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:

View Larger Map
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.

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?

KP’s First Camping Trip

OK, ready for another riveting weekend adventure update? We took KP on her first camping trip ever. We didn’t really know how well it was going to work out, so we chose some pretty cushy accommodations and set our expectations low. We chose the Cannon River Wilderness Area, part of the Rice County Park System.

Cannon River Wilderness Area

We didn’t get there until about 6:30 PM friday night, and spirits were high.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

The camping sites here are walk-in style, but it’s only about 1/8 mile or so. Mel carried all the gear and KP, and I carried the camera so that I could blog about it later.

KP is a bit of a freeloader.

The Cannon River looked pretty good.

Cannon River.

Cannon River.

Unfortunately for us, the two closest campsites were already taken. These are first-come-first-serve, and we were too late. But we’d come this far, so we weren’t about to quit so easily. I took a few more photos of Mel carrying the gear and KP back to the parking lot area, and we just decided to camp near the pavilion in the grassy park area. This is against the rules, but we’re such risk-taking rebels that we did it anyway, Rice County Park Rules be damned. Also, we didn’t know how sleeping with KP in a tent was going to work out and we were half expecting to give up around Midnight and go home anyway.

Pavilion.

We didn’t set up the tent until right before we were ready to sleep, just in case one of the dastardly Rice County Park Police came to kick the scrubs out of the park.

Playing in grass.

After eating our tin-foil dinner, we decided to go on a night-hike.

Up waaaaay past bedtime, and loving it.

We were a little worried that KP wouldn’t sleep very well in the tent, but she proved us wrong. She curled herself up into a little ball and slept all night.

Experts be damned, KP sleeps how she wants.

Also, KP got totally eaten alive by mosquitos, and now looks like she has small pox or something. The next morning, we awoke sharply at 5:00 AM, and snoozed, for another hour. We packed up and were home by 8:00 AM sharp.

Good Morning!

Even though our camping trip was a maximum of 14 hours, including travel time and sleeping, it was still a great first-time camping experience with KP.

How about you? Ever gone camping with an infant? How did it go? Any tips you’ve learned along the way you’d like to share?

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

This past weekend, Mel and I decided to continue our exploration by foot of the Minnesota River Valley. This time, we found a new part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (MVNWR) to stomp through, although, still within the Long Meadow Lake Unit Park (same as last time). This time, we started at the MVNWR headquarters building in Bloomington near the Mall of America, where the Fish & Wildlife service has a pretty substantial building, which includes a neat overlook platform.

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge Overlook Platform

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge Overlook Platform

Here’s a map of our route for the day, a total of just over 4 miles. We had wanted to walk all the way to TH-77 and back, but only made it to the part of the trail we referred to as “the nipple”.


View Larger Map

This trail is pretty cool, and is a nice, easy walk. For the most part, we didn’t see anyone else there the entire time. Most of the people we saw were on Mountain Bikes. Here’s some pics.

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge - cool trail, huh?

Prairie & Bloomington

Weirdos

Our Chief Navigation Officer was easily distracted by string cheese.

That's the Minnesota River in the Background.

Awww...

Ok, that’s it. If it would stop raining this weekend, we’d go walk the rest of the trail. Next time, we’ll start at TH-77 and work our way back to “the nipple”.