Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Minnesota) 24-Aug-2022

For Day 3 of this state park quest, we went south from Rochester, almost to Iowa, to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. We anticipated doing the Hiking Club route at the main park and taking a guided tour (we made reservations) of Mystery Cave. Then, as bonus features, we unexpectedly found an historic village to wander through and, as we were leaving the park, an historic airplane in Cherry Grove. 😊

Historic Forestville

We had booked our cave tour for 10.00 but arrived at the park somewhat before that. So we had time to visit the restored buildings at the former site of Forestville. Founded in 1853, this little town was a going concern until 1868, when it was by-passed by the now long defunct Southern Minnesota Railroad. Thus shunned, the town’s population began shrinking as folks moved to more prosperous railroad communities. When the post office left in 1902, Forestville was officially gone. This story of doom by railroad had also played out at a park – Crow Wing – we’d visited earlier this year.

The biggest Cottonwood in the world
Gillette-Herzog Bridge, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Gillette-Hertzog Bridge (1899) over the South Branch Root River
Gillette-Herzog Bridge, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Installed in 1899 and still working
Gillette-Herzog Bridge, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Bridge detail
South Branch Root River, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
South Branch Root River
Historic Forestville
The Meighan Store (1857-1910)
Store detail
Wall anchor detail
Livestock & horse barn (1894)

Mystery Cave

The excellent weather of the past two days was now gone. In its place we got atmospheric truculence which culminated in a horrendous lightning show 🌩 and torrential downpour 🌧 just as we arrived at Mystery Cave. We watched from the visitor center as our rain coats sat safely stored in our car across a rain lashed parking lot. πŸ˜” But we were assured that the cave probably wouldn’t flood. Probably… πŸ₯Ί

We’d signed-up for the 1-hour Scenic tour because it was the only one offered on weekdays. But it was a fine introduction to these uniquely rectangular limestone caverns. Kip, our park ranger guide, was knowledgeable and funny. Our tour culminated with a view of the startlingly clear, blueish waters of the Turquoise Pool. When we emerged, the rain had passed, the cave hadn’t flooded, and its was – almost – sunny again. 🀨

Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Entering the cave
Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
The surface is 10 feet (3 m) above this ceiling
Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
A cephalopod fossil (arrows) in the ceiling
Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
A cave curtain forming
Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Cave curtains
Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Like the jaws of a creature from a particularly bad nightmare
Turquoise Pool, Mystery Cave, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Turquoise Pool
Back on the surface and crossing the South Branch Root River (whose waters helped form this cave)

Maple Ridge Trail Loop

After the village and the cave, we still had to complete the Hiking Club route before we could move on to our last park in this southeast park quest. So we motored back to Forestville and hiked the 2.0 mile (3.2 km) route there, which is mostly the Maple Ridge Trail. The clouds hung around but the rain did not, so we stayed dry while completing this loop. 😊

It’s just the end of August. And we’re not attuned to the seasons here. But it was hard to escape the feeling that Fall was getting closer, much closer. The forest seemed less vibrant. There were more brown-tinged, curled-at-the-edges leaves. More colored ones. And many more fallen ones too. So we dubbed this short stroll The Hike of the Fallen Leaves. πŸπŸ‚πŸƒ

We start the loop
Browned and curled
Fallen Leaf I
Leaves on the trail
Fallen Leaf II
More fallen leaves
Fallen Leaf III
Forestville Creek, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
Forestville Creek
Fallen Leaf IV
Continuing on through the leaves
Fallen Leaf V
Mud today, ice in the days ahead
Fallen Leaf VI
Through the forest
Fallen Leaf VII
Our Hiking Club route at Forestville

The Airplane

On our way farther south – almost to Iowa! – to our last park of the day – Lake Louise State Park – we passed through the small town of Cherry Grove. A mural on a building there announced that it was the “Home of the Pietenpol.” A what? We found out later that it’s a small, open cockpit monoplane that was designed and first built by Bernard H. Pietenpol (1901–1984) in 1929 right in Cherry Grove. What’s extra amazing is that they are still being built all over the world by DIY aviation enthusiasts. That’s a pretty impressive legacy for a small town in southeastern Minnesota! πŸ‘πŸ˜

Bernard Pietenpol with one of the planes he designed and built
Pietenpol with one of the planes he designed and built (c1950)
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2 thoughts on “Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Minnesota) 24-Aug-2022

  1. Finding history is fun. We enjoyed riding through railroad towns on the rail trails in Wisconsin. Ironically many of those towns are almost abandoned now. Your photos are as awesome as ever. Good work finding those great subjects and creating such amazing art. We still miss you out here though!

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