Rice Creek West Regional Trail: Locke County Park to the Mississippi River

It was my first unscheduled day in a long time. I decided I wanted to hike 10 miles. Why 10 miles? Not sure. Nice round number, I guess.

park shelter
This hike began and ended here at Locke Lake Park in Fridley, Minnesota. Pit toilets, free parking.

This day was all about connections. In the past I hiked east from Locke County Park. One of my earlier blog posts is about slipping on the ice in the section between Central Ave and Silver Lake Road. East from Locke County Park the trail meanders back and forth across the creek for a couple miles, joins the road for a bit, follows the railroad track, and eventually meets up with Long Lake Park. On this day I wanted to try going west all the way to the Mississippi and see how this trail connects to the Mississippi River Trail. I walked that trail at the Coon Rapids Dam a couple months ago.

fallen tree in a river
The furthest point from my car that I walked on this day was the mighty Mississippi at Manomin Park.

It started out beautifully. Sunny cool day, dirt path, creek flowing, birds singing. This part has lots of uphill and downhill which I love. That is what makes it hiking, not just walking.

paved trail going downhill in woods, a brick retaining wall
I didn’t take any photos of the dirt path in this section. I was enjoying too much I guess. Here is one of the hills.

And then suddenly the trail stops. A fence blocks my way and an orange construction sign says, “Trail Closed”. Looks like new housing is going up. New streets and everything. Bummer. I see that there is no way around or forward. I backtrack until I find a casual path into the woods. Of course there have been others that ran into this same obstacle and needed to find a way around. Using the map on my phone, I found my way to a cul-de-sac that connected to the street that could get me to the next part of the trail. I had to cross University Avenue using the crosswalk. My least favorite part of this walk. Standing there knowing that every car is watching me and maybe judging me or worse yet, feeling sorry for me. Personal safety also enters my mind more in these situations. What will I do if this happens or if that happens. Always thinking about personal safety is important but when I am waiting at a crosswalk I get more anxious about it. That 90 seconds seemed like an eternity.

multi-lane pedestrian crossing, stoplight, a few cars
Oh, THERE’S the trail detour sign. It would be helpful to have one on the other side of the construction as well.

A small lake is just on the other side of the busy street. A welcome respite. To loop around this lake is about a third of a mile. After that the trail goes through an open field and then a long straight section parallel to the railroad track. A fence and a ditch separate the path from the railroad which is good because those tracks are still used by trains. Many train tracks in Minnesota have been repurposed into bike trails but not this one.

chain link fence tunnel around a bike path
One of the trail features near the railroad track.
4 land street, a truck, a sign
Here is where Rice Creek Trail connects to the Mississippi River Trail. In this section it follows East River Road. This photo is facing South.
deck in a park on a lake
Leaving East River Road and returning to Rice Creek Trail I found this. Locke Lake.
paved path, fence, stream, industrial structure
This is just before the pedestrian tunnel under East River Road. I turned back toward Locke Lake to take this photo.

Once I got to Manomin Park on the Mississippi I was thrilled to realize that this is also the location of Banfil Locke Center for the Arts! Too bad it was a Monday, they are closed on Mondays. The gazebo was an excellent place to rest, sketch, and eat my lunch. The loop trail in this park is lovely and very short. Fishing and dog walking seem to be the favorite activities of the other people here.

park sign map

On the way back I saw the sign for the detour around the new housing development. It went very far away from the woods into a neighborhood. I took a shorter way but not the same as before. I followed the road at the edge of the neighborhood until I came to an entrance to Locke Lake Park. The detour signs were there so I was back on the official trail.

This hike was only 8 miles, not 10 like my original plan. My rest and sketch time was long and I stopped often to take photos. At one point I ran into an old friend and chatted for quite a while. My husband asked if I wanted to meet for lunch. It is healthy to be flexible with our goals. My overall goals are to make art, be outside, and spend time with people that are important to me. This day was a victory in that regard. The 10 mile goal was not more important than connecting with people. Stopping to draw made the day more enjoyable. Numerical goals sometimes blind us from the true goals. Keep your eyes and mind open. Last Sunday, a speaker at church talked about wanting to live his life so that what is important to him is obvious to everyone who knows him. That is a good indicator of life success. What is important? How do you show it?

looking up at a big tree
This giant cottonwood tree is in Manomin Park.
white house, sidewalk, garden, sculpture
Banfil Locke Center for the Arts is next to Manomin Park.
white building and park sign
Public restrooms make long walks in urban spaces possible. Thank you Banfil Locke Center for the Arts!
trees, stream, and bridges
Manomin Park, Fridley, Minnesota
sketch of a tree and a person
I rested more than I sketched. I am OK with that.
River, trees, dirt path
Mississippi River at Manomin Park

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