Meet Joe & Mary. Joe is Mrs. T's first cousin. When people come here on the Hill to visit, particularly from the Twin Cities, we like to show off this beautiful southeastern corner of Minnesota. It's known as Bluff Country for its gorgeous hills and valley's. When those people are more than relatives but good friends and fun to be with as well, we always have a good time. Here we all are at Historic Forestville State Park. This summer we visited several other state parks in the area, seeing lots of wildflowers, drove along the Big River and even had a picnic or was it a beer along the way! Like us, Joe and Mary like new adventures and traveling widely. It's fun to compare notes. Here, we're crossing a bridge in Beaver Creek Valley State Park. Bluff Country Tours. That's where the action is!
The extreme heat and humidity are seriously crimping my outdoor activites recently. Yesterday, Baron didn't even seem interested in our daily hike. He lay panting on the concrete floor of the garage.
This morning I resolved on an early bike ride before the heat of the day settled in. It was off to the Shooting Star trail passing through Lake Louise State Park. I've taken this trail several times in the last few weeks. It has much to recommend it. Beautiful prairie wildflowers, deep woods, birds and most of all.... IT'S FLAT!
So binocs around my neck, point and shoot camera in my pocket, I headed west away from the rising sun. Last week, I took the same ten mile route with Joanne G while Mrs T. and Joanne's husband John picked us up at the end of the trail.
There were several somewhat exotic but potentially helpful prairie sunflowers along the way. The Cupplant's inverted leaves hold emergency supplies of rainwater in their inverted cupped leaves. Also, the very tall Compass Plant, a sunflower, has large leaves that oriente themselves on a north south axis thus helping lost pioneers or bikers find the way home.
More delicate plants along the way included: Hoary Vervain,
and the ever popular purple coneflowers. On the evening Joanne and I had biked the trail, I noticed some flooded soybean fields along the way. Without my binocs I was unable to determine what the shorebirds were as we passed by. This time I came prepared. Although the extent of the water had shrunk drastically since the previous week, some birds were still there going about their business. To no great surprise, there were a number of killdeer, but then I noticed several larger waders.
Shorebirds are quite uncommon in the southeast counties away from the Mississippi. We have few lakes, and the wetlands have, unfortunately, been mostly drained away. I wasn't quite sure I was seeing a Yellowlegs or what kind of sandpipers, so I left my bike behind and began stalking them , camera in hand.
A Lesser Yellowlegs, for sure. And nearby were several Least Sandpipers scurrying about in the grass. Methinks, one of these days, I may concede the point and invest in one of those highpowered cameras where you can count each feather on the bird. In the meantime though biking and birding, exercising and checking out the wildflowers sure is fun. Hope you enjoyed the ride!
It’s fascinating how our interests can branch off in new directions. A satisfying experience, a good book, movie or television show can open our eyes to new experiences. For me, friends have often opened the door. A long time friend and tennis partner got me interested in prairie restoration and birding. My mother engendered a life long interest in reading and music. Camping, at Sawbill, opened my eyes to canoeing in the Boundary Waters wilderness. And on and on....
More recently, our friends Steve and Jewel traveled with us to France. It was my second trip but Steve’s ability to speak French allowed us to see France in a new and more intimate way. A morning in the Parisian suburb of St. Denis, with its cathedral rich in the history of the French monarchy, wouldn’t have been likely possible on our own without Steve.
This week I opened up a new horizon, in a small way, for Steve. I had mentioned the cave/spring in Forestville Park that was the fount of one of my favorite trout streams - Canfield Creek. Although a lifelong resident of the area, he had never seen it and expressed an interest. We made the several mile trek through the woods to the site. In karst region of sinkholes and disappearing and reappearing rivers, the cave from which the stream emerges is a fascinating sight. The mouth lies at the base of a one hundred foot limestone bluff.
The trail to Big Spring Cave was once a narrow fishermans trail. Now with the expansion of the horse campground, that trail has been widened and graveled. We meet many horsewomen on the trail but no hikers or fisherman.
Some years ago, I was invited to help explore a newly discovered cave. Looking for new horizons, I quickly discovered that slithering on ones stomach, unable to turn around until you came to a "room" some yards ahead was an experience I didn't really care for. It wasn't panic claustrophobia that gripped me but it was an feeling I didn't like. Spelunking was a new horizon that I never repeated.