Spring happens so quickly in Minnesota that if you wait too long pulling that scarf up and over your head you’ll miss it.
I was out of town for two weeks at the beginning of April. By the time I got home, our annual robin pair made their trip back north and built a nest under our upper deck overhang.
Actually, they built nine nests. I’m no bird expert, but it looks like they’re going to charge rent this year.
They started at one end, leaving long, dried grasses dangling over the rafters and littering our walkway. The next one over was built a little higher with a few stray grasses poking out. Each one got progressively higher and less scraggly until the final nest was a precision-built masterpiece with muddy grasses that dried in place, creating sturdy, protective walls.
I think it would take me two weeks to weave a nest like that and I have fingers. They were busy.
When the robins return in spring, I like to get out in nature and see what’s happening in our post-winter world. I love boardwalks, and we’re lucky to have many in the metro area. I like walking on floating or sturdy wooden walkways over the water and through the cattails. It’s a very civilized approach to appreciating nature.
Seventy years ago, as St. Louis Park was growing, industrial buildings and apartments were built off Excelsior Boulevard near Minnehaha Creek. The creek’s natural curves were straightened to accommodate development, and its flowing water was mostly ignored. But last year, this neglected gem reopened as Creekside Park.
The Minnehaha’s newly meandering curves are echoed in boardwalks that crisscross the park. Exhibit panels show the creek’s history going back to glaciers, explain how watersheds work and give tips on environmental stewardship, so we can all protect its waters.
There are 1.5 miles of paved trails and elevated boardwalks that stretch between Louisiana and Meadowbrook avenues and extend into a therapeutic boardwalk on Methodist Hospital’s west side. The park is extending further west, too, as more gets developed.
As soon as I crossed the creek onto a sweeping arc of a boardwalk, three kayakers paddled around a bend. They put in at Gray’s Bay Dam, the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek. It takes about seven hours to paddle downstream to the falls. They were moving at a leisurely pace and easily navigating the turns.
Though the cattails are barely starting to green up, I did see monarch butterflies and many birds. The creek is wedged in between industrial buildings, apartments, and Excelsior Boulevard, but this park is sheltered and quiet. Babbling water, red-winged blackbird calls and the light slap as my sandals hit wood boards were all I heard.
We are lucky to have so many boardwalks in the metro area. Here are some of my other favorites:
Wood Lake, Richfield
Westwood Hills, St Louis Park
Harriet Alexander Nature Center, Roseville
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington
Keller Regional Park, Maplewood
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen
Carver Park Reserve, Victoria
Minnehaha Creek Headwaters Park, Minnetonka
LUNCH TIP: Make it a picnic on one of the many benches along the creek. Pick up an artisan sandwich and freshly baked cookie at Honey & Rye Bakehouse (4501 Excelsior Blvd.).