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2003 Haunted Woods Walk

October 24, 2003

Haunted Woods Walk: The rest of story

The team that put together the first edition of the Haunted Woods Walk was prepared for up to 50 participants but became bug-eyed as more than three times that number arrived for the Halloween-spirited history tour. “A perfect, autumn night and curiosity about the secrets of the Birch Island Woods couldn't keep ‘em away,” said tour guide Jeff Strate. 26 people who had been placed on a waiting list, found other Friday night activities but some 110 people without reservations came to walk through the woods anyway. Combined with the 50+ parents and kids who had made reservations, the night time caravan mushroomed to around 160 walkers.

Most people were shuttled by car from Eden Wood to the Picha Heritage Farm; others walked to the farm from their homes. Once the throng had gathered at the farm gate and vintage tractor, Terry Picha and Jeff Strate got the tour going with a hastily shortened account of the Czech farming community that had once thrived in the area. It was clear to both that the intended program would have to be adapted on the spot for the large crowd. The group then walked west down the Birch Island Road hill to the conservation area's trail head and entered the darkened woods.

Strung out over 50 yards along the main trail and the new wood chip loop, the slowly moving, good-spirited line of flashlight-carrying parents and children may have missed some of the special “ghostly” audio effects, but seized the moment and enjoyed the stroll. Most of the participants did learn about the disappearing island, the phantom railroad and heard ghostly hog snorts from an old pig barn.

The line of walkers slowly progressed east onto Indian Chief Road to see a phantom apparition of a princess at the railroad bridge - actually a costumed Vicky Miller prepared to direct oncoming cars to stop.

For some, the event concluded at the Eden Wood lodge, for others at a campfire overlooking Birch Island Lake where they heard about the Glen Lake Children's Camp and why Birch Island Lake levels had been declining. Mini-pumpkins, candy, hot cider and cocoa were handed out to those kids who were lucky enough to have a place in line.

It was at this National Historic site that polkas drifted up from the lake shore from, fancifully enough, Czech ghosts relaxing after a long day of picking raspberries. A number of kids, having rooted out the “ghosts” Rick Miller (with boom box) and Larry Peterson and John Justen) from their hiding place, scampered back screaming in mock fear back to the campfire. A passing Twin Cities and Western freight train added to the fun as it sounded its whistle between the Crosstown highway and Birch Island Road.

The evening provided a number of parents and kids with their first opportunity to visit Birch Island Woods Conservation Area, Birch Island Park, Eden Wood and the Glen Lake Children’s’ Camp. A number of participant comments over heard by Lisa Rolf and others expressed surprise that such a wonderful area existed close to their homes or in Eden Prairie at all. Council member Phil Young and his two sons were among them. In an email message, Mr. Young thanked the walk organizers for providing a fun time.

The Haunted Wood Walk Team

A big HIGH 5 to Haunted Woods Walk chief Vicky Miller and a team including Evan and Rick Miller; John Justen; Vonnie Okerberg; Leslie Cameron; Larry Peterson; Heidi, Michaela and Mariah Speak; tour guides Jeff Strate and Terry Picha; Steve Hartle (whose let his car be commandeered to help shuttle people from Eden Wood to the Heritage Farm; webmaster Dave Spoor, Philip Hsiao (who digitally carved the Haunted Woods Walk jack-o-lantern), the Strate family for the Haunted Woods Walk sign on Edenvale Blvd. and Eden Wood’s Linda Kelm, Jim Berger and Jody.

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