Today was the Kickapoo Valley Reserve‘s Winter Festival in La Farge.
While I didn’t make it for any of the morning activities (flint knapping, dog sledding, ice cave hike, live raptor talk, and more!) I did get to go on a brilliant hike with Chuck Hatfield and learn about beavers– I absolutely loved it!!!
Hunting is allowed here so they just ask nicely that people don’t.
Chuck explaining beaver teeth in front of a beaver lodge. Beavers live in lodges which are different than dams and have bedrooms and eating rooms.
We had a big group!
So this deer pooped on a beaver dam… There’s a joke there…
An older, smaller dam
Across the water you can see some “Beaver Art” as Chuck called it.
A very large beaver dam!
Beavers are fine woodworkers leaving spears of wood sticking out everywhere.
Who dug this? This who was about 6 inches in diameter and was deep!
Amazingly effective beaver dam!
To give you an idea of how strong this must be, keep in mind that the water below was approximately 4 feet below the water up top. Spectacular!
And older washed out dam
Beavers enjoy eating the outer layers of bark and inner cambium but not the inner woody part. This was probably eating off to take the log to the nearby dam.
Beautiful bluff area with Eastern Hemlocks, ferns, and other plants growing straight out of it!
Guess who hollowed out this tree!
A Pileated Woodpecker!
Someones been walking here!
[ Click the first picture then go through the slide show if you want to read the captions or see bigger versions of the images!]
I learned quite a bit about beavers in college but it was nice to get a refresher and actually see some dams and lodges! Coincidentally I also read about beavers last night in Wintering by Diana Kappel-Smith. She made some interesting notes about them, my favorite being that even when it is below freezing outside, it is still cozy inside of a beaver’s lodge thanks to all the warm bodies in there. Chuck told us that beavers don’t leave home until 2 sometimes 3 years old meaning that at any given time there could be upwards of 10 beavers living in a lodge! Something else that I find fascinating about beavers that wasn’t touched on today is that the have a special gland inside their body that pumps super acidic juices into the beavers stomach so that they can process all the cellulose. Wood is made of cellulose which is undigestable to most except for mushrooms and apparently beavers! Other things that eat diets high in cellulose like ruminants actually have micro-organisms inside their bodies that help them break it down. The beaver just gets cooler and cooler! My last fun beaver fact, that I just learned through the wonders of the internet, is that beavers exude a substance called castoreum for marking territory that was often used in medicines. Turns out that since beavers favor willow that this exudant is actually high in salicylic acid (aka aspirin) which explains its medicinal effects! Fascinating! Thanks Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Chuck Hatfield for putting on such a fun and thought provoking hike!
Tags: Beaver dams, Beaver lodges, Beavers, diana kappel smith, ecology, environmental education, fresh water ecology, frozen rivers, hiking, ice, Kickapoo River, Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge, Nature, outdoors, photos, snow, winter, winter festival, wisconsin
Every Sunday in Annie world is Sunday Funday– a day for doing something special for yourself. For this Sunday Funday we decided to go up to La Crosse for some hiking and coffee shop time. La Crosse is snuggled between the Mississippi River and these beautiful, towering bluffs. The hiking trails, obviously, are located either near the river or up on the bluffs. For our first La Crosse hiking adventure we decided to try the bluffs. Before hiking, however, we stopped at Grandad bluff. From the top we could see all of La Crosse and the Mississippi! We even had the good fortune to have a train go through town while we were up there so La Crosse looked like a tiny train set!
After Grandad Bluff we headed over towards the Hixon Forest Trails where we went on some long windy hikes on the Human Powered Trails. There was no one else out there so we got to enjoy it at our own pace. The best part was playing Nature Detective.
Who’s poop is this? [Definitely deer. There are tracks everywhere]
Who dug these little holes? [Probably squirrels]
Why? [Digging out their winter nut caches!]
Why are these so many berries over here but not over there? [Birds eat the berries then sit on the powerlines and poop out the seeds!]
Why are all the tree pointed in this direction? [That hill over there cuts off most of their daily sunshine so they have to crane this way for late day light!]
We hiked for a few miles and then after getting sufficiently turned around we found a trail that lead us back to the parking lot. These trails and the land they are on is very cool because it is home to a prairie restoration project. The Driftless region used to be mainly oak savanna and prairie and prairie restoration projects are popping up all over the place. I definitely plan on going back there in the Spring.
I love this! Simple and useful. Though not now of course.
Milkweed seed pods make perfect elf ears!
Jamie loves Sumac.
Someone has been eating nuts!
I wonder what this was! And from when!
The mysterious holes.
Before reaching the trailhead we stopped to take some cheesy perspective pictures. In the parking lot there is a NOAA doppler station. The instrument used for doppler radar looks like a giant volleyball sitting atop a metal stand. When you are near it you can hear it hum. My brother and I were weather nerds when we were kids– okay just plain nerds– and read all these junior meteorologist books. We loved our barometer and would always predict the upcoming weather. We would have loved this giant volley ball station as children!
Post hiking we descended the bluff into town and read for a while at Jule’s Coffee Shop. Jamie is currently reading the Harry Potter series (which he originally started to appease me and has since gotten really into) and I am reading 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. We read for a hour or two, ate some dinner, and then headed home.
Goodbye Grandad Bluff!
All and all it was a fabulous day and a Sunday Funday success!
Tags: adventure, Grandad Bluff, hiking, Hixon Forest, La Crosse, nature detectives, photos, praire resoration, Sunday Funday, winter, wisconsin
Our house in the snow!
I shoveled the driveway all by myself!
From the edge of our neighborhood you can see our friends’ farm just out of town!
Most often when you see a conifer around here it was planted. They are still my favorite when covered in snow.
The edge of town. You can just barely see the Viroqua water tower!
Around the corner and down a hill from my house, is a fabulous tract of woods on the edge of town called Hubbard Hills. The woods are owned (as much as any woods are owned) by a family on the street who have built many trails through the land and allow people to use them for recreational purposes. It’s a really spectacular place and is beautiful in all seasons. On one of those trails, at a specific spot, is my super secret special place I like to go to ponder life, work through things, and just be with nature. It is a place just for me. It is so secret that this is the first time I have ever mentioned it to anyone. That’s right interwebs, I’m telling the whole world before I ever say it out loud.
Today is a very special day. It is the 3 year anniversary of the day I graduated from college, the day I stopped religiously editing my grad school application and finally put it in the mail, it is the day I had my first snow day off from work, and the day I almost got shot at my sit spot! To celebrate and reflect on my accomplishments, adventures, and misadventures over the past 3 years I decided to go on a hike through the snowy woods to my sit spot. I hiked and I hiked through the magical woods. It was peaceful and beautiful. I saw fun little tracks in the snow and followed them around for a while. Eventually I came to beloved sit spot. I’ve been going to this spot since June and this is the first time I have ever been there in snow. I took out a plastic bag for a seat and settled in for a while. The trees I have grown so used to gazing upon looked extra enchanting with inches covered in snow on them. I thought for a while about all that has happened and made some wishes for the next three years. Then the magic exploded.
BANG! BANG! Gun shots. I’ve been there so many times and never encountered anyone that it never even occurred to me that it would be a great place to go hunting. How silly of me. I live in Wisconsin and it’s hunting season! My first instinct for some reason was the jump up and scream , “PERSON! I’M A PERSON!” Seriously, Annie? I got no response, heard no snow crunching near me, and saw no other footsteps so most likely the person wasn’t even near me but I said good bye to my spot anyway and left immediately.
Next time I go out there, I will remember to wear orange.
[Note: None of these pictures are off my sit spot but simply from my walk around my neighborhood. I refuse to take any pictures there because it is my sacred ground.]
Tags: Celebration, hiking, Hunting, Magic, Nature, photos, Reflection, Sit spot, snow, viroqua, winter, Winter Wonderland, wisconsin
The farm where I live has 3 horses, 2 goats, a couple dozen chickens, 6 cows, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a ton of wildlife. The dogs, Freddie and Dolly, and the goats, Abe and Lily, are my favorites. One day while everyone else was out I decide to go on a hike with all my special friends. I put Abe on a leash and everyone else just followed. We went to the creek, through the woods, up the driveway, and all around the pastures. What a grand adventure!