Hours after the official first minute of spring in the northern hemisphere, I strapped on snowshoes at a trailhead in Governor Knowles State Forest near Granstburg, Wisconsin. My dog, Lola, and I set out looking for signs of winter’s demise. Such signs were hard to find, but solitude and snow were in good supply.
The 32,500-acre Governor Knowles State Forest stretches along the St. Croix for 55 miles, providing trails for hikers, horses, and other outdoor pursuits. Visitors have documented 300 species of songbirds in the forest. The State Natural Area I was exploring contains many large red and white pines, dating back to the 1890s. (But I saw how the big windstorm of July 1, 2011 also did damage here.)
The State Forest is named after one of the St. Croix River region’s many conservation leaders. Governor Warren P. Knowles led the state from 1965-1971, in addition to previous stints as state senator and lieutenant governor. Knowles was a Republican born in River Falls, Wisconsin (along the Kinnickinnic River) and lived in New Richmond (along the Willow River).
Knowles “never missed an opportunity to get out and enjoy Wisconsin’s magniﬁcent natural resources. He coupled this love for the outdoors with an unwavering commitment to conservation,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. While Governor, Knowles initiated efforts to reduce water pollution and expanded efforts to increase the acquisition of land for conservation purposes. He also founded the Governor’s Fishing Opener in 1968. Knowles died during a break from ﬁshing on opening day in 1993. Read more about Governor Knowles State Forest here.
I chose to record the walk with a few photos, a video, and haiku, the brief Japanese poems which are perfect for nature notes. They have traditionally celebrated the seasons, and stressed natural imagery.
Enjoy, and let me know if you see spring anywhere out there.
Walking untracked trails
The sun melts fresh-fallen snow
Halfway north again
Escarpment springs seep
Trickle down snowy ravines
To frozen river
Forest full of fallen pines
Breeze brushes blowdown
While taking a lunch break at the sunny trail shelter a couple miles from the parking lot, I played around with a new tripod and angles. It’s pretty quiet, but the gentle breeze is audible, rustling dry leaves and pine needles.