At first glance, the trip from Cleveland to Chicago via I-90 might be considered a boring one. I beg to differ. Here is the trip in six segments.
Cleveland -- It was 36.1 degrees and windy when we departed from the east suburbs of Cleveland today. There was a Wind Advisory in effect, and indeed the wind was blowing. Aberrant 60-degree temperatures from the day before had cleared the last of the snow in the area. Even the little piles in shopping centers and along highway medians were gone. The grass was surprisingly green. I recorded a red-tailed hawk in the woods of Bratenahl, just north of I-90.
Firelands -- The Firelands are a section just west of Cleveland, mostly in places like Erie County. Cleveland's root date to the time of the colony of Connecticut and the Western Reserve of the tiny state, which once extended in a narrow swath all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of Lake Erie. Along the Firelands, we dropped off the Allegheny Plateau to flatter land. We traversed deep ravines along the Vermillion, Huron and Black Rivers.
Black Swamp -- Most of northwestern Ohio was once a vast, post-glacial swamp known as the Black Swamp. Settlers drained the swamps for farmland soon after arriving in the 19th Century. There are still a few remnants of the swamp, and on a post-thaw day like this many of the rivers overflowed their banks. In Williams County, in extreme northwestern Ohio, there was more snow on the ground than at any other point on today's trip. North-facing slopes held snow, as did a few woodlands.
Michiana -- A region that includes the South Bend-Mishawaka-Elkhart trifecta, Michiana is a land of rivers and creeks and farms and lake-effect snow. It also is home to the RV Hall of Fame, a tantalizing roadside attraction in Elkhart. A couple more red-tails were recorded here, and at least one accipter sat on a fencepost. There was some ice on the agricultural ponds, but mostly it had melted in the big thaw of the past few days.
Dune Country -- Gas-a-roo is a formerly independent gas station on Calumet Avenue in Hammond, Ind., that is now owned by Valero. It's a great place to fuel up on the way back from Ohio or the Dune Country. Here we discovered that the massive snow melt had also occurred in the Chicago region.
Chicago -- Our city was icebound when we left on Wednesday. There's nary a trace of snow now, except a few black piles of a snow-like substance along a few highway medians. This now is the wettest year in recorded Chicago history--for the second time this year the Des Plaines River is flooding.
The final tally: seven red-tails, three accipters (sharp-shinned hawks or cooper's hawks), at least four dozen white-tailed deer, acres of flooded farmland and a winter jaunt across a lovely landscape.