In 1943, the U.S. government obtained 12,000 acres (4,856 ha) of farmland southeast of Minneapolis to build the Gopher Ordnance Works. 🐿 Guns for gophers!? These works went into operation just before WW2 ended and were mothballed very soon after it did.
In 1947, the land was deeded to the University of Minnesota and has since been used mostly for academic research and agricultural projects (as UMore Park). Most of the work’s structures had been removed by 2016.
The Lone Rock Trail is one of four loop trails (Farm, Wetland, and Pine being the others) within that portion of the Vermillion Highlands research, recreation, and wildlife management area that is on the south side of UMore Park. We first learned of these trails while doing a hike at Whitetail Woods Regional Park last summer.
It was another one of those picture-perfect days for a hike – sunny, unseasonably warm (34℉/1.1℃), with only a light breeze (and even that faded after our first hour out). Since something like “real” winter is due back next week, we felt impelled to get out and do some walking while the sun shines! 😎
Plan A had been to park at Whitetail and walk the short distance from there over to the Farm Loop. But, upon arriving at Whitetail, we found that most of its winter trails are for skiers only. So Plan B had us driving gingerly up a tilted icy road to the nearby Lone Rock Trailhead.
From that trailhead, we combined sections of the Farm and Lone Rock Trails to do a loop through the gently rolling terrain, woodlands, restored prairie, and agricultural fields in the Vermillion Highlands. It may have been unseasonably warm but the land is still slumbering under a blanket of snow and the trees remain leafless.
While Whitetail is pretty much all about skiers at this time of year, the Umore Park trails allow for skiers, hikers, and snowshoers. The broad, plowed trail has track set for skiers on one side and a compacted area for walking on the other. It made for easy walking on snow with good traction. The only crazy slippery part was getting from the car, across the iced parking lot, to the start of the Farm Loop. 🥺
From the Lone Rock Trailhead, we went counter-clockwise on the Farm Trail through Intersections 2 and 1 to 3, where we joined the Lone Rock Trail. Then through Intersections 5, 6, 7, and 8 and back to the trailhead.
This area has a lot of hiking potential. Our loop came to 6 miles (9.6 km) but we could have stretched it toward 11 miles (17.6 km) by including the Wetland and Pine Trails. In winter, the landscape here is stark, white, and minimalist. But it holds the promise of prairie bursting with wildflowers 🌼 and flush with verdant trees when the warmer months arrive. Absolutely worth another visit when those times finally reach us. 😁
Thanks! Always glad to invoke some good memories.
As a farmer’s daughter, I love your ghost corn image. You took me back to the farm.