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Welcome the return of spring with a series of local hikes, starting with the Ponderosa Pine Hikes at Jewel Cave National Monument on Saturday.

The guided hikes, which were originally planned for a full week but will now take place only on Saturday, will run for a quarter-mile on the Roof Trail, according to park ranger Riley Hays.

"We're going to talk about the Ponderosa Pines, the Jasper Fire, and how you can still see a lot of effects of that fire on the trail," Hays said.

Hays said that they hoped to see wildlife with warm weather on Saturday, noting that birds in particular should come back.

"The mountain bluebird should be coming back soon," Hays said. "There might be a lot of nuthatches. Bald eagles are very rare but occasionally you'll see them. There should be a lot of various woodpeckers."

Hays said that in addition to the Ponderosa pine trees, flowers may start to bloom with the return of spring.

"The first flower to bloom would probably be the Pasque flower," Hays said. "It's a purplish, lilac kind of color, almost a light blue with a yellow center."

The hike is relatively easy, though Hays noted that the trail might be muddy depending on when the snow melts. No reservations are required.

"I think people are going to enjoy celebrating the return of spring and the warm weather we're going to have," Hays said. "I think it'll be a great start to a new season."

For more information, visit nps.gov/jeca/index.htm or call 673-8300. The hike will meet at the Visitor Center.

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Other upcoming hikes

On April 1, the Black Hills Volkssport Association will host an Agate Fossil Beds National Monument walk. Start times for the walk run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those attending are told to register at the Visitor Center and Museum. Drive 22 miles south of Harrison, Neb. on Hwy 29, then turn east for 3 miles on River Road. For more information call 307-290-2349.

The group will also host their 32nd Annual Spring Crazy Horse Volksmarch from June 3 to 4. A donation of three cans of food per person to the KOTA Care & Share Food Drive is appreciated. The AVA's hike fee is $3 for each participant regardless of age.  Hikers must check in at starting point, which is at the Memorial's upper parking area. Hikers must register before 1 p.m. and be off the trail by 4 p.m.

June 3 is National Trails Day. The Prairie Trail Hike will take place at 9 a.m. in Custer State Park, meeting at the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. The Little Devil's Tower Hike, meanwhile, will take place at 1 p.m. and start at the Sylvan Lake General Store, while the Badger Clark Trail Hike will start at 4 p.m. at the Badger Hole Historic Site.

Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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