat for us. We went home with a beautiful red 16.5-foot Bell Northwind, weighing in at 63 lbs.

The canoe cost a little over a grand, but as they say, plan on spending double the cost of the canoe. This is true, because you also need life jackets that are comfortable and fashionable enough that you will actually wear them. Don’t forget about paddles, hats, dry bags, books, and the absolutely necessary roof rack.

A Roof Rack

Being very frugal, I thought we could get by with sponges and straps to carry the canoe on the roof of the vehicle. One of our first ventures out with the new canoe was to Scenic State Park, a 4.5-hour trip. Well, an hour out of town one of the sponges flew away like a bird and our canoe was hanging precariously on top of the minivan. We turned around and went straight to REI (my favorite store). After donating $300 to Yakima and spending 2 hours cursing each other in the garage trying to install this Yakima-thing, we were on the road again. Enjoying the outdoors is not cheap, but having a roof rack brings peace of mind.

Animosh Miskwaa

I would like to honor Native Americans by giving the canoe an Ojibwe name. I came up with Animosh Miskwaa—Red Dog—as a possible name, but I’m seeking something easier to remember, perhaps Waawaate—There are Northern Lights—since one of my lifetime goals is to see the Northern Lights. Any other ideas?