Danielle St. Louis
Interstate State Park
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Leaving for our trip up to Interstate State Park, I had high hopes of redeeming the state park visit experience for my friend Angela. Angela has come along on plenty of day trips with Lucky and me, but the last time she came camping with us was the traumatic trip to Governor Thompson State Park. When we picked Angela up on our way out of town, she admitted to having tepid feelings about the trip. She decided to approach it with no expectations, so there would be no chance of being disappointed. Thankfully for us all, Interstate State Park far exceeded no expectations.
We took our time getting out to Interstate State Park, enjoying conversation and podcasts along the way. Venturing northwest on Highway 53 was unfamiliar territory for me; until now I’d only ever taken I-94 up to the Twin Cities. When we finally arrived, and found our way to our campsite, we were happy to see the St. Croix River running through the trees right behind our site. We set our tents up among a small stand of conifers, relaxed, and had a bite to eat while we studied the trail maps.
Some notes about the North Campsite at Interstate State Park. Pros: Certain sites have a view of the St. Croix River. Some of these views are better than others, but it’s down there. If you listen closely, you can hear the water moving steadily downstream. Cons: You can hear all of the interstate noise—trucks engine breaking at all hours of the day, motorcycle gangs out for a cruise, and a general steady stream of interstate traffic. It’s a cacophony illustrative of the tension between nature and modernization. Also, there isn’t much privacy between campsites. You can see your neighbors. They can see you. So be neighborly.
After determining the route for our evening hike, we set out to explore three different trails in succession, and we ended up tacking on a fourth for good measure. The nice thing about the trails at Interstate State Park is that most of them are relatively short and many of them are loops that are scenic beyond belief. I usually track our hikes via GPS, and I was giggling to myself about how long our “time on trail” metric was going to be because of how often we were stopping to enjoy the views and take photos. We ended the evening sitting in our camp chairs eating dinner while we watched the river below turn blue to orange to black as the sun set.
The next morning while we were getting ready to head out to hit more trails, we were visited by a gang of blue jays. I’m not sure if “gang” is the appropriate ornithology term, but it accurately describes how the blue jays rolled up into our campsite and threw down. They started antagonizing Lucky first, and of course, he fell for it. He started barking and leaping at them, getting tangled in his tie out and almost tumbled down the embankment to the river. I rushed to unravel Lucky from his lead and put him in the car before the blue jays could begin a more organized assault; in the meantime, Angela was working on lacing up her hiking boots. Before she could finish tying her boots, a blue jay swooped in and dive bombed her head! She rushed to the car as well, and we hastily took off for our morning hike, hoping the blue jays would have moved on by the time we got back later that afternoon.
We planned on doing two trails, then breaking for lunch before going out on a third. The first trail was short and the second trail turned out to be much shorter than expected. The map we were using indicated that the second trail was .8 miles linear, so we anticipated a 1.6 mile hike round trip. However, we made it out to the end of the trail and back in no time at all. GPS indicated that the hike was more like .8 mile round trip rather than .8 mile linear. Since we finished the first two trails so quickly, and now that we anticipated a “liner” distance on the map was actually round trip, we decided to hit the third trail before breaking for lunch. We were all excited about this third option; it was described as a wildlife viewing trail that passes by an abandoned copper mine, the grounds of Silverbrook Mansion, and offers a view of the 18-foot Silverbrook Falls. The map said 1.2 linear, so we anticipated 1.2 roundtrip.
One mile into the hike and not yet to the end of the trail, we were starting to think this time it actually was 1.2 miles linear. We were getting hot, tired and hungry, but we were still hoping the views of the copper mine, mansion and waterfall would be totally worth it. They weren’t. I LOVE this park. It’s a really good one. But the description of this trail totally over sold it. We saw some fenced off holes in the ground and stone walls that could have been the remains of a copper mine, two stone pillars that possibly marked the drive to the mansion back in the day, and a modest waterfall in the distance obscured by forest. Despite how disappointing this particular trail may have been, Interstate State Park delivered overall, and the blue jays left us alone for the remainder of our stay. The same can’t be said for the racoons, but that’s a story for another time . . .
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