Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter photography along the Cannon River January 10, 2023

Randy follows the winding trail along the Cannon River through North Alexander Park in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

ON THE FIRST DAY of the new year, before Minnesota’s first big winter storm of 2023, Randy and I followed the paved trail along the Cannon River in North Alexander Park. It’s one of my favorite walking paths, if the wind isn’t blowing biting cold off the frozen river.

I appreciate that the City of Faribault keeps the trail free of snow and ice. That’s always a concern for me. I don’t want to risk falling and breaking a bone.

On this first afternoon in January, I pulled my Canon EOS 60D from the camera bag with hopes of getting some interesting shots. Photographing in winter always proves challenging in a landscape mostly devoid of color. But on this day, blue skies accented with puffs of white clouds provided a backdrop contrast.

Dried milkweed pods rise from the riverbank. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Still, finding scenes to photograph takes effort and an eye for detail. I zoomed in on dried weeds along the shoreline, where the riverbank is nearly indistinguishable from the snow-layered Cannon.

Person-made sculpture or random chunk of icy snow? (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

And then I noticed, on a riverside picnic table, an icy sculpture. It appeared intentionally placed there, although it could have been thrown onto the tabletop by a snowblower and simply have been a chunk of snow that happened to resemble an animal. Whatever, I found the art interesting, worthy of my pause.

Oak leaves cling to branches. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Pausing seems a necessity of January photography in Minnesota. I stopped to study trees, noting stubborn oak leaves clinging to branches as if defying winter.

Treetops against a textured sky. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

I saw, too, how barren branches curve in graceful bends unseen in the fullness of other seasons. Trees possess a certain sculptural beauty when posed in winter nakedness.

I’ve always loved this “BLANKETS” ghost sign on the Faribault Mill. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Across the river, the iconic 1892 Faribault Mill (formerly the Faribault Woolen Mill; it recently acquired a cotton mill in Maine) stands as a symbol of endurance and history. Inside the mill, craftspeople create quality woolen blankets and more that are acclaimed world-wide. I never tire of focusing on this local landmark which merges with the Cannon.

Walking the dogs before the Vikings-Packers game. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

My walk with Randy, who was well ahead of me given all my photographic lagging, proved a much-needed break to stretch my muscles, to breathe in the crisp air of January. As we aimed back toward the van, my fingers numbing from the cold exposure, we met a Green Bay Packers fan walking his dogs. His green and gold attire tipped me to his football allegiance. I greeted him, but, with head phones clamped on, he didn’t reply. Maybe that was for the best given the Packers 41-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings hours later.

The snow-chunked river bank meets frozen Cannon River meets Faribault Mill in the distance. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

I missed the game kick-off, not that I care given my general lack of interest in football. But occasionally I pause to take in the scene, to see the fans in their Vikings attire, to listen to their rising SKOL chant, to appreciate the details, just as I do with my Canon along the Cannon.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling