On Ripley Esker

One of my job duties requires me to go to Camp Ripley in Minnesota about every year.  We do an internal audit of our Environmental Management System, and since you cannot audit yourself (or the work you have done), we have an informal exchange.  I conduct the Minnesota internal audit, and someone from Minnesota conducts the Iowa audit.

I don’t travel well.  Even though the people I deal with are very professional, friendly, and helpful I still find myself dreading the trip.  I think it is because I spend too much time “stewing in my own juices” as my Dad used to say.  I like a certain amount of solitude, but when I am driving or sitting in a hotel room by myself I tend to over-worry about my problems.

Fortunately, about two miles east of Camp Ripley is a nice natural area that allowed me to get some major stress relief.  The area is called Ripley Esker State Natural Area.  I visited it all three evenings that I was up there.

Basically, an esker is a glacial feature–sand and gravel from internal streams of a melting glacier leave a ridge that may be several miles long.  The part that is preserved in Ripley is about three quarters of a mile long, and I would estimate it may be 30 or 40 feet high in places.  The esker itself is wooded (more like a savanna than a forest, though) but the surrounding area is prairie.

Butterflies were everywhere in the small oaks on the ridge.  That is a hobomok skipper to the right and a little wood satyr to the left.

This little wood satyr seems to be getting some kind of nourishment from a liquid on top of an oak leaf.

There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies.  I haven’t figured out what this one is yet.

I felt something crawling on my arm, and it turned out to be a tiny bright green beetle.  This weevil may be Polydrusus impressifrons.

This crab spider is waiting for its prey.

The arctic skipper was new to me.  This was the first one I have seen or photographed.

And on my way down I encountered this pair of hobomok skippers doing a little nuptial dance on the poison ivy.

If you are thinking of visiting the site, be aware that there are deer flies, mosquitoes, wood ticks, and some kind of little gnat that likes to fly near your eyes or into your nostrils.

But for me, the short time I was able to spend at Ripley Esker was very enjoyable.  I would highly recommend it.  It was great stress relief.

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About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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