'Fall' into state parks for seasonal fun
Monday, September 30, 2013 3:31 AM
Fall has officially arrived on the calendar. Now we wait for all its glory, both spectacular leaf colors along with enjoyable and sometimes one-of-a-kind events.
Here's a photo of the Marnach House during its fall colors open house in 2006. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
I took a look at the Minnesota DNR's calendar of events as a starting point.
Coming to mind first is the annual fall colors open house at the pioneer-era Marnach House at Whitewater State Park set for Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., both days.
I attended this a few years ago and highly recommend it. Here's more information from the DNR:
"In the late 1850s Luxembourger immigrant Nicholas Marnach and his father built a stone home in the wilderness of the Whitewater River Valley. In the early 1990s modern day Luxembourgers and area residents restored the home.
"On this beautiful fall color day, walk or take a wagon ride along the 1.6-mile trail from the parking lot to the home for a tour.
"The Marnach House stands today as a symbol of pioneer times and dramatic impacts of land use practices in the Whitewater (River) Watershed. A brochure, introducing the home and the Marnach family, will be distributed.
"The trail head is at the Marnach House parking lot two miles north of the town of Elba on west side of Highway 74 next to the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area headquarters."
And that's not the only special activity that day.
Great River Bluffs State Park south of Winona is hosting two activities. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, there's a photography event.
Information states: "Fall is a fantastic time to get out and snap some amazing photos. Join the park naturalist for a session to find out how to get the most out of your camera for the fall season.
"This is an introductory course for beginners and those wanting a few tips to improve your images. There also will be a short walk to nearby overlooks to practice and ask questions. Meet at the picnic area."
Tying in with the latter, a hike is offered at 2 p.m. The DNR calendar notes: "Come out and take a beautiful naturalist-led hike along the bluffs and enjoy a few of the park's amazing overlooks. You will find out how nature creates these wonderful colors and why the fall color season can change every year. This is also a wonderful time to take scenic photos of the park and capture these colorful memories, so remember to bring your camera. Meet at the picnic area."
The photography course and hike at Great River Bluffs are repeated the following weekend.
The park is approximately 20 miles southeast of Winona at the junction of U.S. Highway 61 and Interstate 90. The entrance is accessed off Winona County Road 3. Coming from the west or southeast via I90, take exit 266 and follow park signs. Coming from Winona, south on Highway 61 (just past mile marker 15), take a right on County Road 3 for four miles to the park entrance.
The decisions become even tougher with two activities offered closer to home (at least my home in Preston) at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. From 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. there's a walnut hike. Information states: "The black walnut tree produces a delicious, nutritious nut which can be enjoyed by visitors to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. Meet at the picnic shelter parking lot for a short walk to learn how to identify walnut trees. You will also find out how to collect and prepare the nuts at this activity, which offers a chance to view some exceptional trees.
"Volunteering in Minnesota State Parks" will occur from 5 to 6 p.m. According to the website, "Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park often benefits from the help of volunteers like campground host Cliff Anderson, but Cliff also volunteers in other places. He will share some of his experiences in this special program.
"Cliff will begin the program with a Dutch oven dump cake demonstration. As the cake bakes, Cliff will share a slideshow of his volunteer experiences in Minnesota, Louisiana and Oregon. The program will conclude with a sample of fresh campfire cooking as visitors help eat the delicious Dutch oven treat. Meet at the picnic shelter."
The park is approximately six miles south of Wykoff. Entrance to the park is four miles south of State Highway 16 on Fillmore County Highway 5, then two miles east on Fillmore County 118.
On Sunday, Oct. 6, the introductory fall photography course will be repeated, this time at Beaver Creek Valley State Park near Caledonia, at 1 p.m. Meet at the picnic area. A hike to an overlook to try out skills is promised.
On Sunday, Oct. 6, Whitewater State Park will offer "Nuts and Teas Please" from 1 to 2 p.m. Check it out: "Fall's abundance is upon us. On this short, easy walk we'll discover some common wild edibles of the blufflands. Bring your mug for some tea. Black walnuts will be available for cracking."
Whitewater has some interesting events on future fall weekends as well. On Sunday, Oct. 13, from 12:30 until 2 p.m., you can visit a ghost town cemetery.
"The town of Beaver was abandoned in 1938 after repeated flooding. This ghost town cemetery holds many stories of pioneers, civil war veterans, Minnesota conservation hero Richard J. Dorer and others who have lived in the Whitewater Valley.
"Join us for a cemetery visit and learn some fascinating history about the area. We'll end with a reading from Richard Dorer's book of poems titled, 'The Ghost Tree Speaks.' Bring your own transportation, as the cemetery is located 5 miles north of the park. We'll begin at the Visitor Center.
"Or just stop in from 2 to 3 p.m. to celebrate our area forests and their founder."
The 13th of October marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Minnesota conservation hero Richard J. Dorer. Join local conservationists at Beaver Cemetery to hear about Dorer's legacy and what it means to people today.
A candlelight walk at this same cemetery featuring its historic stories will be held Sunday. Oct. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m.
For a listing of fall events in state parks and lots more, try http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/index.html
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for other options because so many are available I couldn't possibly list them all here. Get out and make some memories this fall.
Lisa Brainard is a contributing columnist from Preston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.