It was a 40 minute drive from our first park of the day, Old Mill, to our second – Lake Bronson. This lake is actually a reservoir, an impoundment of the South Branch of the Two Rivers. It was built in 1936-37 when a drought dried up the shallow wells in the area. The Hiking Club route here, a 3.4 mile (5.4 km) loop, was the longest one we’d do today.

Our loop started out across a stretch prairie, then went through several forest stands glowing with Fall colors before crossing more prairie and then swinging back past the lake. Near the end of the loop, we learned that we’d been hiking through Aspen Parkland, a transitional biome between warm, dry prairie lands to the south and west and cool, wet pine forests and peat bogs to the north and east. Most of this unique biome is in Canada; the only pieces of it in the U.S. are in northern Minnesota and North Dakota. And all of this state park is within this biome.

Going clockwise on the loop
Into the prairie on a mix of state and private land
And into some forest
Fall color had started but wasn’t 100% yet
“Eyeball” mushrooms
The Fall forest continues
Dying leaves and living grass
Turning toward the lake through more prairie
Big sky over the prairie
The prairie turns to brown with a reddish-orange tinge
The upstream end of Lake Bronson
Lake Bronson, Minnesota
Lake Bronson
It was a beautiful day at Lake Bronson
One last patch of forest before the trailhead
Patterns in the Fall
The Hiking Club route at Lake Bronson

We’d gotten an early start but still didn’t finish the loop at Lake Bronson until around noon. Our third park of the day – Hayes Lake – was over an hour away and these Fall days don’t last forever. So we bundled into the truck and headed east, stopping briefly in Greenbush for gas and a snack. 😋

Then miles and miles of (generally well maintained) two lane road past farm fields and vast expanses of aspens. Plus some “shortcuts” on dirt roads across state forests. Technically, Oregon and Minnesota are almost the same size [OR: 98,000 mi2 (250,000 km2); MN: 87,014 mi2 (225,370 km2)] but as we drove and drove, somehow Minnesota seemed bigger. 😉

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