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Trip Shot: Kayaking Mirror Lake

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Approaching the interstate bridge ove Mirror Lake, Wisconsin.

Kayaking
Location: Mirror Lake, Wisconsin

Conditions: Overcast, cloudy, light mist. Temps 60s F. Calm water. 

Gear: Two single kayaks, one double kayak, paddles, PFDs.

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Trip Shot: Dubuque Funicular

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View of Dubuque from the funicular station. photos (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

What started more than 100 years ago as a way for a man to get home in time to enjoy his lunch is now a landmark.

The Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque began when a banker, who lived at the top of the city’s bluffs and worked below, tired of the half-hour buggy ride up and half half-hour ride down that ate into his lunch break. In 1882, he commissioned a rail elevator and had his gardner work the contraption. After awhile neighbors began asking for a lift (or a lower), and the banker began charging 5 cents per ride and eventually handed over the operation.

Today, a century and a few devastating fires later, the elevator (actually a funicular with two cars that uses the weight of the descending car to pull the ascending car) is still going. The ride is about 300 feet with a 200-foot elevation gain.

And the cost isn’t much more than when it started, only $3 round trip. The views of the town and the Mississippi River are worth it.

Our video of the ride is here.

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.

Man arraigned on rhino horn charges

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IMG_0344From the U.S. Department of Justice:

Guan Zong Chen, aka Graham Chen, a Chinese national, was arraigned July 25, 2017, in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts,non charges that he led a conspiracy to  smuggle $700,000 worth of wildlife items made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral from the United States to Hong Kong.

Chen was arrested last year when he traveled from China to Australia and today’s hearing was his first court appearance on an indictment returned by a Boston grand jury in 2015 and unsealed in anticipation of the hearing.

According to the eight-count indictment, Chen purchased the wildlife artifacts at U.S. auction houses located in California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas. He conspired with another Chinese national, a recent college graduate in China to travel to the United States to pick up the purchased items and either hand carry or arrange for them to be mailed to another co-conspirator that owned a shipping business in Concord, Massachusetts. The shipper then repacked the wildlife items and exported (smuggled) them to Hong Kong with documents that falsely stated their contents and value and without obtaining required declarations and permits. In April 2014, Chen visited the United States and visited the shipper in Concord, Massachusetts. During the visit with the shipper, CHEN instructed the shipper to illegally export (smuggle) a sculpture made from elephant ivory to Hong Kong on Chen’s behalf and falsely declared it to be made of wood and worth $50.

Shell collecting: “Military device” shuts down beach

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Crusty military device, with glove for scale. Photo courtest Dare County Emergency Management.

 A newly formed island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks has been reopened after a Navy bomb squad removed the crusty remains of a World War II era training bomb that washed ashore Friday, July 14.

The “military device” was spotted on Shelly Island, a mile-long 500-foot wide sandbar, prompting the evacuation of a one-mile safety buffer.

Below is the National Park Service account:

Hatteras Island Rescue Squad responded to a report of what appears to be an old, unidentified military device on the sand bar off Cape Point. Dare County Emergency Management requested assistance from the U. S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit from Little Creek Virginia. Based on images below, out of an abundance of caution, the EOD unit asked that a one mile safety perimeter be established until they could arrive and determine the exact nature of the item.

A portion of the one mile perimeter falls within the boundaries of Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore), in the Cape Point area. The Seashore, in partnership with the Dare County Sheriff’s office, Hatteras Island Rescue Squad, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, will comply with the U.S. Navy’s direction by temporarily establishing a perimeter starting at the entrance to off-road vehicle (ORV) Ramp 44. The ORV ramp will reopen to ORVs and pedestrians once the Seashore has received an all clear from the U.S. Navy.

More on Hobby Lobby forfeiture 

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 This week’s announcement that Hobby Lobby reached an agreement with the U.S. government over hundreds of smuggled cuneiform tablets and other artifacts brought a lot of questions. People were under the impression that the historical loot was being sold at stores.

But, this report by NPR indicates Hobby Lobby’s owners are in the process of building a Bible museum. Below is the forfeiture complaint, which has a lot of details but sheds no light on why the items were acquired.

Video: Waterfall fountain

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Time for a mandatory waterfall break. But because this is the Midwest, and there are few waterfalls, we are going to have to settle for a city fountain.

The upside to the smaller, contained waterfall — less chance of breaking a toe.

Forfeiture filed for Hobby Lobby artifacts

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tablets edit

Cuneiform tablet. Photo courtesty ICE

Courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement

NEW YORK – Pursuant to an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations New York of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer and two of Hobby Lobby’s corporate affiliates, the United States filed civil complaint to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae.

As alleged in the complaint, these ancient clay artifacts originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates and Israel, contrary to federal law. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby and the shipping labels on these packages falsely described cuneiform tablets as tile “samples.”

The government also filed a stipulation of settlement with Hobby Lobby, in which Hobby Lobby consented to the forfeiture of the artifacts in the complaint, approximately 144 cylinder seals and an additional sum of $3 million, resolving the civil action. Hobby Lobby further agreed to adopt internal policies and procedures governing its importation and purchase of cultural property, provide appropriate training to its personnel, hire qualified outside customs counsel and customs brokers, and submit quarterly reports to the government on any cultural property acquisitions for the next eighteen months.

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Bison attack at Yellowstone

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 From the National Park Service

On Wednesday morning, June 28, 2017, a married couple received injuries after being “butted” by a bison at Mud Volcano, just north of Lake Village in Yellowstone National Park.

The Heber City, Utah, couple was taking photographs on a boardwalk at Mud Volcano, when a bison approached them. The bison butted The wife, age 72, who then fell into her husband, age 74, and both individuals fell to the ground.

Park rangers responded immediately and evacuated the couple from the trail, a quarter mile, to the road. The couple was transported to the Lake Clinic. The husband had minor injuries, and the wife was transported by Life Flight to Idaho Falls, Idaho. She was in stable condition. Citations were not issued to either individual.

When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves. If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.

This is the first confirmed incident of a bison injuring visitors in 2017. In 2015, five people were injured after approaching bison.

U.S. returns Royal Seals valued at $1,500,000 to Korea

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Royal Seals from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) . photo courtesy ICE

Courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned two Royal Seals from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to the Republic of Korea. Each seal is valued at approximately $750,000.

The Royal Seals belonged to Queen Munjeong, who reigned from 1545 to 1565 and King Hyeonjong, who reigned from 1659 to 1674. The seal belonging to Queen Munjeong is believed to have been stolen during the Korean War (1950-1953) and illegally removed from Korea. King Hyeonjong’s seal is believed to have been stolen during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945).

HSI began investigating Queen Munjeong’s seal in 2013 at the request of CHA after the seal was located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), who had purchased the artifact in good faith in 2000. Subsequent investigations also lead to the discovery of King Hyeonjong’s seal in a private collection.

Weekend rescues at Rocky

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Highline rescue operations in the Roaring River, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

Courtesy National Park Service

June 25, 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park’s Search and Rescue Team members were called to several incidents on the weekend of June 24-25, 2017, including one where an 18-year-old male was rescued via a highline operation across the Roaring River above the Alluvial Fan.

On Saturday afternoon, the 18 year old from Kansas had been rock hopping on this section of the Roaring River when he became stuck on the west side of the river. Park rangers were notified at 2:30 p.m. The young man’s family members were on the east side of the river. Rangers assessed the situation with members of Estes Valley Fire Protection District’s Dive and Swiftwater Rescue Team, and after considering the complexity and length of time the rescue would likely take, it was determined that it would be safest to conduct the rescue on Sunday morning. Rangers provided the man with warm clothes, a sleeping bag and food overnight. A ranger stayed overnight on the other side of the river from the young man…

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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.

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