Friday, May 31, 2013

Lilydale Regional Park

It was a very pleasant morning in River City. One of the nicest mornings in the history of mornings perhaps, but the day has since changed to include severe weather watches and sporadic rain accompanied by wind.

Since NCW is in the city and the weather was so clement (opposite of inclement?), we took a little stroll down by the mighty Mississippi.  There was not a speck of cloud in the sky as we stopped by Harriet Island and walked towards the park along the river.  Lilydale Regional Park has been improved in the last few months, including a welcome gate and plaza about a quarter mile from the end of Harriet Island.  We went down the combination bike/hike path for about a half hour.  We went by the plaza and also the site of the recent tragic collapse of the hillside where school kids were searching for fossils.   The day was bright and the river was running high.


The skyline of St Paul from the turn around spot in Lilydale Park.  There was a new bench near the river, so we had a sit-down and a view down the river towards the high bridge and downtown Saintly City.


The touring riverboats were out taking school field trips up the river towards Fort Snelling.  This one was spied going upriver and some of the people on board saw me taking the photo and waved.  We waved back as the boat passed in front of the St Paul Cathedral.

The sun has returned for the moment, but May seems to be going out the way it was for most of the month - wet and wild.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lilac time

It's a really nice treat to come home from Up North and find that the lilacs have bloomed and sent out that distinctive delicious aroma. They are late this year. More than a month.  Last year I posted a photo of lilacs from the same bush on April 24.

Nonetheless, the lilacs are back and summer can commence.

 I also had my first rainout of outdoor tennis in Minnesota for the year. Six of the retired tennis players gathered at Sibley High School to engage in competition, but after a mere eight games the sky thundered and rain poured down as we "scampered" to our autos.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day in the North Country

The NCW and I spent our Memorial Day holiday in the north.  Everything is a little different here. The vegetation is somewhat behind southern Minnesota and the economy is different.   Memorial Day is an important holiday here like it is elsewhere, and here a lot of the names on the gravestones are familiar. Names of parents of classmates and, more and more, the names of the classmates themselves.  The Coleraine cemetery is well maintained and flowers festooned most of the graves.   NCW and I visited the resting places of some familiar names. It's a peaceful place, quiet and full of reminders of lives now finished. Some of the flowers and monuments were quite touching. Memorial Day is supposed to cause one to remember.

Nothing says north country quite like a stand of aspen trees as they turn in their winter clothes ( or lack thereof) for spring green leaves. This stand was not far from Calumet. Not only are the trees coming back to life, so are the wood ticks, but that's another story.

NCW and I stopped at the Hill Annex State Park in Calumet to see the very large hole in the ground. It's Memorial Day, one of the big holidays of the year, and the park was closed.  Not yet open. Looking through the padlocked gate I saw this truck, a memory from my youth.  There were big trucks, Ukes, that carried ore out of the open mining pits.  This may have been a forerunner to the really big ones I remember.  The inner tubes from the trucks were ubiquitous at swimming beaches. They made a cheap and reliable raft to swim to on hot afternoons. You don't see many huge inner tubes any more. You don't even see very many normal size ones.

We took a walk along the Mesabi Bike Trail which passes by the state park to see if we could get a look at the now closed mine.  I understand that the 2013 TRAM will pass through here sometime in July.

On the Iron Range one can encounter these large rocks that look all the world like they may be iron bearing. I can't really tell, but I have my suspicions.


Somewhere behind the locked gates of the state park we ran across this old gatepost with pretty white spring flowers growing around it.

We were able to get a look at the open pit mine, but it took a hike past the gates to where the local teen-agers (one supposes) cut the fence to get a better look at the scenic vista.  That story and the photos will be saved for another day.  State parks should be open on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


It was a pretty day, finally, after a long string of wet and gloomy May days.  I spent a lot of time outside spread  over most of the day.  I mowed the lawn for the first time of the season, and washed my car for the first time of the season, before deciding to walk around my favorite lake and see what the trees and other vegetation were doing.

The flowers on the fruit trees were in full bloom.  There's quite a few of them at the lake and they're showing off their colors this week.  They smelled marvelous, as Billy Crystal might say.  Crab apple blossoms, I think.

The dock at the south end of Lake Como was being used.  There were people fishing, taking pictures and generally enjoying the nice May weather.  The tree by the base of the dock was very pretty.  The grass is greening up nicely.

This is something that you don't often see at a public park.  There were a couple of people sitting facing each other playing violin music with violins.  They had their dog with them in one of those carrying kennels, and they seemed to be enjoying the best day in a long time.  The music was pretty good, too.  Classical, I think.

The little drainage creek at the base of the peninsula was looking picturesque as I walked by.  There were other things going on, too, but the colors of the day were spring green and apple blossom.

And as is usual lately for Thursday night, I played some USTA tennis, this time outside at Mounds View High School.  No pictures of the action.   I had a new partner for doubles -  a fiftyish lawyer who knows how to play the game quite well.  He and I, although we'd never played together before, managed to get our team a win at number three doubles, but our team overall lost 3-2.   It took about an hour and a half, and the sun was very low in the sky when we finished, but it was fun and real competition.

The weather prognosticators are saying that there will be some frost overnight in some of the more rural areas around St Paul and maybe more 50 miles north and in western Wisconsin.  Frosting towards the end of May.  It has been a strange spring.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two wild birds, wood violets and some tennis

I think that this spring thing may be catching on.  It was about eighty degrees about noon when I took a jaunt down by the river, Crosby Farm Park to be more exact.  There have been landscaping changes in the park, but the wild areas remain pretty static. There were a few people walking in the woods and a few bicyclists passing through, but it was mainly pretty peaceful down in the flood plain.

I spent about an hour and a half walking and appreciating the return of the color green to the landscape.  It's been late in coming, but it looks like green is going to stay a while.

I encountered this white heron (snowy heron?) on Upper Lake as I walked by. As usual he was shy and flew long before I was close enough for a really good picture. But it was nice to see that he and his ilk are back in the state.

The water is still flowing a little through some of the sluggish creeks in the area, and they provided a nice mirror to reflect the trees and plants coming alive for another summer.

There were a lot of these wood violets along the path and I stopped to capture these in camera memory. I have since learned that the wood violet is the state flower of Wisconsin. ( Don't you just love google?)  There were also other flowers, including marsh marigolds and blue glory of the snow, that didn't make it into this blog entry.

This wild turkey showed himself as I walked along the path near the lake. He showed no trepidation as I took his picture and he continued on his way.  And so did I.

It was a nice day and I enjoyed the walk.  I'm reminding myself to get back there more often this summer to watch the vegetation and the wild things that still reside within the city.

And then later in the day there was some tennis scheduled.   I was recruited for a USTA tennis league by one of my tennis buddies.  I may be in over my head on this team, at least that's what I thought before I showed up to play at 5:30 at St Paul Academy.  The team is a level 4.0 - over 40 men's team.   That means any guy 40 or over can be on the team and it also means that I'm again the oldest guy on the roster.  I played with a new partner against a pair of guys clearly not much over forty - no gray hair.  And top spin on their shots.  Peter and I didn't embarrass ourselves, but we didn't win either.  Clearly winning is better, but we held our own, even having three set points in the first set before squandering them and then  losing in a tiebreaker 7-6, followed by a competitive set at 6-3.  I guess I may be asked to play again next week.  The team meet consisted of five individual matches - two singles and three doubles - and our team edged out the other team 3-2, so we won and probably we're going to be okay in this league.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tulip time

I was out walking with NCW this morning and we encountered tulips in full bloom. I'm not sure how they were able to get the the flower stage while enduring one of the longest winters in local history, but there they were. Tulips are a sure sign that winter has fled and we'll be able to spend some quality time outside. I suspect that the Tulip Festival in Holland will have a larger and more brilliant array of bloomers, but these were a welcome sight on Lincoln Avenue in the Saintly City.

There were other sights to be seen, sights that signal spring has finally sprung. This year the neighborhood gardening enthusiasts have convinced the city to allow a public garden area near Linwood Park's tennis courts. They have decided to go with a variety of small gardens called key hole gardens, a new concept to me. Since I'm not participating, just observing, I thought I'd try to find out a little more about the concept.  I guess I have some gardens to watch for the summer.

Outdoor tennis starts on Monday for me. I've seen other people on city courts, all smacking the ball around. I've been content to spend my time on indoor courts. I'm looking forward to wind, sun, and sunscreen.