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LENGTH 1.3 mile hiking club trail
DIFFICULTY Easy and flat
DATE  June 22, 2018
MAIN FEATURES  Iowa River and Lake Louise-blood thirsty mosquitoes



I left work a little early on Friday to hike my 37th Minnesota Hiking Club trail and get a head start on meeting the Scouts at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park.   Traffic was thick, so it took about 3 hours to get there, which put me on the trail right at dusk.


Unless you love mosquitoes, I would not recommend a dusk hike on a recently flooded trail that borders both a lake and a river.   I don’t have a lot to say about this hiking trail, except that it was short, I ran and the bugs were trying to kill me.  Luckily the DNR has this nice little summary of the park’s features:

Lake Louise State Park is a mix of woodlands, savanna, and meadows on the eastern edge of the tallgrass prairie biome. The lake is a historic mill pond located at the confluence of the Upper Iowa and Little Iowa Rivers. The park is home to a variety of wildlife and some beautiful wildflowers. The lake is ideal for canoeing and fishing. Camping, picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding are popular. The park is ideal for those seeking a quiet and relaxed park experience.


The bugs were at their worst on the Hiking Club Trail and let up as I got closer to the dam.   There, I discovered a bald eagle in a tree and watched the setting sun transform the lake.  This park has nicely shaded car camping sites and I saw my first loop entirely dedicated to horse camping.   I tried to imagine riding into the park with all of my gear and tying up a horse next to my tent for the night.

IMG_1165 6

I finished the trail and made my way out around 8:30 pm and encountered more road construction detours.  There’s an old joke that Minnesota has two seasons:   Winter and Road construction.   Through winding gravel back roads, I made it to meet the Scouts at the Mystery Cave Group Campsite just before dark.


I packed my DIY ultralight backpack using my latest SHT Thru Hike packing list (adding my tiny Alite Monarch chair for this trip) with the intent on testing out my gear choices again.   In addition to increasing my hiking mileage and weight, I continue pressure testing my gear to find what works and make sure I am really only bringing what I need.

I’m happy to report that the new Tarptent went up without a hitch again, even setting it up by myself in the dark.   This is going to be a great tent for our thru-hike!

Here’s my new cushy shelter/sleep set up:
1. Tarp Tent Saddle 2
2. Big Agnes AXL Air insulated pad
3. Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt
4. Big Agnes Pumphouse (stuffsack, pillow, pump)
5. Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX jacket (pillow stuffing)
Total weight for this dreamy night’s sleep is a little over 5 lbs, closer to 4 if you split the tent with a buddy and set up with hiking poles.  The new Big Agnes pad fit me much better than the Thermarest Neo Air and its super comfy.

img_1208.jpgThe birds woke me up up a couple of hours before everyone else, so I enjoyed some down time before our jam packed day with the Scouts.   Armed with my coffee, Andrew Skurka’s book and what seemed like a thousand birds chirping overhead.   A female cardinal buzzed me a couple of times and landed on the picnic table right next to me, very attracted to my spiffy new Enlightened Equipment jacket.   Poor gal stared at me and flew away disappointed when she realized I was not a big hunky dude cardinal.

After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, we loaded up the Scouts and drove the 6 miles to Mystery Cave.   The cave is in a separate part of the park and is one of several hundred caves in the county!

IMG_1257 4“This whole area is basically like swiss cheese” -Bob, the tour guide

What is the mystery of Mystery Cave?

Aliens?  A Magnetic Vortex?  Dead bodies?  Ghosts?

You’ll have to read part 2…   I got the deets!

Have you been to Lake Louise?  Where are you out and about this summer?   Post your adventures here!




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11 thoughts on “Lake Louise and Forestville Mystery Cave State Parks| Part 1

    1. Its sitting right around 25 with food and water, a tad more if I carry the whole tent and first aid kit. It would be great to get to 22, but there is a fine line between light and ‘stupid light’. Progress. 🙂

  1. You’re giving me gear envy!

    Ok, I’m ready for part two! I am hitting both of these this year!

    1. Little by little piece by piece….getting there! I definitely preferred Mystery cave to Lake Louise, but they are a great pair to visit since you are trying to hit all of the State parks. 🙂

      1. I totally understand! We’ve been working on it for cycling and camping for YEARS!!! Once I finish my State park tour, we’ll work our way into backpacking and canoe camping. Just got a great deal on a pack for Jer. Piece by piece!

        The plan is to stop by lake Louise on the way to Forestville. It’s pretty easy for me to tell how long I’ll want to spend at a park just by reading their descriptions. 😉😊

  2. Ugh I hate when you are running from bugs that are trying to eat you! It takes a fun hike and makes it feel like a horror movie (at least for me, mostly because I’m screaming). But it looks like a fun trip!

  3. We were at both those parks (and a couple others) last Saturday! We didn’t stay long, though, since we were racing some potential severe weather. We found a super friendly kitten at Lake Louise along the Hiking Club trail that I wanted to take home (he behaved better than our dogs LOL) but my boyfriend was the voice of reason so we got some advice from the park staff and left him by the dam where he’d been seen before. Hope the poor guy found his home!

    1. I saw a bunch of houses right by the dam, so hopefully he belonged there and found his way home. Poor little kitty. How did you like the park? Hopefully the bugs were not as bad as when I was there.

      1. Lake Louise was ok. Nothing terribly remarkable but we didn’t see much of it either. I don’t recall the bugs being too horrible but we were there in late morning. Forestville/Mystery Cave was more my jam and I wanna stay there sometime in the near future (Myre-Big Island was pretty nice, too… that’s where we camped at one of the backpack sites… stunning moonrise across the lake, pelicans, lots of fireflies and other wildlife, really well maintained trails… my boyfriend was not a fan but I enjoyed our time there in spite of the smoldering heat and mosquitoes!)

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