Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Local woman traverses MN parks, finds comfort and companionship

 

October 18, 2018

Provided photo

Eleanor Eskuri in Jay Cooke State Park during the winter.

Eleanor Eskuri was grieving after the death her husband, Archie, when she started to walk in the state parks in 2008. She completed walking in each of Minnesota's 72 state parks on August 22 this year.

"I started walking in the state parks that we had walked in together," she said in a recent interview. "I didn't feel alone while I walked. I could feel that Archie and God were with me. We used to get fish and crackers for our lunch in the parks. I would get fish and crackers and eat them for lunch just like we used to do."

Each state park has a stamp that can be stamped in a passport. Eskuri picked up her own passport and stamped her passport each time she walked in a state park.

After she completed walking in the last two parks, the Hill-Annex Mine State Park and Vermillion, which are side by side, she had completed visiting all 72 state parks in 10 years. She was awarded a pin to show her achievement.

During her 10-year journey, a friend told Eskuri about Volksmarchers. She joined the group.

"They do four events a year at Minnesota state parks," she said. "I walked a lot of the parks with them. When we went to Garden Island State Recreation Area on the Lake of the Woods, we had to charter a boat. I would have had to pay a lot of money for the charter if I hadn't been with the group."

As Eskuri visited each of the parks, she found that some were forgettable while others became her favorites.

"Some parks had just a trail around a lake," she said. "One of my favorites was the Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota. That's where they have the pipestone quarries. And I like the rocks in the parks by the lakeshore in Northern Minnesota. In southeast Minnesota, I also liked the bluffs along the Mississippi River."

As she walked, Eskuri found comfort and companionship.

"When I was walking alone, it was a spiritual experience," she said. "I felt that I was at one with God's creation and his universe. I feel so blessed to be living in a state that had the foresight to set aside these beautiful places so that you and I could visit them for the price of a park sticker and a tank of gas."

Eskuri told more about the Volksmarchers.

"Volks means people in German," she said. "And march is walk. They do 10k walks just for fun. There are four clubs in Minnesota, with 40 to 50 members in our club. Most of our members are from the cities. We usually walk 5k, take a lunch break, and walk the second 5k in the afternoon. When I was with the Volksmarchers, I was with friends and it was a social experience."

"Now the Volksmarchers organization has signed an agreement with the state park system so our members are not charged for our events, like they would for a wedding," she said. "The park system helps us advertise our events and help us set up the events because they want to encourage people to use the parks."

The length and difficulty of the trails have to be measured and certified, Eskuri explained.

"Our group was going to go to Jay Cooke State Park two years ago," she said. "I had to go and get accurate distances of each trail before the walk. The trails are also rated in difficulty as 1, 2, 3 or 4.

"I was very familiar with that park. I probably have walked in that park 100 times since I was a kid."

Eskuri said the Moose Lake State Park is one of Minnesota's 72 state parks but only has cross country ski trails.

"At Moose Lake State Park, they don't have 10k of trails," she said. "We have to add roads for our 10k event. And they no longer groom the trails for skiing in the winter."

Some of the trails in the parks are rough, and Eskuri uses walking aids.

"The best things I own are a pair of walking sticks," she said. "I use them when I step over rocks and tree roots and climb up and down. I mostly use a single walking stick but I use a pair when the trails are really rough."

The walking sticks resemble ski poles. They have handles and straps built into the top and rubber tips on the bottoms of the sticks. They can be adjusted for length.

"I like using the sticks better than a cane," said Eskuri. "With a cane, you tend to lean over. You stand up straighter with a walking stick."

When she was at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Eskuri took on a new challenge. She paddled on the waves of Lake Superior in the "I Can Kayak" program.

Provided photo

Eleanor Eskuri earned this plaque for walking all of Minnesota's state parks.

"I had never kayaked before," she said. "It was a beautiful day when we went. I wouldn't have gone out on the lake in a kayak otherwise."

Eskuri lives in Moose Lake and has to fit walking into her busy life.

"I try to walk five times a week but it usually is three," she said. "Life interferes."

She listed her activities since retiring from teaching in 2004: volunteering at the school, the food shelf, and Hope Lutheran Church; singing with Autumn Voices; member of Alpha Delta Kappa, a retired teachers' organization in the area; a member of the Library Board; and conducts a Bible study at Oakview Residential Care once a month.

And there is family. She has a daughter and a son whose families are in the Twin Cities. They have five of her grandchildren between the two families.

 

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