Saturday, October 13, 2007

St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park

Today was the kind of day that simply demands that you get outside and enjoy it. Dave and I set out on a vaguely birding-motivated drive, intending to visit Afton State Park near Woodbury. Instead, finding ourselves behind slow-moving road-marking vehicles on a county road, we abandoned that plan and followed a sign to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. The river was noisy with watercraft driven for speed, but up the hill it was relatively peaceful, and a beautiful place to enjoy the changing colors and contrasting foliage.

We found our way to the park's Conference Cottage, a somewhat prairie-style house built into the side of the bluffs. Standing on its deck we were at eye level with the tops of the trees growing on the steep hillside below us. We saw a few warblers darting from treetop to treetop.

The conference center certainly looks to be an appealing place for a social occasion or small business gathering. It can be rented for $250 per day (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) year-round. It has me wondering what occasion I can think up that might call for such a get-away. (Women of my book group, are you taking note?)

Leaf-strewn trails let us get up close to a wide variety of deciduous and evergreen trees, including, unfortunately, plenty of buckthorn.

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We caught glimpses of the St. Croix between the trees and sat on a bench at a scenic overlook, watching snow-white gulls wheeling far below us. It was an idyllic outing, indeed.

We drove back past farms advertising pumpkins, apples, and corn mazes, and I marveled as always at the beautiful city hall (the Historic Dakota County Courthouse) in Hastings. That's a town I need to find time to explore.

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