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Gneiss Outcrops SNA

After spending a good amount of money at the craft and vendor show at Prairie’s Edge Casino last Saturday, Ross and I took advantage of the last nice, snow-free weekend (for a while anyway) and headed to a nearby Scientific and Natural Area.

The Gneiss Outcrops SNA is located not to far away from Granite Falls, off of Chippewa County Road 40. According to the visitor notes on the Minnesota DNR website, the outcrops site doesn’ have any maintained trails or other recreational facilities. The Minnesota River Water Trail is adjacent to the site. The SNA encompasses 234 acres.

The highlight of the Gneiss Outcrops SNA is that they are among the oldest known rocks on Earth, about 3.6 billion years old. Besides hiking, you can do bird watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. But on Saturday, it was get out the walking stick and hike around for us.

It was cool to see some of the outcrops, but because of the wet weather earlier this year, some spots of the SNA were a little water-logged. Ross had hiked ahead of me to check out possible ways for us to take. He’d go a little way, announce “water” and then try a different route. That was repeated a couple of times, so we headed toward the side of the SNA that was right on the county road.

While we still had a little daylight, we then went down the road to Skalbekken County Park in Renville County. We’ve been to the area before, but we didn’t hike any of the trails. This park is the first county park in Renville County, established in 1967, according to the Renville County Parks’ brochure. It also still has former Renville County Commissioner Odean Skalbeck’s log house, originally built in 1868.

We parked by a picnic shelter and set off on a trail, simply marked “trail.” And the first part of this trail was a tad steep. I slowly inched along, my walking stick firmly in my hand, chanting “don’t fall, don’t fall” to myself. Once I got to the bottom, I was OK. We walked along the creek and took in the sights and sounds. Ross mused about coming back when the creek is frozen over and walking across. We’d just have to get down that steep slope at the beginning of the hike.

We didn’t spend a ton of time hiking as it does get dark fast. I saw a couple of deer bounce along a ways from me, so I did get to experience some wildlife. And now that I’ve experienced one of the trails in Skalbekken, I definitely want to explore some more, along with a few other Renville County parks I haven’t hiked. See you on the trails…

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