This past Saturday, I joined a local non-profit called HIKEhoppers on a glow-stick laden, s’mores filled night hike at Warner Lake County Park in Clearwater, MN. Warner Lake County Park site is 264 acres surrounding the 30 acre Warner Lake. The park was founded in 1973 when the Campfire Girls Inc. donated the first 33 acres—a place formerly known as Camp Suima—to Stearns County.
Now, the park is prime for paddling, picnicking, swimming, campfires, relaxing at the beach, and—of course—hiking.
We began our hike at the parks nature center, a space that you can actually rent out )for a fee). We traveled back with the lake on our left hand side over a bridge where we made our first stop. There, we spotted a familiar critter with beady brown eyes and an oily coat moving twigs across the waters surface to a stream head before somersaulting below the surface. It was a beaver! He was in the process of building a rather impressive dam and the scene lent itself kindly to a brief naturalist moment discussing this beaver behavior.
We continued on to a clearing with several benches where we paused for a time. In that pause, I did a brief lesson on the epic of nature that is the Twilight Zone, wielding a great horned owl puppet and a pair of iPhone headphones as just one part of the segment.
For those of you who were there and would like to learn more, or anyone for that matter, The Wild Life actually did a full episode on this back in season 1.
Afterwards, we continued our hike along a sandy pathway through tall stands of red and white pine as dusk turned to dark, guided by the light of the moon and our glow sticks. Along the way, we made a pit stop to observe an army of American Toads, during which I was pooped on, but such is life, am I right? No? Of course, I gave my spiel about letting them cross, the wart myth, the difference between frogs and toads and other tidbits (or should I say…rib-bits)
Soon, we were at the beach where a warm campfire awaited us and all of the fixings for a variety of s’mores. For the base, there were Fudge Stripe Cookies, Ritz Honey Wheat Crackers, or Graham Crackers. Marshmallows were at the center, of course! For the chocolatey center, we had either assorted Ghirardelli Chocolate flavors, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
What had been expected to be a chilly, rainy evening could not have been more perfect. We returned to the parking lot where we parted ways, but not before pausing to appreciate a dazzling show being put on by the first fireflies
I will be joining them again as a guest naturalist, which is all ahead of my new hiking series with them beginning this fall! It’s a naturalist hike series where each hike has a certain theme to allow you to learn about nature while you’re out in nature! Stay tuned for more details.