On Friday I headed back into Minnesota from South Dakota. I will be here until the first few days of August.
The clouds started building as I crossed the border.
In the extreme southwest part of the state is a town called Luverne. Six miles north of it you will find Blue Mounds State Park.
The park has a herd of 100 bison that have a pretty rare trait.
After the near extinction of bison during the 1800's, a few ranchers and early conservationists saw interbreeding cattle and bison as a way to increase the population. Of the approximately 500,000 bison currently living in North America, less than 5,000 are free of cattle DNA like the ones here.
My plan was to find one and name her Shirley. Get it? Luverne and Shirley? Ah, never mind.
I quickly set up camp because the forecast was for rain. Again.
It continued raining Saturday morning but stopped around 9 am. Which was a good thing because on the first Saturday in June Luverne has a little shindig called Buffalo Days. I went and checked it out.
It starts with a parade along Main Street.
There was the obligatory fleet of fire tucks both new and old.
The High School Band also put in an appearance.
A crowd favorite was the synchronized carts. They were pretty cool.
There was a group of old folks known as the Blowhards making noise.
Along with a hockey team.
It ended with a really big tractor.
After the parade everybody heads down to the city park for an event called Art in the Park. I tagged along. There was lots of food and local vendors selling local stuff.
Then there is the main attraction. I wonder who came up with it. I imagine something like this happened.
Some of the organizers were at a BBQ and after a couple of beers one said,
"You know, we need to liven this thing up. Add something, I don't know, a little different."
"Well, there is that herd of buffalo or bison up the road at the park."
"Yeah. Maybe we could grab a couple and let people ride 'em."
"Nah. Wait. I got it. Let's grab their poop."
"Buffalo poop. We could set up an old toilet and have folks try to toss the chips into it. A contest. That would be a hoot!"
It would be known forevermore as the Chip Toss.
The competition was fierce, but after an unfortunate lid slam in the finals,
the winning team received the trophy. And $2.
I headed back to camp after a long and interesting day. Blue Mounds State Park has 73 sites and was full on Friday and Saturday. Most people left after that which was a mistake.
Sunday dawned with absolutely perfect weather. Not knowing how long it would last I went on a hike in search of Shirley the bison.There is a three or four mile trail that loops around the park and ends at the viewing area. A very neat trail, hacked out of the tall grass by a lawnmower.
Beautiful. Just how I had pictured it in my mind.
I went around the lake and over the dam.
Those outcroppings in the background are a type of red quartz which looks like this:
There are large formations of this stuff nearby and I guess when the sun strikes them at a certain angle they look blue. Hence the name Blue Mounds.
I continued my quest to find Shirley. I was getting close.
I climbed up and looked.
There was not a hairy taco in sight. Nada. Nothing. Disappointed but invigorated by a nice hike I went back and ate. Tacos. At my luxury campsite with a personal potty.
The sun was shining the next morning when I left.
I stopped at Kilen Woods State Park to take photos
It has 32 sites near the Des Moines River.
Nice. I continued on to Flandrau State Park for the night.
Since I was only staying one night I did not set anything up. It started raining Monday night and would continue.
Flandrau has 90 sites and is right next to the town of New Ulm on the banks of the Cottonwood River. Tuesday morning I walked down there.
The park also has a sand bottom swimming pool.
Nifty. I left.
My first stop was at Fort Ridgely State Park.
There are 37 sites here near the creek.
It also has the only golf course in a Minnesota State Park.
I asked and they do have equipment to borrow. If it wasn't raining I might have played a quick 9.
There is also a fort here.
One building still stands. The rest are not doing that well.]
It was closed in 1867.
My next stop was at Minneopa State Park.
There are two parts to this park. The 60 site campground is near the Minnesota River while the day use area is a few miles away on Minneopoa Creek.
Why would they split the park up? Southern Minnesota's largest waterfall, baby. I drove over there, grabbed my umbrella, and went to look.
Past the pavilion.
Past the picnic area.
And onto the bridge.
Pretty impressive. It's the first waterfall I have seen on this trip. Mainly because to have a waterfall requires some kind of elevation change. And lately is has been pretty darn flat everywhere.
What, you're not impressed by it? OK, I kinda teased you. There are twin waterfalls here.
Is that better?
I got back in my car and headed to Sakatah Lake State Park.
I sat in my car and read while the rain poured down and then went to sleep.
Wednesday morning I went online in my continuing quest to find a bike. And I found one. I drove 15 miles east to Milltown Cycles in Faribault. It's last years model, a Trek 7300. I got it for a good price. I won't say how much but I have no food money for the rest of the month.
I headed back to camp for my first ride. The sun came out.
The trailer has a receiver mount for the rack as well in case you were wondering.
Minnesota is one of the most popular states for bike riding. They have 100's of miles of what they call rails to trails. Basically they take decommissioned train tracks and turn them into paved bike paths. They are fairly flat as well. I like that.
Sakatah State Trail runs right past the campground and that is where I went.
I added the basket so I could keep my camera handy for photos, like these of Sakatah Lake and the campground's fishing pier.
It was hard to justify spending my food money on a bike but I managed to do it...
First, I am not getting any younger. I turn 51 on Saturday. How many chances will I have to pedal on some of the neatest trails in the country?
Second, it will open up new opportunities for capturing images and create fodder for this blog.
And third, I can create my own road kill, another use for the basket. Watch out tree rats, I'm on the prowl!
Regards, Park Ranger