Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“A beautiful day in Faribault,” at River Bend October 5, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A grassy trail runs along the prairie at River Bend, leading to the woods.

TYPICALLY, I STICK to paved and grassy trails when hiking at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. I feel more secure on a firm surface, mostly free of hidden obstacles.

Following the river bottom trail into the woods.
Beautiful maples color the woods.
A view of the Straight River along a trail through River Bend Nature Center.

But, on a recent visit to River Bend, Randy and I followed a dirt trail down a steep hill to the Straight River. I felt apprehensive as we navigated, like mountain goats, down the limestone-pocked hill. He’s always willing to grab my hand, a reassuring act that makes me feel more confident. With two broken bones resulting from falls in my medical history, I hold a heightened awareness of keeping myself safe.

Sumac pop color into the autumn landscape.
Getting creative in the woods with a tipi style structure.
I found myself pausing often to look toward the treetops.

So, as we followed the dirt path covered with leaves and tripping tree roots, I watched my step more than my surroundings. And when you’re a photographer always alert to her environment, this is not ideal. I found myself stopping often to take in the woods and details therein. Randy is also great about alerting me to possible photo subjects. I deeply appreciate that about him, that he values my interest in photography.

Trails are sometimes well-marked, sometimes not.
I may get directionally lost, but I’ve never lost a shoe. I spotted this along a trail.
You don’t see many birch trees in the southern part of Minnesota, so I always delight in spotting one.

He also recognizes that my map-reading skills rate at about zero as does my sense of direction, unless I’m in my native southwestern Minnesota prairie of straight, gridded lines. I rely on him to know where we are going. And sometimes, I’ve found, he fakes that knowledge. That makes me uncomfortable. But we always emerge out of the woods, safe and sound.

Beautiful prairie wildflowers.
Prairie grasses and woods at River Bend.
Goldenrod add an autumnal hue to the landscape.

No visit to River Bend is complete without a walk through the prairie to take in the tall grasses and wildflowers defining that landscape. I need to see wide sky and open land, so much a part of me. Of my history as a daughter of the prairie.

Looking up to the treetops, I see such beauty.
Bold berries burst color on a tree outside the visitor center.
Any day at River Bend is a truly beautiful day as noted on this paver at a look-out patio above the Straight River. Thank you, A, B, C and D for this gift honoring your parents.

Yet, having lived in southeastern Minnesota for nearly 40 years, I’ve grown to appreciate the woods and hills and lakes, mostly absent from the landscape of my youth. Every place, every landscape, possesses a certain beauty, if only we stop in the busyness of life to recognize that. These days, especially, call for each of us to pause and reassess. To consider what we most value. And on my list of faith, family, friends and health, I also add nature.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

20 Responses to ““A beautiful day in Faribault,” at River Bend”

  1. Ruth Says:

    The colors of a Van Gogh painting. Your fall is father along than ours.

  2. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Thank you, so much! The closest I’ve been to the Straight River is the 3rd St. bridge, but I know the bluffs and surrounding areas, but not as far SE as River Bend. Is there a connection between the Center and the Straight River Trail I hear so much about? The south end of the trail looks quite a distance from the Center, actually your neighborhood. I wish our wind would calm down, leave the leaves! Time to work on the patio…..

    • Sandra, it’s good to hear from you. I don’t know if the Straight River Trail and River Bend connect. Remember, I’m not good a map-reading. And, yes that city trail runs near my home.

      I’m not happy either by all the leaves blowing off the trees today. Sigh.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    Great photos from Riverbend Nature Center…a lovely place!

  4. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    I really enjoyed this fall walk with you and Randy. My favorite photo is the landscape of the prairie grasses and the beautiful colored trees in the background — stunning simplicity. Just wonderful.

  5. River Bend Nature Center was my favorite place to walk and enjoy the beautiful change of scenery as the seasons change. Fall, of course, was my favorite
    season and you captured in pictures the essence of its beauty – thank you!

  6. Wow! What a beautiful day to hike! Love the photos and the way you captured the wonderful MN fall colors. Ahhhhh how much I miss them this year…

  7. Another lovely post with lovely pictures to enjoy of your Minnesota fall. You are making me like fall a little bit more with each post. 🙂


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