Sunday, November 8, 2009

Parnell Tower

Day 25 (10/25/09)
After a very long period of colder than normal temperatures we finally got a good day and it was on the weekend. At first we were planning on kayaking but the wind was pretty strong so we decided to go hiking in the kettles instead. I had heard of the Parnell Tower before but had never been to it. So we set out for the kettles and the tower. A lot of the leaves were already off the trees. The wind and rain had taken their toll. What were left were yellow leaves. There was evidence of red ones on the ground. Why they fell first is beyond me. Being fond of yellow, that was ok with me. When we got to the tower it looked like others had had the same idea as us. In spite of the crowds we decided to make the best of it. We started by climbing the tower. The vistas were as awesome as we had anticipated, well worth the trip to the top. We then decided to take the longest three and half mile hike we had ever taken. My first mistake was not looking at the trail map before leaving. After an hour of traveling in roughly the same direction we were starting to wonder if the trail made a loop as we had anticipated. It was late in the day when we started so now we are starting to question whether we should turn around or not. It had been some time since we had encountered other people. The trail was beautiful, carpeted with new fallen leaves of every color. Some areas were quite steep but again well worth the trip. About the time we starting to wonder if we would ever start turning back we came to the halfway marker and a map of the rest of the trail. Comforted with knowing that we would not end up spending the night in the woods we started back. Again, the trail was beautiful, but slightly treacherous with slippery rocks hidden under a blanket of leaves. We had to stack some just to make to place more orderly. We finally started seeing other people and realized the end was near. We vowed that we would go back some time earlier in the day and take more time to enjoy it. We made one final climb up the tower to watch the sunset. We stayed awhile but more and more people kept coming so we decided to make a break for it and come back at another time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

All is not Lost

Day 24 (8/11/09)
I went out on the bike trail for the first time today since the railroad went through and grabbed all the ties. I had heard that when they took the ties they had taken all my sculptures so it was with a bit of apprehension that I preceded down the trail. Not all was lost. Out of all the tie builds “dangler” was the only one that escaped destruction. “Boat works” was probably the hardest to take because it was all gone and was one of my favorites (Viking heritage and all). My first tie build “Tripod” was also gone and even though I scoured the area Teiva’s pot was missing. I did find some materials to start rebuilding so I started a new “tripod build”. I hope the railroad is totally done now. I have no ill will towards the railroad workers. They were only doing their job, unlike the people who have knocked them down in the past just for fun. A smarter man would probably call it quits at this point but I was surprised to find that I was actually filled with new zeal on the way home. It is like starting with a new clean slate, the canvas has been wiped clean. I had been getting into a rut anyway. Unfortunately most of the remaining materials are small so I may have to adapt my building style.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mauthe Lake

Day 23 (8/5/09)
As I stated in my “Onion River Project Blog” our camping trip to Mauthe Lake was our first tent camping trip in over twenty years. In our attempt to “do it all” we started with a twenty plus mile bike ride. Now on the level blacktop trails of home that doesn’t seem like much but on the gravel, hilly trails of the moraines it was quite another story. Let’s just say that it made sleeping on the hard ground in a tent interesting. That being said, it was a beautiful ride. One of the trails we took went from Mauthe Lake to Long Lake, a distance of about six and a half miles one way. Along the way you cross over a couple of bridges and board walks. Because of the many changes in terrain there is also a vast catalog of vegetation. In the early part of the ride you are pretty much in low lying, swamp areas with lots of spiderworts cattails. As you start moving into higher, dryer ground there were entire fields of wildflowers. There was a great variety of Black-eyed Susan type flowers. At some point I will have to take a look at each. I didn’t realize until today that some are actually yellow coneflowers. Two of the most striking flowers were the orange butterfly weed and the purple Bee balms. In the higher elevations the forests take over and you bike through some nicely shaded areas. I highly recommend taking this bike trip if you enjoy natural beauty. Yes, we did have a chance to do some building. It would have been nice to have done more and there was plenty of opportunity but unfortunately time was a major factor. Back at camp we settled in rather quickly. Thanks to Eileen’s meticulous preparation, even after twenty years everything went smoothly. After the ride we made a quick supper and managed to squeeze in a quick Kayak outing before coming back to camp and enjoying a pleasant campfire. After a big day we decide to turn in early. Sadly, after so much exercise we found it hard to get comfortable on the hard ground. Our one change for next time will be a softer mattresses.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Day 22 (7/28/09)
I went south today toward Belgium. I think it was the first time all year but I wanted to see how the coneflower field was doing at Jay road. Perhaps I knew it was going to be kind of depressing so I avoided it. There were very few coneflowers this year, maybe in another week. The most disheartening thing was when I got to where the old “Peace Memorial” once stood I now found only garbage. I picked up the garbage and started collecting rocks to rebuild it but people came along so I decided to wait. Matt, we have a new objective. Also, I have never quite understood the, Belgium side trail maintenance crew’s need to spray the trail with weed killer. It seems so anti-recreational somehow. It may be my imagination but there seems to be a lingering smell of chemicals that can’t be good to be breathing in, unlike mowing which actually leaves a pleasant freshly cut hay smell. There were some pleasant surprises however. Many of my friend Grant’s "plunker guys" were still on the poles, part of an art project he had done last summer. Almost all, if not all, are gone from the stretch of trail going towards Oostburg. Also, there were actually a couple of cairns up, obviously done by others. I will have to try to focus a little more attention in that direction.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What do you do that for?

Day 21 (7/23/09)
O.K. I’ll bite, what do you do that for? This was a question posed by a man about my age, 50 something, who was rollerblading back and forth past our building site. We had dropped our stealth mode for the day because we had some friends, Matt and Tabitha, out building with us. He then asked if it was some sort of religious thing. Is rollerblading back and forth on the trail a religious thing? I imagine that anything you do on a repetitive, consistent bases could be construed as religious as in, “I do it religiously”. In that sense I guess our building is religious. That being said, it is not religious in their definition of the word and I don’t understand why that is the first place their mind always goes to. I suppose it is easier to condemn something that seems to go against our religious beliefs then just admit that we just don’t understand it. I find it somewhat amusing that we don’t question somebody running willy-nilly to and fro with no objective, after all that is how many of us spend our lives. If, on the other hand somebody is building something with no apparent reason it must be sinister. Matt is no stranger to this type of art. Matt was one of my former students and has recently graduated with a BFA, where his main concentration was construction of art from recycled items. For more on Matt’s art you can go to his blog site: . It was fun getting together again with Matt and Tab who I haven’t seen much of in the last five years and Eileen had never met. Once we started building though it was like no time had past and we were old friends. It is funny how a common interest does that. At any rate it was cool getting out there and building with new people. I was starting to feel a little stagnant.


Day 20 (7/21/09)
It was another one of those days that remind me why I love Wisconsin. The temperature was perfect for a ride and build. I spent a lot of time photographing flowers. There were several new blossoms today. As much as I would like to, I can’t photograph them all but I will include what I can. The first wild flower I came across appears to be a Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea Maculosa) a fairly noxious but pretty little flower of the Asteraceae or sunflower family. The second wildflower was equally as noxious, maybe even more so, and equally attractive. It was a Purple loosestrife. It turns out it chokes out wetland ecosystems and eventually kills them (beautiful but deadly). Like so many invasive plants, it was brought over from Eurasia for people’s flower gardens. No mention of noxious plants would be complete with out the mention of Queen Ann’s lace. I have always loved the lyrical quality of it, complete with the stories that go along with it ( I even did an art piece filled with Queen Anne’s lace imbedded in it. Oh yeh, I did do some building. One of the highlights was stopping at “Tripod Build” and finding the ceramic pot of a past student incorporated into the design.

Monday, July 20, 2009

St. John's Wort

Day 19 (7/14/09)
I feel bad that I haven’t spent more time building on the bike trail, but with all of the work on the tracks it is hard to get things done. I also have been trying to whittle down my to-do list at home. Things should start settling down now so maybe I will get more done. I am also hoping to get out with some other people and do some building. Today while I was out I saw my first build, done by others, in a long time. It got me thinking that I wanted to do a page of other people’s works that they have sent me. Unlike mine, most are in exotic, interesting places. One is from a friend’s (she wanted to stay anonymous) visit to Niagara Falls, two are from Maddie, Mica and Ava on their family vacation to the Boundary Waters and the rest are from Matt. For more of Matt’s art you can go to I hope people continue building and sending, I love them. Included are some of my favorites.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Day 18 (7/10/09)
It was an interesting day on the bike trail. I hadn’t gone out last night like I had planned so I went out early this morning to rebuild “Boat Works”. I saw a white bus parked down by the road and figured it was the field workers I had seen out there yesterday. It appeared to be vacant so I went to work. Pretty soon I saw somebody watching out the window and thought about fleeing. At that point I was already discovered and figured time was of essence for rebuilding, so I continued. After I was done and was photographing it I saw the man get out of the bus and start walking toward me. At that point he had put on his hard hat and I realized he was with the railroad. He walked over and to my surprise asked if I wanted him to take a picture of me with the sculpture. We then chatted about what I was doing and he seemed genuinely interested. Then we talked a little about the process they went through to change the ties. He said that a crew would be coming through later to pick up the old ties and that they sorted them and sold the better ones for landscaping. He figured also, depending on who was doing the pickup, they might spare the ones that are already in sculptures. Maybe he will put in a good word for me. It never hurts to have someone in your corner. Today’s wild flower variety is the “birdsfoot trefoil”, a legume which is used in Missouri as a supplement to grass for cattle. Unlike other legumes it does not promote bloating, a good thing to know if you are going to eat it.