Person hiking in blowdown area.
Today’s itinerary called for hiking to the Anchor Matson Trailhead, a distance of just 15 miles (24.1 km). We knew there was a blowdown/salvage logging area that could be difficult to navigate. But the bulk of the miles would be in Itasca State Park. Normally, state park trails are well-used and well-maintained. I’d also asked the ranger about the trail conditions, and she said they were fine.

Unfortunately, Amy thought she had developed a urinary tract infection, so she and Bruce dropped us off at the trailhead and went into Park Rapids to visit Urgent Care. Ed and I continued on alone.

Making Our Way to Anchor Matson Trailhead

The first 2 miles (3.2 km) were OK as far as footing, although lots of mosquitoes (it had sprinkled last night). Then we arrived at the blowdown area. Much to our surprise, it was fine. Nice, even. Due to the lack of vegetation, we enjoyed a cool breeze and the mosquitoes disappeared. The trail folks had erected metal posts with blue ribbons, so it was easy to follow the trail.

And then we returned to the real trail for the last mile or two. Oh my goodness! The first mile past the blowdown took us about 33 minutes because it clearly hadn’t been maintained in a LONG time. Think vegetation up to your shoulders. The last mile was better. (We later learned the trail maintainer had serious health issues.)

Entering Itasca State Park

We crossed a paved road and headed into the state park. Yes! The first mile or so was great – singletrack trail that wound Hiker crossing a boardwalk.through pretty scenery. Then the trail joined the park’s Boy Scout Trail. 

This trail wasn’t bad. It was quite wide, and while the vegetation was about calf-high, that was OK. But the mosquitoes were insane here. It also didn’t help that this trail is also a winter cross-country ski trail. So we basically kept hiking up and down large hills. Also, when it passed lakes, you really couldn’t see them. 

Around lunch time we came upon a shelter. Perfect! Enjoyed a bug-less lunch there. After that, the trail became just lovely for a few miles. It was back to singletrack and wound past many lakes with good views. 

Happy Times End

But soon things devolved again. With several miles left to hike, the trail became very overgrown with a fair number of downed trees that were hard to navigate. The mosquitoes also roared back in huge swarms. And did I mention it was about 86 F (30 C) today? It was quite dispiriting.

People sitting at Mississippi headwaters.
The Eckerts had parked at the Anchor Matson Trailhead and hiked in to meet us. We drove back to camp, cleaned up a bit, then headed to the Mississippi River headwaters, just a few miles north within the park. That was very cool!

Once again, with a 0% chance of rain, it rained while we were there. Thankfully, it wasn’t too heavy. Still, the clothes I’d hung out to dry got wet. Rats.

Still, we’re planning on a good night. The Eckerts picked up hamburgers and buns, so we’re grilling out tonight instead of eating backpacker meals. The adventure continues!


MN NCT miles today: 15 (24.1 km)
MN NCT miles to date: 724.4 (1,165.8 km)
Total NCT miles to date: 2,742.9 (4,414.3 km) 
Total NCT miles to go: 1,857.1 (2,988.7 km)

©2018 Melanie McManus – All Rights Reserved

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