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Just a Day in the Park Week 4: Fairy Tale Hikes and Maddening Crowds

Just a Day in the Park
Just a Day in the Park with Traveler Luke Gorski

Traveler Luke Gorski continues his pilgrimage to visit all 66 Minnesota State Parks this summer. After checking in with Heidi and John in past weeks from the central and south-eastern parts of the state, Luke continues his journey onward and upward into the south-western reaches. The KAXE/KBXE morning show is connecting you with the people making news in northern Minnesota this summer.

In our last conversation with Luke, we heard about his travels in the south-eastern part of the state, visiting the bluffs of the Mississippi River and experiencing the Driftless region unsullied by the receding glaciers that carved the rest of Minnesota's topography. This week, Luke headed to the southwestern part of the state and began his journey northward up into the Minnesota River Valley. Parks Luke visited since the last installment of Just a Day in the Park include: Forestville Mystery Cave, Beaver Creek Valley, Highland Woods, Lake Shetek, Camden, Split Rock Creek, Blue Mounds, Flandrau, and Ft. Ridgley.

Luke called in from Redwood Falls, where the weather was humid and cloudy, and he was hoping for less humidity as he ventured out to explore the parks.

Blue Mounds State Park was noteworthy to Luke this week for a few different reasons. Luke was able to visit the bison herd that the park is well-known for, but only viewed the animals from a distance. The climbing features of the park were also impressive to Luke. "Blue Mounds was the most interesting this week geographically," he said. "There are plenty of places to rock climb there, with a dedicated rock-climber parking lot. Blue Mounds has a 100 foot tall rock cliff made of pink quartzite that stretches for 2 miles, and it's very popular for climbing."

As we know from chatting with Luke for a few weeks now, Luke is an avid hiker, so he's been on a lot of trails. So when Luke began describing his experience in Beaver Creek Valley, hiking their trail system, he became a bit whimsical as he remembered his experience. "In terms of a whole trail system, the trails at Beaver Creek Valley were like walking in a fairy tale. It was 53 degrees and misting when I was there. There were lots of flowers and I was walking over all these little bridges."

This missive from Luke's journey took place just after Memorial Day, when the tourist season in Minnesota truly heats up. Luke noticed an uptick in fellow-travelers out on the trails. "There were a lot of people at the parks, mostly in the campgrounds, but I was seeing people out on the trails every 5-10 minutes. Much more crowded than in other parks I'd been."

As Luke's journey continues, he will begin to travel north up through the Minnesota River Valley. Luke's parks for the next part of the journey are: Ft. Ridgley, Upper Sioux Agency, Lac Du Carl. After that, Luke will take a few days off to travel home to spend time with his sister who is graduating high school (congrats! ) and then back to the journey with Monson Lake and Glacial Lake.

Catch up with Luke on his journey right here on KAXE/KBXE as we continue to follow along as Luke spends Just a Day in the Park.

A cliff at Beaver Creek Valley State Park
A cliff at Beaver Creek Valley State Park
An observation deck at Lake Shetek State Park
An observation deck at Lake Shetek State Park
Rapids on the Redwood River at Camden State Park
Rapids on the Redwood River at Camden State Park
A rock quarry at Blue Mounds State Park
A rock quarry at Blue Mounds State Park
The Cottonwood River at Flandrau State Park
The Cottonwood River at Flandrau State Park

Heidi Holtan has worked at KAXE/KBXE for over 22 years. She currently helms the Morning Show as News and Public Affairs Director where she manages producers, hosts local interviews and programs, oversees and manages web stories and establishes focus areas of programming like phenology, clean energy, Indigenous voices, Strong Women, local foods, clean energy, economic development and more. 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. During the pandemic, Heidi hosted 14 months of a weekly statewide conversation on COVID-19 for the AMPERS network.
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.