Lens Artist Photo Challenge: Changeable

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Alan Wilson Watts

Steve and I woke up yesterday to a brilliant autumn ballet of frost and color, sun and wind. We said goodbye to the sandhill cranes in our backyard and drove up to Door County to dance with the colors at Peninsula State Park on Green Bay.
Living in Wisconsin does have its benefits. 

Thanks to Amy at The World is a Book for this challenge.

At Wounded Knee

The southern portion of Badlands National Park is jointly managed by the National Park and by the Oglala Lakota. The hope was that one day this section of the park would be the first Tribal National Park in the country. Those plans have not yet become a reality. The northern unit of the park hosts the scientific interpretation of the land and holds all of the associated resources you’d expect at a National Park.

The southern unit is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation. At the White River Visitor Center, you can hear the historical interpretation of the people of this area, from paleo-Indians to European settlers to US Army Air Force troops in WWII who used the reservation land for a gunnery range and bombing practice. Just under 350,000 acres were acquired by eminent domain from the Oglala Lakota in 1942 on the pretext that it was “unused, unoccupied, and blighted”. 

Wounded Knee is not within the boundaries of the Park. Its history is told in signs, tombstones, graffiti and the living words of people who live in extreme poverty, mistrustful of neighbors and governments and directly impacted by changes in climate and habitat for the animals that provide their sustenance. I am grateful to Mr. Apple (age 25) and Mr. Fast Horse (age 13) for sharing their story. 

My heart aches for these people, for their wounded dignity, for their invisibility, for their spoiled livelihood. That “living off the land” was ever possible for humans in this place year-round is doubtful, especially after the buffalo herds were decimated by European immigrants. This is an area of seasonal extremes, a place to which you’d make a sacred pilgrimage, spend a time in awe, and respectfully vacate. 

To see the land as sacred, wild, and autonomous allows an attitude of humility to flourish and banishes thoughts of domination, extraction and exploitation.  It brings truer balance and harmony to the relationship. Perhaps from this new understanding, a more sustainable future will develop for our species. 

New Photo Challenge: Lens-Artists “Look Up”

I have been suffering with Photo Challenge withdrawal symptoms, but it’s good to know I’m not alone and that new challenges are always out there. The Lens-Artist group is posting weekly challenges on Saturdays, so I’ve signed up. If you’re interested in joining, HERE is more info. 

This week’s challenge is to “look up”. I just got back from a trip to Badlands National Park, where we enjoyed a marvelous sunset from atop the crest of one of the many ridges. Looking up at the sunset while looking down into the layers of colored rock was a sort of “mirrored” view. 

Thanks, Pati of Pilotfish Blog, for this challenge!

Citizen Science at Badlands National Park

Steve & I spent 5 days at Badlands National Park in South Dakota last week. One of the highlights of our adventure was finding what I think is a fossilized bone. This post is my way of reporting that find to a Physical Science Technician in Paleontology at the park. I don’t have a GPS device to help him locate the find, so I’m walking him (and any other readers) to it through this blog post. If you happen to visit the park and find this bone (or any others), please leave it undisturbed. It is essential to have it in its original place in the sedimentary layers of rock in order to determine vital information. 

I initially spotted and photographed the bone on September 22 and filled out the reporting form at the Visitor’s Center. The next day, I returned to take additional photos to help lead the paleontology team to its location.  I just got home last night, and can now download my photos to this blog and share them.

The crosswalk over Hwy 240 at the Visitors Center leads to a creek wash that starts at a lone cottonwood tree and goes west toward the rocky ridge. There is a separate rocky hill to the right of that wash. Follow the wash beyond that hill as it curves to the left.  The peak with the squared-off top is a primary landmark. The fossil I saw is in the face of a hill to the left of that peak. Click on the first photo of this gallery to see the series in a slideshow. 

I was absolutely thrilled and humbled to discover this little white tubular thing. I hope it’s a genuine fossil. Even if it’s not anything significant to science, the invitation to observe and participate in sharing this observation is significant to me.

I am a huge fan of the National Parks and happy to purchase an Annual Pass in support of America’s Best Idea. I hope that future generations continue to value, respect, and protect these places that show the unique and autonomous nature of the Earth.

*** Update 10/4/2018***
From a letter from the Paleontologist at the Park:

“That is a humerus or upper arm bone (the bone that articulates with the scapula in the shoulder).  It looks to be in relatively complete condition, albeit weathered and fractured.  It also looks like there may be additional fragments of bone eroding on that slope.  Unfortunately, I can’t see enough of them to make any interpretations on what they might be.

Based on the size of the humerus and it’s general shape, however, I would make an educated guess that it probably came from an oreodont (of the family Merycoidodontidae).  As you may be aware from your visit, oreodonts are the most common, abundant, and widespread mammal found in the fossil record here at Badlands.  From 36 to 27 million years ago (during the Eocene and Oligocene Epochs), they were an exceptionally prosperous group of herbivores that dotted the landscape, probably living together in large herds.  They would have been a key prey item for many carnivores, such as dogs and the ancestral cat-like lineage called nimravids (family Nimravidae).  As a group within the animal kingdom, the last known oreodonts finally disappeared from the planet during the Pliocene Epoch some 4 to 5 million years ago.”

So very cool! *smiles*

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wisconsin Tour Guide

“Share with us an image, or two, or three, (or more!) of where you live.” 

If you look up over this post title, you will see two links to separate pages labelled “Wisconsin Historical” and “Wisconsin Outdoors”. You will find quite a few more than three photos there!

I moved to Wisconsin 7 years ago from Illinois, and have absolutely fallen in love with my new home state. I used to summer at Girl Scout camp as a child in northern Wisconsin, but I’ve come to feel like I’ve always belonged outside, here, even after living for 15 years in California. When I first moved north, I worked for 3 summers at Old World Wisconsin, a 575-acre living history museum that recreates 19th century farm and town settlement. Last year, I moved onto a property that is owned by the land trust that employs me. I have thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by 56 acres of Wisconsin woodland, wetland, and restored prairie. 

Wisconsin is a ridiculously photogenic state. It can take your breath away, fill you with pride, and surprise you at every outing. When we’re out hiking, my partner Steve very often just flings wide his arms and remarks (to nobody in particular), “Ladies and gentlemen — Wisconsin!”

Yes, it deserves your attention and applause. Here’s why: 

Tour Guide

Autumn in the North Woods: Part Two

When we broke camp in the Chippewa National Forest on Tuesday morning, the condensation on our tent fly froze instantly. Time to head south to Wisconsin!

 Our destination was Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Along the way, we stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park. The river was high and rushing mightily, churning up tannin-colored water into thundering root beer cascades. 

We told the WDNR ranger that we were thinking of heading towards the western section of the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest to camp and to Bayfield to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She directed us to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for more information. Now, you might not get excited about Visitor Centers, but this one is truly amazing. First of all, it’s a quality museum facility featuring interactive exhibits, a National Park Service film, an historical archive library, a bookstore, and an observation deck – three floors of cool stuff! Outside, there’s a nature trail and research nursery. I’m pretty sure the building itself is LEED certified. BEST OF ALL, it is a collaborative effort of the local community (Friends of the Center), the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and University of Wisconsin Extension – which means that staff members from each of those entities are present to answer questions and amplify your understanding of the area. The two we talked to spent considerable time with us, giving us numerous maps and tips and sharing the vision of the Center, its history and unique features. If it hadn’t been so late in the afternoon, and if we didn’t have the urgency of finding a campsite before dark, we would gladly have stayed until closing. Did I mention that admission is completely free? Your tax dollars at work. I took a picture on each floor before heading out with an armload of information.

We camped at an old CCC site in the forest and planned our Bayfield outing. We rose to temperatures in the 20s and headed out for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands. The sun was shining, the air was cold, the eagles soared overhead, and I couldn’t have been more invigorated and elated! 

We headed southeast from Bayfield to revisit a favorite dispersed camping spot in the town of Three Lakes, WI. Across the forest service road from this site is the Headwaters Wilderness, a true, federally designated wilderness. We first camped in this private paradise seven years ago. It’s in National Forest, so the site is “first come, first served”.  I was leaning over the dashboard hoping no-one else was there. We were in luck, and this glorious day had a perfect ending. 

The weather turned damp and drizzly the next day, so we only stayed one more night. Our privacy was disturbed once by a sole fisherman who had been tipped off to the spot and came to check it out. We had a pleasant conversation, and he left. We walked the fire service roads and revisited another spot where we’d camped one year when our favorite place was “taken”. 
By this time, we hadn’t showered for eight days. I began to picture Steve as Sasquatch emerging from the forest…  …which he found rather funny. On our way back to camp from our after-dinner walk, Steve suddenly told me to hold very still. A skunk was foraging at the side of the road. We waited. He crossed the road and began to forage on the other side. We waited. Then, he turned and headed straight for us. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I was barely breathing. The skunk stopped four feet from us and looked up. He turned tail and hustled away from us as fast as his short, furry legs could go! What a relief…what a delight!

Our sojourn in the forest was punctuated by encounters with wildlife of many kinds besides the skunk: beaver, deer, bald eagle, red squirrel, vole, grouse, spider, leech and slug, to name a few. Also hunter. Gunshots rang out near our campsites occasionally. Road hunters in blaze orange cruised by. We found the remains of a grouse at one trailhead.
I am almost entirely ignorant of gun culture, mostly by choice. The relationship that Steve & I want to have with the world is non-violent, following the Buddhist koan “do no harm”. Our culture is, however, complex. There’s a lot that I will never understand, and I don’t want to judge. I am grateful that we were able to experience long stretches of silence and peace on this trip, in which we could contemplate our place in the cosmos. Perhaps we are atypical of Wisconsinites, or of Americans. “What do you do out there in the wild if you’re not hunting, or fishing, or riding a motorized vehicle?” We sit. We walk. We sleep. We listen. We look. And I take pictures.

I am very grateful for the land around me and for the people who work to protect and preserve it. I do my best to join in the work. I invite you to as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo journal.

 

Autumn in the North Woods: Part One

Steve and I spent the last 8 days traveling through the North Woods of Minnesota and Wisconsin. We camped the first night at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the western end of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.  Here’s Steve modeling his fashionable Aussie outer wear (an estate sale find) against the cold and damp. This was the night of a truly extraordinary moonlit hike.  I awoke at about midnight to find that the sky had mostly cleared and the moon was full.  A pink ring of vapor circled the bright light, and although devoid of color, the landscape was clearly visible without a flashlight. I woke Steve up, and we walked for about two hours, through the campsite and down to the river. Luminous surfactant foam floated by, and we could tell that the water level was extremely high. The next morning, we stopped by the Visitor Center to learn more about the area. We then continued northwest into Minnesota to find a camping spot in the Chippewa National Forest. On the way, we found Lake Emily. I had to take some photos for my youngest daughter. 

The ever-helpful National Forest staff person at the Deep River ranger station gave us an armful of maps and great tips for exploring the forest. We found a dispersed campsite by an unnamed lake (labeled M13) on Orange Lake Road. This lake was our home for 4 days. It was also a more permanent home for beaver, red squirrels, bald eagles, and deer. It changed constantly in color, light, temperature, water vapor, sounds, inhabitants, surface, and semi-submerged “furniture”.

On Saturday, we explored “The Lost Forty”, a 144-acre area that was mistakenly marked as a lake by surveyors in the 19th century and spared logging. Old growth white and red pines dot this virgin forest. The sun came out spectacularly, and we could see why this remote area attracted so many weekend visitors. One hiker greeted Steve with “you old hippie!”. I admit I hugged a few trees. I was awed to be in the presence of these Ancients. 

The following day dawned foggy and damp. We decided to explore the area just around our campsite and have a no-drive day. Minnesota is truly the land of 10,000 lakes. Every bend in the path seemed to lead to another one. We found sunshine at Littlehorn Lake, just down the road. Sunshine is a definite mood-changer!

On Monday, Indigenous Peoples Day, we hiked a golden path for 7 miles in order to explore the remains of a non-indigenous settlement along Trout Lake. The Joyce Estate was constructed from 1917-1935 as the retreat of a wealthy Chicago family. I imagine it was a roaring 20s bootlegging Gatsby-type scene, with guests being flown in by seaplane to play on the shore. In recent months, it was severely vandalized. I feel sorry for the Forest Service – managing land on a tight budget is tough enough without having to deal with unruly citizens as well. 

 

The next day, the Ranger Station was open, and we returned to thank them for hosting our Minnesota stay. We spent no money whatsoever on accommodations this entire trip, so we wanted to make sure that we expressed appreciation for the folks who protect Federal land and work to keep it open to the public.

We headed next to the Apostle Islands and were able to splurge for The Grand Tour cruise, thanks to the savings. I will cover that in Part Two. Stay tuned!