On a recent walk, snapped a cellphone shot of the elusive Burdock Bear.

Prickly-looking but surprisingly friendly, they’ll attach themselves your coat and follow you home.

 

 

 

Nature, Uncategorized, Winter

Burdock Bear

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The burial ground was last used in 1814, and it took considerable effort to open the stone door.

1860's

Gateway

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Cellphone shot of a 1915 station in Sparta, on the Chicago Northwestern.

Originally, this line was called the Baraboo Air-Line Railroad.  (Isn’t that kind of great!?)

The trains don’t go there anymore.

Although there’s active stations not too far away (eighteen miles east in Tomah, and 28 miles west in La Crosse), because Amtrak runs more-or-less northwest across the state, on its way to St. Paul.

This little brick building is now the office for the 32-mile Elroy-Sparta biking trail, which the official guide tells us, is “considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States.”

It’s about 120 miles northwest of Madison, and if you continue NW from Sparta, on the La Crosse River Trail, you’ll hit the Mississippi.

The sections I walked were pleasant, if unexciting, but the big attraction is the tunnels.

 

The trail was mostly crushed limestone and well-maintained. I think one section of trail may still be closed after some storm damage, so if you’re planning on biking this, check with the folks in the Sparta office.

 

In the 1870’s, RR workers dug & blasted their way through the hills.  We walked through the longest tunnel, nearly 3/4 of a mile long.

 

The closest access point is reached by driving down a semi-washed-out gravel lane next to the church I posted yesterday.

At the foot of the hill, there’s what looks like an ancient stone-lined canal.

 

 

It was actually just an attempt to divert storm water away from the tunnel and railbed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tunnel is almost entirely unlined, and water drips down steadily from the ceiling, and runs alongside the path in little ditches.

At some point, the burrow is reinforced with massive stone blocks, and water cascades down the wall – – I think the spot where the workers hit an underground spring.  This picture was taken with a flash, there’s no lighting in the tunnel.

 

 

 

This is to give an idea of walking through the tunnel with your flashlight turned off, looking toward the entrance.

 

If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, and perhaps hearing a bat or two overhead, it’s a wonderfully cool place for a walk on a hot summer day.

And a great place to sing, if there’s no one around.

I recommend selections from Bohemian Rhapsody, or Phantom of the Opera.

 

 

 

 

1870's, Railroads, Uncategorized, wisconsin

Walks Around Wisconsin. Chicago Northwestern, Sparta station, 1915. And a Dampish Sort of Tunnel, 1873.

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A cellphone snap of an 1878 church near Norwalk, Wisconsin (pop. 638)

Built by German immigrant farmers, miles from any village, surrounded by hills and cornfields.

Looking well-looked-after, in a nice setting, surrounded by thriving crops.

Apart but without any feeling of isolation, just peacefulness.

The church is called St. John the Baptist, and the corn certainly looked well-watered.

 

 

1870's, wisconsin

Walks Around Wisconsin. The church on Summit Ridge.

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Buttermilk Falls

 

As you head south out of Ithaca, NY, there’s a stretch of highway that’s one of the main commercial drags in that little city.  It combines routes 96, 13, and 34 for a few miles, and it’s fairly hectic – – lots of banks, car dealerships, fast food, grocery stores, motels, etc.

And then you hit the city limits, and all that commercial stuff pretty much stops.  The Green Party – Socialist State of Ithaca is behind you — the Asian and vegan restaurants, peace signs and rainbow flags are gone, and the pro-NRA banners begin.  You’re now in the Southern Tier, and it’s shotgun racks, dollar stores, and Don’t Step On Me flags all the way to the Pennsylvania line.

But there’s a sweet spot, a DMZ between the two worlds, just as you leave Ithaca, and that’s two nice state parks — Buttermilk and Treman.

 

The same falls as the first shot, but much reduced flow of water.

 

Buttermilk is the first, named for the whitewater of a big falls (165′ tall), very close to the highway.

It’s impressive in the spring, or after periods of heavy rain, but I think it’s more interesting than beautiful. Instead of a vertical drop off a rock ledge, it’s a tiered cascade, pouring into a swimming area.

The curved slope of siltstone and shale is shaped a bit like a section of a domed roof, or maybe a big hoop skirt, and the creek just comes down it in a pretty uninventive way.

The water doesn’t really leap from the rock, and go for it, take the big plunge, it just slides over it.  Dutifully following the law of gravity, falling without any particular style, just like the rest of us.

If you or I were on that slope, we’d be sure to slide down it too, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to think that was very clever, would we.

 

 

It’s right off the highway, with picnic tables, a swimming area at the base of the falls, and playing fields close by, so it’s a bit busy.

I mean, it’s perfectly nice and has that pleasant bustle of people picnicking, dogs barking, kids happily hitting each other with sticks and rocks, etc. but combined with the rumble of motorcycles and trucks on the highway, the noise drowns out the water sounds.

 

Did I mention the stairs? There’s a lot of stairs.

 

 

 

 

So, why the heck am I talking about a spot that I’m not entirely keen on?  Because if you cross the creek, on a little iron bridge built in 1881, and follow the steep trail up the south side of the gorge, it’s fantastic.

There’s a whole series of smaller but wonderful falls.

The water is having a wonderful time, whizzing through high-spirited chutes, swirling in circular pools, dividing and rushing back together in playful angles, and you’re right next to it all, you can stick out a hand and feel the spray.

 

 

 

This is the view at the beginning of the glen.

 

 

 

The trail is rough and often slippery, but totally worth it.  Once you’re in the glen, ferns decorate every crack and ledge, overhead are maples, beeches, and hemlocks.   The highway noise disappears, and there’s just the sound of rushing water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get there early in the morning, or early evening, especially on a day when rain is threatening, and you’ll probably have the place pretty much to yourself, and can just soak up the quiet musical reverberations, and watch the acrobatics of the barn swallows, swooping and streaking through tight turns just above the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One rainy afternoon, I played with this shot on Photoshop, with a watercolor effect, and kind of liked it. What do you think? OK or annoying

 

 

per Steve’s suggestion, here’s a more heavily-edited version

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. May, Buttermilk Falls.

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Here’s a bit of a contrast to the beautiful spring blossoms.

A pair of sinister mug-shots.

I don’t remember running across these before, but apparently they’re quite common.

“Devil’s Urn” or Urnula craterium.  (Based on extensive research for almost ninety seconds on the internet.)

One article indicates that if you blow into the cup, it may spray out a cloud of spores with an audible hiss.

Any volunteers?

In the original Star Trek, there’s an episode called “This Side of Paradise,” where some alien flowers spray spores onto the colonists from Earth, and establish a symbiotic relationship, giving them all perfect health.  The spores also cause Spock to fall in love & be happy, for the first time in his life.

So, everyone is healthy & happy & in love, and no one sees much point in flitting around space in a giant tin can, bothering the natives.  Luckily, Captain Kirk is there to save everyone from this horrible fate, and evacuates the planet, so everyone can get back to being normal humans, staring at computer screens all day and paying taxes.

If you remember, it was after this episode, that Sulu and Chekov started referring to a “Captain Buzzkill,” and Scotty suddenly couldn’t ever get the transporter to work right, and kept leaving Captain Jerk, sorry, Kirk, stranded on hostile planets.

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature

Devil’s Urn

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A disintegrating old barn, leaning six ways to Sunday.

I like the hand hewn beams & weathered wood on old barns, and this had the right stuff, but right angles, not so much.  Nothing was entirely straight or plumb.

The light coming through the boards looked like some sort of coded message to me, but the first person I showed this to, saw a cityscape at night.

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, photography, Upstate New York

Old barn at the end of the day

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Upstate New York, Waterloo

Organic advertising ~~ Spreading the word

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. March, Fillmore Glen. Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungus.

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Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. March, Fillmore Glen. Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungus

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