Hiking in Minnesota

2017 has flown past me, much to my dismay. It seems like I was just buying presents for Christmas last year, marveling in the signs of spring, splashing around in the swimming pond in Camden State Park and looking for fall colors in Minneopa State Park.

Time marches on. If we could only stop time, just for a day, or heck, even a moment. But I digress.

As Ross and I were hiking through Camden State Park this past Saturday, I kept thinking about how much I have started to appreciate nature, especially when we have such opportunities close by. There’s three state parks within a 35-mile radius of Marshall, with Camden just a dozen miles down 23. There’s several county parks as well. I could go on and on about them until I’m blue in the face. But growing up, I wasn’t one to get outdoors on a regular basis. I usually was holed up inside reading (not that there is anything bad about that, I still do that from time to time). Now when Ross and I chat about weekend plans, our one question to each other is — park? And if so, which one do we want to visit?

At this time of the year, the leaves have mostly fallen, there’s some snow on the ground and there isn’t any color to look at. But you may catch a glimpse of a deer or hear birdsong. And bonus, no mosquitoes to swat!

I’ve been finding myself looking at the Minnesota DNR website more and more. It’s mainly to get briefs for the outdoors page, but lately I’ve been searching for features of different parks to explore, helpful tips and weekend activities at state parks. One of the links on the DNR’s state park page is under activities in state parks and trails — find a new favorite hike! Well, I’m always looking for new hikes, just wish it wasn’t too far away for some of these state parks.

So I click on the new favorite hike link, which leads to Minnesota HikeFinder. There are recommended hikes for pretty much every state park and recreation area (we haven’t been to any recreation areas, better put it on the list). The HikeFinder suggests joining the Hiking Club or trying geocaching. I clicked on hiking safety tips. According to the list, you are responsible for your own safety (yep). It recommends you stay on designated roads and trails. Well, there have been times that we’ve gone off-trail, which had led to me getting scratched-up legs or burdock on my clothing. But, hey, it was an adventure and I didn’t hurt myself (too much). It also says to hike with friends — “it’s more fun and you have someone to help you if you need it.” (in my case, I need Ross for his map-reading skills). There’s allowing for bad weather, pacing yourself, leaving the area better than you found it, learning about pests like deer ticks and poison ivy.

Next is the hiking checklist on what to bring. I have to admit I don’t bring that many items along when we go hiking. Items on the list include a cell phone, a first aid kit, a pocket knife, a map/compass, water purification tablets, a radio with batteries, water, a pocket mirror to use a signaling device and food. Our hikes aren’t usually day-long excursions, but I can see how several of these things are essential. In the summer, we do apply repellent and sunscreen. We carry water and cell phones. And Ross has a map while I dutifully follow him and hope to keep up.

Will we keep up with our park visits during the winter? Maybe, possibly…