It was a cold day with a temperature of 16 degrees, but the sun was shining brilliantly and beckoned us outside. We packed our snowshoes and went to Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary in northwest Wisconsin. The wind was brisk, but if we could snowshoe along the tree line there was a welcome wind break. There was even protection from the wind as we headed across the prairie, and in the valleys of the steep hills we could bask in the sun’s heat. It was late afternoon so the sun threw its shadows across the landscape at a sharp angle. We soaked up the sun and the crisp fresh air of the day and enjoyed the exercise.
Yesterday I drove south from the Twin Cities with a photographer friend in search of pasque flowers. The weather was unusually warm, the sunshine was bright, and it was good to catch up with my friend. We arrived at this gravel prairie area and were at first disappointed thinking the flowers were not in bloom yet. But as we looked more closely we could see peeks of flowers amidst the dry prairie grasses. The pasque flowers are only three to four inches tall, so they can easily hide. They start out as little fuzz balls (of which we saw many) and gradually open their petals to the warmth of the sun. Although there will be a larger and showier display with more flowers blooming in the days ahead, it was a delightful evening and a reminder of all the good things that come with spring.
We headed out late one afternoon for some snowshoeing. The Twin Cities are filled with wonderful parks that allow you to get “away” from the city, even though it’s all around. I had been to this park before on my bicycle and knew that it had a paved walking trail through it. I was surprised that the trail had actually been plowed, so we carried our snowshoes for awhile. In the center of the park is a wonderful prairie area, with a grove of trees sitting up on a hill. It was the perfect place to don our snowshoes and head off into the knee-deep snow. There was a wonderful quiet to the afternoon – a stillness that occurs when the snow absorbs all the sounds around it. We were out as the sun travelled low in the horizon, lighting the clouds in the western sky. What a treasure it is to have the beauty (and quiet) of nature so near to enjoy.
Last weekend I reached a goal I set for myself earlier this year – I completed 1,500 miles on my bike for the year. From back in mid-March when the temperatures were cool and our legs weren’t ready, we’ve biked and journeyed through Minnesota and even across the state of Kansas. We’ve seen prairies and wheat fields, lakes and flatlands, rain and wind, hills down and up. Sadly some of my final miles this year have been ridden alone as my riding partner hasn’t been able to be on the bike. But he was helping me along in all the important ways with his encouragement and support. So last Sunday with a SSE wind of 14 mph+, I headed northeast on the Gateway Trail, then meandered on county roads with that tailwind behind me. The final miles were north on the Sunrise Prairie Trail. My wingman met me in the town of Stacy where I watched my bike odometer turn to 5,000 miles (yea!) and the culmination of 1,500 riding miles for this year. My bicycle has brought me in contact with great people, amazing scenery, the best and worst of weather, a sense of accomplishment, and the most wonderful feeling of adventure as I cruise along on trails and roads. The kid in me enjoys the freedom of riding and the adult in me appreciates the bounty of sights, sounds, and memories. So this winter as the snow is piling up we’ll be planning our biking adventures and goals for next year.
With delightful autumn weather forecast for the day, we headed out before sunrise this morning to Wild River State Park. This Minnesota park is north of the Twin Cities and is located on the St. Croix River. Although there was the promise of afternoon temps in the upper 70’s, the morning had a cool feel to it. We drove down to the canoe landing on the river and could see the fingers of fog stretching into the air and creating a veil over the fall colors on the Wisconsin shoreline. As we turned the opposite direction facing away from the river, we were greeted by the full moon as it was making its way behind the hillside. The prairie stretched out before us filled with golden grasses; the birdhouses were empty at this early time of the morning. The hillside was brilliant with the colors of fall – golds, oranges, reds – all in a hush before the sunlight brought them out into a blaze of bright color. Silently we watched the moon descend behind the hill and turned our attentions back to the river, accompanied by the geese and the ducks that were flying by.