Sunday, May 14, 2017

It May Be Cool and Windy But Spring Progresses

Temps hovered in the upper 40's - low 50's today with a brisk wind off of Lake Superior. The skies were clear, and if you found a sheltered corner the sun's rays would quickly warm you up. The hillsides are rapidly turning that special shade of green only seen in early spring. Living in an area with a long, sometimes harsh, winter leads to a real appreciation of the renewal that is spring.

Today was the NMTC Spirit Mountain Run. Unlike most of the events in the series it is held on the road; starting at Spirit Mountain and traveling west on Skyline Boulevard (which is 75% gravel) to Becks Rd and back. Due to the popularity of the race a few years ago the start line was moved onto Spirit Mountain, below the Chalet (better parking options at the ski hill) and the race became a 10 miler. Skyline twists and turns as it traverses far western Duluth so there were times that we were running into a headwind both outbound and inbound! I believe this is one of the older continuously run races in the Duluth area. As I have my first ultra of 2017 coming up next Saturday I took it easy today, treating the race as a long, easy training run. It gave me a chance to visit with a couple of running friends who I don't get to chat with too often.

Later in the day I got back outside to do a bit of yard work (knocking the tops off the dandelions in our yard). I took a few breaks to photograph what is blooming in my yard:

Bleeding Heart
This magnolia tree was planted 10 years ago after being rescued from a dump pile at a nursery. It took quite a few years to get established but is now looking pretty happy and provides us with abundant, fragrant blossoms every spring.

Viola species
Viola species
A few years ago the white spotted violet showed up in our side yard. I take special care to avoid them when mowing and weed whipping until they are done blooming.

As I was working in the yard I noticed a ruby-throated hummingbird visiting the bleeding heart and daffodils in the upper garden. Other avian visitors today including Goldfinches, the resident flock of Chickadees, Robins and Cardinals (we have a nesting pair in the neighborhood, not that many years ago they were not a resident this far north, a sign of climate change?).

I also took the time to clear the old hop vines from the front porch and reset the fencing we use for it's trellis. This years hops are quickly growing, with some vines already over a foot tall.  By mid-summer they will be over 25 ft long and cover our entire front porch, providing a nice privacy screen.

This evening my knitting group met. It is comprised of folks that have almost all met via the NMTC runs so we dubbed it the Northern Minnesota Knit Club. Since we decided to meet at Blacklist Artisan Ales it is also called Beer & Stitch. The past couple of months I have taken a break from the Biohazard Socks to do some baby knitting. My most recent project is a sweater (EZ's Baby Sweater on Two Needles; Practically Seamless aka the February Sweater) for a co-worker who is expecting in June and tonight I finished it off by sewing on the buttons exactly one month after starting it at a previous NMKC meet-up.

I had started the sweater using just one strand of yarn but decided it wouldn't be large enough so combined it with another fingering weight yarn. The original yarn was High Prairie Fibers Prairie Spun Journey, a hand-dyed/self-striping yarn. I combined it with some Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift (Sholmit/Grey). The buttons were a great find at Yarn Harbor. A company called Incomparable Buttons. The blue on the birds is a perfect match for the blue in the sweater.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May in Minnesota

It's been another cool spring, but in the last couple of days the leaves have started to pop out on the trees and the spring ephemerals are blooming everywhere. It's hard to get too far down a trail, or road, without noting another species of plant. A variety of frogs can be heard singing whenever you pass a pond or low, wet area. Friends discovered a mass of frog eggs in a garden pond and were able to witness them hatch out into tadpoles. It's a lovely time of year to be out playing in the woods.

Today's run was short, only an hour and a half (tapering for the Spring 50K next Saturday).  It was a brisk morning with a bit of an east breeze but I quickly warmed up on the run from Enger Tower to the Highland & Getchell trailhead. There is a lot of climbing in this section! On one short ascent in the Piedmont area we were surrounded by a carpet of violets, mostly the purple variety with a few white ones sprinkled in. Marsh Marigolds are evident near almost every stream and ditch, always a cheerful sight.

After the run I met a friend to walk on Park Point. We took the nature trail from the end of the road, stopping to see if the tamarack were blooming. It took us awhile to find the flowers, but eventually we spotted one, and then another, and... well then it became obvious how many there were!

We spotted a lot of elderberry bushes with flower-heads just emerging as well as starflower (also just putting forth flowers) and a couple of trillium (most likely nodding). I remember seeing wintergreen in the pine forests in the past but was unable to locate it today. We also spotted a mystery plant, possibly a member of the bleeding heart (poppy) family?

After the walk I suited up and got the TW200 out for a ride. This is a fun little motorcycle and I have now ridden it enough to be getting a bit more comfortable with it's idiosyncrasies and how it handles. It is about 200 lbs lighter then my R65 and quite nimble. It is geared quite low so when riding on the streets I find myself quickly shifting up into 4th gear.

I headed up the hill to Skyline Boulevard and then west to the gravel section just past Magney-Snively Park. The road was recently opened and it looks like some more loose, chunky gravel was added. I figured that would be a good place to get more comfortable with how this bike handles.  I puttered along enjoying the views from the overlooks and cataloguing the wildflowers blooming along the road (large-flowered trillium, blood root, marsh marigold, and wood anemone). The woods are full of wild leeks (ramps) as well.

I stopped at the Bardon's Peak Overlook to take in the view and warm up my hands. Temps were in the high 50's today and that is a bit on the cool side for motorcycle riding for me even with a really nice pair of insulted riding gloves. I hung out taking in the views and warming my hands on the rock walls. Once circulation was restored it was time to finish my ride.

Bardon's Peak overlook
Sadly the weather looks to be turning cool and wet again so I brought the TW back to the airport to store it under cover.

All in all a pretty fun day. And topped off by a nice video chat with my daughter and grandson (now 11 months old, walking, very interested in books, things that spin, and a redhead like his mother).