We spent yesterday exploring the backroads and lakes of western Wisconsin.  It was a beautiful summer’s day and the countryside was verdantly green due to recent rains.  As we were traveling down a county road I saw a large field of yellow.  As I ventured out in the waist-tall grasses and flowers I realized the field was filled with wildflowers.  These prairie coneflowers were high above the others, and they swayed in the wind.  Scattered around them were ox-eye flowers and bee balm.  I was in the middle of a sea of color and beauty.  The bees were busy moving amongst the blossoms and the wind rustled the flowers enough to make they appear to be dancing across the field.  It was a true representation of summer in all her glory.

Rudbeckia at sunset_staats 10158While in the Kansas City area last weekend, I marveled in a  summer sunset over a field of wildflowers.  I stole away from the busy activities of a picnic and walked across the acreage that my parents had purchased years ago for the family’s enjoyment.  This evening I wanted to drink in the peace and beauty of the hayfield that hadn’t been cleared yet and the plethora of wildflowers that were blooming.  The rains and lack of heat had allowed the flowers to bloom in profusion.  The rudbeckia covered the hillside and seemed to glow in the golden light of the sunset.  As I sat beside the pond at the close of day I was filled with a sense of gratitude for the beauty before me, my parents, my family, and for this lovely bit of property.

Pasque flowers_Staats-9287Snow last Thursday, followed by 65 degrees and sunshine — it all provided moisture and then warmth for the early blooming wildflowers in Minnesota.  Amidst a gravel prairie about 50 miles from the Twin Cities is a place where pasque flowers are abundant.  And if your timing is good, the entire prairie is filled with these small diminutive flowers.  Only two to five inches tall, they are hard to notice from a distance, but it becomes quite magical when you see an entire hillside covered by these flowers. With the warmth of the spring sun, and the golden colors of the late evening, we spent a wonderful few hours amongst the pasque flowers.

Pasque flowers_Staats As winter lets go of its grip,  pasque flowers are one of the first wildflowers to bloom.  They’re diminutive and small, perhaps only 5 inches tall, and they generally thrive in gravel prairie areas.  In Minnesota these prairie areas are not common, however there is a glacial outwash area near the Cannon River south of the Twin Cities that has the perfect conditions for these harbingers of spring.  I ventured down last week at late afternoon and was thrilled to find them in peak bloom.  Their delicacy was made more evident by the backlighting that occurred as the sun was starting to set in the west.  Their brilliance is my cue that winter will not last forever, and the flowers that grace our area, even for a very short period of time, are worth celebrating and appreciating.

Prairie smoke 7D_1770 _StaatsThere is a revival of interest in native plantings here in Minnesota; people are choosing to replace annuals in their gardens with plants that are native to the area, thereby requiring less maintenance.  About eight years ago I was in a prairie area in northeastern Oregon and was mesmerized by an unusual plant.  I remember photographing the long feathery plumes that seemed to blow in the breeze.  Now I find that Prairie smoke is a native wildflower to Minnesota.  It is actually in the rose family, blooming in mid to late spring, and is found in the dry, gravelly prairies.  I noticed this plant at a sale of native landscaping plants here in the Twin Cities.  With a bit of backlighting, the plumes took on a beautiful glow, accenting their delicateness and their “smokey” appearance.

After record-breaking heat this past week we finally cooled down a bit yesterday.  And with a Saturday evening with nothing to do we loaded the canoe on the car, grabbed our fishing rods, and headed out for some lake-time.  As we put in to the water the winds died down, and as sunset approached we knew we were in for a treat.  Our paddles whispered as they entered the water, the dragonflies were dancing over the surface, and we could glide over the lily pads in quiet.  I would fish, then stop and photograph.  I’d then put my camera away convinced that the sunset couldn’t get any better, only to pull it back out again.  It was a wonderful way to end the day –  the quiet of the lake and a mess of sunfish and crappies.  And when this morning dawned with quiet and calm too, I headed out early on my bicycle for a quick ride.  Like last night there was a great magic in the early hours.  The birds were awakening, there was little traffic, the wildflowers were blooming by the sides of the road, and my bike tires sailed smoothly across the pavement.  These truly are the “magic hours” and they make me appreciate all that is wonderful about this time and this place.

We ventured north this weekend to the shores of Lake Superior.  After a miserably cold and rainy week the weather cleared in perfect time for the weekend, and with little to no winds and mild temperatures it was a wonderful time to explore new areas.  We wandered the highways and county roads of northern Wisconsin and even went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  After the wet and late spring we’ve had, the roadsides are now in full bloom.  We were first treated to the white daisies and orange hawk weed that were abundant throughout the central part of Wisconsin.  Then as we reached the south shore of Lake Superior and continued to the north in Bayfield County, the lupine were in their prime.  I had seen photos of the wild lupine in the Bayfield area before, but they appeared to be in a large garden area.  I was not prepared for the plethora of blooms that were gracing the sides of the highways.  This photo was taken along the side of Highway 13 just north of Washburn.  With their blue, purple, pink, and white spikes they were a treat to the eyes and a reminder of how much we appreciate the colors of spring that replace the white of our winter season.