WISCONSIN DELLS, WI to WORTHINGTON, MI

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. 

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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!

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

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Mitch Thomashow

Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence. Currently he is engaged in teaching, writing, and executive consulting, cultivating opportunities and exchanges that transform how people engage with sustainability and ecological learning. In August, 2011 Thomashow became Director of the Second Nature Presidential Fellows Program. This new program is designed to assist the executive leadership of colleges and universities in promoting a comprehensive sustainability agenda on their campuses. Fellows provide executive consulting on climate action planning, long-range financial planning, organizational leadership, curricular implementation, and community investment. From 2006-2011, Thomashow was the president of Unity College in Maine. With his management team, he integrated concepts of ecology, sustainability, natural history, wellness, participatory governance, and community service into all aspects of college and community life. This included construction of The Unity House, the first LEED Platinum President’s Residence in North America, and the TeraHaus, a passive house student residence, as well as comprehensive campus energy planning, an integrated approach to growing food on campus, and a new academic master plan. Previously from 1976-2006, Thomashow was the Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England. He founded an interdisciplinary environmental studies doctoral program and worked collaboratively to grow and nourish a suite of engaging Masters programs, geared to working adults. Thomashow is the founder of Whole Terrain, an environmental literary publication, originating at Antioch University New England, and “Hawk and Handsaw,” a journal of creative sustainability, published at Unity College. He serves on the boards of Orion Magazine and The Coalition on Environmental and Jewish Life (COEJL). Thomashow is a founding organizer of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), a national organization that supports interdisciplinary environmental studies in higher education. He provides ongoing consultation to the Sustainable Endowments Institute and their new Billion Dollar Green Challenge program. His two books have significantly influenced environmental studies education. Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (The MIT Press, 1995) offers an approach to teaching environmental education based on reflective practice—a guide to teachers, educators and concerned citizens that incorporates issues of citizenship, ecological identity, and civic responsibility within the framework of environmental studies. Bringing the Biosphere Home, (The MIT Press, 2001) is a guide for learning how to perceive global environmental change. It shows readers that through a blend of local natural history observations, global change science, the use of imagination and memory, and philosophical contemplation, you can learn how to broaden your spatial and temporal view so that it encompasses the entire biosphere. His essay (2010), “The Gaian Generation: A New Approach to Environmental Learning” provides provocative new concepts for teaching about global environmental change. Another essay (2012) “Where You At 2.0” reasserts the relevance of bioregionalism for digital age learners. A recent essay (2013),“Sustainability as Turnaround” is a case study of his work as president at Unity College. with mandolin.png His new book, The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (The MIT Press) provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. It will be available in January, 2014. Thomashow is currently working on two writing, networking, and teaching projects. Improvisational Excellence suggests that improvisation emulates the patterns and processes of the biosphere. It’s a series of essays linking play, music, and observing nature to the paths of everyday living. It is the philosophical basis for Thomashow’s workshops on global environmental change, music and nature, and ecological perception. Wilson’s Library is a series of prose poems depicting extraordinary moments during the history of life on earth. Thomashow lives in the hill country of southwest New Hampshire in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. He loves to explore the fields, forests, wetlands, hills, and lakes of Northern New England where you can often find him on his bicycle. His recreational interests include basketball, baseball, board games, jazz piano, electronic keyboards, musical composition and recording, guitars, hiking, and lake swimming.