Lisa Brainard: Fall deluge brings rain, but much more to do

LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER With my camera set on self-timer – and placed on a parking barricade at Great River Bluffs State Park south of Winona — last week I took a selfie overlooking Mississippi River valley north of La Crosse.
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

Oh my! The fall deluge of activities continues in the month of October!

Sigh . . . When I said the word “deluge,” you probably thought I was talking about rain and thunderstorms, right? Wow, does that get old! It seems I can remember back to a time when fall meant not only beautiful leaf colors, but also sunny, temperate weather for the most part. It was a season to dream about . . . to be active and fully enjoy.

I went on an overnight camping trip, staying here in Minnesota, on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 26 and 27. I try to get out on the seemingly rare days when rain chances are slim. Why, I even missed fellow columnist and acquaintance Al Batt appearing at the Preston Public Library that Thursday night, much to my chagrin. But the forecast called for only a 10 to 20 percent chance of rain. I felt I just had to go for it!

My plan was to set up camp at one the cheaper, no reservation required, close-by units of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. Locations floating around in my head included Oak Ridge near Houston, Vinegar Ridge near Rushford, and even the Reno unit, south of Brownsville (near Reno, duh, and the Iowa border above the Mississippi).

I drove around a bit aimlessly, unable to decide. Then, I had a vision! So, I stopped where I had a signal for my smartphone, checked a state park campground for availability, and promptly made a same-day reservation.

Great River Bluffs State Park southeast of Winona it was!

Since I don’t drive interstate highways, getting there was interesting. Getting home was even more so, taking all kinds of Winona County and mostly Houston County roads and even eventually ending up on gravel for a bit en route to either Houston or Rushford. I consulted maps on my phone – yes, when pulled over and not driving. I visited the burgs of Nodine and Hartford… and maybe more? If you like exploring and getting a little lost – which most days I do – these are great roads.

But I was really tired and just wanted to get home. Why, oh why was I tired? Because despite the decent looking forecast, IT RAINED. UGH! I did not sleep well with the rain plunking on the roof of my truck. I stayed in the cab thinking the truck bed under the topper, even with my camping set-up, would be worse.

It was definitely good to camp and check out some different terrain. Overlooks of the Mississippi and the I-90 valley were beautiful despite the rain and damp ground. FYI, I certainly did not take any steep, wet, trails to overlooks. Thankfully, there were other opportunities.

Many events are still occurring this fall. Plan to take part. And do whatever you can with your personal beliefs and meditations to make it so. Hope for good weather (but have an almost equally great plan in case of rain).

Here are some activities to check out:

National Trout Center (NTC), Preston, Saturday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Fall Geology Bus Tour. Enjoy fall colors, geology and history of southeast Minnesota with the National Trout Center's annual fundraising event! Hop on a coach bus as professional geologist Jeff Broberg, as well as some guest speakers, teach you about the interesting features of the Driftless Area. Stops include Mystery Cave, Historic Forestville, a fossil hunt and more! The tour will wrap up at the NTC’s new neighbor, Trout City Brewing. Sack lunch will be provided by The Sweet Stop and Sandwich Shoppe Tickets are $50 per person. Buy two tickets; get $10 off. Space is limited. Call 507-765-2452 or email to learn how to reserve your spot.


Whitewater State Park, St. Charles, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19 – Geology Fest Centennial Events. There are at least 11 special events scheduled over the two days. Check them all out at the link.


Historic Forestville, Preston. This Minnesota Historical Society site comes alive in the fall with a number of fall events.


Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.