Monday, August 22, 2016

Photos of the Day: A Girl and Her Frog

Frogs have always been Sierra's favorite animal. So you can imagine her excitement when a gray tree frog visited our home today.
a girl and her frog
gray tree frog on chair
The frog hopped and stuck to her playhouse and so Sierra was inspired to come up with a list of things that she needed to keep the frog as a pet.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Paddling the Rat Root River and Rat Root Lake

Today's forecast called for winds in the 5-7 mph range. Having not been out on the water in a while Noelle, Sierra and I decided to take the canoe out for a paddle. I didn't want to be out on Rainy Lake in even a 5mph wind and so we headed down to my town of Ericsburg to paddle a section of the Rat Root River and Rat Root Lake which I figured would be somewhat sheltered from the wind.

We arrived at the boat ramp which is just off of Koochiching County Road 119, just before a bridge crosses over the Rat Root River.
Rat Root from bridge
This boat ramp does not seem to get nearly as much use as many of the others in this area. I would guess, however, that there is some use during the duck hunting season. We put in among the blooming asters
aster
and goldenrods
goldenrod
and then headed into a world of cattails. We were aided by a gentle breeze at our backs as we paddled the river
Rat Root River
and into the first section of Rat Root Lake. Then the water started to get a bit choppy. Our destination had been a picnic site along the banks of the river, but the water got so rough and the wind so strong that we ended up turning around at a solitary boat dock in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

The paddle into the wind was not much fun at all. It was hard work and Noelle and I realized that if we stopped to take a break we would get blown back in the direction from which we had just come. Finally we made the turn from the lake into the river and nestled in among some cattails to eat lunch on the boat.
stopped for lunch
After having eaten lunch and taken a break from the wind we resumed our paddle upstream on the Rat Root River. We paddled through some scattered beds of wild rice
paddling through wild rice
wild rice
rice
headed back to boat ramp
and were quite relieved to be back at the boat ramp. Our shoulders were sore as we hoisted the canoe on top of the car for the drive back home.
interesting plant

Friday, August 5, 2016

Big Bog State Recreation Area

Today was a day to get out of town and explore a bit. We opted to head back to Bemidji and check out the Big Bog State Recreation Area on the way. We headed southwest through the small towns of Koochiching County and into Kelliher, Paul Bunyan's final resting place, to Waskish and the Big Bog State Recreation Area. This relatively new recreation area was created in response to the crash of the Red Lake walleye population. It was seen as a way to bring tourists into the area.

We arrived at the parking area in the north unit of the recreation area and, after a quick restroom stop, we hit the trail.
walking to the bog
The beginning of the trail passed along the shore of a small pond where we spied water lilies
water lily
and Canada geese.
geese
Soon we passed through an arch marking the beginning of the Big Bog Boardwalk,
start of bog boardwalk
a mile long walkway into a section of Minnesota's wilds that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Sierra and Noelle on boardwalk
We saw some interesting butterflies flying around right away. There were some Viceroys
Viceroy butterfly
whose colors and patterns are said to mimic those of the more famous Monarchs. We also saw many white admirals flying around and landing on the deck of the boardwalk and on trees.
white admiral on spruce

We headed deeper and deeper into the interior of the otherworldly bog.
boardwalk through spruce
The bog really did give the feeling of being in another world.
walking on boardwalk
I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially since the biting insects were not much of a nuisance. We soon encountered the site of a failed experiment in taming the swampy wilderness. Long ago the government sponsored a program of digging ditches to drain the bog and turn it into "productive" farmland. The experiment was a failure and today grassy swaths of former ditch are all that remain.
old ditch

As we approached the end of the boardwalk,
walking still
approaching the end
carnivorous plants began to appear. There were lots of purple pitcher plants
purple pitcher plant
pitcher plants
and not so obvious (but just as prevalent) was sundew.
sundew
Sierra and I got down on the boardwalk for a closer view of the tiny sundews.
looking for sundew 2
Then Sierra found a spotting scope and wanted to have a look.
looking through binoculars
She refused any help in looking through the scope and so her only view through the scope was of the cloudy Minnesota sky.

After a few minutes at the end point we turned around to begin our return to the car. Sierra was getting a bit tired after her mile hike and so she got into the backpack. We made pretty quick time on the return until we had an encounter with a dragonfly. This particular dragonfly landed on me first, but as I reached for the camera to photograph it, it flew away. I did notice, however, that it had something hanging out of its mouth. Soon our dragonfly friend landed on Noelle
dragonfly on Mommy
and sure enough it had the back end of some type of insect hanging out of its mouth.
dragonfly eating insect
We watched it nibble on its insect meal and listened as the exoskeleton crunched. Sierra was simultaneously disgusted and intrigued.
Sierra watching dragonfly
The dragonfly stayed perched on Noelle's arm for a long time before it finally flew away.
dragonfly on arm

Soon after it had flown, we found another dragonfly perched on the boardwalk.
another dragonfly
This, I believe was a different species. Mostly blue in color. Soon we were back to the pond where we walked around the section we had not seen on the way to the boardwalk. There was quite a bit of goldenrod in bloom,
goldenrod
which means fall is right around the corner in northern Minnesota. After returning to the car we made our way to Bemidji for a late lunch, the playground, a beer at Bemidji Brewing Company, ice cream, and watching a few of the dragon boat festival sprint races.
dragonboaters
Then we faced the long drive back to the Falls for the night. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Paddling to Moxie Island

The forecast called for another beautiful summer day in northern Minnesota. Wanting to do paddle somewhere a little bit different, Noelle, Sierra and I loaded the canoe on the roof of the Subaru and made the drive down to Kabetogama for a paddle out to Moxie Island. We stopped at the visitor center first to use the restroom and stamp our passport books. We then put in on the nearly glassy waters of Kabetogama at the boat ramp and headed east, following the south side of Sphunge Island.
Noelle paddling

As we paddled through Duck Bay we spied
looking at ducks
some of the bay's namesake ducks: some Mallards and soon thereafter we were approaching the beach at the Moxie Island day use site.
at Moxie Island
moxie Island sign
We ate lunch at the picnic table there.
eating lunch at Moxie
I finished quickly and so I explored the island a bit as Sierra and Noelle finished up. I found a nice overlook from a rocky outcrop on the north side of the island.
view from Moxie Island
When I rejoined Noelle and Sierra it was time for some swimming.
Sierra and Noelle in water
And swim we did!
silly swimmer
happy swimmer
racing
The water temperature was just about perfect. In addition there were wonderful views out across Kabetogama Lake
view from teh beach
and not too many leeches.
leech

After a few hours swimming and lounging on the island, we decided we better move on back to the car. We decided to paddle back via the north side of Sphunge Island.
heading back
On the way back we saw an old chimney standing on the rocky shore.
chimney
We got out of the boat to investigate a bit
walking on Sphunge Island
and I found a metal sign that labeled it as Bill Van Lynn's Chimney.
ID plate
Shortly after we got back in the boat for our paddle back to the boat ramp, we passed a group of ducks swimming along the rocky shoreline of Spunge Island.
swimming ducks