A challenge completed

On December 19th I wrote that I had accepted a challenge for people to get outside for 30 minutes everyday for 101 days.  In that post I said that I can walk about two miles in 30 minutes, and so I challenged myself to do that, and to reach 400 walking miles for the entire year of 2021.  I’m happy to say that I did reach my 400-mile goal, before December 31st, and just today I’ve reached the goal of walking for 101 consecutive days, 2+ miles per day.

When I started the 101 days it was November 24, 2021 and we still had golden leaves on the ground, there was green lawns, and the sidewalks and paths were clear.  Within ten days the temperatures had dropped and there was snow on the ground.  Our winter continued into 2022, and today there is still snow covering the ground.  But I have enjoyed so many experiences on my walks.  I have walked during a light snowfall when the world seems magical and beautiful and the lights inside the houses are warm and glowing.  I’ve trudged through an overnight snowfall of almost five inches with the wind instantly blowing and drifting the snow over my footprints.  I’ve seen deer and I’ve heard wolves. I’ve listened to woodpeckers drilling and I’ve seen sparrows huddled in the brush trying to keep warm.  I have been out on sun-warmed days when everyone was smiling and so happy for any bit of warmth, and I’ve bundled myself up in multiple layers to protect from the wind and the cold.  I’ve watched the moon rise and the sun too.

I haven’t decided yet if I will continue to walk every day; I have already logged 143 miles this year. I’m sure I will walk for at least awhile as I know that being outside in nature is a balm to me amidst all the uncertainties and worries of today, tomorrow, and the future.  

The end of fall

And just like that, Mother Nature has flipped a switch and we’re at the end of fall. It’s been a glorious and unusually long season this year in the upper Midwest but like all good things it has come to an end. Five days ago the wind was still, the sun was shining, and the only colors remaining were from the oaks with their remaining rusty leaves. Today the temperatures have fallen, the wind has removed any remaining leaves from the trees, and we have a forecast of snow.

Sometimes the change of seasons can be disconcerting to me, especially the ones where the days become shorter and the darkness becomes longer. But I’m reminded that just like the leaves that have fallen from the trees, it is all temporary. There will still be beauty in the coming season and days but it will be in a different palette – one of white – and the landscape will take on a new cloak of loveliness.

A trip to Kansas

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Kansas for a lovely family wedding. Two (pandemic) years have passed since I’ve seen my relatives and it was well worth the drive. En route to the wedding, and on the return to Minnesota, I carved out some time for exploring and visiting some of my favorite areas.

Near the center of the state, running from north to south, are the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie that remains in the world. Most of this area has a very shallow soil with a subsurface of limestone, all of which made the area uncondusive to agriculture and spared it from being plowed. It is a landscape of big vistas, rolling hills, and grasses.

The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse sits on a hill within the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas. Built of native limestone in 1882, classes were held in the single room from 1884 to 1930. Before arriving at the schoolhouse I had been following an old stone fence line and photographing a white church that glowed in the sunlight under a blue sky, all the time being serenaded by a herd of cows. Within twenty minutes the sun disappeared behind gunmetal gray clouds and the temperature starting dropping. When I arrived at the schoolhouse the flag clearly displayed the howling of the westerly wind. The setting took on a bleakness that I hadn’t experienced before, yet I’m sure was familiar to the early settlers that had tried to sustain a living in this area.

Hiking into the heart of fall

The colors of fall have deepened as the month has progressed; from hints of color to a landscape flush from a painter’s splash of yellow, gold, orange, red, green, and even some pink.

Earlier this month I was hiking with another photographer friend through the woods. It was a gloriously warm autumn day and the sun had broken through the clouds an hour before. The leaves on the path were noisily crunching under our boots as we followed a winding trail past a lake and into the forest. We both stopped as we looked ahead to see a carpet of pink under the usual fall colors of yellow and orange. We learned that the mapleleaf viburnum can have this pink or rose color in the fall depending on the light exposure and the weather conditions. Neither of us recalled seeing anything like this before and we spent a good amount of time photographing and marveling at the delightful array that Mother Nature had placed before us.

The start of fall

Not only has fall officially started per the calendar, but we are starting to see the change of seasons all around us. I woke up to a cool but bright morning at the lake, with steam rising up off the surface. A couple of extra layers of clothing were needed as I launched my kayak into the water. The morning was quiet except for some wood ducks that I flushed in a small bay and the Canada geese that flew past me, honking as they made their way up the shoreline. The trees have just begun to change, and the reds and golds were beautiful, especially against the blue sky and blue lake. It was a perfect start to my day, and to the season of fall