Two years ago while hiking around Lake Maria State Park (nearish St. Cloud), we found out about two State Park programs; the Passport and the Hiking clubs. This weekend, we've seen four more parks and hiked two of them.
The Passport Club is simply going to all the State Parks and State Recreation Areas and getting a stamp to show you've been there. There are 71 Parks and SRAs and they located all over the state. The best thing about this is that you see parts of Minnesota that you wouldn't normally go, or you would pass by great swaths of the state by taking freeways and speeding past them on the way to your destination, since, apparently, the journey is now the destination and the time spent traversing the dull countryside is just time that is better spent where ever your destination lies.
The Hiking Club gets out of your car and onto your feet at the parks you're visiting. The hikes vary from 1 to 6 miles and the difficulty ranges from simple strolls on paved paths to strenuous rock strewn hill climbing. There is a set Hiking Club path and generally they are well marked and somewhere along the trail is a sign with a code word. The word generally has something to do with the physical features, history or flora/fauna of the park.
We've now hiked 60 of the 65 Hiking Club paths (for a total of 185+ miles) and we've visited 63 parks and SRAs. This leaves us with the last group in far Northwestern Minnesota (Red River, Old Mill, Lake Bronson, Hayes Lake, Zippel Bay and Franz Jevne). We plan to close the books on both of our quests next weekend in a flurry of driving, hiking and camping. I'm not unfamiliar with the area since my dad was from up there and my mom's family is from just on the other side of the Red River in North Dakota and I lived up there while going to school at UND. I've seen many things that our fine state has to offer but I've yet to see this corner with the eyes I have now.
There will be more on this later, but I have come to appreciate things now I never dreamed I would earlier in my life. Moving slowly, away from crowds on infrequently traveled roads and appreciating small things has made this "quest" enjoyable. To see this area 20+ years later will be interesting and I'm looking forward to it. The long weekend we're planning to take will make sure that we have plenty of time and we are in no rush.
Now, what to do after this?