Thursday, February 26, 2009

Glacial Lakes State Park

Last night I had a tornado dream -usually the kind I have when I am deeply bothered by something. The tornado bears down on me, I hold on. This one shook and rattled the concrete building I dreamt myself to be in. I woke up.

Magically, this made me think of last summer's trip to Glacial Lakes State Park in Minnesota's prairie country. I chose this park as my destination because the name of a nearby lake, Minneswaska, was the same name as a lake and state park in the Shawangunks of the New York's Hudson Valley. And the closest town was named Starbuck.

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Minnesota is divided between three distinct regions: northern coniferous forest, prairie, and the western most extent of the eastern deciduous forest (called Big Woods in Minnesota). My trip took me on one of several roads that follow an arc of glacial lakes, or kettles, that remain as reminder of the Wisconsin glacial period (so-so Wiki article). I left the Big Woods and entered the prairie. According to the Minnesota DNR, 98% of Big Woods has been converted to farm land, housing and commercial development and 99.9% of Minnesota prairie has been turned for farm land.

When I neared the park, the land turned from farm to grassland. The road turned from asphalt to gravel.

This landscape was rolling, elevated, scattered stones and boulders about, and grass -lots of grass.

After entering the park, the roadway descends toward a kettle lake. The parking area is surrounded by a glade of trees.

I began walking on the trail that circumnavigates the main kettle lake, called Signalness Lake.
I'm impressed with the oak forest and the feeling like this forest is a hidden pocket in the prairie come farmland. It also strikes me how similar this landscape is to my own Long Island experience with its kettles and oaks.

As you walk down the slope toward the lake, you cross this simple footbridge. It crosses a wetland adjacent to the lake. Among the many plants, milkweed -Asclepias syriaca and what looks like yarrow, Achillea millefolium (native or not???).

I couldn't ID so many of the plants I discovered on this trip, like this one below. It was just above the wetland.

Lakeside, half-way around and looking at my starting location.

Leaving the lakeside I move back uphill toward the drier forest. To the east rolling hills and prairie grassland. Notice how the woodlands are in the depressions in the land, where there is more moisture and protection.

The drier uplands are primarily prairie land. But native sumacs can aggressively fill the slopes without fire as a control agent. Prairie loves fire because it keeps woody plants from taking hold.

Scanning the prairie you see a fabric of grass and other plants.

Closer looking finds brilliant flowers. What is it?

Likely the native coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia.

Hoary Vervain, Verbena stricta

Name this grass.

I know this one because of my time in New Mexico -its Leadplant, Amorpha canescens.

I always enjoy the interpretive signs, especially old disintegrating ones like this explaining how this landscape was formed.