July 11, 2018
We are driving back to the Twin Cities today and plan a few stops at places to look for flowers. The first is Seven Sisters Prairie near Ashby. The hills rise above the rolling landscape, and we climb the path up the first hill as the temperature climbs toward a high of 90 degrees. Along the hilltops the prairie wind whips the grasses and flowers, a welcome relief from the hot sun, and the landscape—lake, farm, woods—stretches around us 360 degrees. Along the path that winds over the hilltops we find purple prairie clover, white prairie clover, Canadian milk vetch, stiff goldenrod, thimbleweed, harebell, fleabane, side-oats grama, hairy grama whorled milkweed, lead plant, prairie milkweed, ground cherry, prairie turnip, wild rose, wild bergamot, pale spiked lobelia, hairy false goldenaster, yellow sundrops, and green milkweed. Bumblebees buzz, and dragonflies flit among the flowers like electric blue darning needles. We are clearly back in the Minnesota prairie.
Then we lose the path in sumac. Is this it, we wonder. Or this? Or this? When we finally make our way through sumac waist-high and higher, down hills, under trees, and alongside a marsh through buckthorn to where we left the car we are both drenched in sweat and decide that perhaps we will head on home after all. The other places we had planned to stop are well within driving distance of the twin cities, and we will come back another day soon. We also invent a new word (or at least we think we do): shrubwhack. Harder than bushwhacking, not as difficult as treewhacking.
As we drive through Alexandria, Minnesota, we spot Cherry Street Books, an independent bookstore, and stop for a quick look. In the window we see our book Searching for Minnesota Wildflowers. At our first stop on the way north at Mille Lacs State Park we also saw our book in the hands of a naturalist. It seems auspicious that our trip is bookended by book sightings—we are already talking about doing some sort of book about Churchill and the sub-arctic wildflowers we’ve seen.
Quietly contemplative—so much to let settle in from the incredible experience we’ve just had—we drive on home.
p.s. We don’t recommend shrubwhacking, but we do recommend the Northern Studies Centre in Churchill, Manitoba. It really is the experience of a lifetime.