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Photo: Trail signs

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I think the bike trail is trying to warn me of something. Or distract me from certain doom. (c) 2015 J.S.Reinitz

I think the bike trail is trying to warn me of something. Or distract me from certain doom. (c) 2015 J.S.Reinitz

After two decades, my old RoadMaster mountain bike had its first major tune up.

I bought it for about $70 in the early 1990s at a department store that used to be called Venture after returning two other models that failed. After pedaling it through swamps and forests in South Carolina, islands on the Mississippi River and the prairie of the Midwest, I caught a tree branch in the rear wheel during a night ride to the store last fall. While riding on a paved road in a residential area, of all places.

Avoiding the traffic that darted past in the dark, I dragged the bike into a yard and pried out the wooden obstruction. The limb had knocked out three spokes, but I was able to make it the rest of the way home.

This spring, I took it to a professional for new rim and a formal once over. On Thursday, I walked down to pick it up and rode home. The thing fells brand new.

Minnesota fort

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The United States flag flies over Historic Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, Minn. At left is the fort's Round Tower. (c) J.S. Reinitz 2014

The United States flag flies over Historic Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, Minn. At left is the fort’s Round Tower. (c) J.S. Reinitz 2014

Perched on a bluff over the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, Fort Snelling is an outpost that long outlived its original purpose.

In the 1820s, long before Minnesota was a state, the fur trade was the cornerstone of commerce in the new world. The fort was built to protect the industry.

Not more than a few decades later, the fur bubble had burst, and Fort Snelling took up other roles. It oversaw the uprooting and relocation of Native American tribes in the area and acted as an induction station for the U.S. Army during every major conflict through World War II.

It was decommissioned in 1946 and designated a historic landmark in 1960.

Today, the fort’s historic buildings have been restored as a museum that’s manned by a small army of reenactment soldiers. They even have a cannon.

Ruins: Limestone Kilns

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Remnants of one of four lime kilns in Hurstville. (c) J.S. Reinitz

Remnants of one of four lime kilns in Hurstville. (c) J.S. Reinitz

 

While traveling last week, I took a quick break to stretch my legs at the Lime Kilns in Hurstville.

The kilns were built in the 1870s to process limestone from nearby quarries into limes mortar to be used as building material. Chiseled limestone was loaded at the top where 900-degree fires reduced it to powder. The powder collected at the base, where it was loaded into barrels and mixed with sand and water.

The kilns went cold in the 1920s when cement began to replace lime mortar.

Today, the towering remnants of four kilns sit against a cliff next to a highway just a few short miles from the Mississippi River, and the site is on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a short trail that leads to the top of the cliff where the ruins of a wooden buildings sit.

A visitors center is down the road.

 

Indictments in Mississippi River caviar plot

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Federal wildlife cops are pursuing charges against eight people for allegedly harvesting caviar from Warsaw, Mo., which is apparently a hotbed for domestic fish eggs. With the decline of sturgeon, paddlefish from the Mississippi River are becoming the go-to fish for fancy cracker spreads. Here’s the Department of Justice account of the investigation and recent indictments:

Eight Indicted for trafficking of Paddlefish “Caviar”
March 14, 2013

Eight people face federal charges stemming from a joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Missouri Department of Conservation investigation of interstate and international trafficking in paddlefish “caviar,” according to the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Arkadiy Lvovskiy, Dmitri Elitchev, Artour Magdessian, Felix Baravik, Petr Babenko, Bogdan Nahapetyan, Fedor Pakhnyuk and Andrew Praskovsky have been charged in four, separate indictments in the Western District of Missouri for acts that occurred in 2011 and 2012.

The American paddlefish (Polydon spathula), also called the Mississippi paddlefish or the “spoonbill,” is a freshwater fish that is primarily found in the Mississippi River drainage system. Paddlefish eggs are marketed as caviar. Paddlefish were once common in waters throughout the Midwest. However, the global decline in other caviar sources, such as sturgeon, has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar. This increased demand has led to over-fishing of paddlefish, and consequent decline of the paddlefish population.

Missouri law prohibits the transportation of paddlefish eggs which have been removed or extracted from a paddlefish carcass. It also prohibits the sale or purchase, or offer of sale or purchase, of paddlefish eggs. There are also several restrictions on the purchase and possession of whole paddlefish in Missouri.

Among other things, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase fish that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any state, or to attempt to do so. Such conduct constitutes a felony crime if the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct involving the purchase or sale, offer to purchase or sell or intent to purchase or sell, fish with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, a law or regulation of any state.

Arkadiy Lvovskiy, 51, of Aurora, Colo., Dmitri Elitchev, 46, of Centennial, Colo., Artour Magdessian, 46, of Lone Tree, Colo., and Felix Baravik, 48, of Aurora, Colo., were charged with conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, and with trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. The indictment alleges that in the spring of 2011 and 2012, the defendants traveled to Warsaw, Mo., where they engaged in multiple purchases of paddlefish and processed the eggs from those paddlefish into caviar. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, they allegedly transported the caviar from Missouri to Colorado. The indictment further alleges that, during the trips, the defendants engaged in counter-surveillance efforts in order to avoid being detected.

Petr Babenko, 42, of Vineland, N.J., and Bogdan Nahapetyan, 33, of Lake Ozark, Mo., were charged with conspiring with each other and other individuals to violate the Lacey Act, and with trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. The indictment alleges that between March and April 2012, the defendants traveled to Warsaw where they bought paddlefish and processed the eggs from those paddlefish into caviar. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, they transported the caviar from Missouri to New Jersey.

Fedor Pakhnyuk, 39, of Hinsdale, Ill., is charged with two counts of trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. According to the indictment, in the spring of 2011 and 2012 Pakhnyuk traveled from Illinois to Missouri for the purpose of obtaining paddlefish eggs. The indictment alleges that Pakhnyuk procured paddlefish eggs by purchasing them, and by performing processing services for other persons in exchange for a share of the processed eggs. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, Pakhnyuk transported the caviar from to Illinois. The indictment alleges that Pakhnyuk also attempted to form an enterprise with other individuals that would market processed paddlefish caviar at markets in Chicago, Illinois.

Andrew Praskovsky, 40, of Erie, Colo., is charged with two counts of trafficking in paddlefish and paddlefish eggs in violation of the Lacey Act. According to the indictment, in March and April 2012, Praskovsky twice traveled to Warsaw to buy paddlefish. After processing the paddlefish eggs into caviar, Pakhnyuk transported the caviar from to Kansas. The indictment alleges that, in April 2012, Praskovsky attempted to export some of the paddlefish eggs in checked luggage on an international flight departing from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. The paddlefish eggs were seized at Dulles, as paddlefish eggs may only be exported if they are accompanied by a valid permit issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation, with assistance by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Photo of the Week: Sailing the Mississippi

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Sailing on the Mississippi River. Rock Island (the actual island) is in the background.

 

Cave House

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Left: House in sandstone bluff.
I’m not sure what’s inside, but this looks like my dream house. A nice fenced patio courtyard with steps leading up to a home in a cliff.

We caught a glimpse of this cliff cave home when stopping for lunch in McGregor, Iowa, after hiking Effigy Mounds National Monument on the Mississippi River.

McGregor is one of those touristy river towns. Buildings from the late 19th Century line the main drag, where visitors can munch a blue gill fillet or a fish taco on the sidewalk under a cafe awning. There’s a riverboat casino upstream and a handfull of antique shops.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, McGregor residents used to carve storage rooms into the sandstone bluffs to refrigerate their foodstuffs. Breweries were also set up in these manmade caverns.

Usually, homes and offices were built in front of the cliffs, and the storage caves were a backyard feature. If I read the info right, the cave in the picture was outfitted with its facade in the 1970s.

I have to wonder if it has utilities or modern plumbing. What about ventilation. My guess is there is no wifi.

Mounds Hike

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View of the Mississippi River and train tracks north of Marquette, Iowa, from the Effigy Mounds National Park trail.
Over the weekend, we headed to Effigy Mounds National Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. The mounds themselves weren’t that interesting, most of them were no taller than knee high. But the hike was good and the views were spectacular.
We hit the Little Bear Mound trail loop, which started right next to the visitor center. The first leg was a climb up to the top of the cliffs. I was surprised that our 4 year old walked most of the way herself.Wildlife encountered in the area included hawks and frogs.

We rounded out the day with dinner outside on McGregor’s main street and a geocache in Marquette.

News: Keep off the ice

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The winter island hopping season is over.

“Ice conditions are deteriorating over much of Iowa, leaving only the far north counties where ice fishing is still happening. Even in these northern counties where the ice thickness had been over two feet a few weeks ago, the access to lakes is becoming more difficult as snow melt and runoff is beginning to open some of the edges, and anglers who were once driving on the lake are now walking out,” reads a Department of Natural Resources release.

It continues …

“Anglers still going out on the northern lakes should look out for weak spots, black ice and avoid areas with slush or water on top of the ice that could create an unsafe situation.”

It might have something to do with this (from an earlier DNR release) …

“The incident Saturday occurred at about 8 a.m. on Fish Lake, a backwater of the Mississippi River near New Albin. An ATV pulling a trailer … went through the ice along with (the driver and) two other adults and a juvenile. All four were able to escape the water and get to a nearby island where they started a fire to keep warm.”