By Greg Lecker
I drive to the sensory garden in the afternoon – rare timing for my regular visit. The garden grounds are full – many visitors of all ages, it seems. I seek a bit of solace within Grace Dayton Wildflower woodland; and overhead, I find High-bush Cranberry fruit ripened and leaves showing a bit of color.
Just south of the cranberry stand, I notice a woodland path leading uphill, marked by timbers. Meadow Lark Trail. Not having taken this path, let alone noticed this path, I decide to explore.
As I reach the woodland interior, sounds of happy visitors fall away. The sentiment voiced by a bench plaque rings true for me: “The ultimate gift is privacy”. The trail crosses a small stream where, below the bridge, I notice deer tracks in the mud. From here, the trail climbs one side of a small ravine. Walking out of the woodland atop this hill, I find myself within sight of the Harrison Sculpture Garden. I enter the woodland again and descend the hillside on the opposite side of the ravine. Looking across the ravine towards the Capen Display Garden, I notice gnarled tree roots and limbs that evoke the north woods. This secluded maple woods will be a fine place to view the coming autumn color.
Continuing on the short woodland trail, I find that it offers yet another trail alternative to Three Mile Drive. It connects the Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, Johanna Frerichs Garden for Wildlife, and Capen Display Garden. I cross a small bridge over the ravine – and head towards the prairie. In the Capen Display Garden. I notice Prairie Dock swarming with honey bees. Its flower stalk bends southward.
On my return walk towards the Sensory Garden parking lot, a visitor alerts me to a large amount of butterflies ahead on the edge of the roadway. I had heard that Monarchs have been making a small come-back; and my observations at the boulder-walled edge of the prairie seem to confirm that. I count six Monarchs on two stems of Blazing Star.
Blazing Star is among the butterfly’s favorite foods. Though scattered by my photography efforts the Monarchs return following my passing. Their fluttering wings form a blur of orange in front of distant blue gray pines.
My experience today demonstrates that a short visit can lead to multiple discoveries.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.