Monday, May 22, 2017

Turning a cold shoulder to forecasters

By David Horst

We had a very nice paddle Sunday — a small, intimate group, strong flow in the river and the wind at our backs.

More on that, but first, I have to let loose of some rage.

Last Thursday — 48 hours before a weekend with two paddles scheduled on the Upper Fox River — the forecast for the Princeton area was unequivocal. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, between 70% and 90% chance of thunderstorms. I’d never seen such a dramatically certain forecast telling padders to stay off of the water.

As organizers of the North East Wisconsin Paddlers public paddle series, our course was clear. We needed to call off Saturday’s trip for the safety of the participants and to give ample notice to people traveling from farther away. You don’t argue with 90% certainty of thunder and lightning. We posted the messages on web and Facebook and sent emails to everyone we expected to come.

I joked with fellow trip organizer Jeff Mazanec that by canceling the trip we probably guaranteed Princeton would see no thunderstorms Saturday.

My prediction turned out to be the only one that was correct.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Horicon Marsh holds bird life and history

Horicon Marsh is a huge pool among the nation’s fresh water marshes – the largest, in fact. But it also holds a tremendous volume of history.

See more photos.
Few are better equipped to recite that history than Bill Volkert, who retired after 27 years as a naturalist in the state portion of the marsh. Why there is state and federal sections is part of the difficult history of the place.

We retained Volkert to talk about Horicon’s twisted history and lead North East Wisconsin Paddlers’ first public paddle of the 2017 schedule on May 6. The trip drew 67 paddlers, many on their first NEWP paddle.

Volkert told of a visitor to the marsh who remarked on how wonderful it was that we – the royal WE – had preserved all of this wonderful wetland. That’s when Volkert recited the list of attempts by WE to make the marsh knuckle under.
Known now for its Canada goose population, Horicon of the early 1800s was prime duck territory. The first assault on the marsh was hunting clubs with shotguns of such a low gauge that a single shot could bring down as many as 50 birds. Understand, this was after centuries of Native American habitation.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 paddle season set

The 2017 Heritage Paddle schedule is now available. New paddles for the upcoming season include a naturalist-led tour of Horicon Marsh May 6 and two days on the Upper Fox River May 20-21 that we're calling -- to please the censors -- the Three Good Dams Paddle. It will take us from the Princeton Dam to the White River Dam one day, and White River to the Berlin Dam the next. Old favorites will be back -- including two days in the Peshtigo Flowage June 24-25, the 16th annual Park to Park Paddle July 22, a Moonlight Paddle from De Pere to Green Bay Aug. 4 and the Appleton Locks Paddle on Appleton's Octoberfest Saturday, Sept. 30.  See times and other details at

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hope gives way to compassion

By David Horst

Hope gave way to compassion last Thursday.

We were barely into the barn when the vet pronounced hope was gone.

"We're in hospice mode now," she concluded.

Our 17-year-old llama, Constellatione, has not been able to stand on his own for several weeks now. In the world of a natural prey animal like a llama, that's a fatal flaw.

We've been holding out hope that lifting him daily with a cattle sling and an electric winch would get the strength back into his legs so we could see him grazing in the pasture once again.