Not your typical walk in the park

cedar forest
Early Thursday morning in a white cedar swamp. The sun is starting to shine again but everything is soaking wet and my glasses keep fogging up. In this thick forest after two hours I was only able to walk two-thirds of a mile.


Another rainy week in the woods of northern Minnesota but I have no choice and must work in it if I am to finish this project on time. My goals were to survey one upland forest and four conifer swamps. The first day was in an old growth sugar maple forest. It was easy walking once I got up the boulder strewn slope and onto the gently rising hill where the sugar maples grow. The weather was mild and partly sunny. A breeze coming from Lake Superior kept the black flies and mosquitoes down. I covered a good portion of the forest I had not been to on my previous visit. The principle tree is sugar maple and many of them are large with trunks 2 to 3 feet in diameter. There are smaller ones, too, growing in the under-story. If or when any of the larger and older trees fall over in a storm or die from old age these smaller trees will quickly fill in the gaps.


Bolitotherus cornutus
A forked fungus beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus) on a large artist conch mushroom (Ganoderma applanatum) growing from a dead sugar maple. In the background is a snail (Anguispira alternata). There are hundreds of these rugged looking beetles in the maple forest right now as their mating season is in full swing.


Late Tuesday night until Thursday morning it rained. In some places the rainfall was heavy and small streams flooded. The swamps also filled with water from the runoff. Temperatures became much cooler and this was made only worse by the fog and light wind. Everything was soaked. Water dripped from every leaf and pine needle. To grab a branch for balance when trying to climb over dead-falls meant getting rained on again. At the end of each day I was mostly dry thanks to rubber boots, rain pants, and a raincoat. I stayed warm, too, because under the rain gear I was wearing lined pants, thick socks, a heavy shirt and sweater almost like it was winter. My tent and sleeping gear were dry when I got back to camp and that was a relief. I’ve had to sleep in flooded tents and wet sleeping bags before and it is no fun at all.


white cedars
Ancient white cedars. Some of these trees measure 2 feet in diameter and may be close to 200 years old.


In spite of the rain and cooler weather, I made good time and covered a lot of territory. I also found a few interesting plants and lichens that will need to be revisited later this summer on a dry day. Now I am home again sorting through data and photos, cleaning my gear, and preparing for next week. And there is weeding to do, grass to cut, gutters to clean, and getting another wall of my house ready for painting. Well, at least there are three or four days of warm weather ahead.

10 thoughts on “Not your typical walk in the park

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