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. 😊
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 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. 😔 But we were assured that the cave probably wouldn’t flood. Probably… 🥺
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. 🤨
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. 🍁🍂🍃
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! 👍😁