Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring the Minnesota side of Interstate Park October 17, 2014

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Westbound from Wisconsin and about to cross the St. Croix River into Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Interstate Park is just over the bridge to the left.

Westbound from Wisconsin and about to cross the St. Croix River into Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Interstate Park is just over the bridge to the left.

PUBLISHED IN 1953 in the anthology Minnesota Skyline, the poem “Taylors Falls” by Pearl Nearpass opens with these lines:

Climb higher and higher in the Dalles of the St. Croix
Until you look over the jutting cliffs
Of echoing beauty, the great eternal mounting
For a village linked and timed with history.

From the Wisconsin side, you

From the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park, you can see Minnesota’s Interstate Park to the right of the St. Croix.

History seems chiseled in stone here, rock carved away by forces of nature to reveal the magnificent St. Croix River gorge that divides Minnesota and Wisconsin.

You can glimpse the St. Croix River through the trees.

You can glimpse the St. Croix River through the trees.

Everywhere walls of rock dominate.

Everywhere walls of rock dominate.

Stunning views of the gorge prevail.

Stunning views of the gorge prevail.

Interstate Park, a duo state park just outside Taylors Falls, Minnesota, and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, offers spectacular views of the Dalles of the St. Croix. Towering cliffs of solid rock. Jutting pine trees. River running wild.

Rocks pock the ground in both parks.

Rocks pock the ground in both parks.

Visit both, even though the Wisconsin park ranger suggested if my husband and I had to choose one, we choose hiking the Wisconsin side as it offers more trails. Maybe so. But the experience in each differs. We found the two trails we hiked in our neighboring state to be much more rugged than those in Minnesota.

The path through Devil's Parlor.

The path through Devil’s Parlor.

And an explanation of Devil's Parlor.

And an explanation of Devil’s Parlor.

Railings are welcome along rocky walls.

Railings are welcome along rocky walls.

In Minnesota’s park, railings and asphalt and planked walkways are more accommodating to those who prefer an easier perusal of the land. After following a short, rugged path to view the steep-sided river gorge, we followed a trail that led us down steps and into Devil’s Parlor and The Bake Oven, areas of rock carved away by water.

Nature's peephole with the Taylor Falls Princess awaiting passengers in the river below.

Nature’s peephole with the Taylor Falls Princess awaiting passengers in the river below.

Down the river just a bit, the Taylors Falls Queen was docked, too.

Down the river just a bit, the Taylors Falls Queen was docked, too.

The Minnesota side of the park also serves as the launch site for river cruises, a popular activity on the day we visited. One can only imagine the steamboats that once docked along this river.

Somehow trees grow seemingly right out of the rock.

Somehow trees grow seemingly right out of the rock.

Continues Pearl:

No longer the blasting charges
Drown the voices of loggers and waters.
But lonely and majestic moves the breeze
Above the pot-holes and the Devil’s Chair
Of a village albumed in history.

FYI: To read my post about the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park, click here.

(Poetry excerpts from Minnesota Skyline, Anthology of Poems About Minnesota, published in 1953 by The Lund Press, Inc. and a gift from my eldest daughter.)

 

Hiking rugged and rocky Interstate Park in Wisconsin October 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Rocky terrain defines Wisconsin's Interstate Park.

Rocky terrain defines Wisconsin’s Interstate Park.

HIKING INTERSTATE PARK along the St. Croix River in Wisconsin requires the sure-footedness of a mountain goat, the eagle eye of a bird of prey or, minimal, a walking stick or steady hand of a friend or family member.

I discovered that last week while exploring the park with my husband, Randy, who offered his hand numerous times to guide me safely along rocky paths.

I’ll admit that, with my camera in tow and an artificial right hip, I tend to be more cautious than most.

Rock steps along a trail.

Rock steps along a trail.

But we pretty much tossed caution aside when Randy decided we should hike, I mean climb, the .8-mile Eagle Peak Trail to the highest point overlooking the valley. Here’s a description of that path from a park publication: unsurfaced; stone stairs; uneven and steep terrain.

Pine needles and fallen leaves hide trail obstacles.

Pine needles and fallen leaves hide trail obstacles.

Add to that pine needles and leaves hiding underfoot rocks, plus sticks that roll quite easily under soles, and you have treacherous conditions. I’m not an experienced hiker, so take my comments from that perspective.

Ferns sprout from rock along Eagle Point Trail.

Ferns sprout from rock along Eagle Peak Trail.

In the end, this trail does not live up to the promised end given trees block the valley view. But, if you desire a hiking challenge, this is your trail.

The rocky St. Croix River gorge is stunning in its craggy beauty.

The rocky St. Croix River gorge is stunning in its craggy beauty.

Randy poses at the scenic overlook.

Randy poses at the scenic overlook. And, yes, I had no option but to shoot into the sun.

Rock everywhere along this river.

Rock everywhere along this river.

Much easier to traverse is the .4-mile Pothole Trail, the other path we had time to walk during our 90-minute visit to the park. Stone stairs and unevenness also define this trail. But there’s much less climbing and the view of the Dalles of the St. Croix River gorge is spectacular. I even pushed through my fear of heights to enjoy the view.

Watch for potholes. I felt like I was watching my step all the time.

Watch for potholes. I felt like I was watching my step all the time.

You’ll also discover potholes here pocking rock. Yes, you’ll want to watch your feet lest you step into one.

Driving through Interstate Park.

Driving through the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park.

Interstate Park deserves more time than the 1 ½ hours we gave it. But daylight was fading and we didn’t want to spend $10 for a single day pass. Once upon a time, a Minnesota State Park sticker would allow you free access to Wisconsin’s Interstate Park, but no more. Interstate Park continues on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix. I’ll take you there, too.

To notice details, you have to stop. Otherwise you miss them because you're too preoccupied watching your feet.

To notice details, you have to stop. Because I was constantly watching my step, I felt like I missed out on a lot.

Wear your hiking shoes.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling