A Walk in a Bog

Summer in Minnesota is why many choose to live and deal with the 4 to 6 months of winter, I happen to think winter is great but that is another story. Summer does however come with its own set of problems, the foremost being the mighty mosquito.

Mosquitoes’ primary habitat is the area surrounding swamps and bogs. For most people this means that avoiding bogs is just common sense. Knowing how to dress for the elements allows you to go for a walk in a bog without turning yourself into a large itchy bug bite.

Bogs can be wet and muddy, especially in the spring and early summer, and losing a shoe to the bog is not out of the question, though a snug fitting pair of rubber boots makes sacrificing a shoe to the bog unlikely.

Why go to all of this trouble just to go for a walk in a bog? While an answer like solitude may come to mind, it’s not like you are going to run into any people in a bog. There are things to see in a bog that you are less likely to see elsewhere.

To get to the bog I was going to I had to first walk through the woods, walking through swarms of mosquitoes thicker then I have ever seen before. Thankful that I’d dressed accordingly, knowing the mosquitoes would exploit any gaps in my armor.

I went to this particular bog because I knew wild calla (calla palustris) grew there and they should be in bloom. While the flowers are similar to calla lilies they are not the same species.

The large amount of rain this area had received this spring meant that most of the wild calla would be growing in standing water. The water would provide a dark background with some colorful reflections of the sky and forest to place the flower against in a photograph.

The next step was finding a flower that had a nice shape, didn’t have too much growing around it and wasn’t in water that was too deep for the boots I was wearing. After some searching I found just the flower and then I proceeded to take lots of photos of it knowing that the quality of the photo would be elevated by just the right set of reflections.

Wild Calla flower with clouds and sky reflected in the water below

Having captured a composition I liked, I began to look for other calla flowers to photograph. I was hoping to find a flower and leaf close together but my search was abandoned when I found a flower I was not looking for – the stemless or pink lady’s slipper.

Don’t be fooled by the word stemless. They have short stem which usually below ground and a long peduncle, which is the stalk that is supporting the flower, mere technicalities for most of us. I was quite certain that this bog had orchids growing in it; I just had no idea what species grew here (the “Native Orchids of Minnesota” by Welby R. Smith is an excellent resource for Minnesota’s orchids).

So, calla flowers went to the back burner and I began to play with different compositions of the stemless lady’s slippers.

On my way out of the bog I found a calla flower and leaf, that gives you a bit more of the environment they grow in, though still not much more.

Wild Calla and sedges growing at the edge of a Central Minnesota bog

A note on the clothing I was wearing to keep the bugs out. I start with a tight fitting lightweight base layer. Then a pair of pants and a shirt that I have treated with permethrin – an insect repellant – you can also buy clothing that has been commercially treated with permethrin. The two layers of clothing is hard for bugs to bite through. I tuck my pants into the rubber boots that I am wearing and I even tuck my shirt in. I wear a sun protection neck gaiter that is tucked into my shirt collar, a full-brimmed hat and head net over my hat that is cinched tight around my neck and a light pair of gloves. The real weak point in this system is the gloves that the bugs are able to bite through.

-EAK, June 2014