A the end of March, the snow had melted and left the grasslands wet, but open to hiking. There is a good parking area just off the Lac du Bois Road. We passed the interpretive signs at the trailhead and headed northeast toward Island Lake following grassland tracks among faded brown hills. Some mud lingered in sheltered spots and there was a bit of snow on north-facing slopes, but for the most part this was a dry hike.
We worked our way over to the Grasslands Esker, a remnant of the last Ice Age. A track runs down the top of the ridge toward Long Lake.
Our route went down the esker for 0.8 km then we angled across the hills, bearing south. Long Lake was still ice/slush covered in the trench below. Long Lake itself is 1.6 km long, but the chain of lakes and ponds is 3.6 km long.
We continued south, then southwest and climbed to the top of Raptor Ridge for lunch, Sure to the name of the ridge, a hawk was perched on a barren snag that overlooked the grasslands.
Our return route was northwest to the parking area. We spotted a few early wildflowers on south-facing slopes. Buttercups and arabis were numerous, but the first western spring beauties (claytonia lanceolata) were also spotted, a sure sign that winter was finally over.
We had snowshoed this same route mid-winter and then we returned in the early spring, but we will return to the middle grasslands in mid-spring to see the ducks on the ponds and on Long Lake and to see the grasslands awaken with life.
This 6.4 km route has a few sections of single tracks, but since there are no trees, hikers can find their own route, contouring around hills, crossing side slopes, cresting hilltops for views, skirting ponds, and watching for small surprises in the grasslands.