Baker Park Reserve (Maple Plain, MN) 21-Sep-2022

We returned from our John Muir Trail trip to find Minneapolis surprisingly hot and steamy. But no matter since we had various mundane details of living to catch-up on – bills, trash, dentist, yard work, etc., etc. Plus a miffed cat to mollify with extra attention until she was (again) bored with us. Unlike a dog, a cat is not a creature designed to feed your ego with excessive attention or unwarranted praise. But Sofie is sooo cute… 😻

Yesterday the humidity was high and the temperature topped out near 90℉ (32℃) – not exactly Fall weather. Then, overnight someone flipped the weather switch and we awoke to crisp, cool (60℉/15℃), sunny 😎 weather. Real Fall weather, the day before the Autumnal Equinox. Nice timing.

If the State Fair is a very Minnesota thing to do (which we did and it was delicious πŸ˜‹), then so, apparently, is looking for Fall colors. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) even has a website to help you track the colors across the state park system and hence the state. We have plans to soon visit some state parks (and their colors) in the northwest corner of the state. Until then, however, we thought we’d see how the colors were progressing locally.

Our venerable copy of the 60 Hikes guide coughed up Baker Park Reserve (Hike #42) about 20 minutes down the road from us. It offers both paved and dirt loops around Lake Katrina, so we opted to do the dirt loop. We knew going in that this trail only goes around that lake and not anywhere near its shoreline.

Going counter-clockwise on the dirt loop trail around Lake Katrina
Leaf I
Under a canopy starting to change
Leaf II
On the south side of the loop
Channeling Georgia O’Keeffe here
A little more Fall color
Leaf III
Lake Katrina, Baker Park Reserve, Maple Plain,  Minnesota
Lake Katrina in the distance
About half way around the loop, the sun broke free of the clouds
Leaf IV
On the east side of the loop
Out across the prairie
And back into the woods
Leaf V
One tree went all in on Fall color – we were imagining what it will look like when all the trees do this
Past open ground on the north side of the loop
More colors
Leaf VI
Rounding the top of the loop

Thus far, we’d seen a variety of insects – mostly grasshoppers – and a frog or two flitting about in the mowed grasses of the hiker trail. So when we saw the grass moving more forcefully, we thought it might be a bigger toad or snake or a small vole. But, no, it was the biggest spider we’ve seen outside the tropics! We think it was a harmless and beneficial Hentz Orb-weaver. But with a span of about 2 inches (5 cm) across its spine-encrusted legs and a 0.5 inch (1.2 cm) diameter abdomen, it sure captured our attention! 😲

Hentz Orb-weaver
Moving past the spider…
Leaf VII
Another burst of color
Rounding the top of the loop
Leaf IX
And back to the trail access parking lot
Leaf X

This proved to be an inspired choice – with avenues of trees and expanses of prairie – with just enough color showing to whet our appetites for more. Plus the largest, spiniest spider we’ve seen lately. πŸ•· After finishing our 6.1 mile (9.8 km) loop, with a cumulative 300 feet (91 m) of elevation gain, we went home to get on with more of daily living’s mundane tasks. πŸ™„

Our loop around Lake Katrina at Baker Park (map)
Our loop around Lake Katrina at Baker Park

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