I'm sure that Wisconsin Dells could easily lay claim to the Water Theme Park capital of the world. There are so many of them. And they have rousing names. Why not spend a few days at Mount Olympus? You can slide and slosh to your heart's content. Or maybe imagine yourself as a carbon molecule trapped in an infinite loop of circulating water park water.
I ambled in to a small cafe/diner in downtown Baraboo, Wisconsin. It was one of the nicest small town eating establishments I'd ever seen. Wooden booths with lovely lamps. Very cozy. Breakfast was excellent, too.
The Wisconsin Dells reflect the confluence of three geomorphological regimes. Devil's Lake State Park (see below) is a relic mountain range, older than the Appalachians. It's covered with glacial debris. Just north is the drumlin, moraine, glacial physiography. Just south is the flatter glacial flood plain. Maybe this is geomorphogical physiotherapy!
Buddy Haffaker, the executive director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation told me this. I had a terrific one hour meeting with Buddy who described the mission, history, and strategic approach of the organization. The facility is LEED Platinum. So now if someone asks you what Sweetwater Music and the Aldo Leopold Foundation have in common, you'll know what to tell them. Buddy is pictured below along with some of the fittingly attractive buildings.
I got on the bicycle and cruised around the road that runs through the heart of the sanctuary. Rose breasted grosbeaks flitted around, along with numerous sparrows and yellow throats. This is an amazingly diverse and intriguing landscape. From Leopold's preserved shack, depending on which way you look, you'll see sandy wetlands, forests, and streams. The landscape is rich with mystery and beauty and a haven for wildlife. It looks like a place that would inspire one of our greatest conservationists. It also looks like a place that should be almost smack in the middle of a continent. I will take Meine's biography of Leopold off the shelf when I return home. It's sat there for far too long. The photos below are a small sample of the extraordinary variety of habitats. Check out the shack, too.
The temperature was cool and pleasant (mid 50's). By the time I reached the western edge of Wisconsin, it turned muggy and very warm, a balmy 82. Wisconsin is replete with long bicycle trails. You can spend an entire summer cruising the Wisconsin landscape on your bicycle. I thought at least I should spend an hour on one of the state trails. There are signposts for these trails on I90. I exited the interstate near LaCrosse and followed the LaCrosse River for five miles, observing the coulees and bluffs. Midwest topography is way more interesting when you get off the Interstate.
I crossed the Missisippi at LaCrosse (Der!). What a magnificent crossing. The river is so wide. The bluffs are majestic. The islands are intricate. I'll have to get Twain's Life on the Mississippi off the shelf as well. Glad I remembered that little ditty that helped me spell Mississippi without looking it up!
NPR Minnesota warned of severe thunderstorms with the possibility of tornados and they were coming my way. Yikes! For the rest of the afternoon I listened to storm reports and kept an eye on my Ipad Weather App with the radar maps. Amazingly, I completely dodged the storms (sheer luck) except for one three minute downpour. I was totally engrossed in watching the sky, anticipating my route, listening to storm reports, while weaving my way through and around the precipitation. By the time I reached Albert Lea, Minnesota the storm threat had passed. At twilight I observed misty, feathery, shadowy clouds, floating through some huge cumulus to my north, catching the last glows of a dipping and darting setting sun. It was a soft, soothing, yet ominous light. Huge wind installations punctuated the landscape, appearing as if alien life forms getting ready to settle the planet.
By Worthington, Minnesota, I decided I had enough startling beauty. I studied the map of South Dakota and then fell asleep to the Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs.