Driving on highways gets on my nerves sometimes. There’s never anything to look at other than cars and the road and an occasional volunteer tree hoping to flee over the freeway wall. Yes, I know, highways are designed that way — MnDOT wants to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and that’s a good thing. Last summer though, I was commuting between Hopkins and Edina and decided I needed a detour to escape driving route boredom. I took the next exit. It was a delightful winding, hilly road dotted with small lakes that cut through a pleasant residential neighborhood. In nearly all my life living in the Twin Cities I had never been on that road before. At a lighted intersection I looked toward some open water and saw a long wooden boardwalk and made a mental note to go back someday.
That “someday” happened last weekend. Needing a break from the noise and chaos of Minneapolis, I yearned for open space, quiet and nature. If only I could find that boardwalk. To retrace my route, I used Google Maps and located a park in the general vicinity — north of Highway 62 and east of Gleason Road. The city of Edina’s parks website displayed a photo of bikers cruising a wooden boardwalk at Bredesen Park. I set my GPS and hit the road.
A small parking lot on Olinger Boulevard was situated between two ponds and next to a small parks building with open restrooms. Numerous ducks were floating on the water, climbing on submerged branches and quacking.
A kiosk held an overview map of the park. I walked on the paved trail past the entrance signage and came upon a gathering of geese surrounding a peninsula that juts into another pond. At a Y in the path, there was a more detailed map of the grounds. A nature trail hugged a cluster of ponds while pedestrian and bike paths were located on the perimeter of the park grounds. They were all about 2 miles long. Nine Mile Creek meandered through the park on the southwest corner, but I didn’t see any indication of a boardwalk.
I took the path to the right and headed up a hill lined with willows and aspens in various states of fall colors. Normally I have a very good sense of direction and no trouble reading maps. Somehow though, when I enter a park or nature area, I never seem to be able to follow the trail maps. But it was a much-needed respite on gentle hills with water on one side or even two for most of the trails. Every so often there was another you-are-here map, and I was never where I thought I’d be. Maybe that’s a lesson nature’s trying to teach me. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday. I saw one runner twice and two other couples walking. I knew I would not get stranded in the middle of Edina, so I sat on a bench and got out my phone. Google Maps satellite view showed the trails and my exact location.
Bredesen Park covers 206 acres, just a little smaller than Lakewood Cemetery — not that I was thinking about death at all. I just hadn’t planned on going on a walk through the woods; I was still wearing flip flops and didn’t have a jacket with me. I thought I was headed for a nice wooden boardwalk, but here I was at the far end of a park in the woods. Who even knew there were woods in Edina? I did enjoy it though. It was truly a nice piece of nature in the city. I kicked yellow leaves scattered on the trail and looked up at the knobby branches of cottonwood trees. Like a bright flashlight through the trees, I saw a glimmer of white. An egret perched on a branch over the water was gazing at its surface. I stood and watched for several minutes wondering if it was looking for a fish. Eventually it flew away and I realized I was back at the parking lot.
After I left the park and drove back toward Highway 62, I saw the boardwalk again. It’s located at the busy intersection of Gleason Road and Vernon Avenue, with no parking nearby. The bike and pedestrian trails from Bredesen Park do continue through a residential neighborhood and will eventually get you there, but it’s easier to park at Walnut Ridge Park.
We all have our own well-traveled paths and usual stops. Try taking a different route next time. It’s always possible to discover something new if you’re open to it. And there’s nothing wrong with getting lost occasionally.
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A wandering nature trail through woods and water. Pedestrian and bike trails connect to the boardwalk.
Where: 5901 Olinger Blvd., Edina
WALNUT RIDGE PARK
Closest parking area to the boardwalk.
Where: 5801 Londonderry Road, Edina