Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Madison, Wisconsin

John and I have never been in Madison before so we decided to make that our next destination before leaving Wisconsin. Also, our nephew Adam's wife Kjerstin, recently moved there to begin graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin and we wanted to visit with her. Madison turned out to be a very pleasant surprise; we had a very enjoyable day in the capitol city yesterday, despite the cool wet weather. Within or just outside of the city limits are four lakes. The city center, where we spent our time yesterday, is on an isthmus between two of those lakes; Lake Mendota and Monona. The eight-block-wide isthmus is dominated by the Monona Community and Convention Center and the state Capitol. The convention center is where we took our first guided tour, after we first had lunch at its rooftop garden cafe. From this garden we had a great view of the lake, city, and state capitol building. Below is a picture of the entrance to the center.
 Frank Loyd Wright began his plans for the convention center in 1930. He did not complete the design until a few week before his death in 1959. Wright considered the state Capitol in his design. He wanted the color, forms, and symmetry to echo that of the capitol which had been built from 1906-1917.  After 60 years of debate the construction of the center began in 1994 and the building opened its doors in 1997.  Below is a picture of the Grand Terrace which opens to a majestic and expansive view of Lake Monona.
The interior was designed by Wright's apprentice, Tony Puttam. It has all of Wright's architectural ideas and hallmarks which can be seen in the carpeting and custom designed furniture. According to our guide, Wright's design for indirect lighting came from the form of the hollyhock flower. The state Capitol is just down the street from the convention center. We were fortunate to also get a guided tour of that building.
The capital dome is topped by a gilded bronze statue, "Wisconsin". She has a badger on her head. The badger theme is continued within the capitol. Outside of the governor's office is a statue of the famous Wisconsin animal. People walking past him rub his nose for good luck.
The Wisconsin state capitol was built in 1917 at a cost of $7.25 million. The interior features forty-three varieties of stone from around the world. Its dome is the only capitol dome to be made from granite. The interior also features decorative murals, glass mosaics, hand carved furniture and massive columns of marble. It has to be one of the prettiest state capitols which we have ever toured. We ended our afternoon walking around State Street Mall, a tree-lined shopping district with small import shops and craft studios.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Plover, Wisconsin

  We decided to stop at Plover on our way south because that is the home of our niece Rachel and her husband Ben. We had a busy but enjoyable weekend with them. On Saturday we biked a small part of the Green Circle Trail. The trail encircles Stevens Point, a town adjacent to Plover. We started out on the River Pines section, and from there took the Westside Loop which gave us views of the Wisconsin River, and downtown Stevens Point. We also rode past old paper mills and large wetlands.
We took time off from our ride to view a Civil War encampment at Buckolt and Pfiffner Parks. We also strolled around the downtown area of Stevens Point after first checking out the farmer' market. The market had a interestingly diverse group of sellers from the Hmong and Amish communities. I have obtained quite a large amount of produce in the past week, which has kept me busy pickling beets, baking zucchini bread and saucing up rhubarb. I consequently dared not look at any of the produce in the market (well, I did sample some ground cherries which were a bit too strange for my liking).  Anyway, it was the flowers in the market which caught my eye. There were some very beautiful flower arrangements on display.
 We attended a bluegrass festival Saturday evening, appropriately called Bluegrass in the Pines. Sloppy Joes, an excellent bluegrass band which played at our son's wedding, was scheduled to play at 11PM. Unfortunately that was a bit too late for us as we had a bit of a distance to drive to return to Plover.
Sunday morning we attended Good Shepherd Lutheran where Ben is associate pastor. We have been attending quite a few traditional services lately so their praise service was an enjoyable and different worship experience. I found the altar of Good Shepherd to be quite beautiful with a simple stained glass window above it. The window can be popped out and changed for the different liturgical seasons.
Sunday afternoon found us back on the Green Circle Trail. This time we hiked on foot through Schmeeckle Reserve, a nature reserve on the UW-Stevens Point campus. Our last stop of the day was at Steven Point Sculpture Park. One interesting sculture there was La Casa del Carbonero, an artistic piece described by its creator as "inspired by a traditional Chilean charcoal maker's structure..combines a form from my homeland and more contemporary industrial elements ...the viewer is invited to sit inside and ponder". Ben did try it out to see if it could possibly help him with his sermon notes. Today we are moving on to Madison Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

On Wednesday we left Duluth and headed back to Wisconsin. As we entered the town of Chippewa Falls we saw the Chippewa Bottling Company. The success of that company, as well as other locally made beverage companies, has supposedly been due to the purity of the ground water. The Chippewa Bottling Company was founded in 1880 by Thaddeus Pound, grandfather of the poet Ezra Pound. Another beverage company in this town is the Leinenkugel's Brewery, founded in 1867. Five generations of the Leinenkugel family have kept the small-town brewery going,  it is the seventh oldest working brewery in the nation. We toured that place this morning, after which we were treated to samples of some of the brewery's products. Below is a picture of  one of the brewing rooms with its copper topped brew kettle.
We learned something interesting while touring the brewery's museum. The expression "Give me a shot" was what cowboys said when they wanted a drink. They usually had no cash on them so they traded a bullet for a drink. After the brewery tour we drove over to Irvine Park. The park has 364 acres and contains a zoo with native animals. It has a large forested area complete with many hiking trails and also includes Glen Loch Dam, pictured below. We rode on our bikes to explore the park, and from there we headed to the downtown area.
For a small town Chippewa Falls has a very thriving downtown. Mason Shoe Company got its start there in 1906 and now has a big outlet store in the business district. While in town we also found a wonderful farmer's market. The town was named one of the top ten small towns in America by Time Magazine and, after being in the area for just a brief time, it was easy for us to understand why it is such a great little town.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Our Weekend in Duluth

Duluth's farmer's market was our first stop of the day on Saturday. I was curious as to what the local produce was at this time of the year here in the north country. There was a fair representation of most of the usual vegetables, including corn. Tomatoes have not done well because of the cool wet summer. Most of our time at the market was taken up talking to a farmer about the wild rice of Minnesota. We had seen rice plants in a pond on our trip along the north shore and were curious as to how it was cultivated. The man we talked to seemed very pleased that we were interested and enlightened us on the whole process. He had been harvesting the grain on his reservation since he was nine years of age. Over time he has made his own tools for processing the rice as augers and roasting ovens to remove the hulls. He also has a special type of broom to sweep the seed into his boat during harvest. And to keep the level of the water high for the rice plants he has to regularly go out and destroy beaver dams. He stressed that wild rice is really a form of grass. His final product has a price of $10.00 a pound, I certainly have a better understanding now of why it is so expensive! After the market we drove over to the Glensheen mansion on the historic Congdon estate.
The picture of the mansion above is of the side of the house which faces Lake Superior. Chester Congdon,  and his wife Clara, had it built in 1909 to model an English country estate. The 39-room mansion is typical of the opulent 19th century homes which we toured in Galveston, Texas. We enjoyed our tour of this home as it still has its original furnishings, artwork and family treasures. The gardens of this estate are maintained by the University of Minnesota, and currently quite resplendent in their summer beauty.
 Today, Sunday, we drove to the home of Paul and Luella Boseovski which lies south of Duluth. Luella is the mother of our brother-in-law Cal. We had heard so much of her over the years and were the recipients of many of her delicious jams. She also makes quilts and does a variety of other needlework. Besides gardening, Paul keeps busy with woodworking.  They prepared a lunch for us and gave us a tour of  their rather large garden. We spent a wonderful afternoon with them and left loaded up with fresh vegetables.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Minnesota's North Shore

One trip we certainly wanted to take while staying in Duluth was the drive north along the shoreline of Lake Superior to the border of Canada. Along this route are eight state parks. In these parks, and in other locations along this route, are numerous rivers, falls and gorges. Our first stop was Gooseberry Falls. Gooseberry River is one of 20 major Minnesota rivers which can be found on the north shore drive. Gooseberry Falls is a series of falls tucked into the woodlands and lying between the river of its name and Lake Superior.
It was tempting to stay at these beautiful falls and explore them completely, but we had other falls to see. Our next stop was Split Rock State Park. In November of 1905 a big storm came up on Lake Superior with 65-mile-per-hour winds and 30-foot waves crashing along the cliffs of the lake. Numerous ships capsized or ran into the rocky cliffs that night, which prompted our government to authorize the building of a lighthouse at Split Rock. We took a guided tour of the lighthouse as well as the surrounding buildings.
Our next stop was Caribou Falls and from there we drove to Cross Falls.There was no hiking to those falls as they are at a handy wayside rest. It seemed to be a popular swimming spot.
 As we kept driving further north we started seeing less of towns and more forested areas and resorts. To get to Cascade Falls a strenuous hike was required, but it was fun discovering each cascading stream of water as we walked through the woods and over the river loop. Our final stop was at Grand Portage State Park. This is called "the walking place" by Native Americans because here it was necessary to hike nine miles inland from Lake Superior to their winter camps. The falls here were the most awesome of all we had seen during the day. And from this point we could gaze over the river into Canada. By now we had driven close to 150 miles. We were tired and ready to head home. Before doing that we stopped at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino for an excellent fish supper. The lodge is on a Native American reservation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Duluth, Minnesota

This is probably a first for us, parking our home on a wharf! We are now located on a 7-mile peninsula called Minnesota Point. From our windows we can see the Aerial Lift Bridge which connects the peninsula with the mainland. The bridge spans the entire canal entrance to Duluth Harbor. Duluth is an major inland port and important grain center. We have enjoyed watching the bridge go up as ships, big and small, have passed under it. From our home we often hear the alarm sound which warns drivers and pedestrians that the bridge is going up.
From where we are parked we can walk to many of the sights of the harbor. On our first night here we walked around Canal Park. The area encompasses the ship canal, bridge, waterfront, shops, lodging and restaurants. Near the harbor there is even a Lake Superior Maritime Museum, which John took some time to walk through. Yesterday morning we walked over to Holiday Center via the skywalk. Duluth has 3.5 miles of enclosed skywalks which connect some 135 shops and businesses. After taking a short break back home we then headed out on our bikes along the Duluth Lakewalk to the Leif Erickson Park. The side-by-side boardwalk and paved biking path run from the ship canal to 60th Avenue East. The sun felt quite hot, but the lake breeze kept us feeling comfortably cool. Many people were out along the lake front, including some swimmers who were brave enough to be in the cold water.  We took a short detour off the Lakewalk to see the rose gardens at the park.
Returning home on the trail we could look up from the harbor and get a good view of the skyline of Duluth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flora and Fauna of the Upper Peninsula

The above picture is pretty much representative of the wildflowers for northern Michigan at the end of its summer. The forest's floors which we have seen have been covered primarily with a variety of moss, ferns and mushrooms. I did find one very unusual mushroom, which I at first thought was a bloody tissue. My second thought was that someone dripped blood on the mushroom. But no, I found other white mushrooms with the same streak of red!. That was a first sighting of particular variety of mushroom for me.
 John pointed out to me that there is no underbrush in the woods as in Missouri because of the short season of summer. In the river hills the ground is particularly bare and tree roots are exposed. It is hard to imagine now, but it gets quite cold here during the winter and there can be lot of snow on the ground. That snow, when it melts, certainly creates a good deal of erosion along the river bluffs. We were disappointed that we did not see any moose during our time in northern Michigan, only lots of deer. Upper Michigan is also supposed to have 85% of all the black bears in Michigan. We did not see them either. However, we had two interesting encounters with birds. One afternoon we found a young evening grosbeak on our steps. He let me take a picture of him and then flew off. He seemed like a very young bird for this being so late into summer.
Yesterday morning a variety of birds created quite a bit of racket near our home. In all of that din I noticed some bird sounds I had not heard before. Not long after that I happened to glance out of our kitchen window and saw a pileated woodpecker pecking away at a big hole located on the bottom of a nearby tree. I apologize for the blurry picture, he was moving rather rapidly around the tree. Today we have moved west to Duluth, Minnesota. It is on the far western edge of Lake Superior.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jackie Gordon Lehto

This posting is going to be quite different than all of my previous ones. At Iron Mountain we had seen in a local paper an article which noted that a woman, Jackie Lehto, was traveling across the Upper Peninsula on her bike to raise funds for domestic abuse. To our pleasant surprise on Saturday evening, while attending services at Sharon Lutheran in Bessemer, we learned that Jackie was speaking at the church Monday evening. We made it a point, then, to get back from our hiking at the Porcupines State Park in order to hear her speak. She had a horrifying story to tell of suffering abuse at the hands of her father during her childhood, as well as domestic abuse from two of her ex-husbands during her adult life. It was with the aid of many counselors, several spiritual advisers, as well as one hospitalization, that she finally received the help she so badly needed. She was then able to climb out of the resulting recurrent bouts of sadness and depression brought on by the abuse. In her message she also gave a powerful testimony to the grace and love of God. She has learned in her faith journey that God is always with her and frees her to move from sadness to hope. This is her second trip to get her story out. In 2004 she biked a total of 2000 miles. This year her goal was 800 miles in 18 days. She chose the number 18 because it is by the age of 18 years that one in three girls, as well as one in seven boys, are abused. In my lifetime there have been two women whom I knew to have been abused. Hopefully now I have better insight into helping such women should the opportunity arise again. I also am now more aware and appreciative of the important role domestic abuse shelters play in the lives of these women. Fortunately Jackie's story ends well. Besides being happily married, she is now a proud mother and grandmother, as well as a successful home economics teacher for special needs children.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Our original plan was just to enter this park to hike the falls of the Presque Isle River, but as usual those plans changed. We had seen Lake of the Clouds before but, after entering the park, realized that we did want to see the lake again. It is one good viewing spot of the Porcupines Mountains, and Lake of the Clouds is nestled in those mountains. The lake, which is only 15 feet deep, is "so sheltered and hemmed by the surrounding mountains that winds bare ruffle its surface" (so noted by a geologist in 1851).
The Porcupine Mountains State Park is the largest of Michigan's state parks. It is 32 miles from Lake of the Clouds to the Presque Isle River falls. The drive is through some very beautiful forests of virgin maple and hemlock. The water falls all have native American names. Hiking along the river we saw the Manabezha, Manido, and Nawadaha falls, as well numerous other smaller falls. We noticed that in some places, as the Black River, the water is an orange color to a deep amber. Both rivers have a large amount of tannins and other plant sources which give them that coloring. Our last view of the river on our hike was the most awesome. Here the river flows through a deep gorge and falls over large boulders. Over the years it has cut deeply into the rock formations, and created large bowls commonly known as potholes.
The sight of the falls at this point was well worth the arduous hike over a trail that was pretty much up and down over the river cliffs. Steps which went over those cliffs were often the roots of trees, as pictured below.

Copper Peak and the Black River Falls

Yesterday turned out to be quite a physically exhausting day. We climbed another ski jump and hiked to several falls. The ski jump is at Copper Peak hill. It is the tallest flying ski jump in the world. Yes, I did say that the last ski jump we climbed was the highest. But that was not a  flying ski jump. This one we needed to take a chair lift to the crest of the hill and then a 18-story elevator, after which we had to climb a series of steps before reaching the very top. From the top we could see 100 miles across Lake Superior to the Minnesota, Canadian border.What a view from that height!
The ski jump has not been operational since 1994. They are currently making physical improvements on it, including the construction of ponds which will collect water needed for the snow machines. The weather sometimes warms up during the winter months and melts the snow on the hill. There are only about 100 jumpers in the world qualified to use this jump, hopefully it will be ready for them in a few years. The rest of our day Sunday was spent exploring the falls along the Black River. Interestingly enough, some of the trails along the river connect to the North Country Trail, a hiking path from New York to North Dakota. We hiked to Conglomerate Falls as well as the Potoawatomi Falls, which was all of about 4 miles. We then drove to Sandstone Falls,  where John commented that all of these falls are geological wonders. Over the years retreating glaciers left behind large boulders of rock, some of which are composed of  conglomerate (a variety of different rocks cemented together). During that time rivers of water flowing over those rocks created the river gorges and falls which we saw along the Black River. At Sandstone Falls we could especially see   how the forces of nature interacted  to create different layers of rock. Conglomerate rock at Sandstone Falls lies on top of layers of sandstone. The Blackstone River crashes wildly down, around and over the large rock formations. In some places it has scoured out large potholes.
Getting down to Sandstone Falls required traversing many steps. To give ourselves a break before hiking to the next falls (Rainbow Falls) we drove over to Black River Harbor, where the river flows into Lake Superior.
After hiking over to Rainbow Falls we stopped for the town picnic at Bessemer, Michigan. Never before did a burger, beer and an ear of corn taste so good!  A local band, Marty's Goldenaires, provided the music.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pine Mountain Ski Jump

The "King of Hills" is a 123.5-meter ski slide, the world's highest artificial ski jump. The tour book also said "Free Viewing". I am not sure what it meant by the last statement, but John and I thought that it meant free viewing from the top so we climbed up that ski jump. Just kidding, actually I am not sure what possessed us to climb that jump! Coming down was a bit tricky because of the steep slope. I soon learned that it was best not to look down! It was a bigger thrill for me, once I was back on the solid ground, to find a young deer staring at me from out of the woods. Below is a view of the town from a hill over Millie's Mine, a favorite bat viewing area.. In the distance is the Menominee mountain range.
 We are leaving this area today, heading further west out of the Upper Peninsula into Minnesota. Before leaving this area I want to mention a few other places we visited while in Iron Mountain. The town has several interesting museums. One of them is the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum. An old, very large pumping engine, which weights 160 tons and is 154 feet tall, is the focal point of that museum. It was steam driven and used to pump out the water of  several mines in the area. It began operation in 1893, and was replaced in 1914 by an electric powered pump. In another building of that same museum is a restored WW11 military glider. The Ford Company Plant in the nearby town of Kingsford produced 4,190 of them between 1942 and 1945 for combat operations. That was an interesting piece of  history for me as I knew nothing of the existence of those gliders. The gliders had to be towed by larger powered aircraft to the landing zone by a long nylon cord.
In our tour of the town we also stopped to see the old historic Immaculate Conception Church. It was built in 1903 by Irish immigrant miners who wanted a Catholic church which looked like their parish churches in Italy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Iron Mountain, Michigan

No, you did not read the above title wrong, we are back in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. John felt that he wanted to see the western side of the peninsula and I am glad we did return. It is a place of spectacular and unspoiled natural beauty. Shortly after crossing the Michigan state line from Wisconsin, on Tuesday, we stopped at a roadside rest stop. To our pleasant surprise we had arrived at one of  our country's prettiest roadside parks called Fumee Falls.
That same day we parked our home just outside the town of Iron Mountain. The next day, Wednesday, we took a guided tour of the Iron Mountain Iron Mine. Our guide took us in a rail car into the mine and over 2,600 feet of  drifts and tunnels. The mine opened in the late 1800s and by 1945, when it closed, 22,500,000 tons of ire ore had been hauled out of it. Its miners earned 7 cents a day, and  the miners who worked with the dynamite received 15 cents a day. It was hard for me to imagine that kind of dangerous life!
Later that same day John and I hiked along the Menominee River at Piers Gorge. Here the river plummets down a 10-foot waterfall and flows wildly between canyon walls. Its huge waves make it an ideal river for white water rafting. We were able to watch one raft go through the strongest of the rapids. John had the camera but for some reason missed snapping a picture of the raft. The picture he did get was of a young woman falling out of it. Fortunately she was able to swim to shore and then joined us on the trail. Further down the river the raft was waiting for her.
Our final stop for the day was at Norway Spring, located at the edge of the town of the same name. In 1902 a 1094-foot hole was drilled in search of iron ore. The drilled hole created an artesian well which is still flowing abundantly today. We met a man at the spring who was filling up a couple of jugs of the water. He said that he comes from Marquette, Michigan every two weeks to stock up on the water for his personal use.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Door County, Wisconsin

We are leaving this peninsula tomorrow with some sadness.  Not only is it a beautiful place but it is also now filled  with wonderful memories for John and I.  Over the past two weeks we have pretty much traveled over the 75-mile-long peninsula. At its northern tip we took a ferry over to Washington Island. On another day we visited the lighthouses at Baileys Harbor and Cana Island. In the town of Sturgeon Bay we walked around the historic district which is currently decorated with many colorful sturgeon.
  Also in Sturgeon Bay we found the Door County Museum which has on exhibit many items belonging to its pioneers.  In the museum we learned a lot about the peninsula and its history for about the past 150 years. The first cherry orchards were planted in 1862. Below is one of the cherry exhibits located in the museum.
 I must say that for me this is the best time to visit Door County, just because I love cherries. While here I have eaten cherry doughnuts, cherry brats, cherry peanut brittle, and cherry pie. I have even stocked up on the fruit before driving from the county. One other food popular in Door County is fish.  At the Door County Museum there is a display explaining the ever-popular fish boil. The first one was done in Door County in 1962. One meal for our family reunion was a fish boil at the Log Den restaurant. We learned from the cook there that originally the fish for a fish boil was trout, which is an oily fish. When that fish is boiled in water it leaves an oily scum floating at the top of the water. To avoid dragging the carrots, onions, potatoes and fish up through that oil scum a large fire is created.  The water heats up rapidly then and the oily layer boils out of the pot. The fish used in the current fish boils is whitefish, so technically that fierce fire is not needed. After giving us that piece information, the cook tossed some lighter fluid on the fire and we watched our pot of food become engulfed in flames. It all made for a great plate of food, which was finished off with a piece of cherry pie.
 Before closing here I want to mention one very scenic spot on the peninsula, which is Cave Point County Park. The waters of Lake Michigan and Green Bay have carved the peninsula's rocky shoreline into caves, arches and cliffs. Below is a picture of the caves along the water at the county park.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dan and Amanda's Wedding

The past two weeks have passed very quickly. Our son's wedding and the family reunion which followed have taken up a lot of our time. The last family member, our son Michael, left early this morning. Time now is my friend and I can get a posting done. I will first start out saying that the wedding went well and was an awesome event. Prior to the event it was a crazy and hectic time and I did wonder how it was all going to come together. But Dan and Amanda did know what they were doing and had it well organized. The second day we were in Door County John and I checked out the Woodwalk Gallery where the event was to take place and we could easily understand why the wedding couple choose the site. It is an old barn which has been turned into an art gallery. The wedding was to be outside, in front of the corn crib.
Family and the wedding party helped to decorate the wedding reception area (pictured above) the morning of the event. Amanda and her mother had sewn and put together all the table settings. They had made cloth love birds and flowers. You can well imagine our dismay when, about an hour before the wedding was to begin, the sky became dark and a torrential rain came down. A strong wind blew everything off the tables. We had been informed that there was zero chance of rain. What was equally amazing was how everyone, once the storm had ebbed, cleaned up the mess and quickly transformed the inside of the gallery into a wedding chapel. The table linens and love birds were hung up to create a backdrop for the altar. Chairs were dried off and brought inside. Meanwhile the perspective bride and groom were strolling around with big grins on their faces. Nothing seemed to upset them and that was good. The storm actually was good for our daughter Melissa who had been icing cupcakes for the wedding cake up until about one hour before the wedding. She had moved her icing process to our motor home; below is a picture of my sister Julia doing a stint of icing. Someone made the comment that it takes a village to make a wedding. We found that to be quite true for Dan and Amanda's wedding!
Melissa was able to get dressed, drive to the gallery, and set up the wedding cake before she had to pick up her flute and play the wedding march. Below is a picture of her(after the ceremony) with her work of art.
After the ceremony the sun shone again and pictures were taken outside. The reception was lots of fun with plenty of food, mint julep and wine. We had a great evening of dancing with music provided by the Sloppy Joes. I can't leave this posting now without a picture of the happy couple!