Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween 2012

Happy Halloween from the park grounds of the Hurst lime kilns of Jackson County, Iowa.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

She's Made of Iron, Sir! I Assure You...

There’s a bridge on Iron Bridge Road in southeast Jackson County, Iowa. Yes, its made of iron, some 440 feet of it spanning the mighty Maquoketa River. Built in the 1950s the truss bridge connects hilly topography to the east to a broad plain to the west – most likely the ancient flood plain. At last count (2009) some 220 vehicles pass over the structure daily near Spragueville. 

On this day the bridge served as a photography subject and a land connector for the 42N crew. The water level was low but surprisingly clear. The site below the bridge has been added to the fishing spots to try for next season. And unlike the movie, Titanic as referenced in the title, there are no icebergs on the river or encroaching on the land - for now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Discovering the Path Less Taken or How I Found the Lime Kilns of Hurstville

Admit it. You pass through a locale zillions of times using the same path. By altering the route just a bit you can often discover things you never knew. Such was the case this month with the remnants of lime producing kilns just north of Maquoketa, Iowa.

Two forces are at work. One is the fact that another Iowa base blogger, Jeannelle from Midlfe by Farmlife, posted her discovery of the kilns on October 14th. Her subject matter of the post and its proximity to the 42N HQ quickly inspired me to find out for myself what I had missed for years. The other force is personal exploration or finding out how did I miss these preserved ancient furnaces.

Last week we drove the usual route from Cedar Rapids to Maquoketa. The town and area are widely known for the Maquoketa Caves State Park, the county fairgrounds, antique shops and a few restaurants. It is also a stop off point from Cedar Rapids to eastern Iowa’s Mississippi River towns. But veering north just a mile or so on State Highway 61 brings you to the tiny town of Hurstville. There along the highway are these stone furnaces that produced lime mortar from the 1870s to 1920. Read Jeannelle’s write up here and go here for more information.

At the site on a very warm Sunday morning were at least two groups of people taking family and high school senior portraits against the limestone hills and autumn backdrops. My curiosity was to explore the stone structures and remaining wooden buildings. Since 1980 the Jackson County Historical Society maintains the site and has built a picnic shelter near a creek to host visitors.

Traveling 42N back roads does not automatically mean that you’ll discover something unfamiliar. Researching other views, stories and opinions sometimes present previously unknown information. What you do with that information is key to understanding the world better. In this case, thanks to Jeannelle for expanding my understanding of Iowa history and landmarks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Burlington's Chained Time Portal

Next to Burlington Iowa's famous Snake Alley on the 600 block of Washington Street is a stone paved alley preserved from another time. This alley like its famous brick neighbor connects a residential street to a portion of the business district. A locked chain strung between two posts at the bottom of the alley limits access unless the key is obtained from the police. The alley is certainly accessible to pedestrians and cyclists who can maneuver around the chain. But cars and horse drawn carriages will encounter more difficult egress unless the chain is removed. When checking out Snake Alley be sure to venture eastward about 200 feet towards the river to discover this protected portal to Burlington's past.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Camping Can Be Fun

Camping in the great outdoors means different styles. This camper parked below the fall colors and in return accumulated a bunch of dust and droppings. While other campers sheltered in large RV-type vehicles complete with digital satellite TV and rugged outdoor mats, only a few hearty souls elected to overnight in their pickup campers. One brave camper pitched a tent. Overnight lows for that evening fell to freezing. Good for them - that type of weather builds character.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Indian Mounds of Palisades-Kepler State Park

Along a road from the park ranger's office to the camping ground within Palisades State Park near Mount Vernon, Iowa a sign identifies the site of several Indian mounds. Unlike the more famous Effigy Mounds in extreme northeast Iowa where the mounds are animal shapes, these mounds are slight rises roughly conical in shape and perhaps 3-4 feet high. Visitors are free to walk throughout the mounds and interpret their meaning. No informative signs are present to describe the mounds, their builders or their age. At this time of year the park is filled with people enjoying the change of color and warm temperatures. 

While I photographed the scene, several cars slowed to look at the mounds. Only one car stopped. Two people got out, walked over and clicked a quick photo then left. For the twenty minutes that I spent at the site, no one else stopped to inspect these ancient monuments. Isn't it interesting that modern visitors drive by historic sites, grab a quick photo and dash to the next scene? I've seen this behavior before at many historic sites. Perhaps the limitations of time or the mobility of the visitor are to blame but an extended stop may help people understand a bit more of the site and make for a richer experience.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Injured Canada Goose Rests at Palisades State Park

This canada goose experienced some mobility issues but seemed to be enjoying the bright sun and warmer temperatures along the Cedar River at Palisades-Kepler State Park in eastern Iowa. The park ranger was informed of the injured bird by several people including myself. Since the bird did not flee I was able to get within six feet and take a few photos with the zoom lens. The bird kept an eye on me while looking at its surroundings including the river. Hopefully all will be well for the goose.

This year the river is extremely low as the effects of the draught continue. Just four years ago the flood of June 2008 sent river levels to the 500 year mark throughout this region. Downed trees along the bank are a remnant of that flood. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday 'Love Me Do'

It was 50 years ago that 'Love Me Do' was released by EMI and launched the Beatles career. Tollie Records  followed shortly with the same release on their label. I'm sure there's a story how all of the record label distributions worked out so I'll let you discover for yourself. The song charted to number 17 in the UK and provided the basis for the many hits to come from the Beatles.

I purchased this record and jacket at an estate auction for $5 - for a whole box of 45 rpm records of various 1960s-70s artists. I consider it a score. One note of interest. The songwriting artists for both songs is credited to McCartney - Lennon. At some point soon after this release the team decided on alphabetical order of Lennon - McCartney. John and Paul used that designation on all their subsequent compositions despite many tunes being written exclusively by one or the other Beatle. In the end the music remains fresh today 50 years from the band's recording release with side B saying it all.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

No Wind, No Walleyes, No Problem

Anglers on Leech Lake, Minnesota last weekend could not catch a break - or nearly a walleye. As these fishing flotillas traded members between the traditional hot spots of Sugar Point, Battle Point and Ginzer Rock on the NE side of Leech the only thing that didn't materialize were the much sought after walleyes. Two days earlier the fishing was excellent. The day before the fishing was good. But on day 3 the wind stopped, thus bait fish weren't schooling and ultimately the walleyes did not arrive. As the old saying goes, a bad day fishing beats a good day at work.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Northwoods Visit to a Painting

Last week I traveled five latitude degrees north to visit Leech Lake, Minnesota for a few days of fishing, reconnecting with family and thinking about other things than this crappy Recession/Depression. While natural light did not cooperate at this particular moment, the scene of the south shore beach road presented itself almost painting-like. A walk from the resort lodge to the historical marker on the beach was some 3/4ths mile and passed outstanding scenery including the lake, homes, beach and forest. A plus this time included leaves at peak color. Locals say the peak is a week or two ahead of time - that means an early winter. While temperatures for our gathering reached the mid-70s the forecast was for snow tonight. Wonderful.