Minnesota River Valley: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Part III

Encyclopedic readers will recall that back in April 2012 I announced that My wife and I were on a quest to explore the labyrinth of soft-surface trails within the Minnesota River Valley. The valley has always intrigued me because it’s a mile-wide swath of undeveloped space full of wetlands, the river, lakes, and power plants. Pretty much every branch of the government at all levels that has anything to do with parks, trails, or wildlife has their fingers in this valley in one form or another. You can read about our other attempts to explore the valley here.

Here’s where we walked:

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I learned from the internet that the specific trail we walked is called the Bluff Trail. We started at the Old Cedar Avenue trailhead and walked west for about 1.5 miles and back for a 3 mile round trip.

OK, now for some pics. It was a grey (yes I spell it with an “e” because it looks greyer) day, and I loved the views out across Long Meadow Lake of the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge and the Black Dog Power Plant.

Old Cedar Avenue Bridge

Old Cedar Avenue Bridge

Black Dog Power Plant

Black Dog Power Plant

The trail was pretty cool. It’s marked NO BIKING ON TRAIL, but clearly people are biking on it. I was wondering if we would encounter any bikes down there, and if so, if it was ok for people to walk down there as well or if the mountain bikers were a bit territorial about the space. We encountered one bike. He did not show much interest in slowing down as he passed me and my children on the narrow trail corridor, but he also did not punch me in the gut or anything like that.

NO BIKES ALLOWED

NO BIKES ALLOWED

Anyway, here’s a bunch of pictures of me and my kids and the trail.

Cool boardwalk out into the lake.

Cool boardwalk out into the lake.

Some dumb trail.

Some dumb trail.

Co-Captain and Chief Lieutenant Scribe.

Co-Captain and Chief Lieutenant Scribe.

I love crunching through leaves on the ground.

I love crunching through leaves on the ground.

Me and my co-pilot.

Me and my co-pilot.

This is a weird bridge or boardwalk thing.

This is a weird bridge or boardwalk thing.

This boardwalk thing is awesome.

This boardwalk thing is awesome.

Well, we only made it out into the valley once in 2013. Maybe we’ll try again next year.

Winter Hiking: Kawishiwi Falls

Welcome to another installment of Your North Woods Hiking Guide, your guide to exploring the MN North Woods on foot.

I wrote previously about the lovely little stroll that is the Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail, 0.5 miles of trails that lead to a splendid little set of falls along the Kawishiwi River. On our most recent trip back to the North Woods, we stopped in on the trail again, this time completing the easy walk on a chilly 10 degree day in December.

To refresh your memory, here’s what it looks like during the summer:

Kawishiwi Falls Jumpers

Kawishiwi Falls Jumpers

And now in winter:

Kawishiwi Falls in winter.

Kawishiwi Falls in winter.

Below Kawishiwi Falls in winter.

Below Kawishiwi Falls in winter.

Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail in winter.

Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail in winter.

KP was my co-caption, a job she excels at, except for when her hands get cold. Then she just screams, which she started doing right after this photo. Darn, she was even wearing her monkey hat with matching mitts, but I guess it just wasn’t enough for her. She’s kind of a baby.

Still, the rest of our hiking team enjoyed the trip very much, and if you’re in the Ely area in the winter and are looking for an easy way to get out and walk through the woods with the reward of great views of the falls for very little effort, this is a great option.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Your North Woods Hiking Guide.

Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield

You guys ever been to Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield (right off 66th Street and Portland Ave)? It’s pretty cool.

Mel and I spent a couple hours walking the paths there this past weekend. It’s a pretty good place to kill a few hours walking around. There were two things that really stood out to me:

1. It’s surprisingly beautiful once you get back in the trees. The park is much larger than you think it’s going to be.

2. These trails are in very poor shape. Time for reconstruction.

Some path.

Just some other path.

Some paths are shared-use, others are peds only.

Just some wetlands.

Some other wetlands.

Steel prefab concrete deck bridge. Nice, huh?

The boardwalk was probably my favorite part, because it bounces with each step. Also it’s very narrow, so it’s fun to imagine other people falling into the wetlands.

Narrow Boardwalk.

It floats, so it bounces with each step.

Ever been to Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield? What did you think? Will you go back?