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Finding Minnesota: Discovering Life In The Dead Of Winter

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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CHANHASSEN, Minn. (WCCO) — If all you see outside now are lifeless fields of brown and white, you’re not looking closely enough.

Naturalist Matt Schuth is ready to lead dozens of visitors on a long walk through the woods at the Arboretum on Nov. 28.

A steaming cup of hot chocolate will be one draw, but mostly it’s the chance to see things they miss when they stay inside. It’s called the “Hot Chocolate Walk.”

“When you go out, you never know what you’re going to find,” Schuth said. “Even in the winter time, there is always color around. Once you develop an eye for things, everybody could be a naturalist.”

Schuth has developed an eye for the creatures and plants that survive in conditions that humans whine about. A hollowed-out tree, for example, presents several possibilities.

“This could be a raccoon in here,” he said, “could be a squirrel or opossum. And there are birds around, too. Like the blue jays and the cardinals certainly stand out in the winter time.”

For many years, he’s taken visitors on nature walks — through all four seasons, stopping to admire sights like a witch hazel bush.

“Here you walk by and see this beautiful yellow plant,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites.”

He can explain why birds might seem a little tipsy in the winter near the crabapple trees.

“The apples ferment,” he said, “so when they eat them, it gets into their system like booze would be to us and it ends up giving them a buzz.”

He can also tell what’s been scampering nearby, from the tracks.

“When the turkeys start scratching,” he said, “the leaves and the stuff are thrown completely around.”

It’s an eye-opening experience that helps visitors realize what they usually overlook.

“I hear that a lot,” Schuth said, “when we are done with the walks, they’ll say to me ‘I’ve walked by here I don’t know how many times, I’ve never noticed this before.'”

That’s his goal, raising awareness, in the short time he has their attention.

“Typically (after) an hour outside, folks are ready to come in for hot chocolate,” he said.

It’s a warm way to wrap things up, for creatures that aren’t cut out for the cold.

The “Hot Chocolate Walk with Matt” starts at 10 a.m.

It’s $10 for members, $25 for non-members.

If you have a Finding Minnesota idea, let us know here.

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