sunshine on snow

St. Paul's Priory Neighborhood Preserve

A refuge for wildlife and a refuge for a seeker of solitude. That is what I found here. The trails are natural and not maintained in winter which means that if you are the first to enter after a snowfall, it is up to you to blaze the trail. I love that. I entered where the map said there was an entrance. I felt like I might be doing something against the rules, tromping through snow up to the tops of my boots. I trusted my sense of direction, found a deer trail, and followed it until I found a bridge and the tracks of other humans. The rest of the time I was on trails covered with hard packed snow and the walking was easier. The other two entrances to this nature preserve had more defined tracks. I was never more than 300 meters from houses, businesses, and busy roads, but it felt like being far from the city. I saw evidence of a large carnivore, possibly a wolf or a coyote? It was feces with big chunks of fur. This is not unheard of in Minnesota, but unusual in a large city. There is lovely variety of scenery here: forest, wetland, open grassland, hills. I had a rare unscheduled day with mild weather so I stayed a long time. There were a couple other people walking dogs, but otherwise I had the place to myself.

map of St. Paul Priory Neighborhood Preserve
You can read more about how this land came to be an open space preserve here. This map is part of a brochure for the interpretive trail developed by volunteers. Thank you volunteers!
screenshot of gps track of walk through St. Paul Priory Neighborhood Preserve
My starting point was the Benedictine Center, where I have a painting on display and I enjoyed a personal retreat. The Larpenteur entrance to the preserve did not look like a park entrance so I went around to Idaho Avenue. I did my best to stay on the trail, but if you compare my route to the map above it, you will see that I made some mistakes happy accidents.
sun shining on snow on a tree that has fallen across a trail
The beauty of sunlight on snow is always amazing to me. I did not mind the obstacles in my path.
footprints in deep snow
Deep snow at the beginning of my journey into nature.
deer tracks in the snow
The deer know the best routes.
bridge over a small stream in winter. footprints in the snow.
When I saw this bridge and the tracks of other humans, I knew I was on the correct trail.
snow from multiple snowfalls on a log partially melted
Snowy day, sunny day, snowy day, sunny day. Looks like about four different snowfalls are in evidence here.
Entrance to St. Paul Priory Neighborhood Preserve from Montana avenue.
Next time I plan to enter the Preserve here on Montana Avenue. It looks like this is where most people enter.
a very old, very large tree, mostly dead. winter.
This photo does not do this tree justice. The passage of time is what struck me. It is so massive. It must have seen many winters. It was there through many changes.
winter in an open natural area. dead plant against the evening sky and trees in the background
The clouds took over the sky by the end of my walk. This open field of wildflowers and raspberry plants is close to Larpenteur Avenue. Calm solitude so close to one of the city’s busiest streets.

Being in nature is what give me energy and makes me feel refreshed. My art is an expression of that energy. If you want to know more, please sign up for my email list. I send out a bi-monthly newsletter that is a summary of events, shows, recent hikes, and current projects.

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