You know the feeling, that bittersweet urge, that pull on the pit of your stomach that says: "What are you still doing here? What happened to seeing the world?" It's especially hard to escape in the fall, when the eagles circle overhead in that effortless, perfect glide that sets them on their way south. For a near-intolerable dose, head to Duluth's Hawk Ridge, where sky and rocks turn black with avian migrants on certain magical days. But if a four-hour drive isn't in the cards, Carpenter Nature Center on the St. Croix offers raptor-watching close to home. Here, too, the contrast of sun-drenched bluffs and chilly water produces warm updrafts called thermals, which the birds use like elevators to rise to cruising altitude. They don't stop long enough to enjoy Carpenter's other features--including 15 miles of trails, a restored prairie, an oak savannah, and an ancient apple orchard--but you can. You're not going anywhere for a while, right? Fall raptor migration runs from mid-September to mid-October; the spring migration begins in early April. The center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; admission is free.


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