Category Archives: Nature

Camping Southern Wisconsin

May was quite a traveling month for me. Three days after returning from six days in Dallas, Al and I took off for vacation. Every year after tax season, we try to take a trip somewhere. Somewhere quiet, peaceful, and with as few people as possible. We’ve gone to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Cancun.

Wyalusing State Park is located where the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers meet.

Wyalusing State Park is located where the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers meet.

This year we decided to forgo packing suitcases, driving to the airport, standing in security lines, hailing taxis to hotels, and hoping our room would be ready so we could collapse. Instead, we went camping for nine days. I must add here that I love camping. Load up the camper, hitch it to the truck, and take off.

Since our first weekend was to be over Memorial Day weekend, our original thought was to head to southern Wisconsin and spend the weekend at Wyalusing State Park. Then on Monday, we’d head to Ames, Iowa.

Since we left on a Thursday, our hope was to get a spot before the weekend campers arrived. Our plan worked and we got the last electric site available.

You can see vultures flying.

You can see vultures flying.


Once we were set up, we sat in our comfy chairs and soaked in the quiet that was only broken by the many, many birds. Now to many this may not sound exciting, but to Al and I watching and trying to identify birds is fun—and relaxing. Unfortunately we forgot the bird book and, with limited internet access, figuring out what the birds were was difficult, especially since with many we only heard their calls.
Don't know what they are, but they're pretty.

Don’t know what they are, but they’re pretty.

By the afternoon of the second day, after a hike, we decided we didn’t want to leave. We went to the ranger’s office and managed to extend the stay on our site until the following Friday. By Thursday, we were able to switch campsites so we could stay until Saturday.

Even with the rain, we had a great time. Wisconsin States Parks are wonderful. Quiet with quiet hours and mostly families. Lots of hiking trails. Beautiful scenery. We love to camp in the fall when kids are back in school. This has been the earliest we’ve camped in the season.

Not all campgrounds have biking trails near them. We spent one day looking for a trail, only to end up somewhere in Iowa and a rough, gravelly trail where we biked eleven miles. We got lost coming home—actually we got lost going, too.

View from bluffs in park.

View from bluffs in park.

Another day was spent being tourists. A nearby town had an arts and craft fair along with a flea market. Didn’t buy any fleas, but tasted and bought some very good local wines. Another day we just got into the truck, turned right out of the campground and kept driving. Southern Wisconsin (well all of Wisconsin) is gorgeous. Bluffs, rivers, lakes, streams, trees, and wildlife.

Our biking started in Belmont, Wisconsin. This is their welcome sign.

Our biking started in Belmont, Wisconsin. This is their welcome sign.

Another day we drove to a different bike trail, only this time in Wisconsin. Once again we had trouble finding the path, going three miles the wrong way only to end up in some farm fields. Once we were going in the right direction, we biked through some beautiful land. Farm fields. Cows. Rivers. Dead skunk. Dead snake. Including the misdirected trail, we biked 25 miles.

We ended up in Calamine. Yes, Al did say “I was just itching to go there.”

Poor snake. Neither of us hit the snake, but it scared the daylights out of me when I rode toward it. I thought it was alive.

Poor snake. Neither of us hit the snake, but it scared the daylights out of me when I rode toward it. I thought it was alive.

We had to navigate around some fallen trees on the path. We moved what we could, but the trees were too big and heavy.

We had to navigate around some fallen trees on the path. We moved what we could, but the trees were too big and heavy.

View from path.

View from path.


The rest of the week, we simply spent time together. We both got a lot of reading done. One entire day we were stuck in the camper because of the rain. I finished a short story.

While many of our vacations have been wonderful, I’d have to say this was the most relaxing. This morning as I was leaving Al said with a sigh, “Vacation’s over. Damn. I had fun.”

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Filed under Camping, Nature

Last of Winter – I Hope

Today our temperature here in the northwoods should get to 55 degrees. I went outside this morning to take the last, I hope, pictures of our mounds of snow. I know not all of it will disappear, but I sure hope most of it does. Yesterday I heard and saw the red-winged blackbirds for the first time and cranes were flying over. I heard a robin this morning, but haven’t seen one. Progress.

Last weekend I tried to shovel snow off our decks, but there was a nice layer of ice on top and I couldn’t even make a mark in it. This week, I’ve been able to make a dent in the pile on our front deck. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to open the front door today for the first time since – well, I don’t know when.

Snowshoe trip with fourth-graders. Shortly after this was taken there was a ten-kid pile-up. They fell like ten pins.

Snowshoe trip with fourth-graders. Shortly after this was taken there was a ten-kid pile-up. They fell like ten pins.

I have a feeling this snow pile is going to be here for awhile. In the background you can see the neighbor's shed that collapsed under the weight of the snow this winter.

I have a feeling this snow pile is going to be here for awhile. In the background you can see the neighbor’s shed that collapsed under the weight of the snow this winter.

At one time this pile of snow covered the entire deck and went to the bottom of the door window. I've been chipping away at it this week.

At one time this pile of snow covered the entire deck and went to the bottom of the door window. I’ve been chipping away at it this week.

The back deck may take longer, but hopefully we'll be able to get the grill out.

The back deck may take longer, but hopefully we’ll be able to get the grill out.


As the snow is receding, the spring flowers are popping out.

As the snow is receding, the spring flowers are popping out. Brave things.

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Filed under Flowers, Reflection, Uncategorized, Winter

First Run of Spring

My first run went well. I walked/ran three miles, which included ten thirty second sprints. I’m sure I’ll feel those tomorrow. Most of the time I was on a side road which still has wet, icy, slushy, muddy spots. The road isn’t traveled much, and most vehicles passed me at a nice crawl. All except for the last one. I saw the car barreling toward me and realized he wasn’t going to slow down. I had just enough time to jump to the side, turn my back, flip up my hood and hunch my shoulders before – splat. I hope seeing me get soaked made his day. And I just finished doing laundry.

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Filed under Health/fitness, Nature, Reflection, Winter

Winter is Losing – Yay!

I’m sitting at my desk, listening to the snow melt from our front deck. Every once in awhile a crash resounds as a chunk of ice or snow hits the ground. The sun is shining and it’s WARM – well warm by our standards here in Wisconsin – forty-one degrees. I can begin to see the tops of the rose cones we used to cover our small trees. Flocks of geese heading over are increasing. The birdbath in the back yard is partially uncovered, but the one in front is still buried. The grip of winter is sliding from my soul.

bluebirds at birdbath 001 (5)Yesterday gave us a hint of spring. Shoppers were out in mass sans gloves, hats or winter coats. Small puddles of water grew into small ponds. People’s steps were lighter, smiles brighter as spring fever hit with a vengeance. The air temperature was a balmy thirty-two degrees, but the sun’s rays were intense.

I bought a bird book several years ago called “For the Birds.” The author, Laura Erickson, wrote aCode B12 daily journal about birds and nature. At the bottom of each page are lines for the reader to write his/her own notes. And, yes, I’ve written notes. And, yes, I am a bird geek.

Today, with the snow slowly disappearing, I got the urge to take the book down from the shelf and see when our birds started arriving in the past. I don’t remember why, but didn’t make too many notes from 2013. But I made plenty in 2012 when we had a very early spring. On the 11th of March of that year, spring bulbs were creeping up. The red-winged blackbirds and bluebirds arrived. Cranes were flying over heading to the nature reserve not far from our home. It was a busy day.

I’ve always wondered how birds know when to start their migration home. How do they know if there is still too much snow and no food to eat? Do they send out a scouting party? Well, if they do, the message they will send back to their families should be, “Let’s just stay where it’s warm for a bit. They’re not ready for us, yet.”

So, based on my notes, I will start listening with excitement for our birds over the next few days and weeks. Even though we will surely get more snow, the end of winter is near. I’m going to head out for my first run of the season. (It will be short, as I’m not one of those that runs all year round.) Then I’ll chip away at the ice in our driveway and simply enjoy our warm, wonderful day. I’m much happier than last week. Enjoy.

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Filed under Flowers, Nature, Reflection, Uncategorized, Winter

My Brain is Frozen

For the past two weeks I have been trying to think of something to write. I know I have ideas floating around in my head – but – I think my brain has frozen. Probably won’t thaw out in the near future. revised pompas 1093

Yesterday morning I was hopeful when I went out to my van to go to work at 7:00. The sun was shining. The air felt warm. There was no wind. I got into my van. It was -5 degrees. Was I actually thinking that -5 was feeling warm? Was my brain crazy or frozen?

IMG_2695This morning it is -15 with -37 windchill. The only thing I can think about is “When will this winter end?” It’s all everyone is talking about. The cold, the snow, the wind. Buildings collapsing due to the heavy snow (including my neighbor’s shed). Worse winter since 1903 or 1876 depending on which part of northern Wisconsin you’re from.

Like everyone else, I’m sick of winter. I want it over. It’s March 2nd. Farmer’s Almanac says 30 more inches of snow in March. Where will we put it all? I think I hear my flowers crying. Will our trees survive the deep, deep frost? How have the deer survived? Will the bears be able to climb out of their winter homes? Are the birds smart enough to stay away until things thaw?

Will my brain start functioning again and give me something more interesting to write about next week? Man, I hope so. Meanwhile, back to editing my Work in Progress. Code FL13

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Filed under Flowers, Nature, Photography, Reflection, Uncategorized, Winter