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DashCam: Wildlife in Town

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My family surprised me with a dashcam for Father’s Day so I can record the scenery when we drive through mountains or other interesting locations. So far, I have only had the occasion to use this in town, and the attached footage is as exciting as it gets.

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Photo: Walking Stick

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  Another photo from our “get out of the house and enjoy these final nice days” picnic.

I rarely see walking stick insects (members of the Phasmatodea order) in the wild, but I don’t know if it’s because they are uncommon or because they are so well camouflaged. My son found this one within minutes of stepping out of the Jeep.

Photo: Lilly pads

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  Lilly pads floating on a lake. Photo from our “get out of the house and enjoy these final nice days” picnic. Also saw two frogs hop into the water as we approached the lake.

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Trip Shot: Natural Bridge

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Location
: Natural Bridge State Park, Wisconsin

Conditions: Cloudy, wet from recent rainfall. Temps 60s F with a light touch of humidity.

Gear: Hiking shoes, pocket camera.

Away from the din of the water parks and go kart tracks and resort hotels that are The Dells, down country roads, past cornfields, tucked away amongst a stand of trees on a lonely Wisconsin hill is the wonder that is Natural Bridge State Park.

The site is delightfully remote. No crowds or lines or shops selling $3 bottles of cola. A state park sticker is required to enter, but there is no gate or ranger. Just a short road that leads to an empty parking lot and primitive restrooms. 

It’s best to memorize the map posted on the trailhead bulletin board. Signage on the trail is sketchy, but that’s part of the appeal. The path is simple and winds through a quarter mile of forest before emptying into a clearing surrounded by sandstone cliffs and the headline feature, the arching bridge, rocky with saplings and other vegetation clinging to its span. 
 

Trip Shot: Cloudy Sunset

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Cloudy sunset on Lake Delton, Wisconsin.

Trip Shot: Rocky Arbor State Park

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If this wasn’t surrounded by water and marsh, I’d be climbing it.

Sometimes life’s little obstacles can open new doors. Such was the case with Rocky Arbor State Park in Wisconsin.

For years I’ve wanted to visit Witch’s Gulch, a canyon off of the Wisconsin River in The Dells, and this year I put it on our itinerary as a quick morning hike before a day of touristy stuff. But as I sat in our hotel room the night before trying to find directions to the gulch, I discovered the old drive-up, hike-in route was no longer available, and the only way to access it was to book a private boat tour at the cost of $30 per person.

We hadn’t budgeted for this, and I’m not too fond of tours that put exploring on a schedule, so I looked around for something similar and came up with Rocky Arbor State Park.

Tucked off of Highway 12, the park is a 500-million-year-old sandstone gorge with a playground/picnic area, a campground and a one-mile hiking trail. The trail skirts a marsh and low bluffs — below the cliffs one way, then a small climb and it loops back around on top of the cliffs.

Along the lower trail, we came across an isolated chunk of rock that looked like it had wandered away from the cliffs and waded into the swamp. It sat alone, surrounded by water and mud, trees and saplings growing from it, and I couldn’t resist the urge to climb it. I charted out a course — jump over to the large log to avoid the muck, ascend the north face, only about a dozen feet of challenge, then the going would get easy — but decided the idea reeked of a “hold my beer and watch this” moment that would leave me at the top with no real way down. Imagining the park ranger rescue that would follow, I decided to keep hiking.

Admission is $5 per car for an hour, $11 for a full day or free with the purchase of a $28 state parks sticker ($38 for out of staters), which grants entry to other state parks.

Trip shot: Kayak Duck

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I took a quick paddle around a local lake for exercise this morning and stopped out at a small island. This little guy came to visit.

Photo: Pigeon with Dramatic Lighting

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Pigeon with dramatic lighting. (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

Trip Shot: The Jar

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Apache Junction Scorpion Preserve. (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

 When my mother asked me to bring her the mason jar from the desk of her Arizona home, I knew what lurked inside.

We were in Arizona. It was her grandchildren’s first visit to the state.

It had to be a scorpion.

I passed the jar to my son — age 14 — and daughter — 10 — and my mother recounted how days earlier she noticed the cat toying with some small critter outside her home. She separated the two and noticed the scorpion didn’t have a head, she told us, so she assumed it was dead. She covered the vermin with a plastic yogurt cup and, aware the stinger may still be active after death, used a piece of cardboard to scoop it into the jar and screwed on the lid.

My son tilted the jar, studying the creature inside.

“Oma, his pincer just moved. I don’t think it’s dead,” he said.

Curious about the possibility the movement could have been some post- mortem nerve reflex– as seen in detached spider legs — he tipped the jar again, holding it up to the light. There was more movement, legs, the stinger. I doubted the involuntary twitching could continue days after its demise.

“You know,” I added, “I don’t think scorpions have a separate head. I think it’s just part of their thorax.”

 

(c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

 Having concluded that the creature in the jar was still alive, and probably very hungry by this point, the conversation turned to his fate. My son was all for finishing the cat’s work and killing the vermon. My wife felt the same.

But my daughter, the fourth-grade vegetarian, took the live-and-let-live stance.

Grandma started off on the harsher side of the capital punishment issue but acquiesced to my daughter’s leniency argument. However, she didn’t to want to return the poisonous critter to the yard where it could reek havoc with her cats let the neighbors. She didn’t want to release it near anyplace inhabited, and I doubted the local animal control authorities ran an impound for displaced scorpions — all waiting to be adopted to a good home.

So, I volunteered to return the critter to the wild. I drove past the edge of town, where the roads and street lights give way to scrub and cacti and mountains. There I found a place that made a great de-facto scorpion preserve.

I walked a ways down a trail, opened the jar and flung the scorpion at a bush.

Fly free, little critter.

Free to frolic with all the other poisonous creatures of the desert.

Trip shot: Arizona Sunset

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(c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

 Sunset from Apache Junction, Arizona.

Photo: Window visitor

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(c) 2017 J.S.Reinitz


This feathered visitor knocked into the ground floor window at my day job (yeah, I need one of those to pay the bills).
Our office is next to a river, so we get all the excitement — bald eagles fishing in the winter, seasonal flooding, abandoned bull mastiffs trading water, dive teams looking for submerged cringe guns, and the occasional jumper (who ultimately lands in waist-deep water and knee-deep mud).
The hawk above saw something interesting on our features editor’s desk and thumped into the glass. After standing around dazed, he flew off.

Photo: Downtown sunrise

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Downtown Sunrise.

 
It’s finally that time of the season when the sun is starting to come as I leave my morning exercise class. No filters, just metered off the clouds.

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