By now, some might be asking (or not): How could you leave the great hiking (and views from mountain tops) in Oregon for Minnesota? 🤨 Well, as noted in previous posts, we moved here primarily for family reasons. Any hiking that came with this move is just an added benefit – and there’s plenty of hiking around here, simply of a different kind. Possibly a more age appropriate kind, given that our interest in, and capacity for, epic climbs, backpacks, and hikes has faded into the mists of time.

Keeping active at any age is important but to pretend that 60 or 70 or 80 is somehow the “new” 20 or 30 is magical thinking likely leading to an ER or intensive care experience. 🤕 So, as far as hiking is concerned, we think we made the right move to the right place at the right time. Which is not to say that there won’t be more adventures out West – there will – but they’ll be metaphorical sprinkles on the Midwest donut. 😉

So, today we stepped away for a moment from our state park quest to do a forest and lakes hike at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. This 2,000 acre (809 ha) park is located in Dakota County not far south of Minneapolis and just east of the Minnesota Zoo. The 60 Hikes guide has a hike here (#37) but we found a longer loop hike – the Holland Lake Lollipop – on the Hiking Project. This longer loop would give us some good mileage as it took us past all but two of the named lakes in the East section of the park.

After a bout of petulant gloominess yesterday, today’s weather sprang back to clear, warm, and sunny 😎 with a light breeze. We know that the hiking weather around here won’t always be this pleasant, but while it is, we are going to take advantage of it!

We parked at the Holland Lake Trailhead, got a trail map there, and headed west toward Jensen Lake. There are a maze of trails in this part of the park but they are all wide, obvious, and well signed. Plus we had the GPS track from the Hiking Project. Thus we only wandered off the true path a few times. 🙄

Leaving the trailhead
Holland Lake
On toward Dakota Lake
Dakota Lake

At this point, The LovedOne exclaimed: Where are the turtles? I wish we could see some turtles! Turtles weren’t much of a feature in water-stressed Southwest Oregon but here, with all these lakes, we figured they ought to be. Then, at the next pond, we saw three turtles sunning themselves on a log. From then on, almost every log, branch, or stick rising out of the water had turtles on in – lots and lots of turtles – you just had to look. Wish fulfillment at its best. 🐢

Three turtles on a log – the first of many, many turtles
Pushing on to Jensen Lake as the day warms
Rue Anemone
A pond on our way to Jensen
Jensen Lake comes into view across a still senescent marsh
On the boardwalk at Jensen Lake
Jensen Lake
Rue Anemone

We stopped briefly at the Jensen Lake Trailhead before continuing on around the west end of the lake and heading east toward the visitor center. The still bare forest was alive with bird song but only a few were willing to show themselves for identification (we’re not capable of identifying birds purely by their songs). But the Canada geese obliged by letting us see their current crop of new geese.

New geese in Jensen Lake
Leaving Jensen Lake

From Jensen, we tromped east across Bridge Pond, past Lily and Portage Ponds, to the visitor center at Schulze Lake. It probably wasn’t as busy in the park today as it will be on the coming weekend, but we still passed, or were passed by, a fair numbers of hikers and runners – and even crossed paths with some equestrians.

The bridge at Bridge Pond
Bridge Pond
Schulze Lake

After availing ourselves of the facilities at the visitor center, we headed west again toward Holland Lake. On the way we spotted a White egret hunting for frogs(?) in a tiny creek next to the trail. Finally, a bird we could see and identify!

White egret
The A-frame shelter at Portage Lake
Back through the forest – we could almost feel the leaves struggling to emerge
Cattail Lake
O’Brien Lake
Along the shore of Holland Lake

This loop came to 8.5 miles (13.6 km) with a cumulative elevation gain of about 780 feet (238 m). While there are no big gains or losses along this circuit, it undulates enough to accumulate an aerobically respectable gain. The upside of the leaves not having appeared yet is that we had fairly unobstructed views of the lakes – and a bird or two. Once the forest is in full leaf, we’ll use that as our excuse for not seeing any birds. 🤔😁

Our Holland Lake lollipop loop
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