The tense 2022 Midterm elections are now behind us. These gave us, as they have for 234 years, winners and losers. Regardless of whether their person won or lost, the American people seem to still believe enough in our grand experiment in Democracy to vote and accept the results. That we did this, just a few days before we remembered those who fell to preserve this Democracy, is magnificent. Let’s try to be the same people in 2024… 🇺🇸
After last week’s tensions we, of course, needed a hike. The weather people intimated that there might – might! – be some sunshine today. Never mind the clouds overhead and the little snowflakes drifting down from on high – focus on sunshine. 😎 Focus! Right. Well, we got clouds, a steady 30℉ (-1.1℃), a light breeze (invigorating! 😒), and no sun.
So we selected a close-in hike that’s been on our list for awhile – a loop around the southwest end of Long Meadow Lake below the bluffs in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Thus, park at the end of Old Cedar Avenue South, then over the Long Meadow Bridge (Old Cedar Avenue Bridge), then southwest along the Minnesota River on the Long Meadow Lake and Minnesota Valley State Trails, and back on the Bluff Trail.
Not far along the trail from the MN 77 bridge, we came across a vertical pipe bubbling clear water into a small pond. There were no human structures near here – or at least none we could see. With the river on one side and Long Meadow Lake on the other, it’s not clear why you would sink a well here or why a natural artesian well would work. So what this pipe is, and where this water comes from, is a mystery (to us at least).
We may have been walking in a national wildlife refuge but that’s not to say we were in a pristine area. The Minnesota River has been an avenue of commerce from the canoe age to the steamboat age and beyond. The Black Dog Power Plant on the opposite shore – and its associated transmission lines crossing the river – are more recent additions to human uses of the Minnesota. It began as a coal-fired plant in the 1950s but was converted to natural gas in 2002. It’s still not carbon neutral but much less of a carbon polluter than it was back in the good old days. 🙄
We were doing this route clockwise, so we’d started on dirt singletrack. That lasted for about 2.4 miles (3.8 km) until we connected with the paved Minnesota Valley State Trail. This trail is intersected by a number of dirt mountain bike trails which were pretty busy this morning – we saw many more bikers than hikers. After another mile on pavement, we left the river, headed inland, and started back on the dirt Bluff Trail.
This loop came to 6.8 miles (10.8 km) with not much in the way of elevation changes. Sunshine would have been nice but we enjoyed the hike we were given. Although there were plenty of waterfowl bobbing about in the lake – and even a few forest birds flitting amongst the bare trees – a return visit in the Spring – when even more birds and wildflowers are about – is now on our to do list. 😁 Post-hike sustenance was taken at the conveniently nearby Northstar Tavern – which has a surprisingly varied menu for a pub. 🍺🍔😋