What is it about this time of year and taking a long hike through the fall leaves, hearing them crunch, crunch, crunch as you walk?

Or seeing the vibrant array of green, gold, rust and burgundy leaves as they sparkle in the autumn sunlight.

It just soothes a person’s soul, doesn’t it?

I know it did mine this past weekend as my husband and I hiked five miles through Lake Carlos State Park. It was peaceful, stunning and a great way to free the mind of anything relating to politics or COVID-19.

I am ashamed to admit that despite living in this area since 1997 (23 years), this was my first time hiking through this stellar State Park. Why have I never done that before? Shame on me, right?

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Although we only planned to be out there for about an hour, the trails, color and just overall gorgeousness of it made us stay for nearly two and a half hours. Sadly, during that time, we only hit three of the trails – Hidden Lake, Red Oak and the Maple-Basswood Trail, which ended up being a self-guided interpretive trail.

And one of my favorites. I learned so much!

I had no idea that male ruffed grouse perch upon logs in the spring and beat their wings, which makes this putt-putt-putt sound similar to a small gasoline engine starting up. They do this to warn other males and attract hens. The ritual is called drumming and the logs are often referred to as drumming logs.

Because of technology, my husband and I were able to watch a YouTube video on my cell phone of a grouse “drumming” as we stood near a log that at one time was probably used for that very same purpose. It was pretty cool and to me, really added to the experience.

On a side note, we both stayed off our phones for most of the hike, except for taking photos. Because it was way too beautiful not to capture.

I also learned about the timberdoodle. And no, it is some sort of mixed breed dog. It is a bird, the American woodcock and in the spring, the males “dance” to attract mates by spiraling through the air while making a twittering sound with their wings.

I looked them up when I got home and found out that the males perform their dance almost every night from early spring into early summer starting shortly after sunset. And, depending on weather conditions and moon phases, the average amount of time spent “dancing” is about 30 minutes. However, on clear nights with a full moon, the male timberdoodles can do their display all night long.

That is just crazy! Let’s hope he sleeps all day.

I also learned that the state purchased the land that became Lake Carlos State Park during the Great Depression in 1937 and that local school children collected more than $40 in pennies to go toward the cost of the park.

I learned that the acorns of bur oak trees are set deeply in a cup with bur-like fringes.

I learned so much about the wildlife, history, geology and landscape of the park through the more than a dozen little posts along the Red Oak and the Maple-Basswood Trail. I know I will go back out the park again as there is so much more to explore.

If you like to hike and have not taken the time to explore this gem right in our own backyard, I highly encourage you to do it. And do it soon while there are still leaves on the trees!

The colors at Lake Carlos State Park were vibrant this past weekend. The park offers plenty of views of fall colors while hiking on any of the many trails. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
The colors at Lake Carlos State Park were vibrant this past weekend. The park offers plenty of views of fall colors while hiking on any of the many trails. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)