Summertime Clouds in Minnesota

Cumulous / Cumulonimbus clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds are tall clouds associated with thunderstorms. Sometimes they form from smaller fluffy cumulous clouds, as seen in this You-Tube video. I believe the picture above shows clouds in the transition from cumulous to cumulonimbus.

Cirrus clouds

Cirrus clouds are comprised of ice crystals at high altitudes. They are found anywhere between 13,000 to 66,000 feet above sea level.

Stratocumulus clouds

Stratocumulus clouds are quite common, they occur as clumps of low-level clouds, usually below 6600 feet.

Stratus clouds

Stratus clouds are low-level featureless hazy layers of clouds. They are essentially above-ground fog.

A foggy morning on the lake.

Destroying Angel? Death Cap?

Recently I found this mushroom at the edge of our yard. I was surprised to learn from mushroom ID apps that it is likely either the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) or the North American Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera). As you can probably tell from these names, both of these mushrooms are deadly poisonous.

Mushroom in the Amanita genus, likely poisonous

The Amanita genus of mushrooms includes the most dangerously toxic mushrooms in the world, as well as some desirable edible mushrooms. It is estimated that Amanitas are responsible for 95% of mushroom poisoning fatalities worldwide.

Several edible mushrooms do not look too different from these poisonous amanitas. Such misidentifications can lead to tragedies. Mushroom poisonings are not common, but they have happened in Minnesota, including one case in 1989 in nearby Brainerd MN.

Poisoning by these mushrooms is insidious. The first symptoms, including gastric distress and headache, commonly wane after 24 hours. However, while the victim temporarily feels better, the toxins of these mushrooms attack the liver and kidneys. Even with modern medical care, the fatality rate of poisoning from the Death Cap is about 20%.

Paul Bunyan Trail in mid-August

The Paul Bunyan Trail is a paved recreational trail in northern Minnesota that runs 120 miles from Brainerd to Bemidji. It is an ideal route for biking and running in the summer and for snowmobiles in the winter. The photos below are from a recent bike ride in the middle of the trail, between Hackensack and Pine River.

This beautiful White Pine is along the trail not far south of Hackensack.

White trunks with peeling bark make Paper Bark Birch easy to identify.

These Tamarack trees will stand out in October. They are unusual conifers with needles that change to bright yellow in the fall.

A drift of Bee Balm (Wild Bergamot) alongside the trail just south of Backus.

Nobletts Trail in Uinta National Forest, Utah

The Uintas Mountains of NE Utah are seen in the display above captured from Google Earth.
The Nobletts Trailhead is marked on the display.

The Uintas Mountains are an east-west trending sub-range of the Rocky Mountains that contain the highest mountain in Utah, Kings Peak (elevation 13,528′). Nobletts is an easy hiking trail on the western flank of the Uintas, its trailhead is about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City.

The trail follows Nobletts creek for about 2 miles with a moderate gain in elevation of 275′. The creek cascades down rocks that appear to be mainly limestone. A geologic map provided in the UtahGeology website indicates that this limestone is of Mississippian age, ~350 million years old.

Conifers along the trail are predominantly Douglas Fir and Subalpine Fir

Close-up of Subalpine Fir

Several varieties of wildflowers were blooming along the trail in early July

Colorado Blue Columbine

Richardson’s Geranium

Minnesota Nice Weather

North-central Minnesota has been blessed with good weather recently. Unlike the arid conditions in 2021, late spring and early summer of 2022 has brought sufficient rain, interspersed with temperate sunny days.

Overcast skies have provided enough rain for the lake to be several inches higher than last year.

Today a small storm skirted by the northeast side of the lake.

Stormy weather is commonly followed by beautiful sunsets

Native Flowering Shrubs

From late May through mid-June, we have noticed a succession of native shrubs blooming in north-central Minnesota. Each of them has similar small white flowers, and seemingly take turns blooming one after another. Serviceberry was first, in late May. It was followed by Red-osier Dogwood, then Viburnum in mid-June.

Serviceberry

Red-osier dogwood

Viburnum

Two species of viburnum are growing close to each other in the woods lining our yard. Their flowers seem nearly identical. The leaves of the Downy Arrow-wood are smaller and have coarsely jagged edges, while the leaves of the Nannyberry are larger with finely toothed edges. Leaves of Nannyberry also have a shinier waxy surface.

Downy Arrow-wood (Viburnum rafinesquianum)

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

Quaking Aspen and Paper Birch

Quaking Aspen and Paper Birch are both fast-growing trees common in Northern Minnesota. While they are similar in some respects, they actually belong to different plant families.

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) belongs to the birch family, Betulaceae.

Paper birch is distinguished by its white bark that readily peels off of the tree. The leaves of paper birch are oval with irregularly toothed edges

Photos below show paper birches earlier this spring.

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) are in the willow family, Salicaceae.

The bark of young quaking aspen trees is also white, but it does not easily peek off and the bark turns darker as the tree ages. Leafs of quaking aspen are more circular than birch leaves, with less pronounced teeth along their edges.

In late May this year quaking aspens in our area produced a prodigious number of cottony seeds that filled the air, much more than in the last few years. Photos below show the aspen cotton accumulating along the edges of the Paul Bunyan biking trail and show the catkins that release these seeds.

The amount of aspen seed cotton this year was truly remarkable, particularly since aspens reproduce much more effectively from shoots arising along its long lateral roots. Very few aspen seeds survive to produce new trees.

Tammany Trace

The Tammany Trace is a paved running/biking/skating trail that runs 31 miles through St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. The Trace was created by the parish in 1992 from an abandoned corridor of the Illinois Central Railroad, as part of the nation-wide Rails-to-Trails program.

The Trace has been tremendously beneficial to me over the past 25 years, and this post is to share some of my favorite photos of it.

Starting near the southeast end of the Trace, this bridge spans Bayou Lacombe.

This pond with water lilies is just east of the intersection of the Trace and Johns Road.

Between Johns and Bremerman Roads huge displays of blooming Cherokee Roses are seen in early April.

This bridge spans Cane’s Bayou, which is a popular waterway for kayaking.

Occasionally alligators can be seen in bayous crossed by the Trace. This one was spotted from the bridge over Bayou Castine, near Mandeville.

In May there are several places along the Trace where irises bloom. These are just north of the underpass where the Trace crosses Florida Street in Mandeville.

Further north the Trace runs through Abita Springs, Louisiana, home of Abita Brewing. Their brewpub is right along the Trace, and their brewery is just a bit further west, a few blocks to the north of the Trace.

Another bridge, this one crossing the Bogue Falaya River, on the eastern side of Covington, Louisiana.

A trailhead in Covington is where the Trace reaches its northwest end. Sadly, the Covington Brewhouse, shown in the picture above, is no longer in business.