Today was one of those days whose memory we’ll undoubtedly cherish come the dead of winter: cool, crisp, sunny, with artistic clouds, and a bug-busting stiff breeze. 😎😁 The sultry heat and humidity of the last few days was banished (temporarily) and the outdoors was once again a beckoning non-sauna. So, after consulting the oracle of our handy 60 Hikes guide, we chose Crow-Hassan as today’s destination. The possibility of walking along yet another a river is what sealed the deal here.

The park is crisscrossed with trails, allowing you to form any number of short to long loops. The 60 Hikes guide offered (Hike #43) a partial loop around the park. But this glorious day deserved more, so we went for the full perimeter loop described by the Hiking Project. Most trails here are shared with horse riders – we were passed by several today. Just give the horses the right-of-way. And, yes, some sections of trail were soft and sandy due to all the horse hooves but not as soft, say, as walking on a beach. So, no worries there.

We got a trail map at the trailhead and noted that all the major trail intersections are numbered – both on the map and in the field. There are also “you are here” maps at many of these intersections. All this signage has (to us) pros and cons. On one hand, it certainly dispels any anxiety about route finding, allowing us to concentrate almost wholly on our surroundings. On the other, it doesn’t exercise the route-finding and navigation skills necessary when signs are minimal and the trails less obvious. So we still find ourselves doing some navigating just for practice.

From the recreation entrance and horse trailhead (near trail Intersection #10), we went north through Intersections #8, #4, and #1, past North Twin Lake, to the Crow River near County Road 116. We traversed stands of richly leafed forest and circled part way around the huge open prairie north of the lake. The breeze was blowing strongly enough to create waves in the tall prairie grasses.

Not far from the trailhead
Under a thick canopy on the way to Intersection #8
North Twin Lake
Clouds over the prairie
The huge, restored prairie for which Crow-Hassan is known
Common Milkweed
At Intersection #4
Crossing the prairie toward Intersection #1
Sweet Cornflower (?)
On the prairie
Nearing Intersection #1
The Crow River near Intersection #1

From Intersection #1, we went west past the Riverbend trailhead, above the river, to Intersection #2. And from there around and south past Intersections #3 and #7 to #9 at Blue Stem Group Camp.

The Crow River near Riverbend
Toward Intersection #3
Clouds over a restored prairie
Across the prairie toward Intersection #7
A prairie restored
Under a summer canopy
More clouds over the prairie
Intersection #9 at Blue Stem Camp
The cabin at Blue Stem Camp

From Blue Stem, we could have cut east across the park to Intersection #10 and the trailhead. Instead, we continued south to Intersections #13, #15, and #16. At #16, we turned northeast and went past Intersection #14 back to the trailhead.

Along the edge of the prairie
Prairie, Butterfly Weed, and clouds
It was a day for clouds (but not too many)
At Intersection #16
Near Intersection #14
Toward the trailhead

This perimeter loop came to 7.3 miles (11.7 km) with a cumulative gain of 350 feet (106 m). This was a great hike on a near perfect day for hiking and one that let us sample all the key ecosystems – hardwood forest, tall grass prairie, mature wetlands, river – in this 2,600 acre (1,050 ha) Three Rivers Park District property. Fortunately, our perimeter loop is just one on many loops you could walk here, so we’ll certainly be back. 😁

Without any prior knowledge of nearby eating establishments, we picked Big Bore BBQ in Hanover solely on the strength of its rating on Google Maps. It was an inspired choice, as it does serve amazing BBQ (and beer). 🍖🍺😋 We’ve cut way, way back on meat consumption in recent years but every once in a while we weaken and unleash our inner carnivores {cue a Velociraptor feeding scene from Jurassic Park}. But it was all good and – only slightly smeared with BBQ sauce – we toddled home fully satisfied with our day outdoors and our meal indoors. 😁

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