The heat dome came, steamed us like an overwrought sauna, then drifted off to beleaguer the East Coast. For at least two nights, the temperature here barely got below 80℉ (26 ℃). Gag. 😓 Flashbacks to hot nights on the San Juan.
But we pushed on with our home repairs during the early morning hours and in the cool of the downstairs during the heat of the day. Doing so brought new meaning to sweat equity. But then a cooler, less humid day was forecast and we decided to down hammers and get on with our state park quest. 😃
The three parks we chose for this adventure were Fort Ridgely, Flandrau, and Minneopa, strung out along the Minnesota River northwest of Mankato. Rather than drive back and forth individually to these parks that are over an hour drive from Minneapolis, we did them all in one day in one long out-and-back drive. This saved us several hours on the road (and quite a bit on gas). To accomplish three in a day that kept getting hotter, we stuck to doing just the Hiking Club route in each park.
We started this state park trifecta day by driving through the green Minnesota countryside to Fort Ridgely State Park near Fairfax. We parked at the Chalet and went counter-clockwise on the Fairway, Upper Prairie, and River View Trails. This loop circles the historic fort site, so we visited that after we’d finished with the hike.
Fort Ridgely is known primarily for the pivotal role it played in the Dakota War of 1862. The Dakota lost this war (seemingly because the fort had cannons) and this loss set in motion the largest single execution in U.S. history and the genocidal removal of most of the Dakota people from Minnesota. While we are intimately familiar with the depredations levied on Western tribes during (and after) the inexorable waves of European settlement, it was a shock to find that these same wretched things took place here too. To quote the University of Minnesota, “…the Dakota War of 1862 continues to be a difficult period of history for many Minnesotans to explore.” 😥 But it doesn’t get any less difficult if you don’t explore it.
The Hiking Club route is officially 2.6 miles (4.2 km) long with minimal elevation gain. The trails were obvious and well marked, with maps at all the major junctions. This hike was a great way to see wide swaths of restored prairie interspersed with stands of tall oaks. 😁 We managed it in the cool of the morning under blue skies and with a good breeze. This breeze was not only cooling but also kept a fulsome abundance of flying insects at bay (usually, but not always). These flyers weren’t the biting kind but rather those that want to fly directly in your ear or up your nasal passage – which is almost as irksome than being bitten. 😒