Saturday, September 22, 2007
Banning State Park hike
I re-found out today that I live about fifteen miles from one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Just look at that photo; that is the Kettle River, as it flows through a narrow sandstone gorge. And that sky...definitely September in Minnesota.
The entrance to this gem in our state park system is a few hundred yards down the road from the entrance to my kids' school. I pass by it every day. So why is it that I have not hiked these trails in 1 or 2 years?
The salon where I get my hair cut is also very close to the park entrance. So when I made appointments for me and Starflower for this morning, I had an idea. The leaves should be pretty, it's supposed to be a gorgeous day, so why not go for a walk in the park? Mr. Attitude was in, but Calvin decided to go on errands with Dad. Starflower and I got similar, shorter than usual haircuts, then we were off to the park.
We took a trail loop that took us past 100 year old abandoned sandstone quarries, which have grown over with new vegetation; in the woods you could hardly imagine you were standing in an old mine. We passed sheer cliffs of sandstone, with the parallel marks of drills, where miners drilled down and then sent explosives down the small holes, shooting slabs of sandstone away from the formation, so they could be cut and sent away on rail cars.
The whole operation was pretty much through by the 1920's. Buildings were being made by structural steel, not rock (although there is a classic look to a stone building!) so the market collapsed for sandstone. Fortunately, the state acquired the land surrounding these former quarries in the 1970's so it could be preserved as a state park.
We were not alone. There were many people hiking the trails, and I was surprised to encounter a Chinese speaking party, as well as a couple who looked maybe Indian, or Tibetan. Everyone looked like they were enjoying the weather, the river, and the spectacular leaf color.
Geology lesson for the day: This photo was taken looking upward through an elliptical hole in the rock. This kind of hole is called a pothole or kettle, hence the name Kettle River, and is formed due to the actions of a river that was once much larger. Somehow, as the glacial melt river was cutting through this geological fault, which made this sheer canyon of ancient sandstone, some rocks got caught in eddy currents. They spun around and around...and in doing so, cut deep holes in the sandstone. This park is full of evidence of how water acts on stone, in geological time. And how humans act on stone, in less than geological time.
I had forgotten how deeply the river cut through the bedrock in this small area. There were parts of the trail where one side dropped off in a steep hill a hundred feet or more. Which is really fun to hike with an impulsive 5 year old...I kept telling him "Keep on the left side of the trail! The left side!" I think the canyon must approach 200 feet in some areas. I am perhaps over sensitive to heights, so in some parts of the trail I was actually getting dizzy. Again, I had fogotten what geological wonders lurked so close to home.
I have made a sort of goal for myself, since I sprung for the $25 State Park sticker that will allow me entrance to any state park for one year. I would like to hike in Banning State Park, or in slightly more distant Jay Cooke State Park, or cross country ski, once a month. I really have no excuse to not stop by Banning once in a while. Hope it's a good snow year too; I really miss skiing.