Guest Column: Adventures while walking in Albert Lea
Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens
Walking outdoors in the Albert Lea area for about three miles each day seems to be safe and fit both my body and my schedule.
I usually prefer a mid-morning time for a circle of a couple of miles to view Fountain Lake, and then turn left toward Dane Bay Bridge. But I always pause to watch and hear the churning of all three dredgers dutifully cleaning silt and sludge from the bottom of our lakes. I almost always smile, too, when seeing what I think are seagulls carefully perched in a straight white row on the huge curved pipe attached to one of the dredges for depositing the unwanted collection from Fountain Lake.
When I arrive atop the wooden bridge overlooking the much smaller lake, I especially enjoy daily searching for the unusual birds among the dozen or so geese and ducks gathered together with their families. Usually I find a larger more stately-looking blue heron or a white egret, but I’ve never spotted more than one of either of them at one time. They have an elegant essence about them that I really enjoy watching when I sit on the wooden bench near the edge of the pond, where I can also see the boat entrance to Fountain Lake. Then it’s time to take a sip of water and perhaps watch the butterflies floating among the various heights of milkweed plants they like to linger around so much.
The ducks hang out on the edge of the muddy oblong island, whereas the geese gather under a fairly large oak tree near the sidewalk I take for my departure route. As I leave, I also enjoy the colorful blue and purple shaded dragon flies flitting among the white and yellow and golden pond-side flowers.
This two-mile walk usually lasts an hour, but then I’ll decide to drive out east of town to Blazing Star Trail, most often in the afternoon after lunch and a short nap, for a mile-plus paved oblong pathway. This route reveals many more wild flowers, birds chirping and nature’s noises than my morning route.
In the springtime, I really delight in passing the midway water pathway that slowly flows into Albert Lea Lake, because this creek is full of croaking frogs that they say are only heard at that time of the season. It is such fun to actually see and hear dozens of them, now silent, calling in the stream.
On one occasion about that same time and at the same algae covered-location, I spotted a large mother turtle on a hefty log with her baby turtle nestled right next to her. This year I’ve never noticed any turtles, but I do recall several years ago, to my great delight, seeing a female turtle laying her eggs along the curve as I came around the end of the oval trail. And recently I’ve also seen a long, slithering snake on the pathway’s edge.
When it’s time for a rest, there are several strategically placed benches for walkers to sit, have a drink of water from their water bottle or perhaps just gaze out at the numerous white pelicans floating on or flying above the lake. However, now in later summer, there has been only one or none at all as compared to a dozen or so earlier, but today there were five in their flock. As I continued my stroll, I passed a young man with what looked like a miniature tennis racket, but then he told me, interestingly enough, it was electrified to shock the flies and bugs to their death, which was a shock to me!
As I walk the last part of the pathway, I so enjoy seeing the orange and brown butterflies, especially in the mowed pathways through the flowers.
One of my favorite recent events on this pathway was to spot an inch-long vanilla-colored butterfly in perfect condition as I neared the end of the trail, but I wasn’t certain if it was alive. I decided to take it with me to show to a friend, so I carefully held its two wings between my thumb and forefinger and as I looked down I notice a gray mouse with its paws pointed up in the air. On closer inspection, I could tell it was dead, but its body looked to be in perfect condition. I found an appropriate container from garbage another walker had tossed on the trail and fit both my finds into it, sliding the transparent top over the two creatures.
Shortly, a few blocks away, I had a story to tell two friends with evidence of a gift to go along with the tale, which gave them a bit of laughter.
I’ve been using this trail for years almost daily and shared with my friends that practically every creature I’ve encountered on the trail has been alive and wiggling.
If you’ve never ventured around the Blazing Star Trail, give yourself a stress-releasing treat. Our community is so fortunate to have such a variety of nature’s selections.
It is used by many with their feet or on buggies or bicycles, in families or solo, including people from outside Freeborn County and even from foreign countries, for any length of walk.
Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.