Monday, May 10, 2010

Rails to Trails


This weekend I again ran upon trails that I hadn't visited before.

Early Saturday morning I headed over to the Blue Hill Trail where I normally run. As Topaz and I began to run up the trail I saw the Ranger pull into the lot. Forget this. I'm going somewhere else, I thought to myself. I didn't want to be hasseled by him anymore. I turned around and ran back to the car. As we passed him he asked if I had yet mailed my fine. I looked at him, made eye contact, and continued running toward my car. The fine isn't due until the 22nd, it's $250 and I really don't need this guy on my case anymore.

I drove north a few miles looking for a trail had I had come across before. After Topaz and I jumped out of the car I saw the sign "no admitance from March 1 to August 1' foiled again. A few more stops with the same results.

Let's get out of the Wildlife Refuge!

I decided to park at a Grant Aid Trail near home. There were a few mile of muddy snowmobile trails, a few miles of horse trails and it fizzled out. I looked at my watch. Well, we ran a whopping 11 miles. Not quiet the mileage I was looking for before heading to the Twins game, but it was something. Too much time wasted driving along looking for trail.


Quick shower, quickly make french toast for Steve and the boys and we were off to catch the Northstar Train. We decided since we had no errands to run before or after the Twins game we would ride the Northstar Train. The train begins in Big Lake, stops in Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley enroute to Target Field in Minneapolis. From Target Field one can catch the Hiawatha Line to the airport, Mall of America and whatnot. I think I may take it when I fly out to Chicago in a few weeks.

I was amazed when we pulled into the Northstar lot and it was full. We stood in line to get our ‘family pass’ a two- way travel voucher for $17 and boarded the train. We were able to get a booth next to the window for four so that we could enjoy the view . By the time we reached Coon Rapids the train was standing room only. We were full! What a great way to travel to Minneapolis. No traffic, no parking costs, easy breezy.

Unfortanately the Twins lost to the Orioles (but won the second game of the double header and the game on Sunday) 3-7. Even with a loss the afternoon at Target Field was a blast. This field is really top notch. We absolutely love it. Hopefully the next game we attend has a winning outcome!

Trails. I didn’t really know where to run on Sunday. I didn’t want to go to Blue Hill and I didn’t want to drive all over the Twin Cities again. I wanted to run near home, on trail, not road and I wanted to take Topaz. I decided to check out the summer trails of Lake Maria State Park. I have run the snowshoe trails here as I coach snowshoe classes here but have never run upon the summer trails.

I filled a few gallons of water, heed and grabbed some gels. I wanted to start early before it became too warm for Topaz so I left before 5. My plan was to run 30 miles for the day, but wasn’t sure what Topaz would be up for. I’d run whatever I could with him and finish up on road or treadmill at home. I began in long pants, gloves and long sleeved shirt as it was 28F and there was snow on the ground. By the end of the run I was in shorts and a short-sleeved top.

The park was beautiful. There are many lakes within the 2000 acres and a handful of ponds. The trails meander over rolling hills, some steep with great lookouts over the city of Monticello. This park holds one of the few remaining stands of the "Big Woods," a maple, oak and basswood forest that once covered part of southern Minnesota.

Backpack sites, located on remote lakes and ponds throughout the park, are one to two miles from the trailhead parking. New log camper cabins, located near lakes and ponds, provide bunk beds for six people and a table and benches for campers who want more of the comforts than a tent may provide.

The park lies in the St. Croix Moraine which was formed during the last glacier, the Wisconsin Age.

I loved the rolling terrain. The trails were soft dirt with a few roots and lots of leaves. The ferns, leaves and wildflowers were opening and just beautiful.

I didn’t see one other person! I couldn’t believe it. I saw two cars in the lot and two tents in a backpack site and that was it.

We ran a 7 mile loop around the park and then a 3 mile trail around the end of Lake Maria. There were plenty of lakes for Topaz to cool off and drink from. I had parked the car in the center of the park so I was able to come back for a refill or change of clothes when necessary.

After 10 miles I changed into shorts and had a gel and banana, refilled a bottle and removed my gloves. It was warming up nicely.

Topaz was doing fine. My hamstrings were getting a workout as I haven’t been running hills in forever but the hills didn’t seem to bother him. I set off for another trail, this one an 8 miler. It was absolutely beautiful! The terrain reminded me of the race in WI-the Glacial Trail. Lots of constant rolling hills, beautiful outcrops and great views.

We headed back to the car for a refill and I noticed 4 huge horse trailers had arrived. I never saw any of the horses on the trail but they were out there somewhere.

Because it was a cool morning Topaz was doing fine. He wasn’t lagging at all he full of more energy than I, so we kept on moving. We ran the first 10 mile section again, again just thrilled with the course and the views. This time we came upon many deer and two fox.

After a last quick dip in the lake for Topaz and a bottle of water for me, we headed back home.

Lake Maria State Park is a real nice park for running with miles of trail, beautiful lakes, awesome views. We’ll definitely be back!

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