Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July, northern Minnesota style

I have returned from my long weekend up in the North Country with the family, and what a great weekend it was! As per usual, central themes include wildlife, good food, running, and even a little bit of golfing.

The weather could not have been more ideal. Comfortable temperatures, very little wind, and abundant sunshine. Not bad! This made it very pleasant for walking around in the woods, which I did every day.

This time of year, the bird watching is not as diverse as it is in early spring. However, we did get to see a lot of the usual suspects. Our buddy Norris is still hanging out, and he/she had a youngster in tow. The chickadees kept us entertained, as did a number of warblers that nest in the area. Particularly abundant was the chestnut-sided warbler, as well as the black-throated green. These birds were quite busy hunting for insects to feed the hungry youngsters.

Of course, the squirrels and chipmunks are all over the yard, demanding their sunflower seeds. I got to sit with our favorite, "Bottlebrush," while she enjoyed her meal.

Hanging out with Bottlebrush



The wildflowers are in full bloom. Daisies and black eyed Susans are all over the place. The wild raspberries are just starting to ripen, and I even found a few lingering wild strawberries and dewberries to munch on while hiking. Also, butterflies were everywhere, and the various fritillaries started showing up in just the last week, according to my folks. The forest is a colorful place.

A female great spangled fritillary in the garden



Good food is never a problem with Mom and Dad! They always feed me pretty well when I come home. We had some Thai shrimp stir fry, grilled tri-tip, Dad's famous applewood-smoked ribs, and the neighbors even had us over for some awesome BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. I also should mention that one night my brother and sister-in-law brought over some brook trout and fresh-caught lake trout that they grilled up for an appetizer. Wow. What a feast!

Dad's home smoked ribs…and yes, they taste as good as they look!



With all the good food, calories need to be burned off! I got in a few good runs over the weekend. A couple of them were just my typical 4 1/2 milers, but on Saturday I did a challenging 15 miler that was a heck of a lot of fun.

I needed to do a long run, so I headed straight up the ridge utilizing a network of trails, dirt roads, and a county highway. This is a very hilly route (by my "flatlander" standards, anyhow!), but oh so beautiful. It was a glorious and calm day, and the cooler temperatures were appreciated. I passed Caribou Lake, and it was like glass. I saw several neat birds including the pileated woodpecker, a pair of indigo buntings, and even my old friend, the Canada jay.

A runner's shadow on the road



The run took me 2 hours and 40 minutes, partially because of the hilly terrain, and partially because I stopped to take a few pictures here and there! According to my altimeter, my route involved 1250 feet of elevation gain, so it was a good amount of climbing for me. I just kept a steady pace and managed to run pretty well. At least, I still had the energy to go hiking later in the day! :)

A winding, sweeping downhill on my run



The final piece of outdoor activity included some golf at Superior National. The course is looking absolutely beautiful right now, so it was a lot of fun to play. Long gone are the days in college when I played every day, so that means long gone is any sort of touch that I used to have! I can't putt for anything. But I did manage to par the two par 3's on the Canyon Course, so that made up for a few errant shots. Regardless, it was fun.

Yours truly on the Superior National "Canyon Course"



After golf, a little lunch with Mom and Dad at the Coho Café in Tofte, and I would be on my way back to the Cities. And I am just in time for our most oppressive heat wave of the summer. Ugh! But what a great weekend.

Dreaming of the cooler weather on the Shore,

Jean
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