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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Hiking Afton

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A hike in the woods along the scenic St. Croix River is always good for what ails, especially on an uncharacteristically summery day in the second half of October in the greater Twin Cities. Even better, doing it with precious friends and sharing a picnic lunch adds a magical essence of energizing endorphins.

We met Pam and John at Afton State Park early enough in the day that a second layer with long sleeves helped to tide us over until the heat of a summer day settled in. Pam and I first connected on a group trek in the Himalayas in 2009, the one that served as inspiration for me to start this blog. The mixture of terrain in the park and the marvelous conversations yesterday sparked remembrances for both of us of the weeks we shared over a decade ago in Nepal.

Driving to the Minnesota side of the St. Croix river from our house, I witnessed a phenomenon in the sky that was a first for me. High winds had pushed some clouds 90° from flat to straight up. On an otherwise unremarkable-weather morning, such an anomaly in the sky seemed incredibly remarkable to me.

I can only wonder what that would have been like for a small plane if one were in the vicinity.

My drive home included a different kind of excitement in the sky in the form of smoke. Actually, I smelled it before I saw it and the instant impression I had was alarm over the possibility of a brush fire on this hot and windy day with the extremely dry conditions our drought has caused.

I had just come through River Falls and finally spotting the thickness and depth of the smoke served to heighten my level of concern. Then I came upon a bright orange temporary road sign indicating a “prescribed burn” in progress.

“In these conditions?!!” I thought to myself.

Cyndie and I had traveled in separate cars as she had overnight plans with a friend in the Cities and drove west from Afton after our picnic and I returned home to take care of the horses and Delilah.

A short distance after the sign, my anxiousness dropped significantly at the sight of an incredible number of strategically parked vehicles and some big equipment, indicating this was not some short-sighted amateur operation. Still, it seemed to me like the weather conditions would have given them reason to pick another time for such a risky endeavor. I have no idea what the purpose was for the burn at that location.

Enquiring minds would like to know.

Good thing for me the residual endorphins from the good time hiking and picnicking in Afton State Park with John and Pam survived that brief, smoky disruption to my serenity on the drive home.



Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2022 at 9:53 am

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