Sam and I finally have the same two days off together. My job has been kind enough to allow me to change my days off to match his. Now we have so many options available for us! It’s no secret that one of our favorite things to do together is to go on a hike. I think I mentioned before that our goal is to go to every state park in Minnesota and there are 52 of them! We are nowhere near to being halfway through to our goal, yet. But it’s always exciting exploring a new park. If a park has left a good impression on us, we always look forward to going back.
Just recently we went to Banning State Park, which is about an hour south of Duluth in a little town of Sandstone, just about halfway between Duluth and Minneapolis. I always noticed this town on my way to the cities and knew there was a state park off that exit, but never took the time to see it. All I knew was that it used to be a mining town once upon a time. True to Minnesota form, the park is very woodsy so be sure to bring your bug repellent. There are quite a few trails to check out but the main part of the park is the history of the Quarry. The trail goes along the Kettle River and you’ll come across a few abandoned buildings. These buildings have been sitting there since 1912. It’s rather erie but also very beautiful at the same time. It’s amazing to me that given time, nature will take its course and start to regrow in places they were once considered not allowed.
Personally, I recommend just taking the quarry trail and staying along the river. What makes it worth it? The river for one thing is stunning and there are several overlooks along the way. The trail is very nicely groomed and challenging enough. When we were finished with that part of the park, we continued on to the other trails. If you want my honest opinion, it was terrible. Not groomed, grass knee high, and mud bogs. There were a few times I had thought if we had gone off trail but then we’d be reminded at a fork with a sign for the trails. That part was not enjoyable at all and we never thought it would end. It just ruined the entire experience for us unfortunately. I would however, go back in the winter time with my cross country skiis. The trail is nice and wide and seems like an easy trail to ski for beginners like us.
After our long hike in the sun, bugs, and mud, we had a late lunch at a mom and pop shop in Willow River. It’s the next exit on the way back to Duluth, another town I have never stopped in. Willow River has a small-town charm to it and bigger than you’d expect. We had heard that Peggy Sue’s was a great place to eat, so of course, we had to check it out. Walking in you can see all kinds of memorabilia displayed throughout. Along the front wall is a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers.
I got the Thanksgiving Sandwich and Sam got the Patty Melt. We swapped halves so each had a sample of each. In my opinion, the Thanksgiving Sandwich was amazing! When I read “cranberry sauce” described in the menu, that was enough for me to order it. And it did not disappoint. They also have ice cream cones so we ended it with some cones. They don’t have a huge selection but that’s ok with me since I seem to be so indecisive. Sam got the Java and I got the Orange Twister.
Have you gone to Banning State Park? What are your thoughts on it?