There are a surprising number of public parks and preserves in Minneapolis and tucked away in its numerous surrounding suburbs. We’ve hiked some of these because they are iconic (Minnehaha Falls) or were featured in one of our hiking guides (Wood Lake Nature Center). Many others we’ve driven past without knowing they were even there. Purgatory Creek and Staring Lake fell in this latter category until we were alerted to their presence by Neaton Adventures. Since both are only minutes from our house, they seemed like the ideal (gas saving) choice for a morning’s walk before afternoon thunderstorms rolled through. 😃
We hit the road not fully aware that there are Purgatory Creek parks in both Edin Prairie and Minnetonka. After a brief frisson of navigational confusion, we found our way to the parking lot at the Purgatory Creek Park Pavilion in Eden Prairie.
After visiting the veteran’s memorial near the Pavilion, we went counter-clockwise on the paved trail that circumnavigates a lake created in the creek. This lake – presumably because it’s not natural – doesn’t seem to have a name of it’s own. 😥 So, for the moment, we’re going to call it “Purgatory Lake” – original, eh?
We eventually reached a junction at the south end of “Purgatory Lake” where another paved trail heads south along Purgatory Creek to Staring Lake. We headed toward that lake.
As we walked along, we noticed disturbances in the surface of the creek. A closer look revealed dozens of small catfish feeding at the surface. They were a wary bunch and dove for the bottom at the merest hint of a looming predator. It took us a couple of tries to see them without spooking them into the creek’s depths.
We soon crossed Staring Lake Parkway and took a short dirt trail – the only one we were on today – to the paved trail around Staring Lake. Then it was a walk in the woods, with views of the lake now and again. Along this path, the park district had provided explanatory markers for some of the larger native trees. We know some of these and are learning others, so these markers were appreciated (in Oregon, we got a lot of ID cred just by knowing “Douglas Fir” 😉).
The dock on the west side of the lake jutted out into a field of flowering American White Water-lilies. These plants rise from the gooey, murky depths to erupt (briefly) into the most beautiful blossoms! Usually we arrive too early or too late to see this efflorescence. So I seized this opportunity to photograph them without having to wade in the muck! I kept shooting until it was clear (even to me) that The LovedOne’s patience was wearing thin and she was starting to think about lunch. So, moving on…
After the Water-lily extravaganza, we continued on around Staring Lake to the connector trail and followed that back up along Purgatory Creek to “Purgatory Lake”. Then it was around the east side of that lake back to the parking area. The trail on the east side is more exposed to passing cars than the west side trail but it did let us see several waterbirds that had gathered in the shallows and trees near the lake.
This “dumbbell” loop came to 6 miles (9.6 km) and, although we’re not big fans of paved trails, proved to be surprisingly pleasant. We saw various birds, learned to ID some trees, weren’t engulfed in humidity or attacked by biting insects, saw two lakes, and were done before the thunderstorms arrived. We capped off this morning’s activity with lunch at conveniently nearby Fat Pants Brewery, where the food was simple but very good and the adult beverages delicious. 🍺🍔🥙😋 Oh, the rigors 🙄 of hiking in the urban wilderness… 😁