It’s been like April around these parts, but it’s January, the coldest part of the year. Last Friday the temperature was thirty degrees above normal. It was sunny; there was no wind. I had to get out and enjoy the weather in spite of being a bit ill. I spent most of that day out in my car or walking along the side of the Chippewa River south of Durand, Wisconsin. I’ll mention one rural, back road I was on just because I like the sound of the names: I drove Swede Rambler Road, which crosses Little Plum Creek, to its end at a farm gate. Along the way, I checked out a parking lot at the head of a trail into The Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area which contains the largest floodplain forest in the United States.
I ended the day in Pepin, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Pepin. The sunset, two ice fishermen, and I all arrived at the perfect time for a photograph.
I wrote this post in February of this year. I got sick a few days later and forgot about it. I’ve decided to go ahead and post it.
I got stuck in the snow on Saturday when it snowed all day. I was in Cornell, a small town on the Chippewa River in Wisconsin. I tried calling some local services for a tow truck, but, being the weekend, no one answered their phone. Some snowmobilers came by and tried to push me out without success. My smartphone was having trouble finding WIFI.
My only recourse thus seemed to be 911, but I was reluctant to call because I didn’t seem to be in a true emergency. But I couldn’t think of what else to do, so I called. I apologized to the gentleman at Chippewa County Emergency Services, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by my call and went out of his way to make sure I got help. I know he made several calls before he was able to find someone in Ladysmith, over thirty miles away. Eventually, a tow truck arrived and pulled me out.
Thanks very, very much to the man who helped me and Chippewa County Emergency Services.
In my love/hate relationship with smartphones, this day was all love.
P.S., while waiting in my car to be rescued, I noticed the drops of melted snow on my car window and snapped a decent photo. I was in the snow waiting for a couple of hours and was able to get a few more decent photos.
Last week I photographed the Lake Wissota Dam on the Chippewa River as part of my project to photograph the river from source to end. All the dam’s spillways were closed. It rained heavily on Tuesday so I thought perhaps the spillways would be open to handle the runoff. I went back yesterday and found only one spillway open, the one farthest away. Here are shots before and after the rain.
Other shots from yesterday, including another river, the Red Cedar, and a creek, Popple Creek, a tributary of the Red Cedar.
Sorry, this isn’t about the Disney movie, it’s about my day out in the cold working on my project to photograph the Chippewa River from source to end. It was cold: 2° F with a wind chill of -10°. I was not uncomfortable because I dressed for the weather. (I recently purchased what I suspect was the last pair of XXL long johns in Stillwater. I admit my outfit was not very fashionable, but it worked.) The only problem was my hands. I had to take off my choppers to take photos. In areas exposed to the wind, I could only manage two or three shots until my hands became too numb to operate the camera.
When I stood still, all I could hear was the wind hissing through the dry grass and the river ice occasionally booming and popping. When I walked, I heard the fresh snow squeaking beneath my boots and the old, frozen boards of the bridge deck creaking and snapping under my weight. I didn’t see another soul all afternoon.
The day before yesterday I finished “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, the scary thriller by Ruth Ware*. Yesterday I unexpectedly found myself in a dark wood.
My hike took longer than expected, and I forgot that daylight savings time ended recently. It gets dark very early these days.
So I’m trudging through a dark wood. There is absolutely no wind, and no creatures are stirring, not even a mouse. They have all gone south or into hibernation for the winter or have bedded down for the evening. I can hear a jet far up in the sky but nothing else. It’s actually a beautiful evening. More than once I stop to enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the color left behind by the setting sun, color that shows brightly in the crisp, clear evening air.
I was in the Dunnville Bottoms in the floodplain of the Chippewa River in Western Wisconsin. Here are some scenes from the dark, dark woods in the bottoms, mostly oak forests with many old, gnarly, spooky oaks.
I thought the book was neither scary nor thrilling, just an average, somewhat entertaining who-done-it.
I’ve been exploring the Chippewa River this spring and late winter in the stretch of river between Eau Claire and the Mississippi River near Pepin, Wisconsin. Much of the terrain along this part of the river is barrens such as the Dunnville Barrens and bottoms such as the Dunnville Bottoms. And yes, a bottoms can be a barrens.
Bottoms, as in bottomlands, are “low-lying land along a watercourse” [Merriam-Webster.com]. Barrens are “level or slightly rolling land, usually with a sandy soil and few trees, and relatively infertile.” [dictionary.com.] So bottomland can be barren but not necessarily, and barrens can be on bottomland, but not necessarily.
This is part of the Dunnville Barrens State Natural Area within the Dunnville Bottoms.
This is a fun area to explore. It encompasses the Dunnville Barrens State Natural Area, Dunnville Bottoms, the Dunnville State Wildlife Area, and the Dunnville State Rec Area and Sandbar (great for swimming). The Red Cedar State Trail runs along its southern edge, crosses the river on an old railroad bridge, and ends at its intersection with the Chippewa River State Trail. The Chippewa River State Trail runs along the river between Eau Claire and Durand.
I mapped my hike before setting out today. According to Google Maps, it would be 2000 feet from the parking lot to the river, 2000 back. However, the universal law of geography kicked in not long after I started the hike. I learned this rule in college on the first day of Geography 101. The rule is that in nature, the shortest distance between two points is never a straight line. There are always intervening ravines, impenetrable thickets, fierce and angry thorns, deep woods, wet ground, mean bulls (happened to me once, I swear). Columbus ran into a continent. Don’t forget the next-ridge corollary to the universal law. When you finally reach the ridge you’ve been straining for, there is always one more ridge to go.
The universal law kicked in today. I knew I would be hiking over level ground and open fields with a band of trees along the river. Should have been easy, even for me in my febrile old age.
Later: I am now seated at the bar of a Mexican restaurant, an oasis for an exhausted, muscle-sore hiker trying to recover from what ended up a challenge. Even so, I’m glad I went and finished the hike. I captured some decent photos for my project on the Chippewa River. Here is another universal law I learned in college but not in the classroom: a cold beer (in this case Dos Equis Lager) never tastes so good as when one is tired and dry. It tastes great and you can tell yourself that you’ve earned your beer, and the next one, and . . .
Here are some other photos from the hike in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area southwest of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Leaf Of Common Mullein Backlit By the Sun
Sundown On the River Bottoms (2)
Chippewa River Below Caryville Bridge, facing west
Chippewa River Below Caryville Bridge, facing south
Trees yawning over a dry channel in the Chippewa River Floodplain
A Natural Levee On the East Bank Of the Chippewa River Looking North