mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

after camping by myself, having a weird old time, i had a toss and turn night. i couldn’t get comfortable and it was sticky humid. finally i got to sleep and woke up at 8:30, which is SO LATE in camp world. i broke camp in record time because i had a long day ahead of me. it was still sticky humid and getting everything stuffed in their bags was kind of gross.

i headed farther south. and south dakota was calling me – come west, young woman. (or middle-aged woman.) i briefly toyed with the idea, but stuck to my schedule. one of these days i will be spontaneous.

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after chomping down a cookie and a can of diet pepsi, i stopped at blue mounds state park, which was a close to a south dakota stop as i was going to get this trip. what a great park! there is a bison herd and rolling prairie and native grasses and, i mean, can you beat this for wanting to head off into the sunset?

i admit, i am a lakes and trees girl. but there’s something about driving across south dakota, the hills, the waving grasses, the sky reaching forever into the west. it’s a different sort of home feeling – maybe a feeling of wanderlust rather than home. it makes me want to travel, even if it is across the prairie.

got some bison in the distance. one buffalo needs 5.5 acres of land to live off of, and the park has dedicated people for the herd.

and once again nature wins:

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then it was a short drive on I-90. i stopped in worthington to find a coffee, which i was pretty grateful for. then to kilen woods state park, another park encompassing a river valley on the prairie.

i hiked the short trail to the des moines river, which starts in shetek park – i had visited that park the day before. the sun was still trying to peek through, but at this point, it was starting to cloud over again. i didn’t spend a lot of time at this park, as i had a few more to pick up on my way home.

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minneopa state park is right outside mankato, so this was a very busy park. it seems like there is a lot going on at this park. i accidentally took the bison loop, which would have been ok if everyone else and their neighbor hadn’t decided to take it as well and i wasn’t in a hurry. i did get a pic of some buffalo, so i guess there’s that! two buffalo herds in one day. not too bad.

then across the road and down about a half mile, there’s a giant waterfall. the minneopa creek was high that day and just cascading over the falls.

there was mist curling up from the falls, making it seem like i was in some sort of horror movie. but there were way too many people there for that. remember how i like my parks more rural? well, i do. although the WPA buildings at this one were pretty nice!

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and speaking of not rural, let’s talk about flandrau state park, which is right smack dab in the middle of new ulm. here a was rolling through a neighborhood when suddenly, a park. i was so surprised i didn’t even get any pics. in fact, i don’t remember much about this park at all. if i remember correctly, it’s small with a few campsites and trails.

well, i was short on time.

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a brief interlude for the historical society!

i headed up the river road that we took so many times on the way from new london to austin and vice versa. every time we drove the road, we passed the harkin store, and every time we drove right on past. well, it was time to stop. i was surprised it was open on a sunday since it was sunday, but i paid my $6 to the historical society and got a history lesson on the long-gone riverside town that once prospered in the area. (reminded me of crow wing up by brainerd). the harkin store is the only building that remains. it’s pretty interesting and worth the $6. a lot of the items in the store are original to the store, and the person giving the tour knew her stuff.

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fort ridgely was a short drive from harkin. once again i was reminded of what a cruddy way the dakota were treated. this one is a memorial to those who fought in the dakota war in 1862. the fort’s remains are from 1853, which was built as an outpost and training ground. it made a sort of buffer between the whites settling in the river valley and the dakota. i know there is a memorial and park in mankato, and the state parks do a good job of educating people about how an entire people was kicked out of their home and sacred land, but where’s the park memorializing the american indians? i have yet to run into one. perhaps it’s still on my list.

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then i made the mistake of the day. i should have checked the website for greenleaf. turns out it’s just a public water access, and the stamp was at the dnr office in hutchinson. i drove around looking for a dumb self-service station, then finally looked at their website. sigh! so i backtracked to hutchinson to get the stamp.

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and booked it. it had been a long day. i was hungry, and a stop in litchfield yielded a slice of casey’s pizza (seriously if you haven’t had their pizza, check it out. and the donuts). i dismiss litchfield a lot, but every time i drive through i’m impressed. it’s got a sizable lake, a decent swimming beach, an actual town square and park. good job, litch.

the route i took home took me through eden valley, which i had never visited. and it lives up to its name. what a perfect little lake community. central minnesota at its finest!

finally i was in the homestretch, driving north of richmond to avon, which is a very scenic drive with the right amount of rolling hills, fields, trees, and an occasional small lake. and the sun decided to make an appearance, streaming down through clouds onto those lovely avon hills, and a person just has to say there’s no place like home.

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