Wandering along the River on a Wintry First Day of Spring

Three poems, four photos, one video, and a bit of St. Croix River conservation history to mark the vernal equinox.




3 minute read

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.

St. Croix Springtime Spring Creek
St. Croix Springtime Spring Creek (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Walking untracked trails
The sun melts fresh-fallen snow
Halfway north again

Trickling tributary
Trickling tributary (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Escarpment springs seep
Trickle down snowy ravines
To frozen river

Red pines reaching
Red pines reaching (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Windstorm evidence
Forest full of fallen pines
Breeze brushes blowdown

Four-legged freedom
Four-legged freedom (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)


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.


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One response to “Wandering along the River on a Wintry First Day of Spring”

  1. Willy53 Avatar

    The July storm to which you refer was incredibly destructive. It was especially bad for the taller, older trees and left so much downed timber. Many of the old beautiful White pines that made HW 35 so majestic as it wound through the St. Croix and it’s near by tributaries like the Clam and Yellow are now gone and the parks will never be what they were in our lifetime. The same process has been at work in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan for the last ten years. It’s almost like the region has received a haircut as large trees, many over 300 years old, have been disappearing at an alarming rate due to uncharacteristicly violent thunderstorms, tornadoes and straight line winds. Wisconsin has even become sort of another “tornado alley”. These events have been destructive and in my opinion are an aberation on this scale.


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Wandering along the River on a Wintry First Day of Spring