January 30, 2020
Today begins with snowshoeing to set a trail camera and place bait (really smelly beaver scent) to try to capture images of predators for the DNR. As we search for a likely site we cross tracks that might be fox or another predator, although our identification is tentative because the tracks are already drifted in with snow. Under the shelter of a red pine we find a deer bed with deer scat piled nearby. Clearly there are animals roaming these woods, and we’re hopeful that when we check the camera tomorrow we’ll find both tracks and pictures.
Later in the morning we travel back in time to a voyageur’s winter camp to learn about Minnesota history, drink spruce tea–and realize that if we had to survive in the winter woods, we would not last long on our own.
After lunch we learn from a visiting master naturalist, Chris Tolman, about Minnesota’s predator species from dragonflies to apex predators and meet a great grey owl who had been injured and can’t be released back into the wild.
As the sun breaks through the overcast sky of the last few days we head outside again to snowshoe into the bog. Being bog lovers, we thought we knew a lot about the bog but discover how much more there is to learn, including examples of adaptation (tawny cotton grass holding on to its seeds for dispersal in snow), parasitism (dwarf mistletoe on black spruce trees), and asexual reproduction (Labrador tea spreading by rhizomes). Now that we know how much easier it is to walk in deep snow with snowshoes than without them, we won’t limit our bog visits to just the summertime.
We snowshoe back under a blue sky laced with clouds and lit with golden sun setting through tall red pines. Later still a crescent moon and Venus both shine bright in the night sky at the end of a glorious day.