Battle Creek Regional Park

When: Saturday, February 6.

How: #63 bus from the 5th and Minnesota bus stop in downtown St. Paul to the corner of McKnight Road and Upper Afton Road. Note: the #70 also gets you to this point but only runs east of downtown on Saturdays, has very spotty service this far out.

From where: People arrived at 5th and Minnesota from several places: Uptown in Minneapolis, Macalester-Groveland in St. Paul, south Minneapolis, and Mears Park in downtown St. Paul.

How long: The trip from downtown takes between 20 and 25 minutes. (Read below for an assessment of trips from individual starting points.)

Ease: Very easy. The bus stop on Upper Afton and McKnight puts you across the street from one corner of the park. All you have to do is cross the street and put on your skis or snowshoes and follow a short spur to the trails. The 63 runs every half hour on Saturday, so you do need to read a schedule and plan in advance. For the quickest trip the best starting point is clearly downtown or points east of downtown on the 63 route going toward the park. The further you are to the west, the longer it will take (for example: boarding the 63 at Snelling and Grand near Macalester College, your trip will take about 45 minutes.)

Worth doing: Yes. We had superb snow conditions for one thing, but even without them the park itself is a nice destination. It has woods, fields and hills and bits of swamp and ponds, all of which give you the feeling of being “out in the country” instead of in a suburb.

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Eight people joined this outing on the east side of St. Paul – actually in Maplewood in the east section of Battle Creek Park, just over the line from St. Paul. We had five skiers, two snowshoers and one walker on a cloudy day, but with superb snow and great trails. Since the park has two distinct sections separated by housing, it can be a bit confusing. The best map I found that shows its two major parts was at the Ramsey county website. Within the park people can chose from several different circular routes varying in skiing difficulty, though nothing is extreme. By doing the farthest circle, and perhaps including another round on a shorter trail, a person can cover about four to five miles here. A port-a-potty is located at a parking lot part way around the outermost trail. The park is good for walking and birding besides skiing – many in our group spotted an owl flying through the trees. If you are skiing don’t forget your pass. And don’t use your mountain bike: biking is only allowed on trails in the other, western, section.

As already mentioned, four people originated their trip with the #63 bus, the easiest trip being for the two living downtown. While they came to the 5th and Minnesota meeting point, they typically could access the 63 at their corner on 5th street, just outside their building, Galtier Tower. It’s a surprise to have such an undeveloped, fairly wild park so accessible to the central city.

The two people who came from faraway Uptown used two different routes. Tom boarded the Lake Street work horse, the #21 about 9:10 am, then transferred to the #63 at St. Thomas on Summit Avenue. We joined him on the bus in downtown. Andrea opted for the #6 into downtown, then the 94 express bus to St. Paul. Both trips were long – ranging from and hour to an hour and a half each-way. Despite our outing taking place on a Saturday, this length of commute time between Uptown and downtown St. Paul is consistent with weekday trips. Luckily, Andrea can use her transit time to pursue her reading for the Urban and Regional Affairs program.

Returning to downtown after the outing gave us the chance to stop for lunch at the Bulldog, one of the St. Paul watering holes on Mears Park right on the bus line. Not a bad way to end a transit outing.

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