Geocaching in Lake Elmo Park Reserve

This past weekend was spent geocaching in Lake Elmo Park Reserve, a Washington County park. Vehicle permits are required, and an annual pass is valid at Anoka, Carver, and Washington County parks. Lake Elmo Park Reserve is 2,165 acres, with 80% set aside for preservation and protection. The park features ample outdoor opportunities, with an archery range, fishing, boat launch, programs, a swim pond, picnic areas, camping (rustic, modern and hike-in), trails (bike, cross-country ski, hike, horse, mountain bike), orienteering, picnicking and more. Dogs must be on a leash and are allowed on all trails during the summer and non-ski trails in the winter.

I really liked this park. It’s a short drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul and offers a great escape from the daily grind. The 39 geocaches we found barely made a dent in the caches hidden throughout the park, so we will be back at some point.

Day 1: Hike with Cora

Cora is available for adoption through Heading Home K9 Rescue. Update: Cora has been adopted!

High in the mid-40s at around 2 or 3 PM. Slight breeze. Dressed in my usual attire: a light long-sleeve hoodie, pants and winter boots, plus the inner shell of my winter jacket. Cora and I hit the trail at about 12:45 PM.

Deciding to leave the inner shell of my winter jacket behind, I parked at the north pavilion, leashed Cora, unloaded the gear and electronics, and started walking. We got about 50 feet and three-poop Cora relieved herself for the first time. After cleaning up her mess, we trekked the 50 feet back to the vehicle to drop the bag off. By this time, I was already freezing and took the opportunity to add my winter jacket’s inner shell.

All of the caches were quick finds, but we took the long way to find a couple. Getting closer to the third of the day, I checked the terrain map and it looked like it was at a lower elevation. There appeared to be a small path to the lake, so off we went but soon were bushwhacking. We saw a muskrat lodge, and I thought it odd for a geocache to be so close to one. After a couple of minutes, I decided the search wasn’t worth it, and we climbed back up the bank. A quick look back the way we came, and there it was. Onward!

The fifth geocache was a quick find, but I stabbed my index finger on a twig retrieving it. Nothing serious (only a drop blood), but it hurt and, I suspect, was the cause of some odd pain/weakness in my forearm later that night.

A total of 17 geocaches found over 4 hours (18 if you count the one that required scaling a tree…I didn’t trust Cora to her own devices and will make that grab in the future). My FitBit says we went about 8 miles. Cora loved it… she was still a bundle of energy when we got home, though.

Cora overlooking a small lake

Day 2: Hike with Alex

High in the mid-50s at around 2 or 3 PM. Slight breeze. Dressed in my usual attire: a light long-sleeve hoodie, pants and winter boots, plus inner shell of my winter jacket. Alex and I hit the trail at about 11:15 AM.

We parked at the Eagle Point trailhead, with a quick stop in the Biffie and then hit the trail. We decided to leave the dogs at home for this trek. All of the caches were quick finds, with some nice views along the way.

Overlook of a small part of Eagle Point Lake

Some of the caches required some athletic skill.

Climbing a tree to make a grab

And we had visitors at some caches. We startled a bald eagle as we approached one, and these geese were monitoring our actions during retrieval of the day’s final cache.

Sometimes it’s too cold to swim, even for Canadians

A crane flew overhead, calling out, as we left the final cache.

A total of 21 caches found over 5 hours (22 if you count the cache missing a lid and logged as a “Needs Maintenance”). My FitBit says we hiked about 9 miles.

We found about half of the geocaches in this great park, with over 40 more to find on a future venture. I highly recommend this park. It is a beginner geocacher’s dream, with most caches having a difficulty rating of 2.5 or lower (out of 5). Many people were enjoying the weather: everyone from trail runners on the more hilly turf to walkers on the more level paved trail with benches. Watch for a future post about camping and exploring more of the trails.