Jeff Broberg talks about Root River geology during a National Trout Center trail hike held Sept. 14 in Preston. Yours truly is seen on the recumbent trike. NATIONAL TROUT CENTER
Jeff Broberg talks about Root River geology during a National Trout Center trail hike held Sept. 14 in Preston. Yours truly is seen on the recumbent trike. NATIONAL TROUT CENTER
Geology rocks. Yes, that's "punny," but it's also true, especially in the interesting Root River valley area with our karst topography.

I was excited to read that as part of the Trout Rendezvous, sponsored by the National Trout Center in Preston on Sept. 14, a walk on the in-town recreational trail would focus on geology.

Jeff Broberg of Elba Township in Olmsted County would lead the hike. He's an avid trout fisherman, serves a leadership role with the Minnesota Trout Association and is a board member of the National Trout Center. Also, he's a geologist and vice president of McGhie & Betts Environmental Services, Inc., in Rochester.

This would be a great opportunity in another way, too, I figured. I could ride my recumbent trike along the trail as I always do, only this time slowing down to hang with the group.

I could try taking photos and gathering information for a column, testing out a new system for this reporter in a non-pressure situation. Since it would be for a column and not a "just the facts, ma'am," tried-and-true story, I would have leeway. At its very heart, a column is an opinion piece sharing a personal viewpoint after all.

And that's a good thing this time around. You'll note this column is "long" on the experience and "light" on geology.

You see, I grabbed my little-used digital voice recorder perhaps an hour before the hike and put new AAA batteries in it. But then I hit a snag. I couldn't recall what buttons, and in what order, were used to set the current time on the machine. Like any electrical item or appliance, a working clock is the starting place for all other functions. Neither did I have the directions, for which I recall needing a magnifying glass to be able to read the teeny-tiny font used.

OK, I was down to taking a notepad and pen along, which proved a bit too much in addition to taking photos while maneuvering the trike among the group, getting brakes set when stopped for awhile, and turning in tight quarters.

It finally came down to remembering what was said. There were a few handouts but, unlucky for me - and you, the reader - they dealt with geology of the area in general and not the specific stops we made.

I've always said there's a clear reason I've never been a waitress. That's because I forget and need to recheck information. Also, dealing with more than one thing distracts me. For example, when I'd set my note taking aside at meetings to take pictures, I'd lose track of the discussion.

You see where this is going. I enjoyed the hike immensely... and hope it will be repeated in the spring, when there are fewer weeds, better visibility of the rocks and surface, and I could have a powered-up and functioning digital recorder in hand. Who knows? Maybe I'd even be able to walk better as my recovery and rehabilitation continues.

For now, here is what I gleaned - and remember - from the hike.

We started at the bike trailhead in Preston, also location of the Milwaukee grain elevator on the National Register of Historic Places and formerly the railroad's roundhouse area. We headed out on the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail toward Lanesboro, soon stopping near the stone house to the left, at one time a brewery. Broberg noted the hillside downstream from there had been quarried to provide a stable rock base on the river's edge for the former railroad bed placed there. Large rocks of various sizes also were used to build a stable foundation for the house.

The rest of the rocks used to build the house were smaller, thinner and more uniformly sized. They were mined from the limestone bedding planes nearby.

Broberg walked through some weeds and up a foot or two to show joints in the limestone on the quarried hillside. He stressed how groundwater can run easily and quickly through the limestone. Special care, he said, must be taken in this environment of sinkholes, caves and cracks to avoid polluting trout streams - and the aquifers where we get our drinking water. He noted wells are being dug to 400 feet and deeper these days to find pollution-free aquifers.

We then headed the opposite direction. The first stop showed us where water drains from the city's storm sewers and retention pond into the river, quite close to a clear spring.

Then we moved onto the in-town trail in Preston. One of the stops was behind the grain elevator complex, proposed as the future site of the National Trout Center. I was very interested to hear the pretty stone "dells" (my word, not his) across the river is formed of New Richmond sandstone, coming from a sand dune on the shoreline of an ancient lake. There is an area where water seeps out of the rock above the stream, leading to a lush climate and plants. Sorry, I can't give you more details than that at this point, as I don't remember.

I do recall finding out a mill had been located just upstream. Also, I recall meeting Mel Hayner and Ruth Furan. They are opening The Driftless Fly Fishing Co. shop in Preston. Look for a story on that in the near future.

One more thing, Bill Dozark of Chester brought a large rock he'd found in the Upper Iowa River. Broberg identified it as magnetized hematite, an ancient rock with another material running in a ribbon through it... I'm not sure what it was...

OK, I promise! Next time I'll have the recorder and get more details. Still, I'd say this was a great learning opportunity on all fronts. Thanks go out to Jeff Broberg and the National Trout Center for the activity.

Lisa Brainard can be reached at