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Putting names to petals

A little rain sure can get us a long way as we progress into summer. When out on the trail these days, I am again surrounded by the multiple shades of green in the forest similar to the environment I experienced when I first moved up here last September. The deciduous trees are in full bloom, the conifers are especially aromatic, and the mosses and lichens are lush.

Vibrant patches of color are also scattered among the forest floor as the wildflowers are now starting to pop up. Eager to use my field guides that I got for Christmas, I grabbed my wildflower book and started identifying them on my most recent hikes. The book is titled “Wildflowers of Wisconsin” by Stan Tekiela who is a naturalist, wildlife photographer, and originator of many other popular field guides. Although the book was based on Wisconsin wildflowers, it is still a legitimate resource because Minnesota and Wisconsin share similar ecosystems.

Following are pictures of the most common wildflowers out there right now. Now if you come upon them, you will know what they are!

Bunchberry

Bunchberry, named for its tight bunches of red berries

Bluebead lily

Bluebead Lily, berries are not edible!

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Nodding Trillium, naturally facing downward

 

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Marsh Marigold, easy to identify because they reign in the marshes

Spring Beauty

Spring Beauty, as it truly is!

Harebell

Harebell, look as if they should ring in the wind

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Downy Yellow Violet, one of the many colors of violets

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Wood Anemone

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Wild Strawberry, sweet snack while on a hike

Baneberry

Baneberry, could be white or red

Lilac

Lilac, lovely smell 

Star Flower

Star Flower, you can see where they got that name

Columbine, tips taste sweet

Columbine, have a taste of the nectar filled spurs

I would highly recommend this field guide if you are ever interested in I.D.ing plants; clear, colored pictures as well as all of the information you need condensed on one small page. Very easy to navigate through as well for the flowers are categorized by color. He has many state-specific guides, so if you live elsewhere, you can more than likely find a book for that location.

Learning to interpret the environment is an interesting and exciting activity to do while hiking. Especially in the spring when all of the new plants pop up. A little advice to make for a better learning experience: when identifying plants, try for only two or three at a time so you are not over loaded with information. That way, you can really get each plant down individually.

Not only is I.D.ing plants something fun to do while hiking, but also allows you to see your environment with a different perspective. Instead of seeing a tree as a tree or flower as a flower, you know them by name and perhaps a few special characteristics about them, such as edibility, growth patterns, and their various uses. It’s kind of like getting to know people, instead of just another face in the crowd, you know them by name and who they are as a person, tying more sentimental value to them.

The more people you know, the better; the more plants you know, the better. Take advantage of our short summers when everything is in bloom and make and effort to get to know the plants that you walk by every day. You never know when your environmental knowledge could come in handy!

Runnin’ and Rollin’ into May

Me, at about mile 2

Me, at about mile 2

We have had splendid spring weather this past week on the North Shore. The vast natural environment  we have in Cook County allows us to host outdoor events such as running and biking races. Yesterday, the 2015 Ham Run Half Marathon took place up the Gunflint Trail. There were roughly 60 participants who prevailed through the hilly course in the whopping 72 degree weather.

On the drive up, we knew it was going to be a scorcher, but the breathtaking scenery along the course made every bound of the way enjoyable.

 

 

The course meandered through various bodies of water such as lakes, swamps, ponds, rivers, and creeks, which all looked very temping to jump in to. The lack of wind made the lakes and ponds look like sheets of glass reflecting the surrounding trees and homes on the shoreline. The sound of the flowing creeks and rivers alongside the road felt very refreshing to hear as we pushed ourselves mile by mile.

Rolling hills in the distance

Rolling hills in the distance

Creek alongside road

Creek alongside road

The finish line was right next to a big lake that many of us took advantage of. Immersing into the shocking 50 degree water actually felt amazing after the 13.1 hilly miles in the heat.It was definitely a challenging course, but the surrounding views, feeling of accomplishment and sense of camaraderie made the feat worthwhile.

Lake at end of course

Lake at end of course

Coming up next, we have the Superior Spring Trail Races  taking place on May 16 right here in Lutsen. The races take place on the Superior Hiking Trail starting at Caribou Highlands on the ski hill and traversing down and back along the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Racers have the option of either a 25k or 50k run through the rough yet spectacularly scenic terrain of the North Shore.

Switching gears, it’s also that time of year to lube up the chains and get the wheels rolling on our bicycles that have been oh so eagerly awaiting riding season all winter long. After all, May is National Bike Month, established by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 to celebrate the benefits of riding your bicycle.

Whether it be recreational trail and road riding or for commuting, Cook County caters to all. The Sugarbush and Pincushion mountain bike trail systems should be opening up pretty soon and the Gitchi Gammi paved bike trail is always a great option for a nice paved cruise.

To celebrate National Bike Month, Superior North Outdoor bike shop, located in Grand Marais, will be hosting bicycle related events in Cook County to promote bicycle safety, commuting, etc. throughout the month. But no matter where you reside, you can participate in National Bike to Work Week May 18-22.

Biking, running, walking and hiking are all sustainable activities that give you a reason to get in some great exercise outside. Take advantage of this wonderful spring weather we are having with the endless opportunities of recreation up here in Minnesota’s North land and join us for a relaxing visit before the summer bustle begins.

Fisherman in front of resort

Fisherman enjoying the calm morning in front of resort

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perks of April showers

Well, we had a nice long run of sunny days, but the rain must come as part of the spring package. Looks like we are heading into a stretch of rain/ snow mix here for the next few days. As enjoyable as the clear blue skies and warm temperatures may be, the gloomy days that bring along precipitation are equally as important to the North Shore environment and can be appreciated for their own reasons.

Reason #1) Roaring waterfalls

The runoff from the melting snow combined with the rainfall raises the water levels and rapid speeds substantially. This time of year is great for touring waterfalls and there are tons of rivers in the area that provide these wondrous views.

Caribou Falls

Caribou Falls

I took this shot a couple weeks ago on a trip down the North Shore. The epic Caribou Falls is located just outside of the Cook County border and is definitely worth the 1/2 mile hike down the Superior Hiking Trail to check it out. I awoke to snow covered ground on this particular morning but it did not stick around for long. I took a group of guests down here for a tour on a more recent occasion during our streak of warm weather and the ice and snow was obsolete.

Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls

I visited Gooseberry that same day and walked the “Falls Views” loop. It was probably about a mile long and offered amazing views of the high, middle and low falls from all different perspectives. Great leg stretcher while driving up for a visit to Lutsen.

Reason #2) Fishing

The steelhead are running now and the determined fisherman are lining the mouths of the rivers awaiting that promising tug on the line.

Poplar River

Poplar River

The mouth of the Poplar River flows right into the shoreline in front of the main lodge here at Lutsen Resort. As the water warms up, the steelhead migrate from the big lake and go upstream the rivers to spawn. Following the spawn, they return back to the big lake and must pass through the mouths of the rivers, creating an ideal fishing hub. I have noticed many fisherman frequenting here recently and a young boy reported yesterday that he had a few catches. Another local fisherman said the day after a rainfall is prime time to get out and fish because the rain increases the run of the steelhead.

Upstream the Poplar River

Upstream the Poplar River

The rivers are very brown with runoff right now. This creates a noticeable contrast between the water close to shore and the water further out on the big lake. The brown color hugs the shoreline and then dissolves back into the original color of the lake about 30 feet out. I notice that the blue hue of the lake on a given day reflects the sky; this morning it was a gray/ navy blue color:

Shore line of Lake Superior

Shore line of Lake Superior

Reason #3) Alleviate drought

Rain is an essential asset to our ecosystem in order for the vibrant natural colors of the spring and summer foliage to come out. A kin to human beings, plants also need water to flourish and the lack of such lately rendered very dry grounds. So this rain is contributing to the life cycle of the North Shore in a positive way. I was down in Minneapolis this week right after a rain spell and came upon this blossoming tree. The streets were also lined with green grass:

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Spring in Minneapolis

It will only  be a matter of time until spring makes its way up here, and we also will be surrounded by pinks, greens and blues. Until then, we can only appreciate the inconsistent weather patterns for what they’re worth. As an old Minnesota proverb says:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.”

 

 

 

 

Welcoming the new season

Happy spring everybody! To kick off the new season, we are delighted to welcome you to our new blog. The purpose of this blog is to inform you of the latest and the greatest activities, events, and scenery in Lutsen and surrounding areas in a narrative form. Sharing pictures and stories will hopefully provide you with the feeling of a year round experience at Lutsen Resort from your home. Each season comes with different activities that you may not be aware of, and sharing these various opportunities may spark a visit that is out of the ordinary.

The spring weather came earlier than we had expected, especially after the long winter from last year, but there is still quite a bit of activity going on. At this point, we have the option to participate in both winter and spring activities. However, the weather patterns are unpredictable at this point; a heavy snowfall could be a game-changer. Keep an eye on the weather so you can plan accordingly.

As far as what we can do with the little bit of snow left,  the continuation of Onion River Road of the Sugarbush cross country ski trail system is still being groomed for skate skiing. I was actually out last night skate skiing and it was the best skate I’ve had all year. Outside of that, I would not recommend skiing due to open spots and dangerous conditions.

Onion River Road, Sugarbush Ski Trail

Onion River Road, Sugarbush Ski Trail

Thanks to the hard working snow makers up at Lutsen Mountains, the base at the ski hill is thick enough for the conditions to hold up for another few weeks. This makes for a legitimate spring ski vacation that is not too far away.

Moose Mountain

Moose Mountain

Border cross track on Mystery Mountain

Border cross track on Mystery Mountain

As for the upcoming forecast, we are expected to get a few inches of snow mid week, which could shape up the conditions and extend our winter activities.

On the flip side, if you are looking to switch gears and dive into the spring activities, sections of the Superior Hiking Trail closer to the lake are open for hiking, but be cautious of icy and or muddy spots. These trails take you along rivers, such as Cascade and Temperance, and offer mesmerizing views of frozen waterfalls and the refreshing sound of running water.

The paved Gitchi Gammi bike trail is open this time of year for biking and running, but again, be careful of snowy and icy sections. The trail section on our area starts in Lutsen and winds down along Lake Superior, through Tofte and Temperance River State Park and ends in Schroeder.

Gitchi Gammi Bike Trail

Gitchi Gammi Bike Trail

Our Frisbee golf course is free of snow and the grounds are surprisingly dry enough to play a round or two of disc golf; it is a bit early yet to start golfing. Seems like just yesterday we put the discs away for the season and now it’s already time to start pitching again!

Pitch and Putt Course at Lutsen Resort

Pitch and Putt Course at Lutsen Resort

Now that the ice has melted from the shoreline, people are starting to pick rocks again. This is the time to get down there and find those prize agates and other unique stones that were washed up during the winter. In the evening hours, you can sit down and keep warm by a campfire on the beach where you can also gaze at the beautiful starry sky.

Beach at Lutsen Resort

Beachfront at Lutsen Resort

The wonderful thing about recreating in the Midwest, is that we have the opportunity and gear to find or create a way to be active outside year round. On the North Shore, we are lucky to be surrounded by a diverse environment that offers endless activities, in all weather conditions.

Regardless of your personal interests, Lutsen can provide you with a memorable experience that caters to your preferences at anytime of day, during anytime of year.