Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
June 14, 2019
In the hurly burly of daily life, it’s hard for us sometimes to remember to step away from it all, but we’ve learned that it’s always a step worth taking. In the midst of our busy summers, Kelly and I took to the road to visit some of our favorite places. On the way we stopped briefly at Quarry Park near Saint Cloud to check out the brittle cactus. No blooms yet, but a nice prickly little colony turning green.
We stopped again in Park Rapids at one of our favorite independent bookstores, Beagle and Wolf, to sign some of our books. (I’ll be back again on July 6 for another book signing.) Then we headed to Itasca State Park for some serious wildflower searching.
We had barely entered the park when alongside the road we spied yellow lady’s-slippers, both the large ones and the small ones. While we can’t always tell which is which by flower size, it helps us to remember that the small, have darker twisty side petals. In the Itasca Wilderness Sanctuary Scientific and Natural Area we had barely begun hiking the Bohall Lake trail before we scrambled into our bug shirts which we had prudently brought along. The rest of the hike was accompanied by the high pitched hum of frustrated mosquitoes, but we didn’t care, too busy looking at the most pristine sarsaparilla flowers we had ever seen, along with starflower, Canada mayflower, bunchberry, rose twisted stalk, starry false Solomon’s seal, and blue bead lilies with flowering stalks as tall as my knee. Under the green trees among the flowers alongside Bohall Lake all the concerns of our day jobs and busy lives fell away. Just birdsong and quiet under the tall trees.
A short drive away at Iron Springs Bog Scientific and Natural Area we weren’t even out of the car before we saw our first orchid. Although it wasn’t yet flowering, we tentatively identified it as a tubercled rein orchid—when a plant isn’t blooming, our identifications skills definitely drop. In the bog itself buckbean and three-leaf false Solomon’s seal grew so thickly they looked like little rivers of flowers in the mossy ground. We found naked miterwort, moccasin flower, early coral root, and small round-leaved orchid which was just coming into polka-dotted bloom. Bogs are easy places to get lost (we’ve done it here before), but luckily Kelly’s new GPS actually worked and led us back to our car.
At one last stop at an unnamed roadside bog most of the ram’s head orchids had already gone to seed, but we found a few still blooming and were grateful for these exquisite flowers. Tall showy lady’s slipper leaves promised an abundance of beauty in a week or two, although we don’t know if we’ll be here to see them bloom.
No matter—just knowing there are wild places and being lucky enough to visit them makes our hearts glad.