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In search of mountaintop moments

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Bulletin staff will check out some of the area’s parks in the coming months.

This week: Trails through Summit Pointe, Wilmes Lake and Seasons parks

Born: Seasons in the late 1980s and early '90s, and Summit Pointe and Wilmes Lake in the late '90s

Size: Summit Pointe is 13 acres; Wilmes Lake Park is 29 (not including the lake), Seasons is 39


My solo adventure started as a couple of whims, really: a) to find a smooth trail to hike; and b) to see a sunset.

I figured I should get as high as possible, or at least near wide-open water, to gain the best vantage point and maybe a few scenic pictures. So I consulted the wisest of sages, the Internet.

What I found out surprised me. 

My house is one block, as the crow flies, away from the highest point in Washington County. It doesn’t feel like it, but I basically live on Woodbury Mountain. If is accurate, the nearby water tank and radio tower sits on the highest point within a 20-mile radius, making it higher than the highest point in Ramsey County, as well. 

For 14 years, I lived on the bluffs on the West Side of St. Paul, near the High Bridge; there, residents enjoyed the best view of St. Paul from right within St. Paul. I had not begun to reach for the stars. Here, nearer the sky, we feel like we’re living on flat, low-lying land, but we’re over 1,000 feet above sea level. My old house was only at 950. I was shocked! And the bluffs in Stillwater? Only 900.

The highest peak in this county, I found out, is forbidden fruit at 1,104, however; it’s not recommended to go on private property at Overlook Pointe, inside Woodbury Public Works’ fence near the water tank and radio tower, but the path taked you up to about 1,102. I guess it’s no secret about the elevation, though, because the name of the nearest intersection is Highpointe and Tower drives.

Having come across a website detailing tall places across the nation, I read about a few attempts to scale the tall-grassy hill to the radio tower near my home in the Ridgegate neighborhood. Some were successful, especially by those climbers who gained permission from city staff, with the caveat that the climbers not cause trouble.

One exceedingly competitive climber noted: “I also found a 4-foot-high pile of fresh dirt behind the water tower, the temporary highest point.” How am I supposed to compete with that ascent?

I took a drive by the tower, and decided to find my sunset elsewhere. It was dark, so my plans were altered; I began to look for a sunrise.

Somewhere in Seasons, Wilmes Lake, Kargel or Summit Pointe parks ought to do the trick, I thought, looking at the elevation map. There’s a 1,050-foot section of Seasons that I believe I’ve found.

Shortly after the Bulletin staff started working on its story series about Woodbury area parks, a little birdie told me about the creek through Seasons Park, leading to Wilmes Lake, where a parkgoer could flip a coin and go north to Kargal Park or south into Summit Pointe.

Turns out that her quiet place is a pure treasure, and a great place to view the sky. I entered the Wilmes Lake Park and later Seasons Park from a point along Thornhill Lane, where a birdhouse teased to the inevitable. 

Heading toward Wilmes Lake at 6 a.m., when the park opens, I heard twittering birds all around me. 

After 10 minutes, glistening waters drew me to the shoreline, and another fellow had the same idea, because moments later he poked his head out of the woods. A coyote! He was, like my parents always told me, more scared of me than I was of him. He was a small one, and when he saw me he headed off the trail and back into the woods.

Bluejays, cardinals and robins played together along the paved trail near Schooner Way, between Wilmes Lake North and Wilmes Lake South.

I turned around at Schooner, because to get to Kargel, I would’ve needed to take city streets. Although it’s a nice neighborhood and probably a great entry point for a kayaker, the park ambience was just not there on the roadway. I headed west toward Seasons Park.

All throughout a one-hour walk, the hum of the highway was faintly in the distance. 

I can see how a busy person might want to walk out their backdoor and into a quiet wooded area, with a babbling brook through their neighbors’ backyards. A large portion of my walk was through a scenic greenway. Every house seems to have a landscaping feature — beautiful flowers, shrubbery, oversized rocks — or an archway, gazebo, bridge over the creek, or bench on which to contemplate nature. There are so many side paths to city streets that surely the neighbors benefit from a pick-your-own-circuit approach to biking and walking. 

From Seasons, back through Wilmes Lake, across Thornhill, to Summit Pointe, I saw ballfields and secret picnic places, other sport courts and playgrounds for children ages 5-12. These parks have a lot to offer for tennis players and bicyclists, as well. 

Periodically, ducks and two breeds of bunnies joined the birds. A redwing blackbird showed itself on the playground at Summit Pointe Park.   

At Summit Pointe Park, I followed the path around the pond and I got to see my sunrise. I think I just had a mountaintop moment. Light dashed the waters, as neighbors there walked their dogs. By 7 a.m., there were lots of people out on the trails. Pure silence was gone. But that’s to be expected in an urban paradise. 

When you have this in your backyard, who needs to get to the top of the 81st-highest point in Minnesota anyway?