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I wanted to see a moose

Saturday, 13 July 2013

There aren’t any around here, so yesterday Emma and I went on a road trip to look for some.

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As you can see, we headed way north in Minnesota on our quest.  It turned out to be a long day for us which included a little over 300 miles of driving.  It took us about three hours to get there because of the distance and a detour that just added extra time and quite a few miles.  I stopped at the small visitors center first to get the low down on where to look for a moose.  Of course, between the long drive and delays, it was almost high noon when we got there.  Not exactly prime time for seeing wildlife.

Never the less, the staff was enthusiastic about my visit (I had told them I was volunteering at Tamarac), and gave me the ‘keys to the kingdom’.  It’s not like I’m special or anything, anyone can ask for these keys, and after filling out a couple of forms you can be on your way to explore this National Wildlife Refuge.

_MG_9120The first thing I wanted to attempt was to climb this tower to the top.  One of the keys lets you into this.  There are 133 very steep steps to get to the top. _MG_9123

I was wondering if my new hip was up for this since stairs have been my biggest challenge.  The ladies in the visitors center gave me their cell phone number and assured me that they would send some handsome, strapping, muscular young men to rescue me and carry me down should I need it.  Open-mouthed smile  Now I ask you, wouldn’t you accept that challenge ladies?  I haven’t had a handsome, strapping, muscular young man carry me in longer than I can remember!

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The views from way up there were spectacular, and gave me a true feeling for this refuge.  Nothing like a bird’s eye view of this aspen/parkland transitional zone between the coniferous forest, tall grass prairie and the prairie pothole region of the country.  The wind was blowing about 40 mph up there.  It gave me a thrill to be up at eye level with some soaring white pelicans.  Reluctantly I made my way down those steep stairs, and never did have to call for help.  I do have to say, though, that my right thigh was a little Jello-like by the time I finished.

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This was my favorite view from the top that shows the visitors center and the road I would be on for part of the wildlife drive.

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The four mile self-guided wildlife drive has signage and several stops along the way.  At some of the stops you can turn your radio on for detailed information about the habitat and its residents.  I found those little talks very interesting and informative. 

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It’s along this drive that you’ll probably encounter these cattle.  Since the temps had risen to the upper 80’s by this time, the cows were all huddled together to help combat the biting flies.  Seems there’s safety in numbers from those nasty insects.  If you stand close enough, the flies can’t bite your sides.  Local cattlemen are allowed to put these cattle on the refuge to help keep down the brushy growth and invasive species from overtaking the wetlands since there are no longer any elk or bison around that did this in historic times.

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After the wildlife drive, I used the other key I was given to take a drive down the Thief River Road.  This road is part of the refuge’s Enhanced Access Program for visitors.  There are several back roads you can take after picking up a key.  No more than two vehicles are allowed access at any time, so your chances of seeing wildlife greatly improve because of the limited traffic.

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The nice thing about wildflowers and grasses is they don’t hide during the heat of the day.  I did see a bald eagle, some ducks, a snipe, and yellow-headed blackbirds, but no deer, otters, or moose.  I’m thinking I might just plan an overnight trip to the area towards the end of September so I have a chance of seeing moose during their rutting season.  That way I could be at this refuge at a better time of day for optimal viewing.  If you are ever up in this neck of the woods of Minnesota, Agassiz NWR is worth a visit.

Only one cow swinging to a different beat in this bovine ballet!                                                                                THE END!!

                                  Only one cow swinging to a different beat in this bovine ballet!  Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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