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BEST PLACE TO HIKE (WOODSY) Minneapolis 1999 -

Some 2,500 acres criss-crossed with 45 miles of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails, the Elm Creek Park Reserve protects happily diverse lands. Near the Eastman Nature Center, you can stroll boardwalks around a pond, stretch out through prairie grasslands, and wander Big Woods--and that's within just a square mile or two of space. Longer trails give a better picture of the expansive grasslands held by the reserve, where Cooper's hawks, northern harriers, and bald eagles can be caught hunting rodents. In spring, mating woodcocks whistle above the evening plain, and migrating warblers cluster around the creeks; in summer, the baking hills are starred with pink and yellow wildflowers and visited by whirling flocks of barn swallows. Elm Creek's five lakes come in handy on particularly sweltering days. Maybe it's only the sight of (eastern) meadowlarks flushing up from the prairie, but there's something big-sky Western about this Osseo park. It's a good place to go when your feet are itching and vacations still wait far out on the horizon.

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