No, not the hockey team this time; the wilds, wilderness, great outdoors. Okay, it wasn’t wild like, say, the wilds of Alaska, but it was out of the city.
We set out this morning to drive to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge north of Zimmerman, MN. We left about 9:45 AM and decided to take the direct route – through the city of Minneapolis, at least the highway that passes through it. We were astounded at the light traffic at that time of day. No city we know in the Northeast would be that pleasant to drive through – well, at any time of day. What a surprise.
Along the way, I got the urge for a cup of coffee – with caffeine, I was feeling “wild” myself. Since there are no Dunkin’ Donuts in Minnesota, we hunted for a second choice, fearing that I’d end up at Starbucks. Instead we found a more local chain – Caribou Coffee. It was a delightful atmosphere, rather rustic with a few tables, a sofa and comfy chairs and singles tables for WIFI users. The coffee choices were plentiful but in English and easy to decipher. My Northern Lites Latte (made with skim milk) was delicious and my husband, who hates coffee, really enjoyed his white chocolate hot chocolate. We each had a muffin as well – they were rich and decadent, not exactly on the weight loss program, but … okay, my bad, but they were good!
We had to take County roads to get to the Refuge. These roads have numbers but no names. My husband, with his incredible memory for numbers, had memorized them so he didn’t need the map either to get there or get back another way.
The Refuge itself is huge and we were heading for the Prairie’s Edge Wildlife Drive. It is a 7.3 mile auto tour route that features 3 wildlife observation decks, the quarter-mile Oak Savanna Trail, the half-mile Prairie Trail and the half-mile Woodland Trail. The Trails are walking trails along the driving route. I am proud to say that I walked all three (had to make up for that muffin somehow!) It was a partly sunny day in the upper 40’s to low 50’s, occasionally breezy but overall a great day for this type of excursion.
During our walks and drive we saw Canadian geese, Juncos, Northern Harrier (hawk), Mallard ducks, a large beaver lodge (no visible beavers), and American Coots. We also saw several Bald Eagles – one perched in a tree, preening, with it’s great wings pulled around it like a cape; one perched atop a dead tree turning from side to side to try to locate lunch; one soaring above us, gliding on those wind currents that kept us chilled.
We spent over three hours at the Wildlife Refuge – waiting, watching and enjoying. Since it was a weekday late morning into afternoon in the fall, there were only 7-8 other cars that passed by the whole time. When we got out and stood still, you could hear the quietness. An occasional bird call was the only thing that penetrated the stillness and the rustling of the leaves when the wind would blow.
On the way back, we stopped at Perkins Restaurant for supper in Cambridge, MN. It was a nice, relaxing meal to go with the relaxing day. The staff was pleasant and efficient, the food was simple but tasty with proper portion sizes. I had an eclair for dessert – I know, I undid the good I did with walking, I admit it. But it was the first eclair I’ve had in maybe 10 years. I won’t make a habit of it.
We got back early enough for both of us to have shower time and computer time without having to do “rock, paper, scissors” to see who got what first. Now it time to relax and hope to sleep well again tonight. Tomorrow another great adventure looms – lighthouses in Minnesota.