Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wisconsin: Cranes, Vultures and Glacial Lakes

It's time for our fall vacation, and my wonderful travel agent/husband booked us into a time share unit in Wisconsin. He kept telling me there were six water parks, and I thought he meant down the street. Nooo, this complex is HUGE, and has six waterparks on the grounds! It is right between Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells, an area that seems to be Branson du Nord, perfect for families with children and grandchildren. We will still spend most of our time in the out of doors, of course.

The International Crane Foundation is right down the road, so that was our first attraction. ICF is famous in this country for their program to save the Whooping Cranes. They breed them on the grounds, and use an ultralight plane to escort the young on their first migration to a site in Florida. They also have pairs of all 15 Cranes in the world, including the Wattled Crane here, and work with foreign governments to save all of them as well. Read the history of the Foundation on their website. It leaves out the part that the founders were only 22 and 23 years old when they began their mission of saving Cranes in 1973. How many young men end up in "feathered diplomacy" as their life's work?

I took this great movie of the Whooping Cranes in their enclosure, and was just about ready to give up on ever getting uploaded to the Blogger server. It's great when you can get any animal in motion, especially one so rare as the Whooping Crane.

Today we traveled to Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo. The lake was formed when the last glaciers plugged both ends of an ancient river valley. The glaciers are gone, of course, but the lake remains. Great mounds of talus lie at the lake's edge, cracked off the bluffs by heating and cooling over thousands of years. The Quartzite rock itself is a rainbow of colors, from pink, to maroon, purple and almost black, metamorphosed from ancient sandstone. From a distance the rocks look gray, but that's only because they are absolutely covered with gray-green lichens. Some of the huge boulders still show the wave marks on the ancient seabed from which the sandstone was created. Really cool stuff!

A population of Turkey Vultures sit on the boulders at the west side of the valley, waiting for the morning sun to warm the rocks and themselves. When we walked along the trail, they decided they were warm enough and took to the air. Among the large birds, we saw another with lots of white on it's body, and I later determined that it was a Rough-legged Hawk, although we got no pictures of it.

On the other side of the lake are trails that lead to named rocks, like Balancing Rock and Devil's Doorway, so we decided to try one. It was listed as a .4 mile trail, so that's not too long, I thought. I should have guessed that these rocks would be up the steep cliffs, and the trails to reach them would not be easy. In fact, some conservation corps had taken the smaller boulders and made steps up the talus and cliff face. Steps with a rise of about 24 inches, and NO RAILS AT ALL.

I swallowed my acrophobia for a while, but when we lost the trail a time or two, I realized this was not a place I should be. How in the world will I get down these steep steps??? Ackkk! Dick was very understanding when I chickened out about halfway up the trail. I waited for his return, and he held my hand going back down so I wouldn't fall. At the bottom we walked through some nice flat woods and saw this cute little red squirrel. See, it's OK to stay at the bottom, especially if you are not a squirrel!


derrickm said...

Amazing Vulture picture.. My Favorite bird at Devil's Lake!

NCmountainwoman said...

We love Devil's Lake and the Dells...at least the non-touristy part of it. It's so sad to see all the tourist attractions when the natural beauty around there is so amazing. The kids need to be out there instead of at the water parks or other "amusements."

Love the video.

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