My own quest will begin on the Baraboo River. The Baraboo is near my house, so I can visit it frequently and observe it closely at all times of the day and throughout the year. The Baraboo’s headwaters are just a few miles from Elroy; from here it flows generally southeast through the Driftless Area — an ancient landscape carved by running water — to its confluence with the Wisconsin River, about a dozen miles downstream from Aldo Leopold’s shack. Continue reading
How do you begin to achieve deep knowledge of the landscape you inhabit? The naturalist’s first step, I think, is to take a walk. And then another walk…and then another.
Identify a place that you can really study. Perhaps you have a favorite spot already – a nearby wetland or meadow, or your own backyard. In cities or suburbs, a park can be a good choice.
Or maybe you’re like me – temperamentally disinclined to focus. I was one of those voracious kids who wanted to know everything about everyplace…and in some ways I never grew up. Here’s a method I found useful in choosing, at least provisionally, a place to study: Roam at will. Out the back door, up the road, over the hill. Visit lots of places, to see what you can see. Continue reading
In 2004, I stood for the first time beside Nebraska’s Platte River and wondered why maps show a thick blue line to represent such a feeble a stream. The Platte was a mystery to me in this and countless other regards. Without really planning to do so, I made a quest of exploring the Platte and learning its ways. In six years of walking, watching, and reading, I became attached to a place where, as a temporary transplant, I was sure I’d never belong.
Four years ago, I was transplanted again – back to Wisconsin, the state in which I grew up. I live in Elroy, amid the spectacular hills of the Driftless Region. A quarter-mile downhill from my back door, a new river flows through my life: the Baraboo is so close that in the spring, I can throw open the windows and hear frogs singing in the bottomlands. Continue reading