American 4th of July - We aren't retreating, we just got here!

1940 American census

I spent part of this morning looking around for my grandfather’s WWI record. (Did you look under the sofa, MB? Your socks, reading glasses, and a fudgesicle stick were there just yesterday.)

In the 1990’s, I wrote a Racine Journal Times column that included some tidbits about Grandpa Joe’s service in that war. Soon after the article appeared I received a letter from a local history buff who said he could get probably more info about my grandfather's military record. I talked with that pleasant guy and told him what I knew.

Wealthy and Wealthier

Everyone loves the new hot water heater.

Five ways I am Wealthier this Wednesday:

1. I voted for the other guy but I am Happy with Hillary. She’s lived a long and complicated life, and so have I. If there were no mistakes in her story I’d wonder what she was hiding. I trust her ambition (yes, I do) and I trust her goals … and she has a helluva resume … so here we go.

Going Backwards

We were northbound on a busy 4-lane street in an unfamiliar Illinoisan suburb, looking for a Starbucks. Our smarty-pants phones said there was one close; I spied it on the other side of the two lanes of southbound cars. Len started to turn. Just then I noted the yellow sign that said ‘Do Not Enter’ … and repeated those very words to Len who turned anyway since he had already started. I think his words were, “They probably don’t mean it.”

He turned in just as the south bound cars; newly released from their red light, started streaming past the back of us.

PDQ #120 Scuppernong Springs Trail

How to read this: Some of you are new readers. You can read my writing, right here.
If you open the PDF (below the text) , you will see this essay presented in a newsletter format, with LOTS of beautiful photos by Kathryn Rouse.
PDQ stands for Prairie Dog Quadrilateral.
If you read PDQ #1, you will find out how it started and why.

Last week I went for a walk with Mary at Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. She suggested a Scuppernong Trails hike as she would be on her way to Madison, and this would be interesting side adventure along her way. I said yes and then drove directly to Scuppernong Springs which is NOT Scuppernong Trails.

None of the rest of blog could have happened without cell phones so that we could call each other to say, “I’m here, where are you?” Of course, as you can see, the person who was not where we had agreed to meet was me. But as is so often true in my life, my mistake led to a good adventure (Have I told you how I met my husband???)

It was such a beautiful hike that I asked Kathryn if she would like to meet me there and she said yes, as she likes to walks and she loves most plants tame and wild. I had sent her a picture of a plant so odd I had no clue what it could be. She didn’t know either, which is a rare day in May for Kathryn.

In case you live in SE Wisconsin… think about coming here. The drive from Racine to the trailhead takes, according to Google Maps, 1 hour and 10 minutes. Hiking the trail is not too onerous. There are ups and downs, but they are not steep. Parts of the trail are wood decking; most is a maintained path through the fields, past the springs in the low spots, in and around fields and marshes. If you go slowly enough, it will take 2 hours. If you are in a hurry (why would you be?) a person could do it in less than an hour. And let me just add here, a tick came home with me the second time. If you go, wear bug spray and tuck in your socks. And the other hand, there were no politicians. You can decide for yourself what irritates you more.

Why do I like this path so much that I’m writing about it? I don’t exactly now. I have hiked lots of trails in my life and liked most of them. I walk almost every day here in Waukesha; I am having a swell time finding gorgeous old houses, little bits of nature, the path along the river, a truly awesome big ole antique/junk shop. As Robert Louis Stevenson says. “The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings (and queens).”

So why Scuppernong Springs?

Well, first there is the obvious. The name! How much fun is it to say and spell Scuppernong?!

The trail brochure says scuppernong is a Ho-Chunk word that means “sweet-scented land”. The Internet says scuppernong is a Muscatine grape native to the Scuppernong River in North Carolina. So there, two very different answers.

As I said, there are longer Scuppernong trails close to this particular park. The trail head for them is only a few miles from this trail. Those are the trails Mary X-county skied with her husband. I plan to hike them soon.

But: this path is not hard to do and yet it is not at all tame. There are long views from hills as well as short green tunnel-y paths through the woods. The marsh is very big, you will hear cranes, ducks, geese, frogs, and all sorts of other rustlers and peepers. It’s so cool to be hit upside the head with the music of a wild place.

There are flowers that one almost, but not quite, recognizes – sure sign you are in the wildflowers now. These are the humble, smaller, beautifully hued flowers professional gardeners started with, to organize for oomph into the big perennials we buy at garden centers for so much money.

Did you know red and yellow Columbine is native to the Midwest? I have lived with purple and pink ones for years, but here were the parents of the taller rosy ones. Massive clumps of blue lupine. Bunches and bunches of marsh marigolds, growing in and along the springs. Birdfoot violets which are cousins to the violets in your lawn. Wild cherry in blossom, stick your nose close and smell that natural perfume.

The springs are visible. Clear, wildly tempting water burbles out of the dirt to coalesce into small creeks that, in turn, create the sloughs and marshes. In some of these creeks you will clearly tan circles of bubbling mud. That mud is a huge story.

Marl was once an undersea plant called “chara”. There are stratas of rotted chara – AKA marl - that are 15-21 feet thick underneath the marshes. Marl is calcium carbonate, which is used in fertilizer and cement. Long (interesting, read the article) story short, the Eagle Lime Company operated a marl-extracting operation here 1908-1914. When in operation, there were two shift each day of 30 men. This was a very big manufacturing site. And now you also know how the town of Eagle got its name.

You will see remnants of Eagle Lime on the hike. Much of the path is the railroad bed used to haul equipment in and product out.

But now, what you have around you is bird song, breezes in trees and cat tails; the hum of tiny, icy clear creeks, flowers, the rustle of chipmunks, a beautiful world. You can marinate yourself for two hours and come out the end of the trail relaxed, a little tired, and tender.

More info:
Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail Address: County Rd ZZ, Dousman, WI 53118 This is the brochure that you can pick up at the trail head. You can also print it out here; let your kids or grandkids color it in before you take them there. I signed up to get blogs from The Buckthorn Man, who has cleared buckthorn out of much of Scuppernongs Springs.

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