We interviewed Gretchen, Dorothy, and Martha, three sisters who use Natural Resources Foundation Field Trips as a way of keeping in touch. We love that our Field Trips not only bring people closer to nature, but closer to each other.

(Editor’s note: Some responses have been shortened for space.)

Sisters on Natural Resources Foundation Field Trip

Sisters together on a Foundation Field Trip.


How did you learn about the Foundation and the Field Trips program?

Martha: Gretchen and I were together at our brother’s house when his friend talked about going on some of these Field Trips, and I remember that we commented on what a good idea it was, so it was great that Gretchen followed up.

Dorothy: Toward the end of 2014 Gretchen showed me the Field Trip pamphlet and I was excited about attending the following year. After attending a couple of the Field Trips I decided to join too and then I could help Gretchen with the signup this year.


What and when was the first Field Trip you three went on together?

Gretchen: We did a great Tundra Swan trip on the Mississippi River.

M:   There was the one in Maiden Rock, and then one that actually started on the Minnesota side of the river, in Brownsville, MN.  Since I live in St. Paul, MN, they were both very convenient for me.

D: Maiden Rock was a combination of a wildflower and a raptor trip. It was really informative and it gave me a chance to practice some photography, too! We had excellent guides, one who specialized in the plant identification and management areas and the others who were raptor enthusiasts. We didn’t see any falcons, but we saw lots of other birds and even had a chance to see Turkey Vultures looking down on them from a perch high on the rocks! We found a nice B&B nearby and had lots of time to spend together.

M: They were both wonderful trips, although the Tundra Swan trip, which started in Brownsville, made a huge impression on me because I learned so many things about the swans that I had no idea about before.  And it was wonderful to realize that a major migratory fly-way, the Mississippi River valley, was right there, not far from where I live.


Any favorite Field Trip memories?

 M: The trip we went on most recently, in October, which was about Sandhill Cranes, had some very memorable moments, especially watching the cranes come in to roost in the evening, with the sun setting in the background. Seeing all the Tundra Swans and pelicans out on the river, on the Brownsville trip, was also just amazing.

D: Another fun fact was that Martha ran into a co-worker when we were on the Brownsville trip! It was amazing that they even recognized each other under all the scarves and hoods and sunglasses! ​


Besides NRF Field Trips, how often do you three get together?

D: After that first Raptor trip, Martha arranged for us to tour the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, since she has contacts there through her job. Sometimes Martha visits Wisconsin for family events, like when my kids got married, or when Martha’s grandchildren want to visit Gretchen’s farm to see Horses, chickens, dogs and cats, etc. We have three brothers, and if one of them is visiting, we might all get together, too. We grew up in Green Bay, so we have favorite things to do there and in Door County, too.​

G: Dorothy and I tend to drive to the Twin Cities for a weekend of culture and fine dining every six months or so.  Dorothy and I see each other monthly here in Waukesha for our book club meetings. We attend Packers practices in the summer and attend one game at Lambeau field annually.  Other visits crop up as well.

M: As Gretchen mentioned, she and Dorothy come to St. Paul one or two other times a year and we go to concerts and other performances, and to museums, and shop and eat out a lot. But we also try to fit in a nice walk outdoors and do some bird watching!  There are many great spots in and around the Twin Cities for bird watching.


How many Field Trips have you been on so far?

D: ​I think the three of us have been on three trips together. Gretchen and I attended two wildflower field trips this year. We had bad weather for both of those trips, but we learned a lot and it was, of course, fun to be together. My husband Brian and I also attended a Field Trip at Prairie Du Chien that was a boat ride along the Mississippi in the spring this year. We’ve both taken up an interest in birding since we retired a few years ago. We live on the shore of Lake Michigan, so we see a wide variety of birds all year long. It’s fun to start to be able to recognize and identify them.​

M:   We also got together two years ago for the Bird Fest weekend at Horicon Marsh, which was the start of my interest in bird watching.  We went on some wonderful guided tours there over the weekend.


What sort of NRF events are you looking forward to in 2017? Any Field Trips you hope pop up next year?

M:  I like the focus on birds.  As a beginning birder, I feel that I have SO MUCH to learn, so I’m trying to take advantage of opportunities to learn more. Now that we’ve been doing this for a couple of years, it’s fun to look forward to when the new list of Field Trips comes out, and choose some that work out for the three of us to do together.

D: We weren’t able to sign up for the Hawk Banding Field Trip that takes place near where I live, partially because we just had too many trips and I ran out of time, so that would be a great one to do. The Aldo Leopold site had some crane trips, too, which sounded like fun.  Last year I was hesitant to sign up for the canoeing trips because I had injured my shoulder, but that’s all healed now so that would be something we could consider. I’m not sure if there are any owl viewing trips, but I’d be interested in that, because I’ve never seen an owl in wild and that is on my Bucket List! ​


Anything you want to add?

 M: I would add that all of the trips have had wonderful guides, and have been extremely well organized and thought-through. I’ve learned so much, about so many things that I had never even considered before. And this just makes me hungry to do more, to find out what else there is to discover! And it’s been really fun to experience this learning and discovery with my sisters.  I would not say that we are particularly competitive, like some siblings can be, so it’s very comfortable to be a novice on these trips, and not worry about asking dumb questions.  Also, as Gretchen mentioned, we usually combine it with an overnight stay and nice meal or two, so it’s a good opportunity to catch up on things. The fact that I’m doing this along with my sisters makes me think very fondly of the NRF Field Trips!

G: It’s been great fun learning about the area’s wildlife together. We travel well together and enjoy a good meal and often an overnight stay at a hotel for the trips. What better way to spend time together?

Interview conducted by Rebecca Biggs, former communications assistant.