Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Smaller turnout in the locks was OK

By David Horst  sandhill7@gmail.com

This was a far cry from 150 boats.

That's how many kayaks, canoes and stand-up boards we expected to show up at Lutz Park for the Appleton Locks Paddle.

That was before the one-week delay, due to hazardously high water flow on the Fox River, and the forecast for rain all day on our substitute date, Oct. 1.

The 38 boats that showed up didn't pack the locks full, as photos of past years' trips testify. No clanking of gunwales. No pushing of boats into the path of the lock gates.

We saw immature eagles. We saw an osprey. We saw deer nosing along the edge of the yards on the north side of the river.

Friends gather for a group shot after a laid back 6-mile Appleton Locks Paddle.
And it didn't even rain.

It has seemed at times that our North East Wisconsin Paddlers public paddle events have fallen victim to their own success. It is fun to turn out a big crowd and enjoy the variety of boat colors and designs, and personalities of their owners. A flotilla like that nails our goal of getting people out on the water, but a smaller crowd has its charms.

I was able to have extended conversations under paddle power with the veteran paddler who drove up from Milwaukee, the former municipal worker who put up with my recitation of the history of the Appleton sewage treatment plant's anaerobic digesters and guy who is much closer to a real farmer than I am.

The logistIcs of launching and landing were were not on a scale with Normandy, as some of these outings seem to be. The group wasn't stretched over miles of River. It was just nice.

These outings are essentially planned by three guys and pulled off on launch day with a lot of help from just a few more. It was up to the three of us to make go, no-go decision. We made the absolutely right call.

The previous Thursday, the flow created a 2-foot standing wave of water rushing from the navigation channel to the open gates of the dam, eager to take someone along for the ride. Now the surface was flat, though the pull of the current was still real enough to kindle an active imagination to consider how bad of a day that would be.

As we pulled into Sunset Park in Kimberly, I realized this was it for the season and my mind turned to what we will ask all of these people to do with us next year. I'll be OK if for some of those trips, they count in the dozens instead of the hundreds.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ellen's 'Migration'

By David Horst

The love of my life and I visited the Green Bay Botanical Garden this summer. As we always do, we went to the domed Stumpf Belevedere gazebo to read the line of Ellen Kort's poetry inscribed there.

Ellen Kort
It was the first time we had been there since Ellen's passing more than a year ago. There was such a powerful feeling of loss that we had to leave the shelter.

We knew Ellen. I had the pleasure of working with her on a couple of small projects and I worked with her late son, Kris. My wife taught her grandson and knows her daughters.

To be honest, hundreds of people were closer to Ellen Kort than I was, yet I felt the loss. It was something about her poet's heart and peaceful presence that made people feel a closer connection than the facts could justify.

My most special interaction with Ellen was having her respond to a column I wrote about taking part in the Midwest Crane Count -- watching the sun come up over a farm field and recording the activities of the sandhill cranes.

She called me and read a poem to me over the phone. I didn't include the full poem at the time because she hadn't published it yet. A recent email asked if I could provide the full text.

Here it is. My wish is that we all see Ellen's shadow on the ground at times that we are in need of calm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

At Home with Hummers

Each year nature seems to send a special gift to us up on the sandhill we call home. Last year, it was a bounty of monarch caterpillars transforming into butterflies. In recent weeks, we have been surrounded by frolicking hummingbirds.

Six, seven, maybe eight hummingbirds will fly high-speed sorties around our house, chasing each other to get the advantage at each of three feeders.

They will swoop up and down in arcs in front of the house, or scramble around back to catch their tiny breath on a twig. Stand on the back deck and you are certain you are going to have a hummer beak stuck in your ear.

They have been the source of hours of enjoyment, some of which I will share here.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cottonball sky

The sunsets frequently are beautiful up on the Sandhill, but tonight the sky turned alien. Reds, purples, greens. A ridge of cloud containing a cottonball sky.


This explanation from WRFV-TV5 meteorologist Dave Miller:

Those are mammatus clouds. They generally are found behind thunderstorms. They are boiling clouds bubbling down, with a lot of turbulence in them.