January 27, 2020
Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
Minnesota Master Naturalist Course at Long Lake Conservation Center
On our way to Long Lake Conservation Center in central Minnesota we drive past Lake Mille Lacs where a whole town of icehouse clusters populate the lake. We’ve been to Long Lake Conservation Center before, but never in January.
The first time we came on a hot and humid day in June, 2017, when we walked along the bog boardwalk we’d read about online, hoping to find orchids. We didn’t see any, but on our way out of the center we ran into one of the camp counselors and asked about other places we might look for orchids. He told us about a trail that would bring us to the end of Long Lake and said we could use a canoe to get there. We declined and set out along the grassy trail around the lake. Long Lake really is long, and the trail went on and on with no guarantee of orchids at the end. Periodically one of us would say, “Maybe we should turn back,” and the other would say, “Let’s keep going a little longer.” We took turns encouraging each other until we came to the turnoff to Pine Point Spur Trail at the far end of the lake.
The ground grew boggier the nearer we got to the lake edge, but the surface under our feet felt firm—an old dock had been overgrown by the bog. And there, in front of us, was a rose pogonia orchid, the first either of us had ever seen. And another, and another. And then a grass pink orchid, and another, and another. A good lesson for us in not turning back.
We came back to Long Lake the next July and canoed around the edge of the lake, where we saw an amazing amount of rose pogonia, grass pink, bog rosemary, sundew, blue flag, swamp candle, and purple pitcher plants.
How could we not come back again the next year, where we were delighted by more dragon’s mouth orchids than we could have imagined?
Now it’s January, 2020, and we have come again to Long Lake Conservation Center, not in hope of orchids or other native wildflowers but to take a master naturalist class. Snow covers the ground, and we’ve brought lots of warm clothes to see us through the week.
We’re eager to learn more about this amazing place we inhabit together, even when wildflowers aren’t in bloom.
Long Lake Conservation Center provides hands-on educational programs that are nature-based and inquiry driven to develop lifelong stewardship of nature.
The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program promotes “awareness, understanding, and respect for Minnesota’s natural environment by developing a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities.”