Brainerd, Minnesota
(Following this Summer Map)

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This spring, I have discovered a small joy in the Brainerd area: The Northland Arboretum.

In preparing for an upcoming trip that would require some walking, I decided to get ready for it by walking the arboretum. Let’s take a walk now.

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Out on North Star Trail

We’ll park at the visitors’ center, facing the landscape pond and garden. We get out of the car and find koi in the pond, a good many flowers, a waterfall, landscaping, a butterfly garden, and a nice trail up to a gazebo overlooking the parking lot and the garden area.

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Watch for these guys all along the way.

We’ll walk around the west side, turning onto Prairie Road, just past the butterfly garden. Keep your eyes open for birds all the way – songbirds of all sorts, maybe a few hawks or eagles – they’re there. This road takes us into the arboretum, leading to all the trails. Once we get to the trails, we’ll stay left, going west along the trail labelled ACORN. We’ll notice that the trails are quite wide – 3 people would have little trouble walking side by side for the whole system. The trail turns north, and we’ll stay on the west side all the way up to the POTLATCH trail. There have been some rises to walk up, but not so very bad at all . . . yet. As we walk on POTLATCH, we find ourselves coming out of the woods some, clearing a view to our right so we can see RUDY’S TRAIL coming at us, and then trail off back from where it came from. POTLATCH curls east and then a bit southeast along a ridge – perhaps we can walk over to the ridge and look down on the wetlands. Maybe we’ll see a deer or two down there.

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This was early March this year — right on Prairie Road.

We’ll walk until we get to the NORTH STAR trail, going to the left, heading north into the upper north portion of the arboretum. (Use the summer map to find NORTH STAR trail). It’s a short walk downhill, and then we’re walking along the wetlands on our left, woods on our right. A stream crosses under the trail, and then we get more trail, flatter than we’ve seen in the southern portion of the arboretum.

We’ll come to point where the trail offers a turn to the left – we’ll continue straight, headed for the Johnson Plantation of the area. There’s quite a gentle rise as we go. We come across the outdoor classroom area, and then the path turns left where a small field opens – I’ve seen milkweed here, and one pass here not so long ago found clouds of dragonflies darting across the field.

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The usual view on either side of the trails.

We continue west, passing the RED PINE trail (I haven’t explored that one yet) and pass through long, straight rows of pines, clearly a part of the Johnson Plantation. We meet up again with the NORTH START trail, and we’ll cut to the right, heading to the scenic overlook. We’ll stop there a bit, looking for waterfowl on the beaver pond. I haven’t gone any further myself, but clearly the map shows a trail around the north and around the west side of the beaver pond – we’ll go back and stay on NORTHSTAR trail as we head south on our way out.

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Mushrooms, of course.

We meet up again with the south end of RED PINE, curl a bit to our right and meet up with the west side of NORTH STAR, coming up a hill at us. I’ve only walked a short way down the hill that way, so I won’t lead you into unknown areas – but I will get there and report back on what’s out that way….

NORTH STAR continues along the northeast side of the wetlands, and we meet up again with the JOHNSON PLANTATION trail. We’ll turn south again, now retracing our steps past the wetlands, across the small creek, and then up the hill to the NORTH STAR round-a-bout. Here we can head down BIG BEN, which is rather hilly all the way back to PRAIRIE ROAD, or we could take LITTLE BEN, which is a gentle uphill walk, also taking us back to PRAIRIE ROAD. (We’ll save the interior trails for another trip – they run between ACORN and RUDY’S and are just as forested as we’ve already seen.)

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The first deer I ever saw in the Arboretum – right near where ACORN and RUDY’S trails meet.

But let’s take ORAN’S trail, a short jaunt that ends with an uphill climb to RUDY’S trail. We’re back in the woods now, so keep your eyes open for deer. We’ll turn right and follow a rolling RUDY’S trail. We meet up with ACORN trail, (I took a picture of two deer here – which was the first deer I ever saw in the arboretum two years ago.) which we’ll follow out and around to the east, coming out near the old entrance of the arboretum. There’s a road going along the east side of the maintenance buildings, which we’ll follow down to the trail that go around the ponds. We’ll come to the GAZEBO GARDEN, which is full of flowering trees in the spring, and all sorts of blooming flowers. We’ll come back and take the trail north of the creek, where we may see waterfowl, turtles – who knows?

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       Down along the creek

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Flowering trees on PRAIRIE ROAD

Here we are, back at the parking lot. It’s been a long walk, but we’ve traveled up and down over gentle hills, and perhaps seen some wildlife and some wildflowers. Let’s do this again soon.

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Colorful flowering trees

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Walking along POTLATCH trail.

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Lovely lilies in the Gazebo Garden.

 

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