I drove to Willow River recently. Up 107, over on 23 and up on 35 – the route I’ve traveled hundreds of times. This time, however, was my first in a couple weeks, and you know how appearances can change over time? Well, that not only applies to your old high school classmates! The outdoors undergoes incredible changes, and often in a very short time.
Not long ago, the ditches were full of huge snowbanks and drifts. They were massive accumulations of light flurries and heavy storms, impregnated by built-up layers of roadside dirt and man-made trash, and overlain here and there with the frozen bodies of deer that had unsuccessfully tried to get to the other side. Now, the snow is gone, and the carcasses and the trash remain, serving as ugly reminders to stay alert while driving and providing opportunities to reconsider our sloppiness.
Speaking of wildlife, I suppose that not many people actually count wildlife as they drive, but it’s pretty easy to do and, I believe, quite non-distracting as well. After all, you watch the road and occasionally scan the ditches. When you see an animal, you mentally add a mark in your imaginary ledger. I mean, it’s not like you’re craning your neck to peer behind every tree.
On my 50-mile trip, I counted five deer, one raccoon, three opossum, one gray squirrel and two unidentified lying objects. Understand that these were solely animals that lay along the roadside within easy visual contact. In other words, they were roadkill. Right now, roadkill numbers are high, and the gathering of two or three birds marks the locations.
Sure, I saw live animals, too. Plenty of them, in fact. Three deer were getting a drink from a creek just south of Banning Junction, and a redtail hawk sat high in a tree, keeping a keen eye out for movement in the dried grass below. A rabbit dashed in front of my car, luckily for it, with plenty of room to spare. Yes, the outdoors is full of furry and feathered wonders this time of year!
This time, right now, is actually one of my favorite outdoor times of the year. Before the leaves conceal the contour of the land and hide the life that lives behind them, one can watch the changes that come with spring. However, the period is short-lived.
So go. Go now! Take a hike along the many walking trails that will guide you through a city, county or state park. And bring your camera! You will almost certainly capture some images that few are lucky enough to see.
Take a look at your own backyard, too. The robins have been hopping on your slowing-greening grass for three weeks already. Your tulips and narcissus have shrugged off the recent (last?) snowfall and are continuing their climb through the leaves with which you had them covered. You are watching excitedly for the sudden moment of bloom. The squirrels are busy. Rabbits are checking out their territory, and finches have turned yellow right before your eyes!
Got a busy life? Of course you do, but before tackling all of spring’s chores, push PAUSE for a few minutes, and take a close look at what’s around you. I’d like to hear about what you see!
Loren Brabec is a contributing sports writer for the Isanti-Chisago County Star and author of several Braham sports books. Email him about your spring adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org.