Welcome to My Minnesota State Park Project
Back in 2016, I explored all 76 State Parks and Recreation Areas that stretch across my beautiful home state. I gave myself a year to complete the project, but end up completing it in 32 weeks. During the week, I planned out what section of the state I wanted to explore by utilizing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. I tended to group parks together, studied the trail maps, made my route, and hit the road. My car was packed with all the gear I needed from my bike, Nala (my SUP), tent, sleeping system, Dharma Yoga Wheel, and much more. Let's not forget all my Onnit bars, protein, MCT oil, Phat Fudge, and any other foods I'd like to enjoy on the go. Having all of this allowed me optimize my time at each park. As the project went on I tended to push myself more and more. Wanted to see if I could do everything the park has to offer. Some had miles and miles of hiking trails, where others had a lake with at least a Hiking Club Trail system. So I made the most of it every time by hiking, paddle boarding, biking, free climbing, yoga, meditation, and really anything to keep it fun!
Quick Stats: 76 Parks over 32 weeks : 46 Days actually exploring : 263 miles Hiked : 218 miles Biked : 74 miles Paddled
Started 3/11/2016 - Completed 10/22/2016 :)
The layout of the project is grouped in reverse chronological order that I explored. Photo are linked to that parks gallery, just need to click!
My last park! Had my parents join to assist me getting back from the island. Why? Because I paddled 11.55 miles to the 1 of the 14,000+ island in the Lake of the Woods. Garden Island was my last park I needed to explore. Paddled through fog, got directions from fisherman on the lake, made it to my X, and had tons of fun doing so. I am very please how I wrapped up the whole project :)
Fantastic day exploring right from work. Put in some miles and had a blast doing so. The colors were out of this world the whole time. Super awesome how close the park, which I'll have to make sure to get back in the winter time.
Another awesome weekend exploring along and down the St. Croix. Saturday I spend on foot hiking 12-13 miles, along with doing some yoga, inverts, knife throwing, and more. Sunday I paddled Nala 12-13 miles down the St. Croix to checkout the island. Truly amazing paddle and made me thing about others I am going to be doing.
Set off on Friday across the state to Big Stone Lake, which was crazy nasty water. Made my way to Watertown, SD for a tasty meal and pint and back after the parks on Saturday. Again, another nasty water lake which I didn't paddle again... At this rate I might as well finish this whole section on Saturday, which I did just that. All together 15-17 miles hikes/ran, yoga session, playing around with my knife, and testing out some night shots.
Only had Friday evening and Saturday day due to wanting to make Oktoberfest with some friends Saturday night. Still got in 3 parks, around 15 miles of hiking, an amazing sunset, journal entry, and a few miles or jogging. Yup, I run sometimes on the trail and it allowed me to see more quickly. I was going to hit a fourth park but saving it for when leaves are turning.
This weekend was a busy one. Started off volunteering with Wilderness Inquiry for their 6th Annual Great River Race. Afterwards, I took off to central Minnesota to hike and bike 4 more parks. Put in about 15 miles hiking and 17 miles biking. Stopped off in downtown Alexandria for a burger and a pint on Saturday night followed by a movie. You know my typical activities I enjoy doing outside exploring parks. Nice to try out new burger joints and fun to see different movie theaters. Had/have a lot on my mind right now due to the different directions I potentially can go with life. Just been weighing the pros and cons of each path. Only time will tell which one I take :)
This weekend was a quick one but was still packed with 15 ish miles hiked, yoga, broken camera, cave tour, and more all under 30 hours. I had one mission, Mystery Cave tour since it was my last weekend I had available to go. Took off midday on Friday to get to Carley early. During that hike my camera just stopped working... Not really sure why but whatever I still had my iPhone. So 90% of these photos were taken on my phone. Then headed over to Whitewater before grabbing a burger, beer, and seeing a movie in Rochester. Next day, I headed down to Forestville to check out the trails, Historic Forestville, and went on the 2-3 hour Mystery Cave tour. Flipping awesome tour! Super great hiking trails and I just love the lower east side of Minnesota. I will probably swing by down for the fall leaves or maybe in the winter time.
After a failed attempt to explore Hill Annex Mine the week before, due to only being able to see the park via tour, I decided to set up a tour this time. I then took off to McCarthy Beach for the night. Weather was not cooperating so I only explore a little bit, but still got some awesome sunset pictures. The next day, I went on the Soudan Underground Mine tour (totally worth it!) and paddled Lake Vermillion. Rounded out the last day hiking Bear Head Lake follows by a stop of Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area, but no luck.
Right back at it again after my 14 day Alaska mountaineering expedition with NOLS. I set out to hit 5 parks and only ended up doing 4. Hill Annex Mine you can only access via tour and I missed the last tour. So I drove to Scenic instead. Wow! That park was hit by a intense storm. Hiked Scenic until sunset and returned in the morning to paddle the lake. Afterwards, I made my way to Lake Bemidji. Hit the trails on my bike and stayed out of the water, due to swimmers itch, didn't want to deal with that crap. I then paddled the next park La Salle Lake, made dinner on Nala, and caught the sunset. Last day, I covered a ton of miles (over 30) by bike, foot, and water at Itasca, headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River.
Oh! Oh! I am now sponsored by Onnit! Very pleased and honored to be apart of the family. Love how we share the same outlook on life, which is all about total human optimization! Very exciting moment for me :)
The good, the bad, and the different angle :) Had fun playing around today, excluding the bugs (mainly these little like horse flies), seeing things from a higher point of view, and hitting the water with Nala.
Park is super close to Twin Cities and would help give "city folks" a taste of nature, but still city influenced. You can still hear cars and planes in the distance. Not a deal breaker but something to note. Nice part is how you don't waste a whole lot of time getting to the park, which gives you more time to explore everything this park has to offer and surrounding area. It actually The links up to the rest of the Mississippi River Trail for miles after miles of fun
6th annual 4th of July weekend! I head to Cuyuna for mountain biking followed by camping in Alexandria every year. This year was no different and Cuyuna just happens to be a State Recreation Area and apart of this project!
Did a single day of exploring this weekend. Headed down to the Minnesota Valley Recreational Area to see what it is all about. At first, I was thinking of just paddling down the Minnesota River and stopping off at all 5 units. However, after looking more into everything I found out this area typically likes to flood. A lot. So I decided it was best to head down and scope it all out first. Who knows maybe another adventure would be to actually paddle it :)
Had a great weekend with the parks I explored. Truly amazed at how much I packed into Saturday. Really tested myself physically and mentally with the crazy heat we had. 90+ degrees with 75+% humidity is not my cup of tea, but I enjoy challenging myself with areas I dislike. I'm a cold weather kind of guy so sleeping was difficult for me friday night. Made it work. Still paddled a ton, hike a fair amount, progressed my yoga and inverts, and got to portage 5 times :)
Took a few tries but I finally got here! First half of the weekend was with awesome friends brewery hopping in Duluth, supporting and enjoying friends bodybuilding show, and still got in a full 9-10 mile day hike!
Over Memorial Day weekend I set off to tackle the northwestern section of Minnesota. I had my eyes set on 7 parks, with the ultimate goal to get on Garden Island. I ended up exploring 8 parks (added 2 I was passing by) with roughly hiking 16 miles, running 5 miles, biking 53 miles, paddled 6+ hours, and driving 1,200 miles. Toss in all the yoga, meditation, other training, and just fun I had to round out a successful weekend
Oh long story short I didn't make it out to Garden Island since a fishing tournament was going on and I was not able to hitchhike my way there. I thought about paddling it from Zippel Bay but that's roughly 19 miles across The Lake of the Woods... Yeah not a small lake and one you want to mess around on with potential storm approaching. My only other option was to get there from Northwest Angle Inlet, which is the most northern point of Minnesota (and US lower 48) but I had to pass through Canada to get there and I didn't have my passport.. So I will try a different time, which I have some sweet plans to get there now!
Packed weekend with 5 State Parks on the list, putting me to 28 out of 76! Really starting to come together at this point. Have my systems pretty dialed in now which make traveling super easy. I was waiting to hit the Southwest section of Minnesota mid-May because I wanted to make sure the wildflowers had time to grow and bloom. Totally, a great call on my part! Flowers were everywhere and made for a lovely experience hiking, training, yoga, and meditation sessions. Weather made me change the route I was going to take, but made for some sweet shots. I love being out in the “bad weather”, which to me it just changes the mood and emotion you get out of the landscape and sky. Overall, had a blast this weekend and really feel like I am starting to develop my style, but something I’m always working on :)
After a super fun Birthday I set off to collect more State Parks. Working my way up Interstate 35 to meet up with my buddy Rob. Spent a few hour hiking (8.14 miles) Banning. Banning was awesome and I never knew rapids like that were in MN! Totally got me excited for my SUP, which I will get back to have some fun :) After Banning I headed up to Jay Cooke to check out the Swing Bridge. Seeing how it was laid out I told Rob he had to come meet me to catch the sunset, totally worth it! We then headed into Duluth to grab dinner.
I ended up sleeping in the Duluth Rest stop to catch a colorful sunrise, since I waned to get to Jay Cooke again in the morning. I met back up with Rob and we took off for George Crosby Manitou State Park, but ended up at Caribou Falls Wayside instead. Afterwards we went to Castle Danger Brewery. On my way home, I stopped off at Moose Lake State Park. Hiked 4-5 miles and caught another sunset and had some fun playing around on the docks. Overall, it was a fantastic birthday weekend exploring, pushing myself, and just having a blast with a great friend :)
Started the weekend off with a crazy fun scavenger hunt for two outstanding friends wedding, which was a blast. I also made a stop off at a park.
Had a great time exploring this section of Minnesota. Set off Friday afternoon to the first park, knowing I was not going to spend a ton of time. After my encounter with a rare albino Whitetail Deer I figured it was time to head onto the next park. Spent the night at Savanna Portage on one of the lakeshore campsites. Next day, I biked, hiked, and explored Savanna Portage, Schoolcraft, and got a little taste of Crow Wing. Last day, I spend exploring over 10 miles of Crow Wing while stopping to play in the trees, work on my yoga, meditate, and just enjoy the rich history. Overall, I really like Savanna Portage and Crow Wing the best this weekend probably because there is so much to see and do :)
Took off towards 6 State Parks straight south of the Twin Cities. I explored the first 3 Friday afternoon/evening. Had some crazy mixed weather I totally loved. Slept in my car overnight with my bike in the back, which worked out very well. Saturday, I explored the next 3, which was a crazy fun long day. Really got to challenge and test myself during the whole adventure. Overall, hiked roughly 20ish miles, climbed in a lot of trees/rock faces, and biked 55.10 miles on the Sakatah Singing Hill State Trail :)
Nice hike in Afton, which was my 4th time coming down here to hike. Stated to play around with more camera angles and ideas on how I wanted to present the whole project.
This was the first hike a few of the friends joined. They wanted to get a taste of what I was doing on the North Shore and out west. Helped me realize I truly need to do this project.
Quick hike to catch the sunset and check out the Lake Maria. Hiked the Hiking Club Trail loop thinking about how fantastic it was to be in nature so close to the Twin Cities. This ended up being the deciding point to start the project. I knew every park was roughly within a 6 hour drive, which to me is nothing since I love driving. Plus the journey is always apart of the adventure :)
I came across "The Ultimate Minnesota Waterfall Road Trip" and was like, "YES! So happening". Well I ended up pulling the trigger on this adventure two days before I took off. Plus, I heard there was still plenty of snow and ice and I thought would make it even better experience.
I was sure right on that call! Non stop out of this world views. All together I hiked roughly 17 miles, drove over 750 miles, slept in the trunk of my Jetta, and visited 7 Minnesota State Parks on the hunt for the waterfalls. Oh and all of this was within 29 hours. Yeaaahh I did say it was a mini adventure :)
**Note this adventure was per-decision before starting the project.