This week, we’re scheduled to move into our new, permanent (or as permanent ever gets with us 🙄) housing. Then a week elsewhere pursuing a rafting adventure. So our Minnesota state park quest will be on hold for at least a couple of weeks – plenty of time for the local mosquitos to work themselves into an anticipatory frenzy. But, wanting to get in one more state park before this hiatus, we decided on Frontenac State Park just south of Redwing.
Today’s weather alternated rapidly between shafts of warm sunshine and cold breezes under foreboding clouds. Despite the threatening clouds, the magic skywater machine was slacking today and we were hit by only a few raindrops. Our Hiking Minnesota guidebook claims that “…Minnesota has the greatest weather changes in the shortest distances and times in North America, with the exception of mountainous regions.” Well, after the exciting (and sadly damaging and deadly 😪) weather that’s rolled across the state in the short time we’ve been here, and today’s rapid flicking between sunshine 😎 and gloom 🥺, we’re starting to believe this is true. So, mountainous weather without offsetting views from a summit? Hmmm… 🤔
Taking the weather astride (pun here), we hiked the Upper and Lower Bluffside Trails (Hike #34 in 60 Hikes), which used numerous stairs and short switchbacks to take us down past In Yan Teopa Rock to Lake Pepin, the largest natural lake in the Mississippi River. After climbing back to the top of the bluff (more stairs!), we did the Hiking Club loop to the southeast, with a stop at Eagle Point for the views.
The trail of stairs and switchbacks took us down to Lake Pepin. From there, we followed the Lower Bluffside Trail south above the river. Although it wasn’t planned, doing this loop clockwise meant we descended its steeper part and ascended its more gradual (relatively speaking) part. The only raindrops of the day fell as we were working our way back up. But not enough to justify digging out our rain jackets.
Once back on the bluff, we immediately, in case the weather really went bad, embarked on the Hiking Club Trail. This works its way down the face of Garrard Bluff as a faint old road and then as a more obvious old road. On the west side of Old Frontenac, the old road began its climb back to the bluff top – thankfully without the need for stairs! 🙂
This double loop came to 5.2 miles (8.3 km) with a cumulative elevation gain of 900 feet (274 m) – our largest gain to date in one of the state parks. Both loops were (despite the stairs 😉) a lot of fun and the views out over Lake Pepin – especially from Eagle Point – were great. There is a bigger loop you can do here and we plan to return once the meadows and prairies green-out a bit more. The hiking never ends…
On the way out of the park, we stopped at the park office and (burnishing our nerd credentials) scored a 25 Mile Hiking Club patch. It seems that the Hiking Club – nerd heaven that it may be – has caught on around here and there’s a shortage of these 25 Mile patches. Who knew?
All those stairs 🙄 justified (in our minds at least) a restorative lunch with libations at the Bayside Saloon and Grill in Redwing. 🍺🍔👍 For old times sake, I had their California Burger, which is a patty graced with just (as opposed to numerous conflicting toppings) lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and a touch of mayo. A delicious classic! 😁