Monday Night Blogging: Wisconsin’s Own Scenic Trail from the Ice Age

This is the first of two posts I’ve planned on the Ice Age Trail. It’s also the first of a series of posts The Badger & the Whooping Crane will feature in 2016 about how various Wisconsin outdoor and natural resource entities are dealing with a drop off of the state funding they have long relied on.

The Ice Age Trail Described and Located

The Ice Age Trail is a one thousand mile footpath that meanders south from Potawatomi State Park (in Door County), to counties on the Illinois-Wisconsin border (Walworth, Rock, and Green), then it heads north up to Langlade and Lincoln counties, and turns due west toward Interstate State Park in the St. Croix River Valley. As it wanders through the state, the trail follows the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

An Ice Age Trail sign, just east of the Wisconsin River on S.R. 33 in Portage. It marks the the 2.8 mile Portage Canal segment of the trail.

An Ice Age Trail sign, just east of the Wisconsin River on S.R. 33 in Portage. It marks the 2.8 mile Portage Canal segment of the trail.

Wherever you are in Wisconsin, you’re never that far from a segment of the Ice Age Trail. It travels through seven state parks or recreation areas, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Point Beach State Forest and all units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This link to the Wisconsin DNR page on the Ice Age Trail has more information about the trail’s intersections with state lands and other state trails.

Partners for the Trail

The trail and the non-profit organization that was part of its founding – the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) – share a fascinating, and mostly under-the-radar, decades old history, which I’ll be writing about here next week.

Although the sign (in the photo above) is placed right next to this view of the Wisconsin River, it parallels the river only a short distance . . .

Although the sign (in the photo above) is placed right next to this view of the Wisconsin River, it parallels the river only a short distance . . .

In addition to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the trail is maintained and managed by a partnership that includes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. The Ice Age Trail is considered part of the Wisconsin State Trails system, and is the only one designated a State Scenic Trail. It is also designated a National Scenic Trail, one of eleven to earn the title.      

A “Bump in the Trail,” and a $25,000 Surprise

The Ice Age Trail earned national attention at the end of October when it was a winner in the online Michelob Ultra Superior Trails Contest.  According to Paul A. Smith at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, trail managers and their organizations were invited to submit grant proposals to the Anheuser-Busch company in partnership with the American Hiking Society.

. . . . . before it meets the Portage Canal and follows it through Portage in the opposite direction - northeast, toward the Fox River.

. . . . . before it meets the Portage Canal and follows it through Portage in the opposite direction – northeast, toward the Fox River.

Ten were selected for the online voting contest which ran throughout September and October, and the top vote-getters – the Ice Age Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail – each earned half of the the $50,000 prize money.

This must have been a most-welcome surprise, as it helps the IATA plug about one-third of gap caused by the loss of state funding this year.  A blog post at the IATA’s website, August 28th, described the loss of funds this way:  “We hit a bump in the trail. . . . the recently passed Wisconsin state budget threatens the Alliance’s work on the Ice Age Trail.” A $74,000 capacity grant that the Alliance had applied for and received each year for more than 15 years was no longer available. The IATA asked for donations of money to help meet its commitments to its 2,300 volunteers and 1.25 million trail users.

Advertisements

Monday Morning Blogging: Late Fall, Peninsula State Park

Is fall your favorite time of the year? I ask that question because that phrase is one I’ve heard so often this year, and it’s not one I usually agree with. I think of myself as a summer person. I love summer and everything about it; and always hate to see summer’s end approach. Because of that, probably, the season that replaces summer often can make me glum.

Looking north across Eagle Harbor from the Eagle Terrace of Peninsula State Park.

Looking north:  Eagle Harbor from the Eagle Terrace of Peninsula State Park.

But yesterday in Peninsula State Park, against all odds, and to my immense surprise, I found myself delighted by the charms of the glorious late fall day – and just really loving the season.

22901239921_bb46d65737_z-2

The woods were warmed by the sun.

It really is late fall now, and the glories of the season – the scarlet and gold and crimson and bittersweet leaf-topped trees – those are all gone. Even so, tracing the perimeter of Peninsula Park, along Shore Road, starting near the Ephraim entrance, I stopped often for short walks and photos. High above Lake Michigan, walking the Eagle Terrace, and looking across Eagle Harbor to the village of Ephraim, and then, at the top of the park, looking across to Horseshoe Island from the Eagle Panorama, the color of the lake was as intense as you’ll find it – many different shades of blue, from turquoise to indigo.

Looking at Horseshoe Island from the Eagle Panorama.

Looking at Horseshoe Island from the Eagle Panorama.

Eventually, after Shore Road curves back toward Fish Creek (the other park entrance), the route brings you much closer to lake level. At stops near Nelson Point and then Weborg Point, the lake seemed to have come alive with waves and swells, as it was pushed to shore by a strong breeze from the west.

22486668517_ddd7d11e4c_z

At Weborg Point.

Before that though, I took a diversion into the woods along Bluff Road, stopping at the White Cedars Nature Center for a look at the Monarch Waystation (which had been a flower bonanza when I photographed and wrote about it in August).

The woods come to a point at the intersection of Shore Road and Bluff Road.

The woods are empty now, but not unwelcoming.

The monarch garden at rest; at the park's White Cedar Nature Center.

The monarch garden at rest; at the park’s White Cedar Nature Center.

The woods, empty now of both birds and leaves, were warmed by the sun and still lovely to be in. The whole park seemed not empty, nor forlorn (as I might have expected). Instead, it exuded a spirit of something else – a contentment, maybe, or a satisfaction with all that has been, in the season now passed, and all that will come again. This really was a gorgeous day – as beautiful in its way as any day in the entire year. Bravo, Fall.

22471745277_a86ab9394c_z

The indigo waters of Lake Michigan, dancing with the wind.

Monday Morning Blogging: Golden!

The colors were “golden” along the back roads in Door County over the weekend. Juddville Hill Road, a short little arc of a road is a hidden gem, and was very colorful yesterday. If you’re heading north, it’s a right turn off Highway 42, before the Juddville crossroads. And before you or your GPS system can figure out where you’re going, it curves right back to the state highway. But not before a couple of photo ops.

21670166544_50afe238e4_o

 

Even these pumpkins are golden, having turned a bright yellow!

Of course their color had been painted on - the work of an artist for the Pumpkin Patch Festival held last weekend in Egg Harbor.

Of course their color has been painted on – the work of an artist for the Pumpkin Patch Festival held last weekend in Egg Harbor.  But Mother Nature was the artist for all the other photos here.

Along Juddville Hill Road, just east of Highway 42.

Another view along Juddville Hill Road.

Peninsula Players Road near Highway 42.

Peninsula Players Road near Highway 42.

Peninsula Players Road.

Down Peninsula Players Road

22308889861_f8b86e0f94_z

What a difference! Two weeks ago, I published the photo above – a late summer scene (taken September 29th) – in the post “Impatient for Peak Color.”  Yesterday I stood in the same spot, near the entrance to the Door County Trolley, (just outside Egg Harbor), and aimed the camera at the same adjacent field to the north.  This is what the camera sees now:

21672550644_c6196366f0_z

Yes, fall colors arrived gradually – slowly, it seemed. But they’re here now. Do you have a favorite place in Wisconsin – or wherever you are in the world – to enjoy the colors of fall?

In the Kettle Moraine, October 2013.

In the Kettle Moraine, October 2013.

My  absolute favorite place for that is the Kettle Moraine State Forest, especially the northern unit, which is an hour north of Milwaukee, and about the same, driving south from Green Bay. The sprawling northern unit of the Kettle Moraine parallels Lake Michigan, but about 30 miles inland.

In the Kettle Moraine; October, 2013.

In the Kettle Moraine; October, 2013.

The varied terrain there, which I’ve heard called “a gift from the glaciers,” is so different from anything else in the state –  a mixture of steep-sided ridges, conical hills, and flat, outwash plains.” The whole area is criss-crossed by a network of trails and scenic drives, and dotted with kettles (lakes left by the glaciers) and pre-glacial lakes. It’s a wonderful place to spend an autumn afternoon.

 

Monday Morning Blogging: The Wisconsin River

Here is a picture of the lovely and expansive Wisconsin River, as it runs through Iowa County. It is the second to last county that is touched by the river on its 430 mile course through Wisconsin:  from its source in the far north (where it is a narrow winding stream) to its mouth where it empties into the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien.

Wisconsin River - photo at Flickr (Used with permission.)

The Wisconsin River, flowing westward through Iowa County – photo at Flickr (Used with permission.)

The Wisconsin River is currently “trending” for many conservationists in Wisconsin thanks to the personal odyssey of Ruth Oppedahl. Between September 27th and October 14th, Ruth is paddling the length of the river, often in the company of other conservationists, and talking to people who have spent whole careers working to protect water in Wisconsin.

Ruth, the leader of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (the NRF), has said she always wanted to paddle the length of the river “someday,” and suddenly, this year, forces aligned to make such a trip seem not just attractive, but compelling.

As explained on the NRF website: Wisconsin parks and all our natural resource programs have received “unprecedented funding reductions this year jeopardizing some of the things Wisconsinites love most about this         state. . .” Included in the state budget cuts: an $84,100 nonprofit capacity grant that NRF has received annually since 2000.”

A Hope to Rejunvenate:  ” . . by living outdoors for 18 days . .”

And as Ruth herself wrote: “Saddened by the reduction in support for conservation and natural resources in our state, I felt like I had to do something . . . people were asking me what could they could do?”

She scrapped plans to vacation in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, planning instead “to vacation in Wisconsin and paddle our namesake river . . . I hope to rejuvenate myself by living outdoors for 18 days. . .” While doing so, Ruth is meeting others along the river “and sharing the many ways we all care for our beautiful state.”

There are a number of ways you can follow Ruth’s adventures, meeting who she meets, learning how she deals with daily challenges from fixing a leaky kayak to portaging around dams; both beaver, and hydroelectric dams.
The quick and interactive method is NRF’s Facebook page where you can leave encouragement and advice, or ask a question.

My personal favorite is at NRF’s Wisconservation blog, where Ruth’s audio diary is transcribed each day. Here’s just one of the many Wisconsin River facts I’m learning along with Ruth: not all that long ago, the river near Hat Rapids (between Rhinelander and Tomahawk) was a polluted mess.

From Ruth’s post: ” . . . this was a place where human waste and paper mill – pulp mill – waste accumulated on top of the river and it was just a foam. Nobody lived on the river, it was disgusting. And then, thanks to the Clean Water Act, thanks to the work of people like Susan, the Wisconsin River is much, much cleaner than it was just 40 years ago.” I’d encourage anyone to get involved with Ruth Oppedahl’s odyssey; check it out.

 

Monday Night Blogging: Pictures from a Busy Weekend

It WAS a busy weekend! Visiting ICF all day Saturday, and hiking at a Door County Land Trust site yesterday, all took place in weather that felt more “late summer” than “early fall” – that’s weather we Wisconsin folk love, but can never count on.

Member Appreciation Day at ICF

On Saturday I had the good fortune to attend the Membership Appreciation Day held once a year at the International Crane Foundation – something I haven’t been able to do before because of scheduling conflicts.

A Black Crowned crane (native of West Africa) was so patient about the photographers!

A Black Crowned crane (native of West Africa) was a patient model for the photographers.

I do think that for the modest amount of the membership fee ($25 or $35 for a single; $50 for a family), if you only use it once a year – to visit the cranes on Member Appreciation-Day, it would still be a great bargain. The guided tours by the experts, the behind-the-scenes tours, and all the Q & A opportunities with the experts – that’s an amazing amount of access to the scientists who are protecting cranes all over the world for just the price of becoming a member.

Groups toured at Crane City during Membership Appreciation Day. At all other times this is an off-limits facility for visitors at ICF.

Groups toured at Crane City during Membership Appreciation Day. At all other times this is an off-limits facility for visitors at ICF.

And, or course you can also use your annual membership for free admittance for yourself and 2 or 3 guests, all season long. It’s just that on the once-a-year special appreciation day, you have the extra benefit of meeting and learning from so many of the staff.

I’ll be writing more about what I did and learned at Membership Appreciation Day, soon.

And a Short Hike at Legacy Nature Preserve at Clay Banks

I received a tip last week, through the Door County Land Trust, that a gathering of Monarch butterflies – a large gathering, I think – had been attracted to the Legacy Nature Preserve at Clay Banks, by its September-blooming fields. “Apparently they are stocking up on goldenrod nectar before migration south,” wrote the Land Trust’s Communications Coordinator, Cinnamon Rossman.

A well-defined trail through the tall grass, from the parking lot . . .

A well-defined trail through the tall grass, on a gentle up-slope from the parking lot to the top of a bluff.      

By the time I could check this out yesterday, there were no Monarchs to be found – no doubt already off on their migration. (Here is a link from the Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Manitowoc that explains the four generations of Monarch butterflies that occur in a year’s time; and the final one that is the migrating generation, the one that flies thousands of miles to forests in northern Mexico.) Despite the lack of butterflies, there was still plenty of blooming goldenrod, and it was easy to visualize how it would attract the Monarchs. We also enjoyed a good hiking trail from the parking to the top of a bluff, then down through fields and meadows to Lake Michigan below.

You can find Legacy Nature Preserve along Lake Michigan (at 1188 S. Lake Michigan Drive) in the area called Clay Banks. This is south of Sturgeon Bay.

More photos of the Legacy Nature Preserve at Clay Banks:

Goldenrod was first spotted at the crest of the hill.

Goldenrod was first spotted at the crest of the hill.

 

Then more goldenrod and Lake Michigan in the distance.

Then more goldenrod and Lake Michigan in the distance.                                                                

 

And there was a mass of goldenrod along a ridge, in either direction, about as far as the eye could see.

And there was a mass of goldenrod along a ridge, in either direction, about as far as the eye could see.

On the Road: Some History, and a Walk Across the Missouri River

Over the weekend The Badger & the Whooping Crane (or rather this writer for TB&WC) took a quick trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and very much enjoyed its downtown waterfront on the Missouri River. Omaha, it turns out has a great park system – highly rated on a list of the nation’s best park systems. We had a good time at the city’s most-visited park area: the 23-acre Lewis and Clark Landing on the riverfront, just east of Omaha’s Century Link Convention Center.

Have a look at the view here across, and up the Missouri River. The city of Omaha, its convention center, hotels, etc – all that was just a short distance behind me when I took this photo, September 19th. But amazingly, I felt I was seeing a vista that might not be so different from what Lewis & Clark saw in 1804 (except for what is probably a small motor boat on the end of the island).

IMG_4060

This park is named, as you surely know, for the 8,000 mile, 2 year expedition led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark, (1804-06). Traveling to the west, up the Missouri River, and eventually reaching the Pacific coast via the Columbia River, the expedition was camped along the Missouri, a bit north of the future site of Omaha during early August, in 1804.

At the northern edge of the Lewis & Clark Landing is the Midwest Regional Headquarters of the National Park Service. This new (2004), innovative and LEED-certified building also houses a Visitor’s Center for the Lewis & Clark National HIstoric Trail. But we were mostly interested in another feature in the same area of the Omaha riverfront: the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, providing a scenic walkway across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Here is a view of the bridge, as it curves down to ground level, in Iowa:  

IMG_4062
It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and the bridge had plenty of traffic, but “relaxed” traffic, as families and hikers and bikers were making the quick trek over to Iowa and back. We all were approximately 60 feet above the Missouri River with great views in every direction.

Here are a few more bridge statistics: it opened in 2008. It is a cable-stayed bridge, meaning cables at the top of the bridge’s two tall towers fan out to attach to and hold up the bridge. It is 3,000 feet in length, and the surface walkway is 15 feet wide. Best of all, in my opinion, is that this bridge is a hub connecting to 150 miles of trails.

And another view of the bridge; in this case, looking down river, back toward Omaha:

IMG_4064

I found several short online reviews of the Kerry Pedestrian Bridge – mostly superlatives, but one commenter said simply, “It’s just a bridge.” That got me thinking about bridges in general, and how important they are.

Even the simplest foot bridge connects the creatures in one area to creatures and resources in another that would mostly remain inaccessible without a bridge. I was reminded too, of an article, 10 Important Wildlife Corridors, at the Mother Nature Network. It describes over and underpasses, ecoducts, corridors, and green belts that connect wildlife to each other and to protected refuges. Don’t you think that’s welcome news? Innovation for wildlife which is facing shrinking habitat in a world developed for human needs.

Monday Morning Blogging: What is The Great Lakes Compact?

Although there are numerous complexities to creating it, what the Great Lakes Compact does is easy to understand. It was signed into law in 2008, calling for regional management of the waters of the Great Lakes. And it bans any diversion of Great Lakes water outside the Great Lakes Basin – although “limited exceptions could be allowed in communities near the Basin when rigorous standards are met.”

On Lake Michigan: south of Egg Harbor, WI, September 7, 2015.

On Lake Michigan: south of Egg Harbor, WI, September 7, 2015.

All the Governors of the eight U.S. Great Lakes states have signed The Great Lakes Compact, so it is state law. It was also approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into federal law by President George W. Bush. In addition to the agreement among the Great Lakes states (and they are New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) a parallel agreement was signed into law in Canada by the Premiers of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

On Lake Michigan: Near Peninsula State Park, Door County, WI, September 5, 2015.

On Lake Michigan: Near Peninsula State Park, Door County, WI, September 5, 2015.

The Great Lakes Compact has been in the news quite a bit lately – especially in Wisconsin where the city of Waukesha has stepped up to be the first to actually test the Compact. Waukesha, out in the western suburbs of Milwaukee, and just outside the Great Lakes Basin, would like to tap into Great Lakes water and use it for its municipal water system.

Along Lake Michigan: a Door County beach, just north of Sturgeon Bay, November 10, 2013.

Along Lake Michigan: a Door County beach, just north of Sturgeon Bay, November 10, 2013.

Waukesha claims it meets the strict criteria to be considered for an exception to the Compact’s no-diversion rule, and the Wisconsin DNR, in agreement, has given them the preliminary approval they need. Now their request moves on to all those other parties in the Compact.

Clumps of Lake Michigan Ice breaking up on Juddville Bay, in Door County, WI, Spring 2014.

Clumps of Lake Michigan Ice breaking up on Juddville Bay, in Door County, WI, Spring 2014.

But many alarms are being sounded by those who have worked hard to create the Compact and know its history. Editorials, comments, and letters, are being written across the region warning of the implications – many more water diversions to come – if Waukesha’s request is granted. You can see these at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Akron Beacon Journal, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Toledo Blade, The Detroit News, The Waukesha Freeman, and Minnesota Public Radio, for example.

On Lake Michigan near Egg Harbor, WI, September 7, 2015.

On Lake Michigan near Egg Harbor, WI, September 7, 2015.

Last week I learned, in person, a bit more about the compact and Waukesha’s request for a diversion. This was provided at the Door County Environmental Council’s summer meeting in Bailey’s Harbor, by one of the featured speakers of the evening, George Meyer, who leads the Wisconsin Wildlife Foundation. Meyer is also a retired WI DNR chief (having led that agency from 1993 to 2001), and he described the pros and cons of granting Waukesha’s request.

Above, Lake Michigan. For readers unfamiliar with the North American Great Lakes, this is one of the five inland seas that make up the fabulous waters of this region.

The “pros,” said Meyer are that the city is very close to the Basin, and, because it has a radium problem with its water, it can show a potential need. Some of the “cons,” included by Meyer include these: Waukesha is ignoring the fact that it can successfully treat its ground water for radium, and do it for a significant savings to its taxpayers, compared to the expensive diversion plan it is requesting. An opinion column in the Detroit News by Meyer includes mo

.

 

 

 

Monday Morning Blogging: A Picture and a Few Words

Where was The Badger & the Whooping Crane when this photo was snapped?

IMAG0637_BURST002_COVER

This pic was captured August 23rd, on State Highway 42, also known as Main Street in Fish Creek, WI, just a very short block from the busiest intersection in northern Door. This little garden hosting the monarch butterfly is on Main at the corner of Hill Street.  The butterfly was unphased, but the nearby four corners – and three-way “Stop” – where State Route 42 meets Main and Spruce streets makes for an often-busy and confusing intersection for vehicles and pedestrians.

Here’s a look at the intersection itself earlier today:

IMAG0720

 

Well . . .  not quite as busy on Monday morning, the last day of August.