Following death of his wife, Minnesota man runs all 66 state parks

Running every state park in Minnesota has been a healing journey for a father of four after a tragic loss in the family.

Aaron Hill runs through Buffalo River State Park as part of his journey through all of Minnesota's 66 State Parks. The adventure, often with his four children, is a way to remember his wife, Kathryn, who recently died of cancer.
Contributed / Aaron Hill

MOORHEAD — "This is fun," Aaron Hill said as he ran through Maplewood State Park in Otter Tail County, documenting his journey along the way.

"There's the river," he said as he ran in Buffalo River State Park.

Hill is running through all 66 of Minnesota's state parks.

"This is kind of those 'wow' places," he said as he rand in Glacial Lakes State Park.

Hill, who lives in the Twin Cities suburb Lake Elmo, has gone on a wintry run through Otter Tail County's Maplewood State Park and had an incredible adventure in Tettegouche and Split Rock state parks.


"Here we are at 'high falls,' let's see how high they are," Hill said at Tettegouche State Park.

For Hill, the run through all the state parks has been more than just an athlete's challenge. His wife, Kathryn — mother of their four children — died in 2020 after a battle with cancer.

"She just always gave and sacrificed for others," Hill said. "She was just super loving. She just had this love tank that just could not be filled."

Kathryn was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 37. She never smoked a day in her life.

"The saying within the lung cancer community is that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer," Hill said.

Kathryn was just 41 when she died.

"She was pretty awesome, pretty amazing mother," Hill said.

So with their four young kids often included, Hill took off for the parks of Minnesota.


"It helped me and the kids grow closer together as a unit — as a five-person family instead of six," Hill said.

With family near Fargo-Moorhead, Maplewood State Park, Glendalough State Park and Buffalo River State Park were his favorites.

Hill has not only blogged about his state park challenge, he is now writing a book about loss, running and trying to move forward, one state park at a time.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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