Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Into the woods on an autumn afternoon in southern Minnesota November 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I DOUBT I’VE EVER SEEN so many oak leaves layering the ground. Thick. Brown. Rustling underfoot.

As my husband and I hiked into Kaplan’s Woods in Owatonna on Sunday afternoon, I noticed the abundance of oaks that distinguishes this city park from other parks/nature centers I’ve visited.

There’s something about an oak that denotes history and strength.

Yet, the distraction of all those oak leaves crackling underfoot doesn’t detract from my ability to notice nature’s details.




Flash of yellow among mostly brown and grey.




Bare (or mostly bare) branches set against a signature cobalt blue November sky.




Fungi laddering up a tree trunk. Beautiful in an artistic, natural way. Like Nature’s sculpture.




And then an unnatural road block at the end of a muddied path. “A gated community,” Randy jokes. And we laugh. Together. In the woods, under the oaks.




In the dirt, initials carved with a stick, an “A” and maybe a “U.” Another Audrey? Probably not.

We turn around, our path blocked. I suggest we return to the main trail into the woods. We’re unfamiliar with this place and I have no intention of getting lost. Neither does Randy.




Leaves crunch beneath our shoes. But then I stop abruptly, swing my camera left toward a moss covered log, the golden light falling just right.

I fail to hear or notice the runner closing in behind us. I’m in the zone, focused on photographing a selected scene. Randy, however, is watchful. He warns me. We step aside and continue on, a biker now barreling toward us on his mountain bike.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “Into the woods on an autumn afternoon in southern Minnesota”

  1. I see “AY” maybe Ayn Rand was there… Or not! Lol

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh goody!! A woodland tour! I love Randy’s comment about a “gated community”. Ha ha

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    This Fall has been pretty amazing for fungus – lots of rain. I like how your referred to fungi as natures sculptures.

  4. Don Says:

    My heart is always kind of sad looking at bare branches, perhaps because it is the end of my favorite season autumn, or perhaps because of the melancholy feeling I get realizing that another year has passed by much too quickly, or perhaps I miss the color of the leaves green, red, yellow, etc. Everything takes on a drab look until the day when the s word (not your favorite) happens and the color white is everywhere once again perking up the visual senses. Winter brings plenty of heavy frost (horror frost) and the trees are covered with it making them look like a flocked Christmas tree.

    Your picture of the moss covered log is fantastic! It looks so soft and colorful with the way you captured the sunlight shining on it.

    “A gated community,” bwa ha ha good one Randy………………………….

  5. Jackie Says:

    Such a spectacular fall for getting out and enjoying nature! Love all the colors and the texture in the last photo

  6. Rather than scold you for coming to Owatonna and not stopping by to say “Hi”, I’ll let this post remind me to get over to Kaplans Woods for a hike while the weather’s still nice.

    • Oh, I was wondering when you were going to say, “Um, you and Randy should have stopped in to see me.” Next time we are in Owatonna, we will. Our visit to your city was not planned other than deciding minutes before we left the house that Owatonna would be our afternoon destination.

  7. Lovely hike!
    The crisp brown leaves have always reminded me of corn flakes! Haaa.
    I see an A. Y.

    xx from Duluth.

  8. Beautiful… I especially like the last photo

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