Or rather, make that 7 parks. This was the last of my 5K hikes for the 5K for Sajai fundraiser, and it did its best to keep me from succeeding. It also coincided with my recent trip to the Iron Range at the invitation of the Iron Range Tourist Board. (Brace yourselves--I got LOTS of blog fodder up on the Range!)
But I digress. Those of you in Minnesota know that the drought that plagued us last fall pretty much disappeared after torrential rains last week, which just happened to coincide with my trip north.
Initially my plan was to hike at Bear Head Lake State Park. I really wanted to visit that park because in 2010, it won an online contest as America's Favorite Park, earning a $100,000 grant sponsored by Coca-Cola. If I remember correctly, that was due in no small part to the efforts of the fine folks of Ely, who sound like they have way too much fun up there. Who can forget their wonderful campaign to land the 2016 Olympics?
But alas, 36 hours of steady rain and occasional lightning kept me not only off the hiking paths, but out of any outdoor places. When the clouds cleared, I realized I had no choice but to find someplace closer to my other destinations. So I chose the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area north of Virginia.
It's a beautiful area, with tons of trees.
It's not just greenery, though, but boulders that are millions of years old.
Among its 15 miles of hiking trails is a little hike called the Fitness Trail.
This area adds some challenges to the hike: hurdles, chin-up bars, stairs, even a log walk.
While I passed on the chin-up bars, I did the log walk very very well, thankyouverymuch.
But this trail is fairly short. I veered off on to other trails, but began running into muddy areas. Since I didn't have time to go back to my hotel in between stops and clean up, I resorted to repeating the Fitness Trail over and over again. By 4K, I'd had enough.
After all, this fundraiser says you can break your 5K into pieces to make it more manageable if need be. And need was. So when I got to the next spot with a trail, I figured I'd finish it off there.
The Wellstone Memorial, southeast of Eveleth. This is at the site where the plane carrying Sen. Wellstone, his wife and daughter, crashed in late October 2002, shortly before the election.
There are two trails here, one that heads out toward the crash site.
The boardwalk ends here, with interpretive signs and noting that the actual crash site is 2000 feet away. Clearly people have gone off the boardwalk and out to the site, and I thought I would too, until I saw this.
Under water, and me without rain boots. Well.
So it was over to the memorial area. There are large marked boulders like this one for everyone on board that flight, as well as several areas to sit and reflect.
Then there's a short trail that goes around the memorial area.
While beautiful in a melancholy sort of way, it was also very short. I wasn't at all convinced I'd hit 5K that day. And I couldn't give up then, so close to success.
Fortunately, a detour on a whim (my favorite way to travel) finished the day for me. Outside of Hoyt Lakes, I saw a sign for a historic site: the Longyear Drill Site, where the first diamond drill hole sought iron ore in 1890.
Here I met a problem.
The sign says, "DANGER Mining Activites Ahead. Do NOT Proceed." But the trail clearly proceeds. And the sign is clearly broken. All I heard was the wind and birds; I started forward. And then I chickened out.
I found a second trail and followed that instead.
I crossed a bridge on its way to rickety-ness.
I clambered over fallen trees, some of which looked like they'd been on the ground a while.
Remember the Fitness Trail sign above at the Laurentian Recreation Area? I found one here too, but not in good shape, tipping over and fading. The sign asks people to do push-ups in what was probably once a clearing.
But is clear no more. As far as I could tell, the trail disappeared too.
By this point, 'd gone more than 5K. But I was a little sad--it was a beautiful hike, yet it appears to have been abandoned. The trails aren't maintained, the signs are broken, etc. I'd guess finances are at the root of the problem, or maybe not enough traffic. It's a shame--it really is a lovely spot. If you go to the Range? Put on your hiking boots and go see it, give it some needed life.
But! I did it! 5 weeks, 5 7 parks, 5Ks! Have you donated yet? I'm sooooooo close to my goal.....