one day, one night

Northern Pin, Burr, Swamp, Red and Black Oaks make up the old growth forest of Lake Maria State Park in Minnesota.
Northern Pin, Burr, Swamp, Red and Black Oaks make up the old growth forest of Lake Maria State Park in Minnesota.

Late fall. Brilliant color leads to subtle tones in brown. The wind is up and leaves detach, one-by-one, whirling as they float to the ground to join the crunchy carpet I walk along in these quiet hills dotted by lakes.

For one day and one night, I backpacked at Lake Maria State Park, about an hour northwest of my home in Saint Paul. I needed to field test a few pieces of gear and I’d assumed it would be cold by early November when I made my plans.

Instead, it was mid-70’s and warm enough to sit out on my private picnic table without a coat and watch the sun set and the stars fill the sky.

falling leaves, gentle like snow
My wee tent on a bed of oak leaves.
My wee tent on a bed of oak leaves. It was so warm and dry, I didn’t really need it.
Not possible to walk quietly.
Not possible to walk quietly.

Lake Maria is well known for its beautiful backpacking sites (and remote cabins) a focus that makes this park such a gem. It also hosts one of the few remaining stands of old-growth oak, an island now but once blanketing southern Minnesota.

The woods were so thick, it’s been said, that sunlight couldn’t penetrate the forest floor. French explorers named this region “Bois Grand” or Big Woods.

Just because this is the Midwest, it’s not flat. Lake Maria lies at the center of the St. Croix Moraine, formed during the Wisconsin Glaciation. Granite forms the bedrock and is topped by several feet of debris left by a bulldozer of massive ice sheets.

Short, steep inclines lead to narrow catwalk ridges called eskers, hovering above myriad depressions or kettles scoured into the earth as the glaciers retreated.

Just one day and one night, the gear tested and my soul revived.

Exploded cattails. It's a shortened version of the original name, "cat 'o-nine tails," but that image, to me, is terrifying.
Exploded cattails. It’s a shortened version of the original name, “cat ‘o-nine tails,” but that image, to me, is terrifying.
Sunset with the sound of honking trumpeter swans, squeaking wood ducks and one extra-large – and quite silent – muskrat.
Sunset with the sound of honking trumpeter swans, squeaking wood ducks and one extra-large – and quite silent – muskrat.
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Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

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