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Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area

Since the latter part of May, Ross and I have been getting together for what I call “social distance” outings. He lives in Wood Lake, and I live in Marshall, so during the stay-at-home order, we took that seriously. We didn’t see each other in person for two months. It was OK, we just kept doing what we were doing, working and hanging out in our respective homes. But it was nice to finally see him in person, even if it’s six feet apart.

The first two weeks we got together, we explored a couple of trails around Marshall. For a change of pace in mid-June, we went further afield, to the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area near Jordan. He mentioned this spot, which he thought was north of Mankato. Well, it was a little further….

We got there around 3:30. We first stopped at what looked like a historic house (which is part of the recreation area), but then headed toward the main parking lot. There was a smattering of vehicles there; people enjoying a pleasant afternoon. We’re getting our walking sticks out, and a man at one of the picnic tables asked where we got them. Our walking sticks don’t always get compliments. Ross told him that he got them at Runnings and the man said that there was a Runnings near where he lived (maybe he’ll go look for one). They’re nice walking sticks that even have a compass and a thermometer. Mine is a fun, metallic purple; Ross’ is blue.

So we set off, veering left on the trail. This portion of the path seemed to be mainly soft silt. It was all right for most part, but it got a little sticky. We saw a group of swans swimming in the water, a welcoming sight. But then we got tired of plodding through the silt. We posed next to a tree that was voraciously gnawed on by a beaver and we headed toward the tall grass.

So we’re making our way through this tall grass, which at times was taller than me. It was a little better than the somewhat squishy silt. Then there were the countless number of branches and sticks we trod upon. I ended up tripping over one of those sticks, much to my embarrassment. Leave it to me to stumble on a stick.

In looking up information on the recreation area on the Minnesota DNR website, I learned that it has 47 miles of hiking trails. There’s also 35 miles of mountain bike trails, 30 miles of horse trails and 9.5 miles of paved bike trails. It was also an important location during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

We had turned around and headed back to the trail center. After a quick rest, we decided to take the Hiking Club trail. No silt or other major obstacles this time. Well, there was a fallen tree that we couldn’t climb over, but we could snake our way through the branches.

Along this trail, we came across a lone tombstone. It was for the wife of Geo. F. Strait. It didn’t give her name, just that she died in 1860 and was a little more than 19 years old. Of course, I had to look up more information on the Straits. I learned in my quick Google search that George F. Strait (not the country singer) had a flour mill in Shakopee in the 1870s. Then I found an entry on the findagrave.com website, which said George had married Frances M. Strait on May 14, 1859. They had one child born in 1860, but that child died before 1865. Ross thought that the wife had died in childbirth. George died in 1887. Not a ton of information, but still interesting.

The trail seemed to go on and on. And we realized that we should have used mosquito repellent. The mosquitoes haven’t been that bad on our trips around Marshall and Camden State Park in the last few Saturdays, but we definitely noticed them while walking the Hiking Club trail. I slapped at one and it left a smear of blood by my right wrist. Ew…. Ross noted some railroad tracks near where we were walking and meandered toward that spot. I’m like “you’re on your own, bud” and kept making tracks down the trail.

While the second part of the Hiking Club trail seemed never-ending, we did finally find the parking area of the trail center. And since there are apparently 47 miles of hiking trails, we still have plenty to explore in the recreational area. We just have to remember to bring along the bug spray and sunscreen.

Since I started writing on this particular column, we’ve been to several parks and the like, which included a trek to a state forest, a first for us. Let’s just say that experience could’ve gone better.

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