Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Upper Fox elevates quality paddling

By David Horst

Our group paddles have had an impressive history of good weather, but this was ridiculous. Temperatures lapping at 80 on May 21. Wind that was only detectable on occasion. Sun a constant companion.

We launched our 24 colorful boats at the White River Dam. We have used multiple times before. It's back in the woods east of Princeton. The reference to the dam is a historic one. This low head dam is so low as not to be visible.

The 28-foot Fox of the River.
This Fox River is not the same one that's bordered by houses, industry and urban parks in the Fox Cities. It flows through marsh and farm fields. The catfish outnumber the people.

Our usual circle gathering to talk route, rules and safety before launching took a solemn mood as we remembered Warren Brown, a paddler who had been with us on the Wolf River two weeks earlier and was with us no longer. Despite a protective suit, a lifejacket and training in self-rescue, he lost his life on Lake Winnebago.

Our ambitious route today takes us from White River to Berlin, 16 miles, just because there's no where else to land.

We chose up birds we wanted to see beforehand. The orioles, great blue heron, osprey and pileated woodpecker all made their appearances. The first eagle showed up while we were still on shore talking about them, and they kept coming until we couldn't count them anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Paddle series ready to launch year 7

A trip on the Wolf River through downtown New London to Shaw’s Landing on May 7 will open the seventh year of the Heritage Paddle Series. 

Presented by North East Wisconsin Paddlers, with partner the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, the eight paddling trips for kayaks, canoes and standup boards will feature a return to the Peshtigo Flowage and the Tall Ships Festival in Green Bay, a beautifully rural stretch of the Upper Fox River and the popular annual Park-to-Park Paddle and Appleton Locks Paddle. Two of the weekends feature paddles on both Saturday and Sunday.

The 7.5-mile Wolf River trip will launch from the New London Electric Utility property at 400 E. Water St., near where the Embarrass River enters the Wolf, at 11 a.m. on May 7. Paddlers are to arrive at the utility starting at 9:30 a.m. to unload their boats and gear, take their vehicles to Shaw’s Landing and be shuttled back to the launch. Good weather last year drew 90 participants to the season-opening Wolf River Paddle.

Paddlers must complete a registration form and pay $10 to cover insurance, transportation, printing and other costs. Details on the paddle schedule are available at People who want to take part but don’t own a boat can book a seat in the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway voyageur canoes for most trips by calling 920-707-2965.

The rest of the series includes:

  • Upper Fox Paddle, May 21, meet at 9:30 a.m., launch at 11 a.m. from the White River Dam near Princeton to Berlin (16 miles) and 11 a.m. May 22 from Berlin to Omro (14 miles), with camping in Berlin’s Riverside Park.
  • Peshtigo Flowage near Crivitz, June 25-26, meet at 9 a.m., launch at 10 a.m. from landing No. 13 on the Caldron Falls pool Saturday (6.5 miles) and Landing No. 6 on the Big Falls pool at 10 a.m. on Sunday (5 miles), with camping at Gov. Tommy Thompson State Park and a shared camp meal Saturday evening in the Woods Lake Shelter in the campground.
  • 15th annual Park-to-Park Paddle, July 23, meet starting at 7 a.m. for a 9:20 a.m launch at Shattuck Park in Neenah to Lutz Park in Appleton (8.5 miles). Expect to have to portage around the closed Menasha Lock.
  • Tall Ships Paddle, Aug. 6, meet starting at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. launch from Bomier Landing in De Pere, through the center of the river channel in downtown Green Bay where replica historic tall ships will be moored along both banks, to Green Bay Metro Landing (8 miles).
  • Appleton Locks Paddle, Sept. 24, meet starting at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. launch from Lutz Park in Appleton, through the four historic, hand-operated Appleton locks to Sunset Park in Kimberly (6 miles).

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cranes get social

By David Horst 

It appears this social media thing isn't just going to go away after all, so I decided to embrace it for this year's Midwest Crane Count.

With paid freelancing eliminated from The Post-Crescent and Gannett's Wisconsin newspapers, I am searching for another writing outlet. Heaven forbid, it might be social media. I dabbled in it last Saturday by delivering updates of my crane count over Facebook. People seemed to "like" it. I even discovered that there is a "love it" Facebook icon.

Here is a reprint of the morning's posts, with typos and omissions made on a pint-sized keyboard in the dim light of morning corrected.
Four cranes swoop into the counting area.

5:30 a.m.: I am at my counting site near Hortonville. The horizon already has an orange rim. The cranes will call soon, but not show themselves for a while.

5:40 a.m.: Two deer run and jump in the farm field as I set up the spotting scope. Not because they need to. Just because they can.

5:48 a.m.:
Crane calls mix with turkey gobbles. Nature is waking up. I won't count these. Too undefined.

6 a.m.: Two deer are at the edge of my crane area. That won't keep the birds away. The morning light is defining the farm field.

6:03 a.m.: Loud alarm calls ahead of me and to the east. They'll be out before long.

6:09 a.m.: First crane spotted. It flew in to the far edge of the field. Joined by No. 2.

6:17 a.m.:
The sun is a bright orange ball to the east. Three cranes are feeding in front of me. Another feeds with three turkeys to the west.

6:24 a.m.: A turkey in full display tries to attract a lady. Two cranes are with the turkeys now. Three more are feeding ahead of me. The count is five.

6:41 a.m.: I am in the company of 24 cranes and one confused tom turkey displaying for the cranes.

6:51 a.m.: Have not had a year like this in some time. There are 28 sandhills feeding in front of me.

7:14 a.m.: Sixteen minutes to go. 24 on the ground.

7:30 a.m.: Time is up on the crane count. My total is 28. 

It was an interesting media experience. But I have to say, Facebook definitely detracted from my experience. Instead of being fully immersed in nature, I had one hand in technology.

Will I do it again. Maybe. If I figure out a better way to do it. Or if I have no choice.

As friend and newspaper mentor Arlen Boardman told me, I can always go back into the woods some morning just for me.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Our time with Krash not long enough

Uncle Krash
By David Horst

I'm working on another cedar box.

This isn't for a planter or storing blankets. It's for an old friend.

Krash had been with us for 22 years. He was our second llama, a companion for our first purchase, Comet, because llamas are herd animals and aren't happy alone.

Krash earned his name. When he was a little cria on a llama farm in Cedarburg, his owners were walking some potential buyers along the pasture fence. A group of small llamas was coming at them from the other direction. The youngsters peeled off to either side of the approaching humans, except for one. Krash ran straight on. His tendency to be clumsy stayed with him.

His full name was Sharden's Krash Kradick. The farm's name combined with a spelling-altered version of a country singer's name.

He was far short of a herd sire. His ears were too long. His wool was too thin. His legs too skinny. He didn't measure up to conformation standards, but he was long on personality -- and loyalty.