Long Meadow Lake (Minnesota Valley NWR) 12-Nov-2022

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… πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

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! πŸ˜’), 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.

Crossing the restored Long Meadow Bridge, Minnesota Valley NWR
Crossing the restored Long Meadow Bridge (Old Cedar Avenue Bridge)
The refuge at the edge of Winter – open water and lots of Coots
On the paved path toward the Cedar Avenue/MN 77 bridge, Minnesota Valley NWR
On the paved path toward the Cedar Avenue/MN 77 bridge
A day for reflections and shades of brown
The Cedar Avenue/MN 77 bridge over the Minnesota River
The Cedar Avenue/MN 77 bridge over the Minnesota River
Southwest on the Long Meadow Lake Trail
The gates regulating the connection between Black Dog Lake and the Minnesota River
The gates regulating the connection between Black Dog Lake and the Minnesota River
Continuing along the Minnesota River
No leaves, just reflections

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).

Water bubbles up through a pipe
Reflections on a small pond
More reflections

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. πŸ™„

Black Dog Power Plant, Minnesota
Black Dog Power Plant
Continuing along under the transmission lines
A last leaf defies (briefly) the onset of Winter

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.

On the paved Minnesota Valley State Trail
Wands over water
A last look at the Minnesota River
On the Bluff Trail, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
On the Bluff Trail
Fallen leaves on the Bluff Trail
On the boardwalk not far from the trailhead

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. πŸΊπŸ”πŸ˜‹

Our loop around Long Meadow Lake

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