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About the Hiking Club
Many years ago, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources wanted to encourage residents to visit the multiple state parks by creating a Passport Club. An inexpensive kit was available for purchase at most state park offices. You would visit each state park’s office and a stamp would be available to endorse your passport as proof of your visit. A small reward of a simple patch as you reached milestones such as 25, 50, 100, etc. parks as well as free nights of camping here and there.
As a child growing up camping in my beloved home state, I thought this was pretty great! So much so that I would pout if we were going camping at a private campground instead of a state park where we could receive yet another stamp in our family’s passport. We managed to get about 20 stamps over the years of my childhood. With 75 state parks and recreation areas to be visited, that’s not very many. But it was a start!
Eventually, I grew up and purchased my own passport, which meant I started all over. But so often I found myself just driving to each park’s office, stamping my passport, and then leaving. Never actually going into the park itself to explore, which pretty much defeated the purpose! My guess is that the DNR picked up on the fact that lots of people were doing this and decided to do something more to draw visitors further into the park. And have them stay awhile. Thus, the Hiking Club was born.
How it Works
- Grab some friends and your walking shoes!
- Go to a Minnesota State Park. Of the 75 state parks and recreation areas, 68 of them have designated Hiking Club trails.
- At the park office, purchase a Minnesota State Park permit for your vehicle that’s good for one year from the month of purchase. The cost of this permit in 2020 is $35.00
- Purchase the Hiking Club Kit once. It does not expire. This quest will take you some time! And that’s ok. This is a marathon, not a sprint!
- If possible, ask at the park office which of the park’s trails is the Hiking Club Trail and ask where you should begin. There are maps that are usually marked with the designated trail and your kit comes with a trail guide. However, I’ve found that asking questions at the office can be beneficial sometimes. The trailhead is not always easy to find, even with a guidebook. The park staff is usually familiar with the trail and may offer suggestions such as taking the trail in one direction versus the other.
- Hike the designated Hiking Club trail! 2-3 miles is the average trail length but it could be as high as 6.5 miles, depending on the park.
- At some point along the trail, you’ll find a blue sign that shows that park’s password. I usually snap a photo of the sign with my phone. Write the password in your guidebook along with the length of that hiking trail, which is noted in your guidebook.
If you don’t live in Minnesota, I highly recommend exploring the state parks of your state. Check to see if maybe they offer a similar program. Maybe they don’t offer something through your state, but you can find other hiking opportunities through social media groups.
My Hiking Club Journey
In the autumn of 2018, I completed both the Minnesota State Park Passport Club and Hiking Club programs. And I enjoyed every single step of the nearly 200-mile hiking journey. I documented my experiences via social media along the way which led to a lot of questions about the Hiking Club from friends asking how they could be a part of it. When I was done, I shared my thoughts on social media about reaching the Hiking Club finish line. Some of which I share with you now in this forum because I feel they translate to not just hiking a trail but to travels in general…
I am an overweight woman in her mid-40’s with arthritis and bad knees. If I can do something like this, you can do it. Lose the excuses. They are an anchor weighing you down and stopping you from happiness.
If the journey interests you, then do it! Don’t wait. There is no perfect time for anything in life. I’ve heard some say, “We’ll do that as a couple when our kids have gone off to college.” But then I’ve also heard others say, “I wish we had done that together as a family before the kids were grown”. So don’t put it off. Don’t set yourself up for regrets.
The most common reaction I’ve had has been, “You hiked all those places ALONE?!….Weren’t you scared to do that by yourself??”
The first part of my answer is this: Sometimes doing things alone is the only option. Truly. I refuse to sit at home doing nothing because a companion isn’t available for that particular excursion. I want to stress that I often was not alone and would much prefer not to hike alone. Friends have joined me many, many times. But a companion isn’t always available. So I go alone. Or with my doggies! And sometimes a girl just needs some quiet time to herself, let’s be honest.
For the second part of my answer, I turn you to a quote from “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed.
“It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”Cheryl Strayed
Do you have any questions about the Minnesota Hiking Club? Let us know in the comments below.