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Just A Day In the Park Week 1: Traveler Luke Gorski Sets Out to Visit Each Minnesota State Park this Summer

Image of a Wooded Trail with the text "Just a Day in the Park"
Just a Day in the Park with Traveler Luke Gorski

There are 66 State Parks in Minnesota, and each one has its own history, attractions, and character. Instead of choosing which one to visit this summer, one intrepid travel has set out to experience all of them. Yes, all of them. Luke Gorski, senior at South Dakota State University, has begun a summer-long journey to set foot in each of the Minnesota State Parks. Luke is adding Minnesota to his resume after hiking every state park in Iowa and South Dakota in recent years. To tell us more about his pilgrimage, Luke joined Heidi Holtan and John Latimer on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show. To listen to the full interview, click the player at the top of the page.

Iowa has 54 state parks and South Dakota has 12. Once Gorski finishes his journey at the end of the summer, he'll have doubled his state park count. "I'm a hiker, so usually my goal when I get to a park is to hike almost every trail in the park," Gorksi said. "But in Minnesota, that has proven to be much more of a challenge. Minnesota state parks have a lot more hiking trails in your parks. Usually if I can't get to every trail, I'll make a perimeter route around the park to find trails that hug the outer boundary. That will get me to see all the different parts of the park."

After visiting so many parks, Gorski has started to develop a taste for the differences that each type of park possesses. "I especially I like the physical geography of parks. I really like to go in Spring because you get to go to a park one day and then go to a park further south, and it's way further along in terms of greening up and flowering," Gorski said.

To document his travels, Gorski plans to curate a photo album of each park he visits. Along with photographs, there will also be a final ranking of all 66 Minnesota state parks. He'll be ranking them in terms of personal experience at the park. Plus, which park has the WOW factor. "My favorite part of parks are the big vista points at the top of hills and stuff. Which is the main thing that I'll take into factor when I'm ranking the parks," he said.

Gorski began his journey on May 8th at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul and added Afton State Park on May 9th. He preferred Afton because it had a bit more topographic variation, but noted that Fort Snelling had its own character. "I like the atmosphere at Fort Snelling. It's kind of the perfect state park for a giant urban area. It's right by the airport and we saw 20 planes take off. It's one of the louder state parks, so if you like quiet parks, Fort Snelling isn't for you."

Next up on the agenda, Nerstrand Big Woods, William O’ Brien, and Sakatah Lake. But Gorski is looking forward to getting up north and anticipates some of the top parks will be north. "Any of the eight state parks along the North Shore will be contenders. I imagine Itasca will be up there too. Plus, the Driftless Region has some potential."

As Gorski continues the journey, his initial plan to hike every trail in every state park needed to be amended. If you have recommendations for which trails Luke Gorksi should hike when he's visiting the state parks of the northland, let us know! You can comment on the KAXE/KBXE Facebook page, or you can email us at Comments @ KAXE.org and we'll feature your suggestion during one of our later discussions with Gorski.

Heidi and John will be speaking with Luke on Tuesday mornings, so you can be a part of the journey as he travels to all the state parks Minnesota has to offer.

Heidi Holtan has worked at KAXE/KBXE for over 20 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North. In 2018 Heidi received the “Building Bridges in Media” award from the Islamic Resource Group for her work on KAXE/KBXE hosting conversations about anti-Muslim movements in rural Minnesota.
As a mail carrier in rural Grand Rapids, Minn., for 35 years, John Latimer put his own stamp on a career that delivered more than letters. Indeed, while driving the hundred-mile round-trip daily route, he passed the time by observing and recording seasonal changes in nature, learning everything he could about the area’s weather, plants and animals, and becoming the go-to guy who could answer customers’ questions about what they were seeing in the environment.
Max Philbrook (he/him) is a Producer at KAXE focused on telling the stories of the people, events, and organizations that make up the fabric of northern Minnesota. Based out of Grand Rapids, Max spends his time reading fiction at the library, seeing sports and live music, and supporting the arts and cultural events in the area. Get in touch with Max if you have a story to tell, an event to publicize, or just want to chat about life in the northland.