NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Friday, September 21, 2012

John Muir trail in Kettle Moraine

The John Muir Bike Trails are single-track, mountain bike trails are also open to hikers, and it's the only trail system in the Kettle Moraine Southern Unit that I hadn't hiked yet. Five different loops ranging from 1.25 miles to 12 miles are located within this section of the forest, and they vary in difficulty and terrain.  Bikes and cross country skis are available to rent in LaGrange just a five minute drive from the trail head parking lots from both the John Muir and Nordic systems.  If you're looking for interesting hiking in southeast Wisconsin, Kettle Moraine is hands down the best. To read my review of the Scuppernong trails go here.


I saw everything on my 8 mile hike on Thursday from tall pines in sandy soil to meadows to narrow rocky sections that twisted and turned mercilessly up and up and up.  I started my hike by going in the opposite direction of the bikers on the blue trail.  They've restructured some of this trail so it doesn't really correspond to the maps posted on the trail, and I got turned around onto the old trail and the emergency exit a couple of times, adding 2 miles to my original plan. I finally made it to the spur for the Pioneer Lime Kiln, seeing a few fall flowers and berries with insects out enjoying the beautiful day too.

Kettle Moraine doesn't have much in the way of fungi, but there were a couple of logs that were doing their best along my route.

It was only a 1/2 mile one -way detour to the lime kiln. I guess I was expecting something a little more extravagant for all my sweat and effort, but the lime kiln was simply a crude, circular lime kiln which was probably constructed by Norwegian settlers by digging into the ridge and lining the pit with granite boulders. It is about 10 feet deep with granite walls and a clay floor. Limestone was collected and put into the pit, covered with brush and logs and then set on fire.  The intense heat would turn the limestone into a powder that could be used for mortar, plaster, whitewash, soap, candles and other products. The kiln might not have been very impressive, but I was glad for the excuse to rest for awhile before continuing on to the orange loop and making my way out.  It was a good thing I did, because that orange loop was steep, narrow and rocky.  I can't imagine riding a bike on it, you'd be on your brakes the whole time trying not to slam into trees on all the tight curves!

I've been finding that my Keen hikers are great for traction and stability but on long hikes like this one the bottom of my feet are quite angry due to lack of shock absorption. Does anyone know of a good hiking shoe that also offers some springiness? I have a history of plantar fasciitis and also some mild arthritis of the knee and really need footwear that will temper the impact. We're headed for the Porcupine Mountains in a week for what is probably our last trip of the season and I plan to do a lot of much as I can before the cold Midwest winter sets in!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Forward, Not Backward

Katrina is in top row, third one in from the left side.

Whoever took this picture on campus, forgive me for stealing it from Facebook without crediting you!

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at UW Eau Claire this week, and my daughter Katrina was chosen to be up on the stage behind him during the event, representing Advocates for Choice as the organization's president.  She is very passionate about women's rights issues, and is thrilled that she got to shake the hand of the man who was so instrumental in passing the federal Violence Against Women Act that established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

Vice President Joe Biden said domestic violence has dropped by 60 percent since it was signed into law 18 years ago. But he also said congressional gridlock has left a strengthened reauthorization of the act in legislative limbo. Biden said in a statement issued on the law's anniversary that three women still die each day from domestic violence, one in five women have been raped and one in six have been stalked. "While women and girls face these devastating realities every day, reauthorization of a strengthened VAWA languishes in Congress. VAWA is just as important today as it was when it first became law, and I urge Congress to keep the promise we made to our daughters and our granddaughters on that day—that we would work together to keep them safe," were his words on this issue.

While all eyes and ears are tuned in to the presidential candidates and their busy supporters, the drama continues in Wisconsin.  Scott Walker keeps trying to take away the rights of Wisconsin citizens, but they keep fighting back.

His outrageous voter ID law was thankfully deemed unconstitutional, his repealing of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act will hopefully be reinstated in the future, and the infamous attack on union workers is being fought hard and is seeing some results. 

From the AP:

A Wisconsin judge has struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Walker's administration immediately vowed to appeal the Friday ruling, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.

Walker's law, passed in March 2011, only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation. All other issues, including workplace safety, vacation, health benefits, could no longer be bargained for. The ruling means that local government and schools now must once again bargain over those issues, said Lester Pines, an attorney for Madison Teachers Inc. that brought the case.
"We're back to where we were before the law was enacted," he said. Pines predicted the case would ultimately be resolved by the state Supreme Court.

Unions do more than secure raises for workers, they enforce workplace safety and fight for access to health care benefits. Voting is the right of every citizen and no law should be enacted that makes it a hardship for college students and senior citizens to participate.  Women have the right to equal pay, and they should be able to seek justice at the more affordable state level instead of at the federal level. Women have the right to live without fear of violence and need our help finding safe havens and getting the support they need legally, physically and emotionally.

I hope the people of Wisconsin, and of the United States, continue to fight hard for their rights, because the agenda for some politicians seems to be taking away the rights our predecessors have fought so hard to establish.  Let's move forward, not backward! To quote Edna Mode from The Incredibles "... Go, confront the problem! Fight! Win!"


Monday, September 10, 2012

Bringing Home the Twins

We decided we needed to expand our little family.

We've been enjoying our tandem kayak, but decided that one was just not enough. Storage has been an issue for RV travel. It's too long to mount on top of the roof of the truck with the fifth wheel behind us so we put out the slides and put the kayak inside for our trips. That gets old when you have to take it in and out for every stop whether you plan to kayak or not. I've also been enjoying the kayaking so much that I wanted the option of going out by myself on our little lake at home.  We've been looking for some new ones for about a month now, and decided on the Perception Prodigy 100 for two reasons. Length was a huge factor for us so we could mount it on the roof of the truck while pulling the fifth wheel (hopefully) so we wanted to go with a 10 foot kayak even though that means it won't "track" as well.  Our other deal breaker was the seat. I have problems with my tailbone (I have cushions with the little "cut-out" lying around everywhere!) and Wayne has a history of back pain from his disc surgery 10 years ago.  The seat on these won hands down over kayaks that cost up to $700, and we got our twins for only $425 each at Gander Mountain.

We picked them up yesterday morning but Wayne had to leave for work right away when we came back so I went out on the lake by myself for a test run.  It isn't as stable when you're getting in, but I tried to capsize myself and while it feels "wobbly" compared to the 14 foot kayak there isn't really any danger of flipping over unintentionally.  I quickly gained confidence and was thrilled with how quickly I could change direction. Easy peasy!  It doesn't track very well, but correcting course was a snap so it wasn't a big deal.  While out for my test run on Lake Elizabeth I encountered some wildlife in the shallow Illinois end of the lake. I had to work real hard to get across the plants, but I snuck up on a Mute Swan and then got to watch it fly away from me when I got a little too close for its liking.

After my encounter with the swan I headed out of the lily pad forest and over to a flock of what I think is American Coots. They didn't like me following them around and headed for the cover of the reeds.  After awhile I left them alone and headed back to shore, happy with my new kayak's maneuverability...and comfort without having to resort to using a special seat cushion!

This morning I hassled Wayne until he agreed to go out for a spin on the lake.  When he paddled up to me and grabbed my boat to pull it in next to his I discovered an unexpected bonus...not only can we now see each other while kayaking, kissing is possible! Awww!

 I took some video with the GoPro camera, but the fisheye effect with the 170 degree angle was insane so I had to change the settings and delete the video.  One of these days we'll get it right!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A vegetarian? What do you eat, anyway?

I'm a vegetarian...98% of the time. I'll eat a tuna sandwich or a turkey burger a couple of times a month, but that's about it. Whenever the topic comes up I get the dreaded question...what do you eat? That's a complicated question because the answer changes often. I'm a recipe floozy and have a stack that I try to get around to but every time I knock a few out I photocopy a few more. Mostly it's salads, sandwiches and fruit throughout the day, and Kashi cereal with soy milk for breakfast.

On a practical note, I love Tupperware's FridgeSmart containers to help keep my veggies fresh and reduce waste.  Couldn't live without them! Rubbermaid makes a similar product that is more widely available and I have some of those, but the Tupperware is a superior product and saves space better, too.

below left: hummus, arugula & carrot whole wheat wrap
below right: 2 for 1 - provolone & portabella mushrooms with pesto on French bread and a slice of cheese & spinach pizza from the broiler

I'm a big fan of anything that takes five minutes to make for lunch or dinner. When you're cooking for one most of the time it's counter productive to make a big fuss and a big mess. I love all kinds of sandwichy things, and my new favorite is the pear, spinach & swiss on grilled Italian bread below. Also good with a tomato fresh from the garden if you have one. The brownies I make from the No Pudge box mix and I use strawberry flavored soy yogurt in the mix and toss a few chocolate chips on top. Love!

Occasionally I do make a mess and a fuss. When I do it's usually a soup or stew of some sort. I'm a One-Pot Meal type of girl.

quinoa vegetable soup & seeduction bread

homemade lentil soup

It's seldom a day goes by that I don't pop up some popcorn, and we've already established my addiction to dark chocolate!  More recently my lactose intolerance has gotten worse and I'm rereading labels for hidden dairy. I had to give up my favorite Dove dark chocolate because they add milkfat. It's only the expensive stuff for me now, and unfortunately I'm not eating any less of it now that I'm paying more.

I found some frozen dinners by Amy's that are labeled dairy free, and the tofu lasagne was surprisingly good.

I've been thinking about a trip to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods all week.  Easier said than done, the closest Whole Foods is in Deerfield, Illinois, which is about an hour and ten minutes from here. I make a trip once every other month and feel like I'm in heaven wandering the aisles. I stock up on a few items and I always try a few new things, too.  At Whole Foods I always grab a loaf of the Seeduction bread and a container of their baba ghanoush, and at Trader Joe's I get the Black Diamond white cheddar and a big container of their peanut butter cups for my guys at home.  I'm planning to try some tofu cheese and low lactose mozzarella when I get the chance to go later this week due to the dairy issue - hope I find some great new treats!

Monday, September 3, 2012

In Waist Deep at Cub Lake

The only trail in Bear Head Lake State Park that you're allowed to ride your bike on is the little trail by the ranger station that goes alongside Cub Lake and connects to the Taconite Trail.  We didn't see the little footpath to the lake on our first pass by, but spied it on the way back. It's a steep but short and manageable climb down to Cub Lake, and we had it all to ourselves.

While staring out at the lake I noticed plants growing on the trees that had fallen into the water.  Pitcher plants! Well, that merited an early morning trip back by myself with the camera gear to try to get some shots in good light. Getting down to a spot on "shore" was tricky, and I soon discovered that water shoes were not going to be enough since the lake bottom dropped sharply just a foot from shore. Rolling up the jeans was not going to get the job done, so off they came and into the chilly water up to my waist I went! The rocks were slippery, so anyone as crazy as I am be sure to wear your water shoes (and your swimsuit) and take your time.  It's a miracle I didn't get any of my gear wet since I slipped and had to catch my balance a few times. No one came by while I was out there, and I think it was worth wet undergarments to get a closer look at the pitcher plants...photographers are crazy people, don't be surprised by what we'll do to try to get a shot!