The Minnesota Rovers are an outdoor club and something on an institution in Minnesota. We joined them soon after we arrived here but, between one thing and another, only managed to go on one short hike (walk really) with them last summer.

Similarly, we’d done a hike at Afton State Park in early Spring and planned to visit again when the leaves were out. But the same forces that kept us from another hike with the Rovers also conspired to keep us from a return visit to a leafy Afton. So sad. 😢

So today we sought to address both of these shortcomings by going on our second Rover outing, this time at Afton State Park. 😃 True, it was now late Fall and we’d missed all the leaves (except for some still clingy dead oak leaves).

But the weather was exceptionally good (we think suspiciously good for late October in Minnesota) for a hike – sunny, calm, warm, with only a light overcast. So good that not only did 17 people show-up for the Rover’s hike but the trails (and parking lots) were full of other hikers. We were not alone.

We hiked from the Visitor Center to the southern end of the park, then back on the South and North River Trails (route of the long defunct Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad), to the park’s northern end, then back to the parking lot through the backpack campground – a total of 6.5 miles (10.4 km).

The group gathers at the Visitor Center
We head south
And then down to the St. Croix
Along the old CMS&P railroad grade

We took a break where the River Trails come closest to to the beach. One thing to note was how much lower the river was now than when we were here in May.

Yes, rivers naturally recede some over the summer, but the St. Croix was sporting a light colored “bathtub” rim on its shore reminiscent of those at the drying reservoirs out West. Well, we are having a bit of a drought here too. 🏜

The LovedOne crosses a now exposed sandbar
One of the remaining (and still quite sturdy) railroad bridges
The St. Croix River looking north
The St. Croix River looking south
Starting uphill for the return loop
Sunlight on the St. Croix from the northern overlook
Back across some restored prairie
Remains of a windmill at the old homesite
Almost back to the parking lot

Hiking with 15 other people meant that our usual dawdling pauses for photos had to take a back seat to keeping up with the group (which moved along at a surprising fast clip for a group) and socializing.

Fortunately everyone had interesting stories and quips to share, which kept us entertained the whole way. Our atrophied social skills got as good a work-out as did our legs. 😁 We’re looking forward to trying some winter hiking or snowshoe trips with the Rovers – once winter finally arrives. 🙄🥶

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