I am grateful that right in the middle of the Twin Cities, we have some nice hiking opportunities. Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in the middle of Theo Wirth Park (the largest park in Minneapolis) was my destination. I spent close to two hours hiking and didn't cover all the trails (including the ones outside of the sanctuary's fenced-in zone).
While most of the trees are still greenish, the off-beat trails took me past leaves of orange, red, yellow, and mundane brown. Acorns covered the path in places.
I entered into the Sanctuary's back gate. Several trails branch off from there and reconvene near the front gate. It's not a huge area, but the trails take you through woodland, wetland, and prairie.
From the Minneapolis Parks & Rec website:
The 15-acre garden is the oldest public wildflower garden in the nation. Its legacy dates back to 1907 when Minneapolis botanist Eloise Butler and botany teachers successfully petitioned the Minneapolis Park Board to create a natural botanic garden to preserve native flora as the city grew.It started sprinkling a little during the hike, so I stuck to the woodland paths for a little longer. The canopy of trees kept me from getting very wet, but also provided a soundboard for the raindrops to splat against.
As the rain abated, I climbed up the hill to where the grassland sits. Somewhere in the nearby distance (if I may use that oxymoron), church bells tolled the coming of a new hour. Nature and church bells are two of the things that enable me to find some peace in the midst of the city. Together they were a brief moment of bliss.
After trodding most of the trails in the Garden, I left via the front gate and explored trails hoping to get back to my car. It was much easier to serendipitously wander across the Gardens while hiking than it was to keep myself headed in the right direction of the parking lot. I kept finding myself circling back along the Garden's perimeter, so I did pull out the compass app on my phone a few times.
At one point a young stag wandered out of the woods about 15 yards away from me. I stood and watched him for a while and he watched me. He let me follow him along a path for a while, but then he headed down a steep ravine which I decided against following on after the slippery conditions from the rain. So I continued on the noticeable trail--only to find myself back along the Garden's perimeter. I doubled back and got on a trail and after a few more minutes of walking came across the deer again. Maybe I should have just followed him...
I appreciate the work of Eloise Butler to preserve such an area with native flora (as well as habitats for the fauna), as well as the work of Theodore Wirth for whom the larger park surrounding the Garden is named. The "dean of the local parks movement in America," Wirth became the superintendent of parks for Minneapolis at the turn of the century. His goal was to have a playground within a quarter-mile of every child and a recreation center within a half-mile. He helped keep the land around the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Creek, and all the lakes within the city limits public. Most suburbs have homes surrounding their lakes, but ours have pathways, parks, and beaches. Everyone has access to them.
I'm a country boy. At heart, I always will be. I've learned to live in some rather large metropolitan areas, but I need time in wild, open places. I'm thankful there are opportunities for me to have that right in Minneapolis. And after starting back to school, I needed that hike.