This column originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2016, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Like that week, this one had a big snowstorm, but the column is appropriate for other reasons. As I keep archiving my old work, my appreciation grows for our friends who helped build the community into what it is. The local history represented by the Zimmermans and Bev Laska is significant, especially when it comes to places like Schmeeckle Reserve and the Green Circle Trail.
Tuesday’s snowstorm was a big block party that brought all the neighbors out for a fiesta of snowblowers and shovels. There were almost as many folks out on the sidewalks as we can see on our way back from downtown summer festivals.
Observing everyone simultaneously taking care of our city-owned sidewalks is just one more reminder of the good Midwestern community ethos we have here. It’s also a fine time to recognize some folks who have made Portage County a wonderful place in which to live.
Zimmermans not slowing down
Visiting with Ron and Donna Zimmerman is like the best kind of snowfall. Stories start drifting down around you. You can just sit back and take it all in; next thing you know, you look up and you’re buried in wonderland.
I spent a couple of hours talking to the longtime University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point naturalists at their home east of Polonia recently. “Naturalists” doesn’t nearly do justice to their collective accomplishments and careers, but it might be the easiest way to describe the two of them together.
It’s been so cold lately that I’ve stayed inside more, nursing a tweaked knee and reading about important scientific findings I can use to convince myself to go back outside.
Some knowledge is harder to relate to outdoor recreation, such as the piece I read about Ocean Alliance researchers using drones to collect whale mucus. No kidding – they use what they lightheartedly call a “snot-bot” to fly over whales spouting on the surface, as it’s a non-invasive way to collect the expectorations of the great mammals in order to study their DNA.
We are in the thick of “Throwing Money into the Recreation Industry” season, and I am pleased, shocked and regretful to report that my family is doing its part to indenture its parents into several more decades of servitude to fund its outdoor activity.
It all starts with children who outgrow their toys (primarily Dad), but continues with more basic needs, such as food and fashion.
The spies in our microwave oven – if you’ve forgotten about these, just ask the president’s minions – were highly effective in detecting my susceptibility to outdoor-related purchases in July. A couple of tactical e-mails later from said spies and I committed to two purchases, demonstrating just how mindless and thoroughly patriotic I have become in support of my outdoor habit.
But that’s getting ahead of the point of this column, or perhaps just distracted from it. Or maybe there’s no point whatsoever. Who can tell?
In any event, this week is about last week’s first-ever, single-day circumnavigation of the Green Circle Trail by yours truly. It’s also about bears, books, bike shops, burgers and by-gosh any other thing worth bandying about while planning where to go next.
Sometimes ideas go well together when only one of them might stand on its own.
I had a column idea about a line I wrote that wasn’t quite truthful, but not really inaccurate, either. The idea was probably a little too abstract to stand on its own, but after visiting with Jim Buchholz and Megan Espe at the Schmeeckle Reserve about the Ron Zimmerman Prairie dedication, I realized there was a common thread between my column idea and the prairie: the value of mindfulness in nature, something Ron’s career was all about.
So here’s a link to the column, along with a couple of extra pictures of the prairie added below.
This past weekend was one of those in which I did nothing special, but it ended up being quite special in its own Central Wisconsin way.
It started with no particular plan. By the time it was all said and done, though, I had visited four regional outdoor recreation institutions, with each visit sandwiched around a bunch of indoor activities.
All in all, it was yet another reminder of what a great place we live in.