Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A tiny little vacation...

Lower Wisconsin River, looking upstream

I needed a few days to relax a little before the trade show season gets serious...Outdoor Retailer Summer Market starts in a week or so and after that it's buying for the following year. So this was my last chance to get a little outside time.

Mississippi/Wisconsin Confluence

The whole canoeloving family set out for Wyalusing State Park, which is at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers. It's a lovely place with some of the loveliest views I've ever enjoyed. The ridge campsite has many sites overlooking the river; we opted for the more private ones on the backside of the campground but we could still walk over and enjoy the views.

We had two canoes—our Minnesota II and the little Curtis Companion. We started off as two in the Curtis and three in the MN II, but Ian is a solo paddler, and was having difficulty taking instructions from his big sister (even though she's usually right). So we made a midstream correction, I moved into the MN II with two duffers, and Ian took the Curtis with Gracie. He handled everything just fine, including the big Mississippi. I think he may also be a canoelover. I'm cool with that.

We did spend a good deal of time doing very little...watching the fire, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores, taking a few pictures, taking naps in the pop-up camper. The weather was sweet, cool evenings and warm mornings verging on hot afternoons.

There was a nice variety of insect life. One particular favorite was the dragonfly (looks like a four-spotted skimmer) that landed on the roof of our pop-up to warm up Monday morning. There were a lot of odonates on the water, mostly Common Whitetails (L. lydia) and little coveys of Amberwings with an occasional CG Darner or two. Bluets were mating and landing all over our canoe and us, which was fun. Mostly Skimming Bluets (E. geminatum) but I'm sure there were dozens of other varieties there too. Bluets are so bloody hard to identify...

This mayfly was hanging around in the restroom so I liberated him (or her, I dunno, I'm not a mayfly guy). Someone will tell me species I'm sure, it was a little more yellow than this picture shows.

The weirdest insect was the big one. In all my outdoor ramblings I had never seen anything like this beastie. Huge mandibles, long, butterfly-like abdomen, two sets of huge wings like a dragonfly...and I had never seen one before.

Turns out it's a dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus) from the order Megaloptera (which is Greek for "are you sure it's not a 747?"). If you haven't seen one before, don't feel too bad, they're short-lived, as are most mayflies, fishflies, and others of their ilk. This guy had been through a tough fight and had already broken one of his giant mandibles and was looking for a place to cash in his chips, having accomplished his mission. Still, at 5" long, he was a formidable specimen.

Dobsonflies are better recognized as their macroinvertebrate nymph—the hellgrammite. I've seen hellgrammites all over but I guess I never put two and two together. I guess they'd have to take on an adult form to mate as do all macroinvertebrates. Just never thought about it. My guess is that they were named for James Dobson. He also has large mandibles and sometimes uses them when he shouldn't. That and he lacks a spine.*

Sunsets were particularly lovely. I intruded (with permission) into a campsite that had a better view and started shooting. This is a campground that attracts nice people: no loud parties or boisterous neighbors, just a nice couple of schoolteachers from Moline Illinois and a friend's fiancee's parents (how weird is that).

All good things must come to an end. We packed up this morning, intending to hike the Northern Unit of Effigy Mounds National Monument, but Whitney's sprained ankle didn't feel up to it. So we instead did the next best thing—we visited the Dickeyville Grotto, which cannot be explained but must be experienced. The family portrait here took advantage of the reflectivity of one of the giant glass orbs.

L. to R.: Ian, Canoelover, Olympus 720SW, Whitney, Stephanie, Emily.

I leave you with this little sand painting, done by algae, sand, and some gentle wave action on a slough of the Mississippi. Better than anything I could do.

Restfully submitted,


*I'm sure some of my readers (at least one of you) like the Rev. Dobson. I find him smug and self-righteous. But you have to ask yourself...if the Corydalus cornutus had been named the Falwellfly or Corydalus oralrobertsonii, I'd have to go there too, would I not? Besides, I'm still wondering what Rev. Dobson has against Spongebob.


Bryan said...

Its a gorgeous park, not often traveled. Then again, I've only really been there in sub-freezing temperatures...

Cat Pippitt said...

I know some of those views, and Ian looks dang good as a solo paddler (plus dog). Takes after his dad, if I had to guess. Jealous, hope we get there soon.