I spent time away, over the last week. I visited the towering pines of Itasca. I walked beneath the bare branches of Maples in Maplewood State Park. Both were wonderful places to wander.
At a Conference of Phenologists, at the UM Station in Itasca, I learned many new things. Topics covered were as diverse as the people. Global weather patterns, planting trees for a changing climate, butterflys and spiders. Walks where we observed the end stages of many plants, berries, how to tell some of the winter trees apart. I learned how to go online and participate in transposing the writing on botanical specimens at the Bell Museum. Swooping for dragonfly nymphs, handling spiders safely (their safety, not ours). I dipped my toes in the headwaters of the Mississippi and crunched through miles of leaves.
I then went on a private sabatical to Maplewood State Park. Tucked into a camper cabin, I was warm and sheltered when I choose to be. I was prepared for the freezing temps, high winds, and occasional drizzle. Walking, thru less than inviting conditions, meant that I had little company on the trails. The sun played hide and seek, highlighting fall vistas. I saw sunrise over the lake and sunset through the trees. Ducks were moving through the area. Swans and loons. Tree and Fox sparrows darted through the underbrush.
When it was too dark to wander, I read the story of people who hiked the Appalachian Trail. I learned that I would not like to be a through hiker. Miles a day to be calculated, a schedule to keep, rain or shine. I would rather walk slowly and spend time seeing what is there, rather than what is over the next mountain, or to just reach a goal. At least not a goal of thousands of miles. I wonder how many miles I walked in the Village this summer? That is one number I will never know.
It is time to start really putting together all the knowledge I gained out there in the woods. I will continue to write this article, but it may be only every other week, as the season slows. Now to stare out the window for a while at the drifting snow...glad at heart that it won't really stay this time.