CARLEY STATE PARK
LENGTH 2 miles
DIFFICULTY Moderate hills with water crossing
DATE May 14, 2018
MAIN FEATURES River crossing, Virginia Bluebells in May
After our visit to Enlightened Equipment to squeeze all of the quilts and meet the wonderful people who make them, followed by a hefty hike in Whitewater State Park, we decided to visit one more park on the way home. Carley State Park is a little over 200 acres and we thought it would be easy to “just zip through one more little trail” and grab one more Minnesota Hiking Club Password.
We were quickly surprised by this gem of a park and totally underestimated all it has to offer. Since we were limited on time, we didn’t get to explore the entire park, but Carley State Park offers camping (drive-in, group), 6 miles of trails, picnicking, a playground, historic site, and fishing. Definitely worth hanging around next time.
Right off the bat, we saw fields of Virginia Bluebells. This time if year it was in bloom EVERYWHERE. My pictures don’t do it justice, but it the contrast of the bright blue flowers on the spring greens in the rain was a beautiful welcome to the trail.
The hiking club trail follows along the North Branch Whitewater River and starts off flat. We were hiking fast to try to beat a storm headed our way but still tried to take in the beauty of all of the flowers in bloom.
Because we assumed this park would be an easy little jaunt, we didn’t really look at the map. So, we were completey surprised to see that the trail ran straight into the river. I was flummoxed….walking around looking for a bridge…surely this was a mistake. As I was walking around looking for a reasonable explanation for this trail design, I found my sister in a tree! Surely climbing a tree is a better idea than walking through about 4-6″ of water.
Since the rain was coming anyway, we decided to just walk right in and get our feet wet. We’ll have rivers to cross on our Superior Hiking Trail thru hike, so we might as well figure it out!
We got a good laugh out of our micro adventure of fording our first river together and kept trucking. The rain was just beginning to start and we had a hiking club password to find!
The trail leaves the river and heads up a little elevation, This was a little tricky with the mud, but it was good enough to get our blood pumping and see some nice views.
Oddly, it seemed like there were A LOT of trees that had been hit by lightning in this higher section of the park. I pointed out how the lightning will hit the top of the tree and blast out of the bottom, leaving a black charred hole. Since it was raining, and we didn’t want to end up like those trees, we hoofed it out of there!
One last river crossing on our way out. There were some concrete slabs in this section, but they were a little slippery and the water was rushing faster. I’d keep an eye on kids on this trail and make sure you are prepared to cross water when you visit. It wasn’t anything terrible, but it could get deep with heavy rain.
I can’t count the number of times, I’ve narrowly missed a downpour hiking…but this was one of those hikes. We got to the car, hopped inside and the heavens opened up! We timed it perfectly! We stripped off our soaking wet socks and shoes and threw on our sandals for the drive home. Tip: I like to bring a pair of Chacos after a long hike to air out my feet.
One last shout out. One of the best parts of hiking and backpacking is eating! Hiker Hunger is real!! We were so hungry after our full day of hiking two parks, we found this great little spot on our way through Pine Island and had to stop in. The Trailhead Grill offers American food and Tater Tots as a side option! I had the Rachel and my sister had a Hamburger with a Gluten free bun that didn’t taste like crap (look how happy she is).
Have you been to Whitewater or Carley State Parks? Or are you doing the Hiking Club Trails? Later this week, I’m heading to another new park. Hint: where I’m headed is a mystery…