Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Waterways

We may have left the Great Lakes, but we haven't left water behind us. We have been staying with Ira's parents near Menomonie, WI. In this area, there are many beautiful rivers which we have been exploring. On our ride from Eau Claire to Menomonie we rode along the Red Cedar Trail which is part of the Rails to Trails system. Anyone who is not familiar, Rails to Trails is a group which converts old train tracks to bike trails. Because of the trails age, the woods around have grown deep as trees extend over the top of the trail forming a breezy roof.

The Red Cedar trail is very beautiful with the river flowing on one side and limestone cliffs on the other side which were originally cut away by the railroads to make way for their track.

Ira's family lives 20 miles north of Menomonie in the country. Rolling hills dominate the country here. Farmers have cleared the flattest land for fields and leave the hillier ground wooded. It makes for a very pastoral look.

A couple of days ago, Ira's mom, Janice, Ira and I decided to take a canoe trip down the Hay River, near their house. There hasn't been much rain, so the river was very low. I'm not an expert canoeist yet somehow I sat in the rear position in charge of steering. After many run-ins with the bank and random tree branches, I got the hang of it and we were on our way. The banks of the river are really quite beautiful and untouched. There are (again) limestone cliffs along the river in different areas with wildflower and mosses hanging from them.

Canoeing is a very quiet mode of transportation so we were able to sneak up on a lot of wildlife. We say beavers, muskrats, blue herons, king fishers and various other kinds of birds. At one point, we came around a corner and we saw the BIGGEST bald eagle I have ever seen. Its tail was spread out and was about the width of Ira's shoulders. It's wing span was probably between 4 and 5 feet. I spent the next 10 minutes kicking myself for not having my camera out, when we came around a corner and beheld an even greater sight. Up a giant white pine tree to our left was the entire family!!!

It was amazing. The male was perched in the tree above the nest and the female sat below. Although I never got a good look, I would say there were about two baby chicks in the nest. The male took off a couple of times and flew around trying to divert our attention from the nest, while the female calmly stood as sentinel. After gawking at them for a while, we decided to ease their discomfort of our voyeurism and continue on our way.

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