Sesame Street was after my time as a child. But it’s long presence as a U.S. cultural icon makes it hard to not associate “Elmo” with one of that show’s beloved characters. Of course, there’s Saint Elmo – patron saint of stomach diseases, sailors, and women in labor (an odd combination). And the Saint Elmo appellation has been given to people, places, and works of fiction. And it’s fiction (the 1866 novel St. Elmo by Augusta Jane Evans) that gave this lake and its park its name. Still, the Sesame Street jingle was lurking in the background during our visit. 😏
Located just 12 miles (19 km) east of Saint Paul, and featuring lakes and lots (28 miles / 45 km) of loop options, this park (Hike #5 in 60 Hikes) seemed the ideal, gas-cost-effective choice for today’s hike. The weather was also having one of its exceptionally hike-friendly moments today – 69℉ (20.5℃) to start, with low humidity, a light breeze, shifting clouds, and few bugs. As that is expected to change soon for the worse (hot, humid, and stormy), so we felt impelled to hit the trail NOW.
After paying our $7.00 vehicle permit fee, we parked at the Eagle Point Trailhead. From there, we went clockwise around Eagle Point Lake and then east to Junction 15W. The trails here are color coded and all the major intersections are numbered – and match the map we got at the park office. All the trails were either old dirt double-tracks or mowed grass; no asphalt was trod during the making of today’s hike. 😊
The restored prairie was fully greened-out and was sporting more wildflowers than we’ve seen on a lot of recent hikes. Perversely, some of the prettiest ones are non-native invasives 😡 that will need to be eradicated to keep them from overwhelming the native species than have been planted (or seeded) in the restored areas. Just because you look good doesn’t mean you are good.
Oak savannas exist at the border of the prairie and deciduous forest biomes – two of the major ones in Minnesota. These savannas include many of the same flowers and grasses that grow in the prairie, but under a sheltering canopy of Bur Oaks. Work was also being done here to clear the understory of invasive shrubs and vines.
From the causeway, we went east toward Junction 15W, past sweeping expanses of prairie abloom with colorful, mostly native wildflowers. 😊
At Junction 15W, we ran into a problem. One map we had (from CalTopo) indicated we could continue straight east to Junction 22E. Ah, no, not unless we wanted to forge our own trail through the veg. That would also be a no. The park’s official map showed – correctly – no such shortcut. So we went south to Junction 14W, crossed the road there, and then continued on around the Modern Campground (full of bus-sized RVs) to Junction 21E.
All in all, a pretty darn good hike on an especially good day for a hike. 😁 Ironically, this loop took us close to an embayment of Lake Elmo but not past the lake itself. But we can come back and hike a different loop that will do just that – take us to the fabled shores of Elmo. 🙄
Although this hike hadn’t been particularly arduous, we still felt the need for post-hike sustenance and so found our way to the Tamarack Tap Room in nearby Woodbury. Their signature burger is actually a classically simple one – one not buried under a dozen other additions (e.g., fried egg + onion rings + a cloying sauce + tater tots + bacon + a glockenspiel + eye of newt + whatever). So it was good… 🍔🍺😋