Monday, June 27, 2016

Thank you Minneapolis Park and Rec

I just have to say a big thank you to Minneapolis Park and Rec.  Sunday morning I was working on my "adopt a river" mile and noticed this new trash barrel.  I was going to take a photo, but there was a homeless man sleeping on the bench so I had to come back after he had left it.  This is the bench that I wrote about in my blog last December the 15th.  This is the bench with the nice overlook of the river at the mouth of Bassett Creek. It's also a good spot to hide and have a drink or two and a nap and it's also the place where a lot of folks pitch their trash down the hill.   When I first started picking up trash last spring, I came across a couple of guys on this bench and my first thought was I just better get out of there.  One of the guys turned around and looked at me.  A native american guy, he was definitely drinking, but when I looked at his eyes I thought this man is really ill.  Unexpectedly, he just said "thank you so much for cleaning up".  Recently I met a guy here who started up a conversation with me. He thanked me for picking up trash and said "Don't think that what you are doing goes unnoticed".  And then he asked me if I knew why people leave their trash here.  I knew what he thought was the answer and so I said "yes, it's because there is no trash barrel here".  He agreed.  He also told me that people like to drink here because they want to hide from the police and not be hassled.  I noticed he had his backpack chained and locked to his waist.  I wondered if he was homeless.  He said many of the homeless guys are chronic alcoholics and are just looking for a place to hide away from people who might take advantage of them.  This path isn't as isolated as that guy thinks.  I see all sorts of people here, dog walkers, grandma with the grand kids, runners, and park and rec police patrolling on bikes. The barrel will help I think.  It was half full of trash already when I walked by the second time that morning.  So thank you Park and Rec.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

Last Wednesday I participated in the 25th annual Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup.  The cleanup is the combined effort of the DNR, the Conservation Corp of Minnesota and Iowa, and the Johnathan Paddleford Boat Company.  I had been on one of the Paddleford boats before for sightseeing but never for the purpose of trash picking.  With water bottles, gloves, and trash bags in hand, we boarded the boat by 8:30 am and set off on our adventure.

Normally, the Paddleford would head to the scenic stretch of river between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Today we were going south to the business end of the river.

I had no idea where we were going or how far when I signed up for this adventure.  We passed the small downtown airport and kept going past more and more barge traffic.

We cruised downstream for about 7 miles to South St. Paul.  We stopped just before we got to the Highway 494 bridge and our boat pulled over onto shore.

The 100 or so of us on board were divided up into six work groups.  The first three groups had come prepared with rubber boots and bug spray and were sent off into the swampy areas by the riverboat.  The upside for those folks is that it was shady and easier over there.  If I could have found a pair of cheap thrift store boots, I would have signed up for that group.  The other three groups were shuttled over by smaller DNR boats to the other side of the river.

There we are (friends and family) working the more difficult side of the river.  No shade, rocky, endless bits of Styrofoam everywhere.  I signed up for it. Backbreaking work.  Saved by a solid pair of hiking boots. Working the thigh muscles!

Also, all the snakes were on our side.  But in fairness, the other folks probably had to pull a few ticks off when they got home.

A pontoon picked us up to bring us back to the Paddleford for lunch.  I could have used a beer at this point. I'm not complaining.  The lemonade was cold and refreshing, but I'm just saying I would have paid for that beer. Lunch was provided and we all looked pretty ragged by that point.  The captain awarded prizes for various litter that folks brought back to the boat.  I should have brought back the hypodermic needle I found. I'm sure I could have won the prize for the most hazardous item found.  The prize for the oldest item found went to someone who found a set of kid's antique train cars.

I got an email this morning from the event coordinator thanking me for my participation.  This is what 3.7 tons of trash looks like.  Next year I may try the swampy side of the river.  I guess I better start looking for those rubber boots.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wildflower Walk

Wild Geranium
I was in Stillwater for the Memorial Day weekend and so had the opportunity to hike the Brown's Creek Trail.  Saturday I went with a DNR Naturalist on a wildflower walk.  We were a fairly small group, but even so we didn't walk very far because there were so many plants to identify along the trail.  The rain didn't help either but it kept the bicyclists to a minimum so that part was great.

White Campion
There were some plants that I know I will remember because they look so odd.  I have started seeing this one everywhere.

Poison Ivy
There are some plants you don't notice but you should!  If there's three let it be.  The thing about the Poison Ivy plant is that the middle stem is longer and the leaves are not symmetrical.  This plant is all along the trail. We don't have Poison Oak in Minnesota so we don't have to worry about that one.

If you got into some Poison Ivy, wash your skin with cold water and then take the leaves and the juice from the stems of the Jewelweed to treat the rash. And good luck because I don't know if that actually works. Little droplets of water that look like jewels shine on the waxy leaves after a rain, thus giving it its name.

Leafy Spurge
Some plants are actually on the noxious weed list and can be pulled.  I think these little yellow flowers are interesting looking though.

Bittersweet Nightshade
Some plants will make you sick if you eat the berries or any part of the plant.  Good to know.

You could make a mattress out of this plant and I guess people did that once upon a time.

Fake Solomon's Seal
This plant was all over the trail too.  Up close the blooms have tons of little star shaped flowers.

Real Solomon's Seal
There's the Real Solomon's Seal hiding only to be found by the expert!  I prefer the Fake Solomon's Seal.

Blood Root

Here's an odd shaped little plant with just the one leaf.  I would not have noticed it.  The flower which only blooms for a day or two is long gone.  It could have bloomed as early as March.  The juice from the stems can be used to make natural red and orange dyes.

Our group only got about a half mile up the trail and so I went out the following day to the 2 mile marker.  There is plenty of Colombine along the trail  I don't know why, but I get this flower confused with the state flower, the Lady Slipper, which is nearly impossible to find and looks like a little orchid.

Yellow Goat's Beard
I spotted these along the trail too. Up close, the flower is very distinctive with little green spikes that shoot out from the underside of the yellow petals.

Spittlebug Nymphs were making their frothy hiding spots in some of the plants.

We looked at a variety of other plants over the course of the weekend; Fleabane, Jack in the Pulpit, Sweet Cicely, Burdock, Curly Dock, Creeping Charlie, Mint, Phlox, Alyssum, and  a variety of Mustard Weeds.  I want to be able to identify plants as I take my walks but I wonder just how much information I can retain in my head. The Minnesota wildflowers website is a good place to help identify what you see out there on the trails.  There are about 400 varieties of white wildflowers listed on their site so it could take me a while to identify this one.