Fall Foliage & Family Trip 2021 | Mille Lacs Lake to Virginia, Minnesota | Hiking in Mille Lacs Kathio State Park | Visiting Family in Northern Minnesota | October 9-11, 2021
We awoke on Saturday morning in Mille Lacs Kathio State Park to the warm hues of red, orange and golden leaves. Though the sky was gray the gorgeous colors lured us out of our warm tent and beckoned for us to get an early start on our day. We broke camp and drove to the trailhead to hike to the fire tower, the point in the park that we felt would give us the best views over the sea of trees. We realized soon after starting the hike that we didn’t even need an overlook with colors like these — even walking through the woods filled with color felt magical. A breeze would blow through the trees and cause leaves to quietly fall from the trees, like a light snowfall. But the views from the fire tower were still excellent.
I’m not sure how we got so lucky with our fall trips this year, but somehow we managed to hit so many scenic places right at the peak of fall colors, and even made it back to Omaha to enjoy our own peak. I think it was a later peak than usual, but what do I know, out of the last 10 fall seasons I’ve spent the majority living in warmer climate areas. But I also think it was unseasonably warm, which was ideal for camping.
We completed the 1 mile fire tower loop hike, then started to plan out the rest of our trip North. Wanting to go on another short hike to savor the fall colors, we scoured the AllTrails app looking for hikes between where we were and where we were going, and found one that looked ideal not too far off our route. It looked like a short hike up to an overlook right next to some lakes, and without doing any more research we decided it would be perfect. We drove slightly out of our way to the town of Crosby and Cuyuna Lakes State Recreation Area. As we entered the park, we noticed how many mountain bikers there were…so many bikers. But we understood it was a holiday weekend during peak fall colors, seeing lots of people out was to be expected. As we entered the parking lot, it seemed like the only other people here were bikers, and we wondered if there was an event happening. But then we got out and read the sign at the trailhead, which stated “No pedestrians on the trails.” Whoops! We had never seen a park like this that we could remember and were pretty disappointed. Thankfully there was a road to the top of Miner’s Mountain so we could still drive up and enjoy the views before continuing on our drive.
From here, our drive up to Virginia was pretty straightforward and we only stopped once for a short walk in Grand Rapids. While entering into town, we drove past the birthplace of Judy Garland — there was a small museum, which would have been fun to visit had we not had Charlotte with us.
We finally finished our drive and arrived in Virginia, where we stayed with Curtis’ sister Lydia and her family. We had a great time catching up with her and Jeff and spending time with our nieces Grace and Kylie, and got to meet our nephew Josiah for the first time. We don’t get to see them enough, but when we do we work hard to achieve the title of “favorite aunt and uncle”! It rained quite a bit that weekend, but during a break between the storms Curtis pulled out our kayak and took each of the girls around Silver Lake and got up close to the “World’s Largest Floating Loon.”
We stayed with them until Monday and to wrap up our time in the Virginia area, we went on a hike with Lydia, Kylie, Josiah, and our dogs on a loop trail up Lookout Mountain on the Laurentian Divide. Oddly enough, we’re pretty sure that this marks the first time we’ve ever crossed into the Hudson Bay Watershed. The mountain provided gorgeous views over a sea of golden trees, and after not getting along for most of the weekend the dogs finally bonded over their enjoyment of hiking. When we had finished the hike, we said our goodbyes and parted ways.