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Get out and explore

After a long and cold winter, there is nothing better than to break out the bikes — or kayak, canoe or hiking boots — and get going outside this summer.

Southeastern Minnesota is awash is scenic getaways that will satisfy all tastes. Maybe it’s seeking familiar vistas along trails at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, or paddling down Dobbins Creek.

Or, maybe it will be found in new experiences in places you’ve never been before.

If we had to choose our summer centerpiece, it would certainly be found Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

What’s not to like? Outside, the center offers 500 acres of woodland and prairie to explore, with over 10 miles of walking trails — a boon to hikers who want exercise, to photograph wildlife, to birdwatch, or you might just want to take a leisurely walk, just to enjoy the day.

The trails are by far the most popular outdoor feature of the area, said Director Luke Reese. He added that while a good number of hikers enjoy the trek to the observation tower — a distance of about nine-tenths of a mile — there is plenty of more trail length to explore.

“We’ve been doing a lot of restoration work on the north side and hikers might be surprised that it doesn’t look the same as they might remember if they’d been there before,” he said.

Kayak and canoe rentals remain popular, he added, for paddling on the pond, or along Dobbins Creek to East Side Park.

And, if the day is rainy, visitors can explore the new $6.8 million interpretive center which offers any number of exhibits and educational displays.

“You can learn about the outdoors even when you can’t be outdoors,” he said.

A number of activities for young and old are held during the summer months. Check out more at: www.hormelnaturecenter.org


Gaze at the heavens at Sola Fide

For selected Saturday dates throughout the summer and fall, you can visit Sola Fide Observatory, located about 5 miles south of the city. www.hormelnaturecenter.org.

Get out the bikes

The scenic trail stretches from Austin to Rose Creek and winding through Adams and Taopi before coming to its end in LeRoy. For more, go to: www.shootingstartrail.org

Day trip to a historic park

Pack up a picnic lunch and visit Seminary Park in Wasioja, northwest of Mantorville, at the intersection of Dodge County roads 16 and 9. For more on Seminary Park, go to: www.co.dodge.mn.us/ and click on the parks and trails section.

Cedar Valley Memories, Osage

This interpretive outdoor site, located on several acres about two miles west of Osage, Iowa, draws crowds from all over the Midwest when it hosts its annual Steam Engine Power Show on Aug. 11-12. For more details about CVM, go to: www.mitchellcountyhistoricalsociety.org

Falling for the falls

Most waterfalls are located in northern Minnesota — think Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore — but there are two of the scenic wonders located much closer to this area, in Blue Earth County, around Mankato. The most famous is the waterfall at Minneopa State Park, which also hosts about four miles of hiking trails. There is also a second waterfall to enjoy in that area: the Minnemishinona Falls, located in North Mankato. For more on the two waterfalls, and directions, go to: Minneopa: www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/ and search “Minneopa.” Nicollet County Park (Minnemishinona Falls): www.co.nicollet.mn.us/349/Parks-Trails