by Mike Nistler
Dozens of bicyclists saddled up Saturday to hit the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail to not only enjoy its beauty, but to bring awareness to the plight of one of the trail’s gems — the Minnesota State Flower.
The Pink and White Showy Lady Slipper, which grows in spots along the trail, including just a few miles west of Avon, was not in full bloom. But when it is, it’s spectacular, according to the event organizer Cliff Borgerding.
This was the second annual ride in honor of the state flower, and it was held in conjunction with Avon’s Spunktacular Days. The official start of the ride was in Avon.
“It was a beautiful day to be out on the Lake Wobegon Trail,” Borgerding said. “Finally, we had sunshine and clear skies. This spring has been a long time coming and we haven’t had many sunny days. Unfortunately that means the Lady Slippers are behind as well so we didn’t have any in bloom yet.”
The past two years have seen the extremes of Mother Nature. The first Lady Slippers were in bloom in late May 2012 and this year in mid-June not a single plant was in bloom, Borgerding said.
Nonetheless, the ride was a success, he said.
“We had a lot of folks who did the whole ride from Avon to the Lady Slippers west of town and then out to the arboretum at St. John’s to see the prairie and the Lean-on-Me stickworks sculpture as well. We do have a few kinks to work out to make the ride even better next year, but overall it went very well.”
Three local Minnesota master naturalists — Sara Groodrum, Phil Ringstrom and Mike Burzette — were along the trail as nature guides to help riders enjoy the experience and learn about the native plants and wildflowers.
Even though the Lady Slippers were not in bloom, “we did have marsh marigolds, wild geraniums, golden alexanders, red columbine and even a few prickly wild roses already in bloom on the trail,” Borgerding said.
“The late spring will compress the blooming window and we should see a burst of blooming flowers along the trail in the next week or two as the sun continues to warm the soil and give the plants some energy to send out blooms.”