Have you ever hiked Duluth's Central Hillside and near-western hillside?

Living in Canal Park, I have easy access to one of our city's most beautiful, historic, underappreciated, and underutilized resources. Think Enger Tower, Enger Park, Cascade Park, the Superior Hiking Trail, Point of Rocks, Goat Hill, Observation Park, the Incline stairway, and more. If some of these names and places are not familiar, check out Tony Dierckins' books "Lost Duluth" and "Duluth's Historic Parks," with their wonderful pictures and background information.

I certainly have favorite meanderings and encounters. The architecture and landscaping of many homes in this area are truly something to treasure. Point of Rocks still has steel support fastenings where large advertising signs once stood. Did you know Gustav Borglum, sculptor extraordinaire of Mount Rushmore, was brought to Duluth to consider creating something from the rock mass at Point of Rocks? Not possible, he determined; the rock is too hard for carving.

The original Duluth weather station, later a group home, has been beautifully refurbished as a private home in this area. Then there’s also Twin Ponds, spectacular harbor views, old Central and new Central high schools, and the “antenna farm.” Extra credit if you can find the "Park Terrace" cornerstone and/or remnants of the Beacon Hill Pavilion, as well as Duluth's shortest street.

Unfortunately, these hillside areas also includes some of Duluth's homeless population.

In the summer of 1970, I served as playground director at Franklin School under what was then the Model Cities Program. That served as my indoctrination into this fascinating area of the city. The area has remained a magnet for me through ensuing years.

So get out and wander on your own amidst the old, new, and abandoned homes and structures. Check out the stonework of both buildings and walls. Think of the stories they could tell: the joys, sorrows, and experiences of the last 150-plus years.

And it's all free, coming with guaranteed exertion and health benefits — further enhanced with a vivid imagination.

Tom Wheeler was a longtime Duluth-area businessman, civic leader, and philanthropist. Retired, he splits his time between Duluth and Tucson, Ariz., and is a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.