The Drive: At some point everything starts to look the same. Each farm and forest and lake and town with a population under 200. I guess there is a reason County Road 2 hasn't been named a Minnesota Scenic Byway yet.
The Park: Mille Lacs Kathio State Park has a number of wonderful attractions that make is worth visiting, but from my experience the number one reason to visit the park is for a chance to glimpse the rare and beautiful mosquito. Unlike many state parks that are tragically mosquito free, Mille Lacs is unusually abundant in the fragile insect. They have even converted an old fire tower into a mosquito observation deck where you can quietly watch beautiful examples of culiseta longiareolata tranquilly buzzing among the trees below. And be sure to check out the council ring and the archeological sites of the Ojibwe, a tribe known for revering and protecting this most elusive of flies. I was lucky to come during a wet year when the park's many bogs and wetlands were saturated and produced record mosquito populations. Resident mosquito researchers say this year could make all the difference in the long term viability of the non-endangered bug.
The Hike: The 3.2 mile hiking club trail winds through some of the best mosquito territory in the park. Beginning almost immediately upon exiting my car, I was lucky encounter a mother mosquito with a whole brood of young. It was a small family, not more the five thousand monthlings, but quite a site for my mosquito starved soul nonetheless. The trail follows Ogechie lake, a favorite mosquito habitat, past several historical markers (which I was unable to stop and see due to my fear that too many mosquitos might land on me and be exposed to my toxic blood), before moving inland. It was such a blessing to me to be able to give part a my self (a pint of blood) to support the mosquito population that when I finally hit the road again and the mosquitoes left me, being naturally afraid of open spaces, I felt their loss deeply. But I was able to remember the experience for weeks afterwards thanks to the rounded "mosquito kisses" that remained on my skin to mark the place where each of these mystical creature had alighted.
Cumulative Miles Hiked: 18.5
Cumulative Miles Driven: 567
Hike Type: Pine, Hardwood, Bog, Lake, Road, Buggy
Arbitrary Rating: 2/5
The Mosquito Route
I apologize that this post doesn't say more about the park and trail, but you can easily understand how overcome I was by the mosquitoes. It was hard to concentrate on anything else.