Falling for Fall…

… colors.

Westward we go, but this time we’re leaning a bit towards the north of west, rather than south of west. We left a yesterday after replacing the psycho-random refrigerator thermostat, and will be back home in time for various appointments.

Our target is the North Dakota Badlands & Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The route and timing are undetermined, other than we’d like to check out a few North Dakota state parks along the way.

First stop was Maplewood State Park, a new-to-us State Park in west central Minnesota. Although we’ve camped many times in Minnesota, we’ve not spent any time in this area. Seems as though we’ve favored the southeast part of the state. Probably need to spend more time out here.

We’re catching the start of fall colors up here – not by plan but rather by happenstance. The reds and yellows are starting to appear alongside the greens and browns. Not quite at peak fall colors, but nice enough. Odds are that because of the very hot and very dry summer, the colors will be muted anyway.

The park is at the edge of the glaciated area that bisects Minnesota and Wisconsin. That means small hills of glacial debris, sand and rocks in between the many small ponds and lakes formed by the glaciers. I grew up in the Kettle Moraine area of southeast Wisconsin, so for me this is a familiar landscape.

It’s also at border between the ‘big woods’ to the north and east and the open prairie to the south and west.

I lived for a decade in Hutchinson Minnesota, a small town south of here that also was also at one time on the border between the woodlands and the prairie. My great uncle Rudy, born early in the 20th century, often said that if you had homesteaded east of Hutchinson you’d have to clear the land. If you settled west of town you could plow without clearing. Of course he also said that during the extreme cold of the 1930’s they use to sleep in the corn crib instead of the house – the corn crib was warmer because “it had more holes to let the cold out“. Funny guy.

Minnesota is also trisected by three major biomes, each substantially different from the rest. One can choose northeast coniferous forests, a stripe of deciduous forest crossing the state from northwest to southeast, or the open prairie of the southwest, all in a days drive. The southeast is also unique in that the big glaciers bypassed it and left the geology and rivers unmolested by the several 3000 foot thick walls of slow moving ice that smooshed much of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota Biomes

In a way, Minnesota and Wisconsin are what they are because of the glaciers.

Keeps things interesting, at least.

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