Notes from the Trail

September 23, 2014 Comments Off on Notes from the Trail


noun: phe·nol·o·gy — the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

The changing of the seasons; it’s a big part of our lives in northern Minnesota. At Great Lakes Aquarium it factors significantly in what we do. Phenology helps us understand and teach about the resident animals in our care and the migratory patterns of animals in our region. It is also integrated, season to season, in the educational programs we offer, encouraging exploration and fostering a greater understanding of our natural world.

There is no better season to witness phenology here, in my opinion, than this one. Autumn in Minnesota offers a spectacular show which arrives seemingly overnight in a silent explosion of color. It’s Mother Nature shouting at our eyes, “Be here now!”

There are 176 miles of wooded trails in and around the city of Duluth, according to Outside Magazine. (Side note: In case you slept through the summer and hadn’t heard, Duluth was named Best Town Ever by that publication for 2014.)

My personal favorite is the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).  The nearly 300 mile footpath originates in Jay Cooke State Park, following the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior’s North Shore to the Canadian border.  A stunning 43 miles of the SHT cuts through Duluth and is easily accessible from a number of entry points.

Today, the first full day of autumn, I picked up the trail at Spirit Mountain.  The hike offers dramatic vistas of the St. Louis River and is relatively tranquil (I had just a few brief encounters with students on field trips).

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Duluth is between 25 to 50% of the way to peak color as of today.

My personal report from the trail:  there’s still plenty of green mixed with shades of orange and an abundance of wild mushrooms to spot and attempt to identify (beware, many varieties are poisonous or toxic).  Colors will likely peak in the next 7 to 10 days.

So, get out there.  Explore.

The rewards are awaiting.