Monday, June 2, 2014

Exploring the St. Croix Scenic Byway
(an occasional series)

This morning was spent driving the St. Croix Scenic Byway from Taylors Falls north to Askov. There will be follow up trips. Today's was a reconnoiter of the north half of the Byway. The southern half is mostly in our back yard, so we travel that part quite a bit (except for the area along Highway 95 between Stillwater and Bayport, which is affected by construction of the new bridge). This morning's clouds brought a fantastic air of mystery to the river valley as we headed down into Taylor's Falls. Since, by the time we got up to Hinckley it was midmorning and we were right in the neighborhood, of course we had to stop at Tobie's for a caramel roll. Now I suppose we'll have to get to Keys in Forest Lake soon so we can compare rolls while Tobie's is fresh in our mind. (No editorial we today. My Better Half joined me for our excursion.)

Misty St. Croix River Valley
Misty St. Croix River Valley               © harrington

My co-pilot-navigator noticed a colony of large-flowered trillium a bit south of Wild River State Park. The pink color indicates they're aging and fading. MIles later, I noticed that Pine City, at least on it's main street, doesn't seem to have a coffee shop comparable to Coffee Talk in Taylors Falls. Next time through, we'll do a little more checking to see if we missed something. Although we didn't take any photos of one today, we also noticed an increase in the number of roadside alder swamps, starting about midway up Pine County (you do know that "up," as in upstream on the St. Croix, is north, right?).

aging large-flowered trillium              © harrington

As we reached Sandstone, we took a side trip to the Audubon Center of the North Woods. Several of their raptors were willing to pose for portraits. I remember this barred owl from the program a couple of years ago when The Loft sponsored an environmental writing conference that I attended at the Center of the North Woods.

© harrington

Despite some occasional downpours, an apparent shortage of the kind of funky coffee shops I like (we did stop at Coffee Talk on the way home), and the fact that there is often quite a distance between much of the Byway and the River itself, I can confirm that a drive up the northern half of the St. Croix Scenic Byway is a worthwhile way to spend a morning or afternoon, especially if you are accompanied by anyone as fun and helpful to travel with as I was. It's also a way to try out Gary Snyder's advice to

Find your place in the world.
Dig in.
Take responsibility from there.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.