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.

15 comments:

Lynne said...

I envy you your walk through the park. I haven't been in Banning for several years- I'd forgotten how beautiful it is! I can't wait to see the new "do".

arcolaura said...

Oh, that sky. We get that here, too, and if it comes before some of the other autumn signs it gives me a jolt.

Haven't noticed it this year, but that's just a sign that I need to get over this cold and get outside more...

Katie said...

How beautiful! I love those first few weeks of autumn as the leaves and light begin changing...

barefoot gardener said...

You know, I have never been to Banning...friends go every year. I think I have a new addition to my "To-Do" list!

Deb said...

Lynne- You'd think that, as I lived so close by, I would go there more! There are documented reports of Louisiana waterthrushes nesting there; I'll have to go some spring to try and hear one. And the new 'do- slightly longer than chin length, layered to frame my face a bit. I like it.

Arcolaura- a cold this time of year? What a bummer! Hope you're better soon son you can enjoy the autumn sky.

Katie- It seemed like the trees just exploded into color overnight. We're having some very unsettled autumn weather here; it's about 60 degrees here at 10 pm.

Barefoot Gardener- I was amazed at how many people were there. Probably because it offers the beauty of the North Shore at half the driving distance from the Cities!

Floridacracker said...

Wowsers!
NOW it feels like fall. Those photos are beautiful and that park does sound like a gem. We don't get topography like that here.

(Haircut looks good too)

That same state park pass here costs about $70.
Yikes!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Deb,
What a beautiful park and wonderful pictures you've shared. I've been to Jay Cooke, but never Banning. You guys have some great state parks up that way, so you will be able to put that permit to good use

P.S. Have you started seeing any juncos yet? According to my records from past years mine begin showing up as early as 9/26...

John Mikes said...

I lived in rural Hinckley when I moved to Minnesota in 1973. Banning was the first Minnesota park I visited. The water was very high, and we saw a guy try to swim across above a set of rapids, not make it, and go through the foaming rapids on his back. We thought he was toast, but he made it without a scratch. Or concussion.

John Mikes
Bob's Bug & Bird Emporium

momadness said...

Lovely photos! I used to collect Nimadji pottery that had some connection with the Kettle River. I'm not sure if it was made from clay along the banks of the river or what; but it is beautiful stuff!

Dan Trabue said...

Beautiful photos, above and below. How cool is that kettle hole?!

Thunder Dave said...

Wow nice photos, looks like a fun day!

I took a brief time out there, but I'm back. We brewed this past weekend!

Deb said...

Everyone--I must have to say I exaggerated the topography of Banning State Park. After examining the area with my work GIS and Google Earth, I have come to the conclusion that the maximum vertical relief is maybe 120 feet or so. To me it seemed like more...way more...

Anyway...FC: I believe I make up for the rest in state income taxes.

My haircut was more layered, a little longer but kind of like Starflower's. For once she didn't throw a fit in front of the beautician. I worked with her on how to tell what she wanted.

RuthieJ- No juncos yet, although I did see a flock of White throated sparrows the other day.

John Mikes- Welcome here! I can't imagine anyone swimming across the rapids...even in low water...

Momadness- I Googled "Nemadji pottery", and I guess they were in business until 2002 just north of here. They used the red clay from the Nemadji River watershed just north of here.

Dan- Way cool. And did you see the post where I said I'm buying a banjo? :)

Thunder Dave- You brewed, congratulations!

I always think it's amazing, how a real life friend of a blogging friend is becoming a blogging friend. This crazy world...

Deb said...

By the way, I'm posting more photos. when Blogger lets me.

Dan Trabue said...

Even cooler! (Buying a banjo)

You thinking frailing/clawhammer style of bluegrass? My wife has learned the clawhammer and I must say it is my personal favorite. But it's all good.

Do you know what sorta banjo?

Deb said...

Dan- Im thinkin' old timey lately, so I'll probably try to learn clawhammer, although a little Earl Scruggs style wouldn't be bad to learn, I love that rolling sound...I just want to be able to do what Bela Fleck does! :)