Interstate Park, Wisconsin

There are two State Parks with the same name across the river from each other. One is in Minnesota and the other is in Wisconsin. I have walked the trail along the river on the Minnesota side in the past. I looked across to the other bank and saw people over there and wondered what it was like to be where they were.

On a cold day in February 2021 I found out. Scroll down if you are interested in a description of that day.

Returning to Interstate Park in May 2022 was a different experience! We seemed to skip right over spring in Minnesota this year. Today felt like summer. I even found two ticks. Luckily they did not have a chance to do any damage. I think the key to safety regarding ticks is awareness. Find them and get rid of them quick. Avoid walking through tall grass if possible.

This park has about 10 miles of gorgeous trails. We have had a lot of rain so there were spots that were muddy or flooded, but those were only minor inconveniences. My nephew and I were determined to cover 10 miles and we did! It took us 5 hours because we took photos and snack breaks and the trails are delightfully varied. Roots, rocks, stairs, inclines, declines, and amazing views are all causes to slow down, be aware, and enjoy!

Rock climbers love this place. When I first saw them, I expected to experience anxiety about their safety. It wasn’t the rock climbers with safety equipment who worried me. It was the people carelessly climbing at the edge of cliffs and on the wrong side of railings. It seems that they think it is no big deal but it really is. Be safe out there!

At the south end of the park is a bonus loop of 1.1 miles (almost 2km) and a waterfall! An unexpected surprise for us!

The rest of this post is about a previous visit in February 2021: The forecasted high temperature was 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 C). Looking at the extended forecast it was plain to see that there is no time like the present. My husband had an errand to do in Dresser, Wisconsin so I offered to go with him if he was up for a cold weather hike.

Winter 2020-2021 was unusually mild just like the last few winters. My memories of my youth are full of long stretches of below zero temperatures and being outside anyway ice skating, building snow forts, and riding on sleds down hills for fun. Here we are in February and we have not had many days like this. Maybe my memory is not 100% accurate matching those temperatures and those activities, but I am certain we continued normal activities in colder weather than we do now. I am showing my age and telling a “back in my day” type story. Enough of that.

Both the Minnesota and the Wisconsin state park have interpretive centers where you can learn more about how glaciers shaped this land long ago. The Minnesota side has a roots-and-rocks type trail in the thin stretch of land between the road and the river. The Wisconsin side has its entire park between the road and the river which means you do not have to cross a highway to see all of it. From the interpretive center you can walk or drive down a winding road to the river. It was icy and I was concerned that our minivan would not be able to climb back up again, but it was fine. This is Wisconsin’s first state park. It has been here since 1900.

We started our short walk from the parking area by the river. There was a section of open water on the river and it was steaming because of the temperature difference of water and air. Some large white birds were hanging out on the ice next to the open water. They noticed us watching them and started honking. My guess is that they were swans, perhaps they were snow geese.

There is a small lake, “Lake of the Dalles”, with a swimming beach (not in use in February). My husband thinks this is where a scene from a Cohen brothers movie was filmed. Maybe. They are from this area after all. It was a scene where a man is watching his brother paddle away in a canoe to Canada. That would not work from here in real life but no matter, it was film.

We walked up the hill from the riverside parking area and saw a great view of the the Dalles which are tall rock cliffs. Looking at rock cliffs is hard for me now because of our daughter’s accident, so we talked about that a bit. It is still beautiful. My phone battery succumbed to the cold so he took the rest of the photos.

There were only a few other people there. Unusual for a beautiful sunny Saturday. There is a ski area nearby and they had customers, but less than usual. Yes, it was cold. With proper covering on your skin, you can still go enjoy the outdoors.

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