Geocaching in Cascade River State Park

When we meandered to the northern tip of Minnesota at the end of September, following the North Shore of Lake Superior (as I shared in this post about Grand Portage State Park and this post about Judge C.R. Magney State Park), we also stopped by Cascade River State Park.  This multi-park day trip was motivated by the Minnesota State Park’s “Geocaching Avian Adventure” that began in June 2012 and goes until June 2014.

Waterfalls of the Cascade River ~ Cascade River State Park, MN
Waterfalls of the Cascade River ~ Cascade River State Park, MN

Perhaps you are not familiar with geocaching?  The website geocaching.com is the “go to” resource for people new and old to the hobby of geocaching.  But rather than my trying to explain to you what geocaching is, or how to “go” geocaching, here is a two-minute video put together by geocaching.com that concisely explains this activity enjoyed by so many people:

 

And, now back to our regularly scheduled programming. . .

Cascade River State Park, Minnesota

Cascade River State Park has some trails that climb to stunning overlooks of the Sawtooth Mountains (we use the term “mountain” loosely in Minnesota).  The geocaching coordinates took us to a loop that started at the cascading falls, and then turned back to go along the river upstream from the falls.

Cascade River State Park, Minnesota

This geocache at Cascade River State Park was the 5th find for my son of the 82 geocaches that make up the “Avian Adventure” — completing the adventure may be a bit ambitious, given our schedules the next couple years, but we will have fun trying when we do have time!

Cascade River State Park, Minnesota

Geocaches can be cleverly hidden, and the one in Cascade River State Park did not disappoint.  I will not give away the precise location, though, so the next geocacher can enjoy finding it as much as we did.

Cascade River State Park, Minnesota

Any other geocachers out there?

Ciao! ~ Kat B.

Judge C.R. Magney State Park: More than Devil’s Kettle

Many of Minnesota’s beautiful state parks become known for one particular feature or trail.  In the case of Judge C.R. Magney State Park, the Devil’s Kettle waterfall is usually the “can’t miss” sight.  When the water is running high, as it was when I took the first few photos back in the fall of 2007 (and never again have I managed to properly set my camera to capture the rushing water blurred just so!), it is exhilarating to hike the narrow path — going up and down the steep wooden stairs, and then standing at the edge of the falls and feeling the water spray as it mysteriously streams into a large opening in the rock, seeming to disappear into the depths of the earth.

Devil's Kettle Falls ~ Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Minnesota)

Brule River ~ Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Minnesota)

The falls empty into the Brule River which winds its way through the rolling hills, just northeast of Grand Marais, Minnesota.  Judge C.R. Magney State Park is not a heavily traveled park, particularly if you wander off of the main Devil’s Kettle trail.  Many years ago, my husband and I camped at the park, which has several lovely spots for tent campers.

Brule River ~ Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Minnesota)

This fall, during autumn’s last hurrah at the end of September, we headed to Judge C.R. Magney State Park to capture our fourth geocache in the Minnesota State Park’s Avian Adventure.  The activity led us to the Timberdoodle Trail, a short self-guided loop which had many interpretive markers along the way.

Timberdoodle Trail ~ Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Minnesota)

Leaves were not only past peak in color, but thinning out significantly as we walked along the leaf-strewn path.  The almost-barren birch stood like sentries on either side of the trail, marking our way.

Timberdoodle Trail ~ Judge C.R. Magney State Park (Minnesota)

Whether you take the classic river trail, or meander along a forest path, Judge C.R. Magney is a state park where you can enjoy peaceful solitude.

Ciao! ~ Kat B.

I Can See Canada From My Window . . .

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. . . at least I can see Canada when I am standing at the entrance to Grand Portage State Park, at the most northeastern point of Minnesota.

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Continuing on our geocaching adventures through Minnesota’s State Parks, we drove the beautiful entirety of Minnesota’s North Shore on about as perfect a fall day as fall days come in Minnesota.

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Lake Superior was a vibrant blue in striking contrast to the golds and greens of the autumn landscape.  At this overlook just off of Highway 61, the vantage point is perfect for viewing the Susie Islands near Grand Portage.

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Just as the border station looms, the visitor center for Grand Portage State Park comes into view.  Grand Portage State Park contains the highest falls in Minnesota – aptly named the “High Falls.”  The Falls usually have two or more large streams of water flowing into the Pigeon River.  With the dry spell Minnesota has seen in recent weeks, like so much of the rest of the country, the Falls were a relative trickle, exposing the interesting surrounding rock more than usual.

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The Spanish moss provided a delicate overhang as we walked the path to the geocaching coordinates. (I am always reminded of the ents in Lord of the Rings when I see Spanish moss, which is not an overly common sight in Minnesota!)

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As my son found our third “Avian Adventure” geocache, we checked Grand Portage State Park off the list (79 to go!), and enjoyed the view of the Pigeon River as we walked back to the main parking lot.

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I am disappointed we did not get an earlier start (this was the same day trip where I selfishly left a car full of hungry people in a scenic overlook parking lot at the end of the day, so I could take some pictures of the moonrise over Split Rock Lighthouse, which you can see in this post). We did not have time to spend in the exhibit hall, with its murals depicting the culture and traditions of the Grand Portage Ojibwe people. The Park is uniquely situated within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation.  Grand Portage National Monument is nearby, as well, with interesting exhibits relating to the historical fur trade between the voyageurs and Ojibwe.  And, let’s not forget a day or overnight trip to nearby Isle Royale National Park, with its unique ecosytem.  Just more reasons for a return visit to this corner of the state.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Fifth Falls Trail: Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls is one of Minnesota’s iconic State Parks.  We have hiked the well-worn trail along the edges of the Falls and Gooseberry River countless times; it never gets old.  This classic view (below), however, is one we left behind for one of our two geocaching hikes last weekend.  Instead, we followed the Fifth Falls Trail inland, in pursuit of one of the Avian Adventure geocaches (so that we could end the weekend with only 80 left to check off the list before June of 2014 — as you may recall, the other geocaching hike of the weekend was the lovely Tettegouche Lake Overlook Trail).

Gooseberry Falls ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota
Gooseberry Falls ~ circa 2008

The grasses and wildflowers were close to peak color along the forest floor.  I am always fascinated by the twisted, craggy trunks of the old cedar trees, their graying bark standing in stark contrast to the colors of the forest surrounding them.

Gooseberry Falls State Park ~ Fifth Falls Trail

Moving inland away from Lake Superior’s cool breeze, we broke a sweat as we hiked along, and as soon as our lab sensed water was nearby, he started tugging at the leash.  For some reason, I thought it would be more convenient to put my trusty friend on the jogging leash (hands-free, attaching around my waist with a bungee-type extension leading to the dog), and free my hands for the camera and water bottle.  It was convenient, until we reached the river’s edge, and I stupidly did not unhook him to jump off a small rocky ledge into a slow-moving pool of water upstream from the falls.  I instinctively held my camera safely above my head, so only my elbow nailed the rock as he jumped  . . . there may have been a few profanities unleashed as well as the dog at that point.  My son wisely did not say a word.

Gooseberry River, upriver from Fifth Falls ~ Minnesota

The water level is incredibly low with the lack of rain we have had in recent weeks, leaving much of the rocky river bed exposed to view.  Moving downstream from the falls provided great views of the interesting small caves and openings along the steep river banks.

Fifth Falls ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Fifth Falls ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Fifth Falls ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

After locating the geocache, and tucking away the biome bird card as proof of the “find”, we headed back along the Gooseberry River.

Fifth Falls Trail ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Gooseberry River ~ Fifth Falls Trail (Minnesota)

Although we have just dipped our toes into this Minnesota State Park geocaching challenge, it already is proving to be an enjoyable way to see different parts of the parks we have visited for years.  The challenge also will take us to numerous parks we have never explored despite living in the state for over twenty years — the Garden Island State Recreation Area cache on an island nineteen miles from shore in the middle of the Lake of the Woods will take a little planning!

Fifth Falls Trail ~ Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

Two down, eighty geocaching challenges to go . . . but what a delightful way to explore Minnesota’s diverse outdoor offerings!

Ciao! ~ Kat

Tettegouche Lake Overlook Trail

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~ John Muir

Oak Tree along the Tettegouche Lake Overlook Trail

This John Muir quote came to mind as my son and I hiked up the old gravel road with one of our black labs trotting happily alongside of us.  The hike may not have been long, but what it lacked in distance was more than made up for by the scenery that waited for us at the Tettegouche Lake Overlook.

Earlier in the day, as I sat down at the computer to catch up on some work, I looked outside at the sunny sky, with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, and the knowledge that fall colors would be peaking soon (or fading fast).  Reminding myself that life is short, and nice fall days in northern Minnesota usually shorter, I pulled up the Minnesota State Parks’ Fall Color Reports and selected a park for an afternoon hike.

Tettegouche Lake with Lake Superior in the distance

One of my sons became interested in geocaching years ago. Motivating a teen to voluntarily accompany his mother on a Sunday afternoon hike is not the easiest task, but when I discovered a new geocaching challenge created by the Minnesota State Parks, the Minnesota State Parks Geocaching Avian Adventure, I had more than just the dog as a willing hiking companion.

Tettegouche Lake Overlook with Lake Superior in the distance

We drove along Scenic Highway 61 to Gooseberry State Park (more about that in a future post), and after a short hike there, drove further north to Tettegouche State Park.  We have hiked Tettegouche many times, but find it hard to tear ourselves away from the classic views of Shovel Point and other Lake Superior vistas.  With the geocaching activity determining our trails for the day, we found ourselves exploring a section of the Park new to us inland from Lake Superior, at the Tettegouche Lake Overlook Trail.

Tettegouche Lake Overlook ~ Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota

The trail followed an old gravel road, climbing steeply through forests of still-turning golden-leaved maples and crimson-leaved oaks.  Branching off from the gravel road, the trail turned into a dirt path winding through the woods and making its way toward Lake Superior.  Acorns were scattered along the narrow path, like bread crumbs marking our way.

Tettegouche Lake Overlook ~ Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota

As the trail opened to the rocky ledge, we were amazed by the palette of fall colors stretching for miles in all directions.  The leaves seemed somewhat lackluster along the highway as we drove to the Park, so I was prepared for an underwhelming display as compared to the year before.  What a wonderful surprise to see the late afternoon sunlight illuminating the classic colors of autumn — rich golds, oranges and reds, in sharp contrast to the bright blue of Tettegouche Lake below, and Lake Superior far off in the distance.  The colors changed in intensity as the sun sank lower in the sky.  I reluctantly turned away from the scene to head back down the trail.

Tettegouche Lake Overlook Trail ~ returning to the trailhead

The task list looks the same as it did the day before, the laundry baskets are full.  But, when you are given the gift of a fall day like we had yesterday, a person is wise to heed the words of John Muir and refuel both body and soul with the beauty of nature.

Ciao! ~ Kat B.