Sax-Zim Bog-Meadowlands-Minnesota

We explored Sax-Zim Bog on February 19th, 2023.

Sax-Zim Bog is open from mid Dec through mid March. Owls, hawks and many other winged creatures spend their winters at the bog. The Welcome Center has maps which I highly recommend picking one up or downloading one from their website. They also list different locations where these winged creatures have been recently seen. There are many locations to drive to throughout the bog to look for birds. Who knew birds were so fascinating???

We started our adventure on the trails closest to the Welcome Center.

Bird feeders are located along the trails. It was really cool to see so many birds up close as they ate from the feeders. I am still learning the names of birds, so please correct me if I am wrong as I try to name the birds we saw. The first birds that greeted us were an Evening Grosbeak and a Hairy Woodpecker.

The clouds drifted away and the bright blue sky appeared. We hiked the trail alongside the creek.

We reached the road and decided to head back to the Welcome Center. A Pine Grosbeak landed just a few feet in front of me on a branch.

The feeders we passed earlier now had many Pine Grosbeaks snacking on treats. I never realized Grosbeak came in so many different colors.

We hopped back in the car to begin exploring more of the bog area. Our main goal for our visit was to see the Great Gray Owl and the Snowy Owl. Driving around we looked up and down the trees trying to spot these owls. We stopped at times to hike the trails along the way. At the Yellow-Bellied Trailhead, many Black-Capped Chichadees were flying around the bird feeders.

As we turned down one of the roads, we saw about 8 cars all lined up alongside the road. People were standing in the road with their incredibly long camera lenses taking photos of something. My excitement was overflowing as we got out of the car. We thought for sure we were going to see an owl. Instead, we saw a small brown creature climbing along the branches. Another guest of the bog informed us of what we were looking at, the elusive Pine Marten.

On our next stop we were visited by an adorable red squirrel.

Even though we never saw an owl, I highly recommend visiting Sax-Zim Bog during the winter months. The staff take the bird feeders down at the end of March before the bears wake from their hibernation.

Our friend, the Black-Capped Chickadee waved goodbye as we left the bog.

Fish Lake Regional Park-Maple Grove-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Fish Lake Regional Park.

Burrr! This morning was so cold and the wind whipped through us as we began our hike. But, as true Minnesotans do, we persevered. With our Yaktrax on, we hiked the paved trail to Fish Lake.

Without a map present when we began our hike not knowing how long the trails were going to be, we decided to hike a bit on Fish Lake. We figured with spring approaching this may be our last chance to hike on ice.

The strong wind kept our hike on the lake short. Mini snow tornadoes blew past us. Back to the main trail we went.

After finding and looking over the two trail maps of the area, we decided to hike to Rice Lake.

We crossed over Highway 94 on our way to Rice Lake.

This winter Minnesota reached its 8th snowiest season on record. The wind caused snow drifts on parts of the trail. Need to rest? No worries, here is a bench for you to sit on.

Rice Lake turned out to be a beautiful lake to hike around.

I was so happy to catch a sun halo.

A few swans and a flock of geese were enjoying the open water.

The trail led us under Highway 94. We continued on the Medicine Lake Regional Trail.

The sun felt so nice on our cheeks. All the wonderful trees kept the wind at bay.

Today’s hiking adventure was 12.3 miles.

Battle Creek Regional Park-Maplewood-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure was at Battle Creek Regional Park.

Snow. Snow. SNOW! Minnesota has gotten so much snow this winter. We shall rename our state Minnesnowta. Snow fell throughout our entire hike. It sure was beautiful though.

We started our hike through part of the dog park. Ski trails win during the winter months at most parks. Sometimes finding the winter hiking trails takes a bit of map reading, exploring unusual areas, and hoping for the best. Once on the other side of the dog park, we hiked for a bit on the paved trail.

The ice on the trail was definitely covered by the fresh snow. I fell once, then my cousin and I both fell at the same time. We had a good laugh and then put on our Yaktrax. The next photo cracks me up. This is my proof of my tumble.

The paved trail ended and we were then hiking on the side of the road. The park was on our right and we could see there was an unpaved trail up on the hill, but how do we get there? Well, we made our own trail. Up the hill we hiked, and we were not disappointed.

The unpaved trail looped us up and down the hills and through the forest. We jumped back on the paved trail once we reached Battle Creek. The fresh snow, the flowing creek, and the sandstone bluffs created a beautiful winter wonderland.

With the creek flowing next to us, we continued our adventure on the paved trail. 

A bright red Cardinal graced our presence.

We continued on the paved trail until we reached our starting point.

Today’s hiking adventure was 6.4 miles.

St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail-Stillwater-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began in Stillwater. The St. Croix River Crossing Loop is one of my favorite loops.

The sun tried to join our adventure today; however, it was a pretty cloudy day. We started the trail by the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

The St. Croix River appeared frozen over for the most part. We only noticed a few open areas of water. The snow was piled high alongside the trail.

The St. Croix Crossing Bridge can be seen in the distance. A gentle fog covered the bridge.

The entire loop is on a wide paved trail which makes sharing the trail with runners, and bikers so nice especially in the warmer months.

Hiking over the St. Croix Crossing Bridge offers beautiful views of the surrounding land. Snowmobile tracks could be seen below us on the frozen river. A few individuals were even on the river ice fishing with their car parked nearby them. It has been rather warm as of late during the day, I’m not sure walking or driving a car on a river is the best idea, but to each their own.

The trail continues across the bridge and into Wisconsin.

There is a steep hill on the Wisconsin side one needs to go down to loop back into Minnesota. We decided to stop and put on our Yaktrax so we didn’t slip and slide down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill, the trail continues across the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Today’s hiking adventure was 5.4 miles.

Hegman Lake-BWCA-Minnesota

On February 18th, 2023, we went snowshoeing on Hegman Lake.

Exploring northern Minnesota can be tricky due to the weather. Thankfully, we had a beautiful day to explore. We parked at South Hegman Lake Entry Point #77. A permit was needed to explore the area. We obtained a free permit at the parking lot. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a pen to complete the form. We searched the car and our backpacks and came up with nothing. Since the form was a carbon copy, I used my fingernail to complete the form and it worked! We placed the copy in the box and began our adventure to the lake.

We followed the trail down to the lake.

The view of South Hegman Lake was breathtaking.

Previous explorers left a nice trail to follow once on the lake. We had the whole lake to ourselves. I was a bit over taken with the beauty before my eyes and the silence of the land that tears began to flow from my eyes. As we walked in silence, we knew our souls were being replenished by Mother Earth’s glory.

At the north end of South Hegman Lake we briefly hiked over a small piece of land towards North Hegman Lake.

Giant boulders surrounded the lake. The melting snow from above the rocks created mini waterfalls.

Along the boulders we found the 500-1000 year old pictographs created by the Native Americans. The pictographs can only be seen from the water. One has to enter by canoe in the summer or ski/snowshoe during the winter to see the historic site.

We continued our snowshoeing adventure around North Hegman Lake and looped back to our starting point.

The lake was now full of people beginning their adventure to the pictographs. We were very thankful we began our adventure early to have the lake all to ourselves. My cousin shot this photo of me thanking the sky above for an amazing adventure!

Afton State Park-Hastings-Minnesota

Last night’s hiking adventure was at Afton State Park.

We pulled into the park and there was a line of cars at the front office. One would have thought we were pulling into a nightclub. Since we already had a parking pass, we flew by all the cars in the VIP lane. I had to park in the overflow overflow parking lot. We were not surprised to see so many people wanting to experience a night hike. The moon was full, the trail was lit by candlelight and the temperature was decent. The sunset was gorgeous last night. The sky looked like it was on fire! By the time we began our adventure just a sliver of light was left in the sky.

The first part of the trail was smooth with a few icy spots.

There was a bonfire about a half mile into our adventure.

The next part of the hike was a little less smooth. The snow was soft and thick. One moment we are hiking on the snow, the next moment your foot falls through the soft snow causing you to trip. Everyone was making funny sound effects and laughing when slipping through the snow. At one point my right leg went deep into the snow and bam on my knees I went. We got lots of laughing in last night.

We decided to hike the trail twice due to it being a short loop. The moon was amazing!

I absolutely loved all the candles lighting our way.

I highly recommend taking in a candlelit night hike. Our hiking adventure was 4 miles.

Black Dog Trailhead-Burnsville-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Black Dog Trailhead.

We hiked the Minnesota River Greenway alongside the Minnesota River. The trail began just shy of the Highway 35 W bridge and follows the river to the Cedar/Highway 77 Bridge. A squirrel greeted us as we began our adventure.

The Minnesota River was partially frozen.

Besides a light dusting of snow at times, the paved trail was nice and clear of snow and ice.

Black Dog Lake Overlook

Across the river from us, we could see many people riding their fat tire bikes along the river bottom trail.

We hiked up to Cedar/Highway 77 Bridge and turned around back to our starting point.

The trail passes by the Xcel Energy Power Plant.

Several eagles perched in the trees above the river looking for a snack.

The Highway 35 W bridge can be seen in the distance.

Today’s hiking adventure was 8.5 miles.

Purgatory Creek Park-Eden Prairie-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Purgatory Creek Park.

We hiked Purgatory Creek Park this past summer and loved it! So of course, we had to see how everything looked covered in snow. Wow! We were not disappointed. A happy face greeted us as soon as we hit the trail.

The paved trail was covered in ice. Thankfully, we had our Yaktrax in our bags so we slipped them on. It was our first time wearing our Yaktrax and we could not believe how amazingly they worked.

We veered off the main trail towards a narrow bridge which crossed over part of the lake. Most of the lake was frozen except near the bridge.

Back on the paved trail, it was interesting to see leaves still on the trees.

We took another detour off the main path. There was a narrow walkway that led to an overlook of the wildlife area.

We continued our hike towards Staring Lake.

We hiked on the frozen Staring Lake.

The trees looked so beautiful covered in snow. At times, a gentle breeze would blow the snow off the trees which would catch the sunlight creating a glittery winter wonderland all around us.

We hiked back to our starting point crossing over the partially frozen creek.

Today’s hiking adventure was 7.4 miles.

Big Rivers Regional Trail-Mendota Heights-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at the Big Rivers Regional Trailhead.

After a week of heavy snowstorms, it felt great to get outside while the sun was shining. The temperature was a bit cool at -1 as our adventure started.

Big Rivers Trailhead has an amazing year round view of the Minnesota River and the airport. Planes were flying low overhead coming and going from the airport.

The paved trail was freshly plowed.

Giant snowballs gripped the branches of the trees. It gave the appearance of fluffy cotton balls.

The trail continued through the small town of Mendota.

Frozen water cascaded down the side of the rocky cliffs.

The confluence of the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River at Pike Island

Train tracks lay parallel to the Big River Trail at times. A long train passed by us as we hiked.

We reached the Lilydale trailhead and decided to hike the Robert Piram Regional Trail.

Tree branches were covered in snow. The snow shimmered in the sunlight.

We decided to turn around and head back to our starting point.

Once back at the Big Rivers Trailhead we took in another view of the Minnesota River.

Today’s hiking adventure was 10 miles.

Best of 2022-Minnesota

This past year, my cousin and I hiked 36 Minnesota State Parks and 30 different Parks and Trails. Whether it was raining, snowing, or the sun was shining…we hiked. Our hiking adventures accumulated to a total of 348 miles in 2022!

Minnehaha Falls-Minneapolis

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve-Rogers

Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park-Cottage Grove

St. Croix State Park-Hinckley

Elba Fire Tower-Elba

Great River Bluffs State Park-Winona

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park-Preston

Myre-Big Island State Park-Albert Lea

Blue Mounds State Park-Luverne

Broken Down Dam Park-Fergus Falls

Lake Shetek State Park-Currie

Upper Sioux Agency State Park-Granite Falls

Big Stone Lake State Park-Ortonville

Glacial Lakes State Park-Starbuck

Sibley State Park-New London

Flandrau State Park-New Ulm

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park-Little Falls

Crow Wing State Park-Brainerd

Quarry Park and Nature Preserve-Waite Park