33. Charles A. Lindbergh State Park 1/19/13
34. Maplewood State Park 1/20/13
35. Lake Carlos State Park 1/20/13
Miles Driven: 348
Time in Parks: 4 hours and 1 minute
Miles Hiked: 3.8
Find below the conclusion to our travels through Mid-Minnesota. First up, Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.
Here in a little town is a little park built around a little house in which a little boy once grew up and then went on to fly his aeroplane over the ocean. His name was Charles A. Lindbergh and he was the most famous man in the world.
ABOVE: Charles Lindbergh, American Hero.
BELOW: Charles Lindbergh, getting a gift from the Nazis.
Besides being a great airplane flyer, Charles Lindbergh was also a bit of a fascist and an avowed eugenisist. Woody Guthrie really hated him, as you can hear in this song:
Not entirely fair, probably, but when reading about old Lindy he comes across as such a sanctimonious hypocrite that it’s hard to feel too sorry for him.
Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is located on the very northern edge of Little Falls, Minnesota. It was here that Lindbergh spent most of his youth, the son of Charles Lindbergh, Sr., a U.S. Congressman.
Supposedly you can get into the house for a tour during the summer, but in the dead of winter we couldn’t even get close enough to peek in the windows. Bastards.
According to Wikipedia, during his record setting 33 hour flight from New York to Paris, Charles Lindbergh
faced many challenges including skimming over both storm clouds at 10,000 feet and wave tops at as low at 10 feet, fighting icing, flying blind through fog for several hours, and navigating only by the stars (whenever visible), and “dead reckoning” before landing at Le Bourget Airport…
Once he had landed, a crowd of 150,000 people “stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for ‘nearly half an hour.’” Lindbergh became an instant celebrity throughout Europe, America, and around the world.
After returning home, Lindbergh toured the U.S. extensively along with his plane, The Spirit of Saint Louis. According to estimates, within a year of his flight 30 million people, or a quarter of the U.S. population, had seen Lindbergh in person.
ABOVE: The Spirit of Saint Louis, hanging in the National Air and Space Museum.
While we were at Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, however, there were no airplanes or ticker tape parades or screaming crowds of Frenchmen.
Just some woods.
And a stream.
And some WPA buildings.
Okay peeps, brace yourselves. This one is a beauty. Maplewood State Park is located in the leaf “mountain” area and is known for its stunning fall colors.
As you can probably tell we missed fall by a bit, but it was pretty nice in winter, too.
Pretty much we would have each given a kidney to live in this park
I don’t know where that third one came from…..BeBe?
Geordie looks so svelte without his kidney. This park had it all, lakes, prairie, woods, beaver lodges…
Did you know that beaver’s get frozen into their lodges? They don’t hibernate, but they eat bark from their beaver pantry or cache which is attached to their lodge. Once the ice freezes there is no going out for more food, so hopefully the beavers have enough wood to feed their family the whole winter through. Good luck little buddies!
BELOW: Check out this deer picture I got. Pretty good, right?
This is a pelican, presumably because Maplewood is near Pelican Rapids MN.
Here I am riding said pelican. Apparently I have a bad habit of doing this.
And there you go: Maplewood State Park, people. We would have liked to have stayed longer, but even though we were missing kidneys and woozy from the anesthesia and also very slowly bleeding out, we still had one more park to visit, and so we pressed on, because we are kind of like heroes.
And so the heroes drove south, past field and lake, through Perham and New York Mills. The last stop on our trip was Lake Carlos State Park, northwest of Saint Cloud. It had been a three day rodeo, and we were ready to go home. When we got out of the car it was overcast and very cold and windy.
We hiked over these marshy bits just across the parking lot from the lake. It was beautiful but we weren’t really feeling it. There is a lot more to this park, including prairie and a tamarack bog, but those trails were closed for the winter.
ABOVE: There were lots of these weird bumpy bits in the bog. Any ideas, nature people? They seemed pretty solid.
Once we’d come through the woods, we walked across the lake back to our car. Out on the ice the wind was really whipping. One of us fell on our butt though now we can’t remember which. Mandy insists it was me. Probably it was me. In any event, it was cold enough that we didn’t bother to take any pictures. And then we drove ourselves home.
COMING UP NEXT on A State of Nature: 37 deer. A killing in the woods. And the creepy small town St. Patrick’s day parade interview that wasn’t.
30. Father Hennepin State Park
31. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
32. Crow Wing State Park
Miles Driven: 177
Time in Parks: 3 hours 35 minutes
Miles Hiked: 3.6
Welcome to mid-Minnesota. This is the place where the hardwood forest meets pine forest and where most of the movie Fargo took place. (If you remember, a lot of the movie actually takes place in a town called Brainerd, which is where Geordie’s sister lives, or at least near there, though it’s not really like the movie—at least she’s never put anybody through a wood chipper, that we know of).
But anyway, here are some parks.
Father Hennepin State Park is on Mille Lacs lake, which is a really big shallow lake, kind of like a giant puddle. It’s cool to drive around because it’s kind of like the ocean, except totally not. The Mille Lacs Indian Reservation (Anishinabe) borders the lake, and for about 20 miles Highway 169 curves along its shore. This is probably bad for the lake, but it cuts down on property values, giving Mille Lacs a refreshingly blue collar feel.
Ice fishing is a really big deal on Mille Lacs. People set up mini fishin’ towns, with roads and bathrooms on the lake. They bring their generators and sleep in their fish houses. Some people have satellite television. You can even call and order pizza and it will be delivered to your ice house a half mile out on the lake.
Father Louis Hennepin, for whom the park was named, was a French explorer in the late 1600’s. While on an expedition he was taken captive by a band of Dakota warriors. During his captivity he was treated very harshly. He was given a special robe of beaver skins dressed with porcupine quills, soaked in a steam bath, and “rubbed with wild cat oil.” Then he was adopted by the chief and offered a wife.
Later, Hennepin was rescued by a fellow named Du Luth (yup, Duluth). In said rescue the hero, Du Luth, gave the Dakota warriors a “tongue lashing” and sent them back to lake Mille Lacs, but not before the Dakota helped him and his company prepare for their journey, provided them with a map, and asked them to “come again and trade.” Just another sad tale of Indian savagery.
Hennepin ran home to France and wrote a fanciful version of his adventures, which quickly became a best seller. And now, my dear friends, I must return my overdue books to the Hennepin County Public Library.
OK, so. An hour+ later we were ready to leave the park. Please note where the sun is in this photo. It’s maybe two hours from setting.
Geordie and I hopped in the car and drove across the southern end of the lake to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. When we got there it was starting to look like this:
Mille Lacs Kathio is the 4th largest state park in Minnesota, over 10,000 acres in size. A great place to get lost, dontchya think?
It took us awhile, but Geordie and I finally found a snowy path and started out on what was supposed to be a two mile trek.
We were following a snowshoe trail. What this means is that some sadistic park ranger had spent an afternoon tying ribbons to trees in no apparent order.
Pretty soon it got so dark that it was hard to see the ribbons at all. Also we didn’t have a flashlight and the cell phone didn’t work and it would have been a good cue for some wolves to start howling, though they didn’t. We decided to turn back the way we had come and ran back to the car. I though it was kind of fun, like a game of capture the flag or something, but of course Geordie thought we were going to die.
We spent the night at Geordie’s sister’s house (not quite) in Brainerd. She made us some tasty Tachos (tater-tot nachos) with roasted potatoes instead of tots, and in the morning we were off to see two more state parks.
Crow Wing State Park is 9 miles south of Brainerd and runs along the Mississippi River.
In the 1860’s this was the site of one of Minnesota’s largest settlements, Old Crow Wing. It was the northernmost settlement along the Mississippi at the time, but because the railroad went to Brainerd instead and because the state was relocating all of the Indians that had lived there to reservations it became a ghost…settlement.
When we got to Crow Wing it was cold and super windy, but the sky was beautiful. Anyway, BRAG ALERT, we took a handful of award winning photos. Please vote on your favorite,
While we walked through the park we were followed by fast moving snow devils.
I think if we had come in the summer there would have been a nice wide path with lots of signs recording the history of the settlement. It would probably be a fairly busy park with campers and day visitors, but for Geordie and I in the bitter winter Crow Wing was an empty, abandoned tundra. That also had some lovely pines.
We hope you all have enjoyed this rapid fire week of parks. We are heading out this weekend for another set of parks to the west and need to go pack now so we can get an early start tomorrow. We’ll finish telling you about the rest of these mid-Minnesota parks—Lindbergh, Maplewood, and Lake Carlos—next week.
Thanks for reading! More to come…
28. Lake Bronson State Park
29. Old Mill State Park
Miles Driven: 482
Time in Parks: 2 hours 37 minutes
Miles Hiked: 2.9
The morning after visiting Hayes Lake State Park, Mandy and I hightailed it west and north, about as far west and north as you can go and still be in Minnesota.
When we got to Lake Bronson State Park it was six degrees and the sun was just a bright spot in the clouds.
Like Hayes Lake, Lake Bronson is actually a reservoir. In 1936 the WPA dammed the South Branch of Two Rivers to supply water to the town of Bronson and the surrounding countryside. A year later they gave the land to the state for a park.
The WPA also built this old stone water tower. You can climb up inside of it and look out at the park. It’s kind of like a castle. For some reason it made me think of W.B. Yeats and all of his poetry that I could never understand. Walking through it I felt like a ghost. I was impressed with what many regular hands could make.
From Lake Bronson, Old Mill State Park is about 40 miles directly south. When we got there Mandy pooped in a frozen outhouse. Then she did her happy dance. It was 4 degrees.
Old Mill State Park is very quaint. The Middle River, which here flows through an idyllic wooded valley, once turned the grist mill that gives the park its name. In one of the many old WPA buildings someone had piled fresh pine bows. There was a large wood stove in the center of the room and cord wood ready to burn. The room smelled like long ago Christmas.
Above: WPA bridge over the middle river.
This is an old settler cabin refurbished by the parks system. The park is pretty much built around idealizing old settler society. I’m usually pretty resistant to this kind of willfully ahistoric nostalgia, but this is pretty cute.
The mill itself still gets fired up once a year. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, families would have traveled from miles around to get their grain turned into flour here. The spot became a popular community meeting place.
Standing in front of the building, I could almost imagine the families in their boots and bonnets, wagons whining up the ox trail. It’s an appealing picture, the specter of a simpler past. But of course, back then we were already well on our way to where we are now. The Dakota had been routed and shipped out, the passenger pigeons gone the way of, well, passenger pigeons.
After peering around the mill site, Mandy and I walked back to the car and headed off. Technically, we were done with our parks for the trip
I still wanted to make one more stop, however.
Outside the tiny town of Fertile, about 60 miles south of Old Mill, a major change has slowly overtaken the landscape. 12,000 years ago the land here formed part of the shore of giant Lake Agassiz. Much later, farmers tried to eek a living out of the thin, gravely soil, but most of their crops withered and died. It was for this reason that, thirteen years ago, the Nature Conservancy was able to buy up 24,000 nearly contiguous acres of land.
Today, the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge is the largest native prairie restoration project ever attempted in the United States. By the time they’re done planting, almost 55 square miles of native prairie will have been reclaimed.
The project isn’t very well known, and I suppose it’s no wonder. There’s not too much to see up there, especially in the middle of winter. Mandy and I could find no one to talk to, and driving around, it was hard to tell what was part of the preserve, and what was just sickly farm fields.
Still, being there got me very excited.
For the project, the Nature Conservancy has spent over a decade collecting and planting seeds, and filling in over 100 miles of drainage ditches. It is a process this country has rarely seen, a strange reversion, the stranglehold of civilization loosening its grip, if only just a little.
Still it felt good, just standing there. You could almost imagine things, for once, going in a different direction. Plants and animals coming back. Railroads and telephone poles rolled up like so much carpet. The sky felt big, the land almost abandoned. Somehow, it seemed easier to breathe.
NEXT UP: MID-MINNESOTA. FATHER HENNEPIN, MILLE LACS KATHIO, CROW WING, CHARLES A. LINDBERGH, MAPLEWOOD AND LAKE CARLOS STATE PARKS.
25. Franz Jevne State Park
26. Zippel Bay State Park
27. Hayes Lake State Park
Miles Driven: 437
Time in Parks: 3 hours 40 minutes
Miles Hiked: 3.5
Over the holidays, Mandy and I embarked on a three day journey up to the far northwest corner of the state. This region straddles the border between two of Minnesota’s largest biomes—coniferous forest and northern grassland—with something called “aspen parkland” in between.
On the day after Christmas we drove up to International Falls, a factory town on the U.S./Canada border. According to Forbes Magazine I.F. is the coldest city in the continental United States, and it pretty much lived up to its reputation. It felt a little like being at the north pole if the north pole was home to a giant paper mill instead of Santa’s workshop.
The next morning we went down to the Rainy River to peer across it into the bizzaro backwards-land known as Canada. Did you know there was a whole other country up there? I mean, sure, you’ve heard of it, but have you ever really internalized the reality of Canada? Have you taken the fact of Canada into your heart? They’re up there—even now—I’m telling you. Canada is real.
From International Falls we headed due west to Franz Jevne, Minnesota’s smallest state park.
Above: Mandy was much smaller than most of the trees.
The park brochure said there was a big rocky outcrop we were supposed to be able to get on top of for a good view, but none of the paths seemed to go there. Finally we had to off-road it. Sorry nature!
Mandy was also much smaller than this rock.
Puffy white snow trees.
That way to Canada, I think.
This was a very big (red pine?) tree. Note my little legs at the bottom for scale.
From Franz Jevne we drove west and north, past this giant land fish.
You know that little tit on the top of Minnesota? It’s called the northwest angle and it’s mostly a lake. It’s also the northern most point in the continental United States. Zippel Bay State Park is located near the southern terminus of the tit, on the lower shore of Lake of the Woods. Of course, it was the end of December when we visited, so the lake just looked like this:
There is a weird thing that happens when you walk out into whiteness so total that your eyes can’t tell the ground from the sky. Everything gets very quiet, as though the world is being erased.
On the other side of the bay was this light pole thing and lots of ice fishing houses, though somehow we didn’t get any pictures of those.
Also, there was this giant ice cliff that Mandy climbed on top of.
It was after one o’clock by the time we left Zippel Bay. From there, the road lead further north, up to Warroad where Mandy bought a highly conspicuous hat.
Hayes Lake was only a river once. In 1967, however, the river was dammed and the surrounding valley flooded to create more recreation opportunities for area residents. Today, the lake is used for boating and fishing. The surrounding parkland—contiguous with Beltrami Island State Forest—is said to be home to wolves, moose, lynx and black bears. Needless to say, we didn’t see any of these.
Hayes Lake, with giant snow snake tracks.
Ice or granite? Ice.
At Hayes Lake, Mandy and I walked down a wide snow mobile trail until it started to get dark, then we turned around. We seemed to be the only people in the park. Out over the frozen lake, the sun was going down.
We drove out of the park, slowly found our way back to the highway that was supposed to take us to our motel. On the way Mandy spotted these deer grazing in a field. They could have jumped out and killed us, but apparently they didn’t feel like it. Mandy was very proud of her dear-spotting abilities.
The motel room, when we got there, was small and smelled of ambiguous things it’s probably best not to think too much about.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Miles Driven: 12 miles out of our way
Time in park: 2.5 hours
Miles Hiked: 2.5 miles
We visited Sakatah Lake State park with my (Mandy’s) family, including the newest member of the family, my baby niece Erin.
Papa Bear, Sister Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear
I tried to make it home for your birth, but you came two weeks early and I already had the moving truck ordered and so didn’t make it back to Minnesota in time. I cried when I found out you were born, because I was happy but also because I felt bad I couldn’t be there for you and your mom.
It turned out she didn’t need me. You and your parents made it through the whole birth just fine and your Papa didn’t even get woozy. I missed your first days, but since you came, there have been so many other firsts to see.
I saw some of your first smiles.
First tastes of food
First state park.
First crazy orange marbled orb-weaver spider (mine too, Baby.)
I saw my sister turn into your mother.
I saw my father become a grandpa
I saw my mother become a grandma. And now she’s retiring from her job of 30 years to babysit you this spring.
And maybe when you are older we will ride our bikes on the 39 mile Sakatah state bike trail that runs through the park all the way to Mankato. Or maybe we will canoe on the lazy Cannon river. Or maybe you will be more like your Ma and Pa and will want to fish for walleye.
Or maybe we will do something completely different.
The weather here is fine baby girl and I have been busy with work and applying to school, and with this blog.
But I have been missing you this week.
I think it is time to pay a visit.
Mandy: What happened at this park?
Geordie: I don’t know. Where are the notes?
(rummaging sounds as Mandy destroys the room looking for the single piece of paper that will spark their memories)
Geordie: You know if we had a personal assistant this wouldn’t be a problem.
(More rummaging, from Geordie this time)
Geordie: I found it! It was right in our binder, dummy.
Mandy: (under her breath) I will cut you.
Miles Driven: 36 out of our way
Time in Park: 2 hrs.
Miles Hiked: 4
Highlights: One of the only parks we made it to in the fall. Nice woods hike and swampy marsh. Pretty little pothole lakes that would be a good place to see some critters. We didn’t see any lake critters, but you might.
Due to some poor planning, we actually missed the peak fall colors, so this is kind of the best shot we got. Enjoy it.
This is me riding a metal turtle outside the visitor’s center (It is the first but definitely not the last large fake animal I will ride for this blog)
This is a representation of a Blanding turtle, which I later found out was a “threatened species” in Minnesota. I didn’t know that at the time and I like to think that if I had known it I would have ridden this turtle in a more respectful way
This was a comment we found on the “tell us how we’re doing” board in the visitor’s center. It says, “It [Lake Maria State park] was awesome! We saw rocks and sticks and many peices of dirt.” [sic]
Thanks for your insight, Anna.As we walked through the woods there would occasionally be picturesque wetlands. Though you might miss the prime bird season, fall is a good time to visit wetlands. No mosquitoes.
And then…Lake Maria. This is a lake where you are not allowed to have an Outboard motor over 20 horsepower. Makes for good fishing (I have read) and a quiet walk.
A stroll back through the woods, an unsuspecting companion, some carefully aimed leaves………
The less said about this the better, I think.
Miles Driven: 60 miles
Time in Park: 1.5 hours, we think.
Miles Hiked: 3.3 miles
Highlights: Bluff top prairie backpack camping sites, walking along the river bank.
We spent a hot Sunday afternoon back in September in Afton State Park, located east of the twin cities on the St. Croix RIver, which forms much of the boarder between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Because it’s so close to the cities, this is a heavily traveled park. There are a number of opportunities for recreation, including swimming/boating in the river, and hiking along the many well maintained trails. Though it’s a half hour east, it feels a bit like an extension of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Mandy and I were crabby when we got to Afton, though now neither of us can remember why. Here we are looking like a couple of toughs.
A pretty good stretch of the path along the river was level and paved, making it wheelchair accessible. The guy in the distance had a very funny walk, though the picture doesn’t really communicate this.
An overlook! We sweated our butts off getting up here, but the view put us in a better mood.
Our favorite part of the park was this section of prairie up on the bluffs. The grass was some of the tallest we’ve seen in Minnesota, though we didn’t get a very good picture of it. There are backpack-only tent sites all throughout this prairie section, and if you live in Minneapolis and want to get away for the weekend, this would be the perfect place to camp.
Afton is one of quite a few Minnesota State Parks to use solar energy to run some of their facilities. Way to go, fellas.
This is a squirrel, lying on the porch-rail outside our apartment in Minneapolis. I wish I could say that this is what greeted us when we got home from Afton, but I think I took this picture a couple days later. Still, pretty cute though, right? This nature stuff is everywhere.
MEET THE FLERVENTZMANS
Click the play button above to hear about Mandy and Geordie’s Bébé. Follow along with the pictures below.
Jake aka Bébé Flerventzman
Mandy aka MoMo Flerventzman
Geordie aka Cockeye Flerventzman
If you do not know what this is you are not from Minnesota.
MoMo needs to wash her face
Cockeye is so beautiful. Pet him.
Bébé. Who’s a good boy?
STAY ON THE PATH!!
Bébé the eager pedagog.
Jewel Weed Seeds
So many trees.
Unreported zombie incident, 9-7-12.
Flerventzman family portrait.
“Big” “Small” ” BIG!” “SMALL!”
Miles Driven: 38.4
Time in Park: 2 hours and 23 minutes
Miles Hiked: 2.5
General Description: A midsized park mostly covered with second-growth maple/basswood forest located one hour south of Minneapolis.
Highlights: Identifying trees and plants with Jake “Bébé” Flerventzman (née Grossman).
Read More: “Meet the Flerventzmans” By Mandy COMING SOON!