2021 Field Trips

Gathering Partners: A conference for friends of Minnesota's natural resources

In addition to full access to all our virtual sessions and activities, we are offering the option to join expert-led field trips along the North Shore. The safety of our participants and instructors is our top concern and due to Covid-19 safety protocols, participants will need to arrange their own transportation, food and lodging if choosing to attend field trips this year.

COVID-19 safety protocols

  • Field trip activities will take place entirely outdoors in small groups of 25 or fewer total.  Hand sanitizer and-or handwashing facilities will be available.
  • If you feel sick, please stay home; your field trip fee will be refunded in full. Take your temperature and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms before coming.
  • Pre-register yourself and any guests for field trips and provide your own transportation to the field trip meeting place.
  • Wear a face mask covering both mouth and nose whenever a six-foot distance cannot be maintained, even outdoors, for the entire program.
  • Bring any food or beverage you will need during the field trip.

We understand that mask wearing is not for everyone, and some participants may have received the COVID-19 vaccine.  Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate participants who do not wear masks regardless of the reason.

More information will be emailed to field trip registrants in early May with additional field trip logistics.

Field trip descriptions and travel times

Field trips are being held during three different time blocks, and multiple field trips will be held concurrently during the same time—please make sure you only select ONE field trip for each time block when you register.

Field trips will take place at multiple locations in and around the North Shore of Lake Superior. Driving time between sites varies from 50 minutes to 2 hours. If you choose to register for field trips in both Block B and Block C, please pay attention to the travel time between locations.

  • Wolf Ridge ELC to UMN Cloquet Forestry Center: 100 miles, estimated 2 hours drive time
  • Flood Bay State Wayside to Cloquet Forestry Center: 56 miles, estimated minimum 1 hour drive time
  • Flood Bay State Wayside to Wolf Ridge ELC: 43 miles, estimated drive time 50 minutes

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BLOCK A FIELD TRIPS - Friday, May 14, 1-4 p.m.

Botany of the North Shore (FULL)

From the rocky Lake Superior shoreline to upland hardwood forests and from acidic peatlands to inland cliff/talus systems, we will spend the day exploring an extreme variety of native plant communities of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province...and it will be all within a few miles of the conference center. Everything is fair game: we’ll learn about wildflowers, trees, mosses, ferns, lichens, and more, exchanging identification tips and tricks while comparing and contrasting the different ecosystems.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately strenuous

Speaker/host: Joe Walewski, Director of Naturalist Training, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

Discover the magic and mysteries of Sugarloaf Cove

Sugarloaf Cove is an SNA preserved for its geologic features and arctic disjuncts—probably one of the best places for exploring geology on the shore! There’s a beautiful natural cove with amazing rock diversity, unique cultural history, and a lovely one-mile hiking/snowshoe trail. Join us for an exploration of the cove which will include talking rocks, lava flow features, a short hike, and maybe a surprise or two featuring more of the wonders of Sugarloaf.

Location: Sugarloaf Scientific & Natural Area, 9096 Hwy 61, Schroeder, MN 5561

Activity level: Moderate to strenuous; uneven terrain, rocky cobble beach, stairs, but not for long distances.

Speaker/host: Margie Menzies; Education Program Director, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory; Naturalist, Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center


 

Early Season in the Sax-Zim Bog (FULL)

The Sax-Zim Bog Important Bird Area IBA) is a well-known destination in the winter months for those interested in birds. However, most of the biodiversity in the Bog (over 2400 species documented!) can only be seen during the spring and summer months. Join Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Head Naturalist Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus on a field trip looking for early season wildflowers, bog specialist butterflies and plants, and maybe some early arriving bird species!

This field trip will also take some time to learn a little more about the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog and the Sax-Zim Bog IBA.

Location: Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center, 8793 Owl Avenue, Toivola, MN 55765

Activity level: Fairly easy, with some walking along gravel roads or even surfaces. Potential for wet feet or muddy conditions.

Speaker/host: Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus; Head Naturalist, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog


 

Learn to protect the places you love! - CANCELLED

Whether you are new to Leave No Trace (LNT) or consider yourself a Leave No Trace expert, join the MN LNT State Advocate to learn Leave No Trace practices and principles while learning tips and techniques for protecting your favorite outdoor spaces. Topics to include: How to prepare for outdoor adventures and outings to minimize risk and impact; What to do when there is no bathroom, how and why trash and dog waste should be packed out; How to protect trees and vegetation in your campsite or picnic area, and the best ways to hike on and off trails; Why leaving your mark is overrated and how to avoid spreading invasive species; The best ways to interact with wildlife on trails, at camp or your local park. Special emphasis will be on ways YOU can use strategic communication techniques to help the public understand WHY these actions are necessary.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: A little bit active.

Speaker/host: Teri Fick; Leave No Trace Master Educator

BLOCK B FIELD TRIPS - Saturday, May 15, 9 a.m. - noon

Bird Populations: Exploring the Arrowhead's Importance as a Major Breeding Ground for Neotropical Migrants

Explore two ways to measure the health of breeding bird populations. Start the workshop at the Forest Ecology Building and then hike through various habitats to count singing birds. Learn about point count surveys. Experience how ornithologists collect more detailed information on bird populations via bird banding. See at least one bird up close and participate in identifying the species along with aging and sexing the bird. Expect under a mile of hiking on generally flat but uneven terrain that can have standing water in spots.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately Active

Speaker/host: Peter Harris; Science Project Coordinator, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

Botany of the North Shore

From the rocky Lake Superior shoreline to upland hardwood forests and from acidic peatlands to inland cliff/talus systems, we will spend the morning exploring a variety of native plant communities of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province...and it will be all within walking distance of the parking lot. Everything is fair game: we’ll learn about wildflowers, trees, mosses, ferns, lichens, and more, exchanging identification tips and tricks while comparing and contrasting the different ecosystems.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Active

Speaker/host: Joe Walewski; Director of Naturalist Training, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

Lake Superior: Born of Fire and Ice

Explore Flood Bay along Lake Superior's North Shore. We will learn about the geology of the region, the rocks underfoot, and hunt for that elusive Lake Superior agate. We will also learn about the water quality and health of Lake Superior. We will see one of the only wetlands found along the shore of the Big Lake.

Location: Flood Bay State Wayside, 144 MN State Highway 61, Two Harbors, MN 55616 (Google Map)

Activity level: Moderately strenuous, walking on a rocky beach.

Speaker/host: Barb Liukkonen


 

Learn to protect the places you love! - CANCELLED

Whether you are new to Leave No Trace (LNT) or consider yourself a Leave No Trace expert, join the MN LNT State Advocate to learn Leave No Trace practices and principles while learning tips and techniques for protecting your favorite outdoor spaces. Topics to include: How to prepare for outdoor adventures and outings to minimize risk and impact; What to do when there is no bathroom, how and why trash and dog waste should be packed out; How to protect trees and vegetation in your campsite or picnic area, and the best ways to hike on and off trails; Why leaving your mark is overrated and how to avoid spreading invasive species; The best ways to interact with wildlife on trails, at camp or your local park. Special emphasis will be on ways YOU can use strategic communication techniques to help the public understand WHY these actions are necessary.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: A little bit active.

Speaker/host: Teri Fick; Leave No Trace Master Educator


 

Northern Minnesota's Ojibwe Heritage

Spend the morning exploring the world of traditional Ojibwe Native American culture. The majority of the class will be spent at a simulated Ojibwe settlement from 1750, and will focus on the traditional skills and the seasonal lifestyle of the Ojibwe culture. Open fire cooking and traditional crafts will be a highlight. Exploration of native values and modern native stories will also be a focus.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately Active to Strenuous, depending on participant preference.

Speaker/host: David Butcher; Adventure Programs Coordinator, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

The Story of Cloquet's Camp 8 Forest

Tucked in the middle of the U's Cloquet Forestry Center, the Camp 8 stand tells a fascinating story of Minnesota's cultural and ecological history. Never harvested, Camp 8 is dominated by towering, 200+ year-old red pine trees. But like all forests, Camp 8 is changing. We'll discuss the human and ecological history of this stand, the role of fire, and efforts to understand and share the rich story of this site. Before coming, be sure to read the Camp 8 Story at http://z.umn.edu/camp8.

Location: Cloquet Forestry Center main parking lot, 175 University Road, Cloquet MN 55720

Activity level: Moderately strenuous. Total 2-mile walk over sand and gravel roads.

Speaker/host: Eli Sagor; Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension

BLOCK C FIELD TRIPS - Saturday, May 15, 1-4 p.m.

Connecting Air and Water Quality: Exploring the Interactions Between Lake Superior’s Airshed & Watershed

Put on water boots to measure the health of Sawmill Creek through collecting physical, biological, and chemical metrics of this beautiful stream. Explore how ambient air pollution affects this stream in particular and the greater Lake Superior Watershed. Visit the adjacent National Atmospheric Deposition Program monitoring site. This site has provided long-term data on deposition of “acid rain”, heavy metals and organochlorides falling into the Lake Superior Watershed. Learn how Lake Superior is a seasonal polluter of its airshed. Hike less than ? mile on trails. Exploring the stream can happen from the bank or by walking on the uneven rockbed of the stream. Water boots are provided.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately Active

Speaker/host: Peter Harris; Science Project Coordinator, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

On Being a Naturalist

There is so much to take in when exploring nature, it can be intimidating to begin a method of documenting what you notice. Nature journaling books imply you’ll need to be an accomplished artist. Identification to species of the rich diversity of insects, lichens, and all the rest almost seems impossible. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Let’s start the journey by learning to focus your awareness of the elements around you and practicing the art of noticing and recording meaningful details. Awaken your naturalist intelligence!

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately active

Speaker/host: Joe Walewski; Director of Naturalist Training, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

The Life of the Voyageur

Spend the afternoon taking a deeper look into the Northwoods' most iconic, legendary, and often misunderstood historical residents, the French-Canadian voyageur. We'll explore the facts, the myths, and tall-tales of these canoemen of the fur trade. Outdoor cooking and some traditional crafts will also be featured. Come prepared to learn some new things, and have some fun!

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road Finland, MN 55603

Activity Level: Moderately active; walking on a gravel path.

Speaker/host: David Butcher; Adventure Programs Coordinator, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


 

The Nature of Food: How Finland Farmers Are Cultivating a Healthy Soil Food Web

We’ll discuss and learn how cultivating the right conditions for healthy soil biology allows us to cultivate strong, adapted, pest and disease-resistant food-producing plants in a regenerative manner. In search of the soil superheroes, we’ll scratch the surface in hopes of digging deep into the world beneath our feet. Wear shoes that can get dirty. We’ll start our journey at Wolf Ridge Farm, focusing on annual food growing systems, and then move on to perennial systems at the North Shore AgroEcology Center.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately Active

Speaker/host: Sarah Mayer; Manager, Wolf Ridge Farm


 

The Story of Cloquet's Camp 8 Forest

Tucked in the middle of the U's Cloquet Forestry Center, the Camp 8 stand tells a fascinating story of Minnesota's cultural and ecological history. Never harvested, Camp 8 is dominated by towering, 200+ year-old red pine trees. But like all forests, Camp 8 is changing. We'll discuss the human and ecological history of this stand, the role of fire, and efforts to understand and share the rich story of this site. Before coming, be sure to read the Camp 8 Story at http://z.umn.edu/camp8.

Location: Cloquet Forestry Center main parking lot, 175 University Road, Cloquet MN 55720

Activity level: Moderately strenuous: Total 2-mile walk over sand and gravel roads

Speaker/host: Eli Sagor; Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension


 

Window on the Wild

Join Ryan Pennesi, nature photographer and visual storyteller, in uncovering wildlife mysteries using remote cameras. Ryan will share about wildlife professionals in the field and their monitoring and conservation efforts in the state -- relying heavily on game cameras as a critical tool for research. Following a short presentation, the class will hike to several locations on the Wolf Ridge ELC grounds to check active camera "trapping" sites. We will explore topics including wildlife tracking, habitat types, using topographic landscape features, and more to predict animal movements. The class may also get an opportunity to practice choosing a location and setting trail cameras with target species in mind.

Location: Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, MN 55603

Activity level: Moderately strenuous to strenuous

Speaker/host: Ryan Pennesi