July 3, 2018
Today we are grateful for bug shirts, a GPS, and waterproof boots because we’ve decided to head into Pine Creek Peatlands Scientific and Natural Area (SNA). Our directions send us along roads near the Canadian border, then tell us to walk .5 miles to reach the SNA. They don’t mention that the .5 miles is through thigh-high grasses that hide deep runnels of water. We slosh on toward the black spruce trees we see in the distance, clutching at horsetail and aspen saplings for balance. When we reach what looks like higher ground we discover it consists of broken branches, stumps, and sawdust where our footing is even more treacherous. By now we’ve reached the bog forest, but between the dense growth and the hummocky ground we can’t find anywhere to enter under the trees. When we hear the first roll of thunder, we prudently decide to slosh back to the car. We make it just as rain begins to pellet down.
Even though we never actually entered the bog forest on our attempt to go in we saw showy lady’s-slipper blooming along with Canada anemone, tall rue, swamp milkweed, fireweed, tufted loosestrife, Labrador tea, bunchberry, marsh skullcap, and three-leaved false Solomon’s seal gone to seed.
What did we learn? That when we are headed into an unfamiliar wild place, it might be wise to ask someone who’s already been there about the best way in. Maybe that best way was indeed our slippery slog, but maybe another way would have led us in among the trees where we might have found the linear leaf sundew we had hoped to see. When we are headed into a wilder place that we have ever been, it never hurts to ask advice from someone who’s already been there. But, even with slogging and squelching, we’re glad we tried. Next time (and chances are there will be a next time) we might actually make it into the trees.
Hayes Lake State Park is a contrast to Pine Creek Peatlands: roads lead us into and around the park, paths lead us under the tall pines to a bog boardwalk where we find lots of tiny pyrola and one northern bog orchid (we are still trying to figure out which). The stillness under the pines, the green light after rain, birdsong and butterflies all make us think we have arrived at the beginning of the world.
Along the road to a walk-in campsite we spot several lesser rattlesnake plantain almost in bloom, along with showy lady’s-slipper blooming and lots of pipsissewa. We drive back to our hotel under a sky that stretches in every direction, knowing that native flowers bloom in places both wild and protected, and we are grateful for this chance to see them wherever they grow.