On our way back home, we found the nearest state park to explore: Lake Maria State Park a little south of St. Cloud (about an hour from Minneapolis).
The park was just starting to emerge from winter with birds celebrating and flowers scattered about. Lake Maria is a big woods forest which means it has old-growth trees of maple, basswood, white and red elm, red oak, tamarack, and red cedar on the banks of numerous lakes. This section of Big Woods used to connect all the way to Nerstrand Big Woods in southern Minnesota. John and I visited that park last fall.
An unexpected characteristic of Lake Maria is the endangered Blanding's turtle that lives in park. I chuckled when we passed the "Rare Turtle Crossing" sign posted on the road. Then a mere 10 seconds later we saw a turtle crossing the road! (No wonder you're almost extinct turtle--get out the way, yo!) We found out later that guy was probably just a painted turtle. Blanding's turtles have yellow spots and are extremely shy (self conscious?).
I didn't bring adequate shoes with me so we ended up walking on a few of the "interpretive" trails. I use quotes because they weren't really interpretive. One trail had numbers that you followed but didn't really match to any info in the given brochure. Still, it was a beautiful day for a hike (walk).
First state park of the year! I'm still working towards my State Park Countdown.