The morning sun peeks in through the blinds; it is almost blinding as they are opened to welcome the new day. There is light dew on the grass that glistens and sparkles in the sunlight. Aria trots outside to give the birds and squirrels their morning rise and comes back with anticipation in her eyes.

There are plenty of parks and trails that welcome active people of all ages in the Minneapolis, MN metropolitan area. At times, one must adventure out and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Not more than 45 minutes away is the college town, River Falls, WI, and on the outskirts is a state park named Kinnickinnic State Park. Even the drive to the park will have you forgetting about the city and anticipating your arrival. Once off the interstate, the vast rolling hills extend as far as the eye can see, and the road itself is no longer a straightaway but is also rolling with the hills.

As you enter Kinnickinnic State Park you are greeted by lush vegetation, open fields, and large trees; the road curves, and around the bend is the ranger’s station. A junction in the road gives you an option to go left or right to one of five parking lots, which have the access points to the hiking trails. Dogs are welcome, as long as they are kept on a leash, and they are not allowed on the beach or picnic areas during the season. Kinnickinnic State Park has no trash facilities anywhere, so whatever is brought in, must be taken out.

There is a peaceful serenity the moment Aria steps out of the car, gazes out into the open fields, and feels the gentle breeze flow through her golden coat. The sounds of birds and squirrels can be heard all around and can sometimes be drowned out by her own excitement to begin the hike. There are six different trails throughout the park that are distinguished by colors. They range from easy to more difficult; lengths are .5 mile to 1.3 miles, and they are all connected.

All of the trails are non-paved and have been mowed to give you a clear indication of where it is going. Most of the trails begin in an open area and curve around to take you through the woods, up and down a few hills, into an open field, and curve again to follow the main road. Since the trails are all connected, it is almost impossible to get lost. Some even have an access trail that will lead you out to the main paved road.

The trails are well-marked with large, dark brown poles bearing a colored strip along the top to indicate which trail you are on. At any major intersection is a map of the park showing your current location and where each trail will lead. When trails are hiked individually, they usually take about 30 minutes to complete.

Even though the trails aren’t difficult or very long there are plenty of hills and uneven ground which can have you losing your breath and needing a break. Not to worry – the park offers sitting areas throughout the trails, as well as placards that talk about the vegetation in the park and the animals that call this place home.

The open fields allow you to feel the sun’s rays on your back and enjoy a nice breeze to cool the face. The woods offer shade and coolness; however, this is also a favorite place for the mosquitoes, so be sure to bring along strong repellent.

As the trail curves around, the parking lot can be seen up ahead. There is a sense of calm, relaxation and even happiness as Aria trots towards the car, worn out by the day’s hike.

For more information about Kinnickinnic State Park please visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/kinnickinnic/. Park fees are between $8-$11 for a daily pass or $28-$38 for a yearly pass. The park is open daily and year-round from 6a-11p.

To find more wonderful posts from Nettie about her hikes with Aria, please check out her blog (http://thewriteshot.blogspot.com/).