State Park Chronicles: Nerstrand & Lake Sakatah

A few years ago, when I bought my first yearly state park pass, I made it my personal mission to try and go to every single state park in Minnesota. While living in Duluth for a few years I frequented parks like Gooseberry and Jay Cooke and this summer I’ll be making my 9th trip (I’ve gone there eight years in a row!) to Itasca State Park and camping with my best friend.

I’ve decided to chronicle my trips to all of the state parks here on the blog. I mean I might as well considering it’s been quite some time since I’ve kept up with the “Adventure” part of Adventures and Espresso. Not sure if I’ll go back and pull old pictures from some of those northern parks or if I’ll post new ones the next time I decide to drag myself to the North Shore.

To kick off this series, however, I’ve got two parks to share with you! Nerstrand Big Woods and Lake Sakatah. I went to both of these in one day, a Saturday a few weeks ago. Afterwards I promptly ended up sick, either with incredibly bad allergies or a virus. I’m still recovering from that!

Alright, so let’s start off with Nerstrand Big Woods State Park:

This park is located northeast of Faribault and takes it’s name from the Big Woods which is a large contiguous forest that covered most of Minnesota back when. Here’s a little snippet from the DNR about it:
When the first settlers arrived in 1854, they discovered an island of woods in the vast oak savanna prairie which now makes up Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Sugar maple, basswood, oak, hickory, aspen, elm, ash, and ironwood trees shade the land. Over 200 varieties of wildflowers, along with countless varieties of ferns and mushrooms grew in the Big Woods.

Park highlights include 11 miles of hiking trails, gorgeous wildflowers, and a “hidden” waterfall!

While I was there I hiked around 6 miles. The trails were really nicely upkept and there were only a few spots where the mud got bad in the middle of the trails. It’s really nice and shaded for most of the trails, so many huge trees help with that. I think the only thing that I disliked was that the trail that leads back from the waterfall to the parking lot is almost entirely uphill… That was rough!! But I made it!!

I would love to go back to Nerstrand in the fall because I bet the trees will be absolutely gorgeous! I highly recommend this park.

 

The second park that I went to was Lake Sakatah. Members of the Dakota Nation originally inhabited this area and they named it Sakatah which loosely translates to Singing Hills. Cannon River, which the lake is part of, was an important way of travel for the Native Americans of this area because the Big Woods in this area made it difficult to travel across land.

So what did I think of Lake Sakatah? I was there for I think half an hour total? I will definitely go back there but the amount of mosquitos was so horrendously bad that I had to leave. I was coated in bug spray and yet they were still all over me. It was awful! There also wasn’t anything really clearly marking trails and I think that from where you park you almost have to take the main park road back to trails but I also didn’t do a ton of exploring to try and find out otherwise.

It has a nice fishing pier though and the lake seems gorgeous so if you’re more of the fishing or boating type over the hiking type this might be a good park for you to check out.

I think I’ll try to return there sometime this fall when the bugs have died off and attempt to explore just a little bit more. There’s also a paved biking/hiking trail that runs 39 miles from Mankato to Faribault and I think it would be fun to bike this sometime.

Overall it was a really fun day and it was great to be able to check two parks off my list. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this series soon! Just as long as the weather is nice I’m hoping to spend at least one day every weekend out at different state parks.

 

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A Walk in the Park

Took a nice, albeit buggy, hike with my best friend last Friday and I made this little set of photos to go with it. So here’s a quite short post today but I just wanted to share the pictures 🙂

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Throwback Thursday: Great River Bluffs State Park

Last summer my boyfriend and I had a lovely adventure to Great River Bluffs State Park.

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The trails were pretty easy, and a lot of it was shaded which was nice. The weather was gorgeous and the views were absolutely stunning.

One helpful tip! Check yourself for spiders before you leave the park! Because there may be a chance that you will have one crawling all over you and then your boyfriend will have to smash it with an almost full cup of coffee while you’re driving so that you don’t panic and drive off the road. (WHAT A FUN TIME).

Great River Bluffs is a beautiful park, small yet totally worth the trip!

Hope y’all enjoyed the pictures.

The Distance From Me To You

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I purchased The Distance From Me To You by Marina Gessner a few weeks ago and read it in less than 24 hours.

It’s about a girl named McKenna who is planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail with her best friend before they go off to college. Unfortunately for McKenna, her best friend backs out on her last minute. Instead of canceling the trip, McKenna decides to hike the trail by herself. She heads out on her own and along the way meets Sam. Sam is a guy who has dropped out of school and run away from an abusive home life. They fall in love and lot’s of trials and tribulations happen (standard contemporary book stuff, you know?). The book is full of lots of obstacles and hiking and I really enjoyed it.

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This book was a really easy read. The story went by really quickly and the ending really made me want a sequel, I would love to read more about McKenna and Sam.

Lately I’ve been really into these “adventure” stories. It’s been so dreary and cold here that to read these types of books makes me a little less sad that it’s still winter and a little more excited about being able to go hiking this spring and summer.

Two criticisms that I had about the story are the sections regarding hiking, and the insta-love component. I would have appreciated more detail regarding the actual hike, more about the trail and the towns and what really goes into hiking the Appalachian Trail. I liked that the author included a lot at the beginning about all of the training that McKenna did but once she got on the trail it really seemed like she just hiked. There wasn’t a ton of detail regarding what she did when she wasn’t hiking or what the towns she stopped off in were like. The other aspect that I didn’t like, the insta-love, I really should have seen coming. The love was mentioned in the summary on the cover flap so I saw it coming and since it is a contemporary novel I figured it was going to be pretty insta-lovey, but it still bugs me whenever it happens.

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I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads and recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure stories. Or contemporary books. It was an easy read and had a great balance of light-hearted and serious tones and story lines. It wasn’t the perfect story by any means, but I still loved it.

Have any of you guys read this book? If so, what did you think about it?

Hope you all have a great day.

Throwback Thursday: Jay Cooke State Park

Back in October, I went to Jay Cooke State Park with my dad to go hiking. We planned on hiking around five to seven miles and then heading back to Duluth to watch the U of M Twin Cities and UMD hockey game.

Things definitely did not go as planned…

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There’s what we actually did, and yes, that does in fact say 112 floors.

Now that you’ve seen the aftermath of that adventure, here are some of the pictures that I took.

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So right around this point on the hike, we went a little off trail. I then sent this picture to my stepmom…

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And captioned it “guess what dad did…” Her immediate guess was that he had fallen and hurt himself because the last time we went hiking that’s what my stepmom did. But in reality my dad just decided to ignore the map and took us down into a giant ditch that we had to climb out of.

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I don’t think you can really tell from this picture but that’s a hill, and that’s what we had to climb up to get back onto the trail.

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Eventually, we stopped for lunch and ate at this really nice overlook.

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Then came the “fun” part of the hike. We decided to follow the loop around Upper Lake Trail and promptly started the too long trek that by the end of it I was definitely contemplating just rolling down the hills. (I actually would have done this if I could have gone back to my dorm to change before dinner and the hockey game)

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One of the highlights of the trail was how pretty the trees were. Absolutely gorgeous. I had forgotten my memory card for my camera that day so unfortunately all I got were iPhone pictures but I still think they turned out pretty great.

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There’s a panoramic view from the top of one of the numerous hills on the trail.

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On our way back to the parking lot we found this porcupine just hanging out in a tree. It was really cool to see one so close up.

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And there it is, the final picture. Me standing on the swinging bridge after this insane hike. My dad took the picture and immediately after we walked as fast as we could to the car so we could finally sit down. I had actually brought a change of shoes and was overjoyed to be able to put on fuzzy slippers and just sit down. I don’t think I got out of bed more than three times the entire next day.

I hope you all enjoyed my pictures from my very interesting hike through Jay Cooke State Park. I’ll talk to you soon.

Throwback Thursday: Itasca State Park

So I figured that every once in a while, probably once a month, I would make a post about some adventure that I had in the past that I haven’t shared on the blog before.

This first one is a compilation of pictures from the two trips I took to Itasca State Park this summer.

 

Our first stop, after the visitor’s center of course, is always Peacepipe Vista. The stairs down to this point are not the safest but the view is amazing! There are two hiking trails that branch off from this vista but I’ve only hiked the one to the right. It leads you to a boat launch near a campsite. I’d love to someday hike the other trail but usually my sister and I have to get back up the stairs so we don’t keep our grandparents waiting.

Another favorite of mine is the Headwaters of the Mississippi. We always stop off there after we eat lunch. It tends to be very busy so I don’t have very many pictures from this recent trip.

If you want to cross the rocks there remember to be careful! Any submerged rocks can be VERY slippery. I’ve only crossed the rocks twice because I don’t like doing it when other people are around; but walking through the water or across the small wooden bridge are just as good!

Also, it’s always fun to stand on the bridges and watch fish try to swim against the river’s current. I recommend that.

 Mirror selfies are always fun. (Sorry to my sister for posting this.)

Once we finish up at the Headwaters we get on to the Wilderness Drive which is a one-way road that weaves through the park and is so pretty. We usually stop off at the red pine, and white pine and look at those.

When I went there with my dad this summer he suggested that we hike the Blow Down Trail. Let me just tell you this now, DO NOT HIKE THIS TRAIL UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED! They do not maintain this trail so it’s only about a foot wide, completely overgrown, and there are SO many bugs. At one point there were literally hundreds of mosquitoes on my back.

Now, this picture is of the Buffalo Kill Site, which is essentially just a swamp right next to the entrance to the trail for the formerly record holding red pine.   By this point of every trip it’s getting late and we are ready to leave so we head out to the fire tower and hike the half mile out and prepare ourselves to climb 100 feet up to the viewing tower.

The view is absolutely amazing from the top. I’m terrified of heights but I’ve climbed up there five times now and it’s really become a summer tradition.

It’s absolutely exhausting but so worth it in the end.

Once we climb down and get back to the car it’s time we leave the park. Someday I’d love to do more hiking there or even bike the trail through the park.

Itasca is a beautiful place to visit and it’s always a highlight of my summer.