From the Travel Desk: A hat trick in the bird blind

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2014 - 12:02 PM
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Bluestem Prairie Preserve, northeast of Moorhead, is one of few places in the state where visitors can experience the vastness of the native prairie that once covered a great portion of western Minnesota and the Dakotas. Watching the prairie chickens "booming" in early spring is a special highlight.

Photo: Brian Mark Peterson, Star Tribune

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During a spring reporting trip for the State of Wonders series, greater prairie chickens danced for me on a morning when the thermometer registered in the low 30s. The grouse’s displays were riveting, but in the bird blind, I was growing distracted by the cold. There was only one thing to do: Empty my purse and put it atop my head.

I looked silly, but the makeshift hat kept me warm during the two-hour prairie chicken show. Proof, yet again, that travel sometimes demands ingenuity.

I’d planned to bring a hat and gloves, but they were in the front seat of my car, victims of a gas spill. I’d departed my Moorhead hotel at 3:30 a.m. and stopped to fill the car’s dwindling tank. The gas nozzle kept gushing, even after the tank was full. Gasoline splashed onto my windbreaker, and I dashed to the bathroom to clean up. By the time I arrived at the parking area, which required a 10-minute walk to the blind, I felt rushed. I hopped out of my car without the windbreaker, figuring the scent would disturb the birds.

I was 100 feet from the car when I realized that my hat and gloves were not in my purse, but in the pockets of the coat I’d left behind. I had on many layers of clothing, but I longed for a little something atop my head — something like a purse.

As photographer Brian Peterson and I roam Minnesota for the State of Wonders Travel series, which celebrates our homeland, we are sharing behind-the-scenes tidbits like the one recounted above. Check the Star Tribune Instagram account by following “StarTribune” to see our photos, many of which won’t make it into print or online presentations. Watch for posts from the state’s southwest, where we’re both heading soon. Meanwhile, see the stories done so far at www.startribune.com/stateofwonders.

 

Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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