A Loop Hike Around Hyland Lake (Bloomington, MN) 13-Apr-2023

Minnesota and cold have melded into an inseparable cultural association. Over a year ago, when we mentioned to anyone Out West that we might be moving to the Gopher State, their next words were, almost invariably, “…but it’s so cold.” πŸ₯Ά

We soon found all this cold talk to be a little chilling. So, in February of last year, we journeyed to Minnesota to face the freezer and get our own feel for the cold. πŸ€” We thought about adding Duluth to our itinerary (because all the climate refugees are moving there) but decided to stay with the Twin Cities for the moment. Baby steps…

It was 5℉ (-15℃) when we went searching for our rental car at MSP and always below freezing during the week we wandered around Minneapolis and its suburbs. Just before we lost all feeling in our extremities, we decided that we needed to see what hiking in the cold was like.

The Richardson Nature Center in Hyland Lake Park Reserve was close to our hotel, so we went there and did a remarkably short out-and-back hike to Goose Nest Pond. It was 16℉ (-8.8℃) during our walk. This wasn’t our first hike in Minnesota (that was to Eagle Mountain in 2001) but it was certainly the coldest. But we survived and now here we are.

Our current bout of remarkably amazing WARM weather got us to thinking that Hyland Lake deserved more of our time than we’d given it on that first visit. So we decided to assuage the (tiny) guilt we harbored for having ignored it by doing a long loop around the lake and from one end of the Reserve to the other.

It’s a little disorienting to realize that just 2 weeks ago we were digging out from yet another heavy, wet snowstorm. And people were still skiing at Hyland Hills. And now – poof – the snow is gone, brown ground is everywhere, and the skiers have moved on (and we’re trying to ignore the chance that it might snow again in 2 days πŸ˜’).

With skiable snow now absent, the unpaved trails at the Reserve are again open to hikers, so we were able to do our loop almost entirely on unpaved trails that, not too long ago, were mostly reserved for skiers. Trail surfaces were either dry wood chips, moist grass, or the relatively smooth remains of groomed snow.

We got started by taking the Prairie Trail past Basking Turtle Pond, then on around to the Oak Trail and south on that and the Pond Loop to Goose Nest Lake.

On the Prairie Trail
Turtle Basking Pond
Snags in the water
Crossing the prairie
On the Oak Trail
It’s alive! Alive, I say!
Arriving at Goose Nest Pond
Goose Nest Pond (February, 2022)
Goose Nest Pond today 😎😁

From Goose Nest, we took the Oak Trail to the Aspen Trail and then up to the viewing platform that overlooks the lake and the Osprey nesting box.

The view in February, 2022
The view today 😎

From the viewpoint, we followed the North Trail south and then east to the Boulder Ridge Trail. Here we encountered snow that had been compacted by grooming and was thus resisting melting. But its surface was still smooth enough to make walking on it pretty easy.

Going south on the North Trail
The Ospreys were busy remodeling their nest
On the Boulder Trail
Climbing the hill south of the ski area
Still climbing…
Now south on the Boulder Trail
And up the Scenic Foothills

After navigating a cluster of trail junctions, we continued south toward Hyland Lake on the Oak Knob Trail. Considering we were in the middle of a large urban area, it was surprisingly quite along this trail. It would probably be even more so once the trees leaf-out to provide a sound and light shield.

Continuing south on the Oak Knob Trail
Hyland Lake
Hyland Lake

We followed the Lake Trail around the southern end of the lake and up to the huge concession and rental area on the lake’s west side.

On the Lake Trail
Hiking through the concession area

From the concession area, we worked our way north through a mix of trails before finally settling on the North Trail. When the ski jump came into view, we knew the parking lot was not too far away.

Going north
Still going north
The ski jump (arrow) comes into view
On the North Trail between the causeway and Goose Nest Pond

The day had started out warm, and by the time we’d finished this 7.7 mile (12.4 km) loop, it had become a positively toasty (83℉ / 28℃), record setting day. But what a remarkable day for a walk! 😁 We were parched, so we found our way to the nearest Culver’s for cool drinks and fish burgers. πŸ₯€πŸŸπŸ” And these were good. πŸ˜‹

We’ve enjoyed three consecutive days of great hikes in even greater weather for hiking. Low humidity and bug free! So it’s all good. Now we’ve got some warm memories to carry us through the weather’s all too soon return to “normal” – with colder temps, a splash of rain, and a dusting of snow – in the days ahead. πŸ˜•

Our wiggly loop around Hyland Lake

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