Trail Time – It Rained!
Ahhhh…. Rain on a roof, rain dripping from the trees and rain soaking the earth and making the rivers rush… isn’t that a wonderful sound? I rank it right up there with a baby laughing for good solid food both for the planet and for our spirit. At last, after two months of not much significant rainfall, we got rain on the Gunflint Trail! The fire danger has lessened and I can feel the relief all over my body from the tip of my head to my ends of my toes. Our own weather station near Loon Lake measured 2.55” in the last week and 3” for the last 31 days.
Here’s the latest news from around my neighborhood: Above Birch Lake, an Osprey flew over with a fish in its talons. A beaver walked steadily down the shoulder on the Gunflint Trail. A skittish moose yearling cantered into the woods while two cars idled, blinkers flashing to warn oncoming motorists to slow down. Further up the Trail, a white van stopped and allowed a Grouse mom and her five chicks — or grouselings? — to cross the road.
Bush honeysuckle is blooming everywhere wearing its distinctive flowers of two colors on one bush. Nodding columbine flowers line a woodland path. Meadow roses color the edges of the woods. Daisies, yellow and orange hawkweed, evening primrose and yellow salsify shine in the sun. In a sheltered shady spot, I discovered a Coralroot Orchid that I’d never seen in that area before. On a mushroom hunt up the Trail, I found little to no sign of edible fungi. More on that later.
Swallowtails, black butterflies and the tiniest orange moths slowly flap their wings huddled around puddles and damp places on paths and gravel roads, like African animals at a watering hole. Perched on a slender birch branch, a Red-breasted Grosbeak in breeding plumage added a bit of brilliant color to the north woods.
In berry news, the Juneberries are just starting to turn pink. I saw a few small green blueberries so that’s a hopeful sign! The month without much rain might have hit the raspberries the hardest — the berries are looking unusually small but if it keeps raining, we might get enough for a pie. Raspberry pie. Just hearing the words makes me happy. I found some wild strawberries in perfect ripeness. Usually I see them before they’re ripe and then they’re gone. It is really hard to beat the hungry animals to these small red flavor bombs; they are so small that a certain person I know doesn’t think they’re worth the effort. So when I find them, I don’t share them. I eat them on the spot, still warm from the sun. Well, I hog the first berries; I share the rest. The Elderberries are forming beautiful cherry red clumps. Please note that these are not edible raw unless you want severe abdominal distress. You have to pick them at just the right time and cook them because the fruit and tissue of this shrub contain cyanogenic glycosides, which is harmful to humans. And folks, if you’re a novice berry picker, be careful with any berry — get it identified and verified by a knowledgeable person.
Speaking of knowledgeable people, there are going to be programs on three Sundays in July at Chick Wauk Museum and Nature Center featuring Mike Zimmerman, Timothy Cochrane and Lonnie Dupre. Check out the calendar at gunflinthistory.org
And remember, Tuesdays are Kids’ Days at Chik Wauk every Tuesday until August 22.
I hope you can come up the Trail this year and see it at its greenest state. Right now the lovely pink and rose helicopters or samaras are starting to form on the moose maple. And in the woods I spotted a mossy pool surrounded by willows where birds stopped for a drink and a private bath. The lush moss glowed like emerald velvet. I’ll hold that image in my mind like a prayer for the woods — that there will continue to be rain and sun in just the perfect amount.
— Marcia Roepke