I have a confession to make. I compare every state park I visit against Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park. Turkey Run is my ideal state park, and although it’s the state park of my childhood, I know it’s not just nostalgia speaking. I have visited Turkey Run a few times as an adult, and it hasn't ceased to impress me. It has a total of ten trails, and to access most of them, you must cross Sugar Creek on an impressive, well-maintained pedestrian bridge. The trails themselves are everything that you might want – they go through narrow sandstone gorges, some require ladder climbing, and others follow “creek beds.” For me, Turkey Run is about the hiking, but I also have fond memories of canoeing down the shallow (sometimes too shallow) Sugar Creek.
But this post isn’t supposed to be about Turkey Run. It is supposed to be about Minnesota's Whitewater State Park, which may well be the nicest state park in the southeast Minnesota region. It is much smaller than Turkey Run, and it only has three or four main trails. On the plus side, it is only an easy half hour drive away from Rochester. Usually.
On this particular occasion, driving to Whitewater proved to be a bit of a challenge. The county road we take from Rochester to Whitewater was closed for resurfacing. That was a minor inconvenience. When we arrived at the Park, we decided to hike the Coyote Point Trail. We usually do the longer Dakota Trail, but the Coyote is a nice alternative. Unfortunately, a sign at the trail head said that the bridge was temporarily out of service. It had rained the previous week, and the floating pontoon bridge the trail used has partially floated away. We had a nice look at the water, but there was no way we were going to cross... So on to Plan B.
Plan B: The Chimney Rock Trail. Chimney Rock is a rather short trail, which requires hikers to climb up about two hundred steps. At the top is a rock formation with a hole big enough to climb into. Probably three or four Tavi-sized kids could squeeze into its hole at the same time, and the hole goes straight through so that one can crawl into the “chimney” and enjoy a full view of the park below.
I like having a nice state park close to home, and we visit this one probably three or four times a year. Maybe Whitewater will be Tavi's Turkey Run when she's an adult?