May 26 and 27, 2023
Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
Springtime flowers are well underway in southern Minnesota, so we headed out to see what was blooming farther north, stopping along the way at Banning State Park. The forest floor along the road into Banning was abloom with large-flowered trillium, the first sign that we had turned back the wildflower calendar a week or so. The sun shone, the river ran noisily over rocks as we hiked along the Quarry trail, and a helpful breeze blew away most of the mosquitoes that had attacked us as soon as we got out of the car.
But what are a few (well, a lot) of mosquitoes when there are wildflowers to be seen? We passed mossy, massive rock walls where little spikes of Canada mayflower blossomed, a few yellow large-flowered bellwort dangled, and wood anemone and starflower bloomed in constellations of white. Most of the Virginia spring beauty had already closed for the day, but several still showed their delicate pink and white flowers. And everywhere we looked we saw trillium upon trillium upon trillium stretching away through the trees.
It was hard not to linger, but the day was getting late. On our way out of the park we drove past even more trillium–a trillion of them, we were sure. Clearly spring had headed north. And so did we, to our home for the night in a camper cabin at Jay Cooke State Park.
The next day began briskly, beautiful and chilly. An early morning hike took us across the Saint Louis River footbridge where the water roared quietly around rocks below and foamed into bubbles that sparkled in the sun. Here, too, spring was making an appearance with both large-flowered bellwort and sessile-leaf bellwort, nodding trillium, fly honeysuckle, serviceberry, yellow wood violets, and wild ginger flowers. Among a crowd of trout lily leaves a few flowers still drooped gracefully.
Then we were off for what we thought would be a quick stop at Minnesota Point Pine Forest Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), located across the lift bridge in Duluth on the longest fresh water sand bar in the world. At the end of the road we crossed over to the lake side where waves lapped calmly, American beach grass grew in clumps, and large patches of bearberry spread across the sand. A sand cherry bush alive with pollinating bees smelled sweet, and starry false Solomon’s seal leaves, a few with foamy flowers, grew everywhere. Once in the shade of the SNA’s pines, we decided we’d just walk quickly to the end of the trail where we’d heard that another of Minnesota’s many berries grew. After all, the SNA was only 18 acres. How long could that take?
Each time that we thought we might be nearing trail’s end, the trail stretched on. Was the SNA one acre wide and eighteen acres long? One-half acre wide and thirty-six acres long? But once headed for trail’s end we were determined, and at last we saw open water and Wisconsin on the other side. We had set off for a quick walk, not bothering to bring water or snacks, and now we were thirsty and hungry. Figuring that the walk back would go more quickly on the packed sand at the edge of the lake, we trudged along wondering which distant landmark might be where we had parked the car. Finally the car came into sight, and we devoured sandwiches and long drinks of water, promising to remember to bring food and water with us every time, no matter how short we thought the hike might be. (We’d promised this before, but this time we promised not to forget the promise.)
Later a look at the map showed that the SNA covers only part of the point’s end–we had unknowingly walked well beyond those eighteen acres to get to the end of the trail. We promised to look more closely at the map next time, but, well, promises, promises….
After a few short stops as we drove along the shore we turned inland to a place where we’d heard uncommon wildflowers grew. We found the place but not the uncommon flowers. Still violets, pussytoes, bilberry, bearberry, and blueberry were in bloom, and a fat bumblebee buzzed from flower to flower. We wandered along this richness of roadside until we came to a mossy, hummocky stretch of forest where Labrador tea grew and more leatherleaf that we’d ever seen bloomed with rows of dangling, bell-shaped white flowers. We would have lingered longer and wandered deeper into the woods, but once again we had miles to go. Supper, beds, and family were all waiting at the end of a splendid wildflower searching day.
Spring had made it north, and so had we.
SEE MORE of what we are seeing now!