Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hilly Ohio

There's a special place about 18 miles east of Cleveland. A place with great views of the city's skyline and Lake Erie. A low mountain amid the uplands of the western flank of the Allegheny Plateau. A place where dark-eyed juncos, winter wrens and black-throated blue warblers breed at the periphery of their range--perhaps the only place in Ohio like it. It's Gildersleeve Mountain, and the latest addition to the blogroll is the From Gildersleeve blog.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bearing point

Black bears are advancing into southern Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin DNR and a post on the Stray Casts blog. A bear was photographed near Madison, and several sightings have been recorded recently in the southern part of the state. This raises the rare prospect of bear sightings in northern Illinois. The nearest established population of bears, in my analysis, would be near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, 230 miles away. It's a tough call, though, with populations about 250 miles away near Cadillac, Mich., and a similar distance away in northeast Wisconsin.

One of the commenters in the above link references a bear sighting in Bureau County, Ill., about 100 miles west. I did a quick search of area bear sightings and found that a lot of people feel the local DNRs are covering up the number of bears, cougars and wolves in the Midwest. Take this forum, for instance. It would have you believe Vigo County, Ind., is home to scads of black panthers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carp discovery

The local media is reporting that the first asian carp has been found in a Chicago waterway. A commercial angler landed a 19-pound carp in Lake Calumet, a few miles downstream from Lake Michigan. This follows the recent fish kill on the Calumet River that didn't find any carp, and the kill a few months ago on a canal near Joliet that found one of the bottom-feeding exotics. Just to recap, there long have already been reports of the carp in inland Chicago parks. The carp already likely has infiltrated northeast Illinois via the Des Plaines River system, which flows all the way to southeast Wisconsin and is barely separated from the Chicago River (and the Great Lakes). Carp DNA already has been found in the Calumet and Lake Michigan.

Michigan pols are already reacting to the latest carp news, and this likely will revive the topic since the Supreme Court declined to hear the case few months ago.

Elsewhere, U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias believes that the Chicago River should be re-reversed. So now one of our greatest engineering marvels has become a campaign issue. Maybe we can go back to the old Chicago portage that Marquette and Jolliet used to get from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River. I stick by my previous post that we need to keep the current system, in part because sending sewage toward St. Louis is as Chicago as it gets. The Ward Room blog comes out in favor of the re-reversal, agreeing with most environmentalists.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reserving judgment

Illinois state parks are finally tapping into the power of the information superhighway. As of July, you can reserve your campsite online.

I checked my records, and it's been almost five years since I've camped in an Illinois state park. This follows a camping-mad time of 13 state park trips in four years. The change in direction is somewhat intentional since so many sites lack the privacy and beauty required by the lofty standards. The focus has shifted to National Forest sites and primo destinations.

This may be the summer to explore a return to the convenient Illinois state park experience. Certainly, more fodder is needed for the blog and Camp Chicago!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mundane settings

I haven't really done anything that extreme in the outdoors. I once was a subscriber to Outside Magazine for a while, but my endeavors wilt when compared to what most of the people featured in that publication do. I've topped out on Class II rapids. I've peaked at 12,000 feet. I've probably hiked, at most, 12 miles in one day. I'm really just a world-class car camper.

A couple recent events serve as reminders that Mother Nature can have an impact even in mundane settings. The deadly floods in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas are beyond the scariest thing a camper could ever imagine. The Little Missouri River rose a horrifying 20 feet in four hours, overnight no less--the timing couldn't have been worse for the people in the Albert Pike Campground. The destruction is reminiscent of the flood that struck Nelson County, Va., also overnight, in 1969 due to Hurricane Camille.

A few years ago, we hiked to Volcan Pacaya, near Guatemala City, Guatemala. It isn't quite a mundane setting--we walked very close to bubbling lava--but it certainly was a fairly typical tourist trek at the time. Last month, Pacaya began spewing significant lava and ash for the first time in almost two decades. It rained ash all the way to Guatemala City, where it piled up in the streets. An AP story reports that the lava continues to flow, and tourists are wandering perilously close. It notes that even in quieter times guidebooks warn about the hike to Pacaya.

The lesson in all of this? Stay close to home. The most extreme thing I did today was clip a few herbs from the back balcony.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fireworks display

A roundup of recent news of interest:

The search for the asian carp continues. There was another fish kill, this time a few miles from Lake Michigan on the Little Calumet River, not far from the area pictured above. Thankfully, no fish were found. The outcome will lead to a re-examining of the whole situation.

Advocates for the sensitive Montrose Beach Dunes sanctuary are concerned about the city's plan to move a portion of the Independence Day fireworks display to Foster Beach. I've read some comments on message boards suggesting the city surround the dunes with security guards. Fat chance.

Driftless area is as pro-Midwest as any blog out there, and the Big Ten conference is like the force--it binds us together. The Tribune's Steve Chapman summarizes our sentiments toward Big Ten expansion by making a solid geographical argument.

"If your students can harvest oysters without leaving the state, you are not a Big Ten school. If they can leave class and be standing in a cornfield within 20 minutes, you are."