Moving forward tough while remembering the past

This column originally appeared in the June 1, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette. Most of it is about a day spent on the Ice Age Trail and its connecting routes, but my column often addressed more than one topic. In this case, it was the memory of a colleague I respected a great deal.

Even though last week was a good one, with a fun birthday party outdoors and more hiking on the Ice Age Trail, it was also a week of sorrow, as we lost another great friend of the outdoors.

I was home preparing for my daughter’s party when I heard the news, and it cast a pall over much of the weekend. Still, the party ended up being a fine one, with rambunctious 8-to-10-year-olds running around the yard, driveway and garage, which we had cleaned out for birthday cake and a place safe from the rain that threatened but never came.

Earlier in the week, I had finished 16 more miles of the Ice Age Trail.  As always, it was a wonderful time, made better with the company of a good friend.

We can never take such times for granted, because they always disappear too soon.

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Muir exhibit leaving soon, but Muir Park easy to visit

This column originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2017, issue of the Portage County Gazette. The Muir traveling exhibit hasn’t disappeared, though — it can be booked through the Wisconsin Historical Society for those interested in exhibiting it.

It’s the last weekend to see the state historical society’s exhibit on John Muir while it’s in Stevens Point, but that doesn’t mean it’s your last chance to get a little closer to understanding what he was about.

The eight-panel exhibit, set up through Oct. 21 in the lobby of the library at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, focuses on Muir’s youth in Wisconsin, his advocacy for the U.S. national parks system and his thoughts on environmental issues.

The exhibit’s next stop is UW-Parkside in Kenosha, where it will reside from Oct. 24-Nov. 11, but anyone can get a slightly different take – and likely a more brisk one – by taking a walk at his boyhood home at John Muir Memorial County Park south of Montello.

Frequent hiking buddy Chris Sadler and I made the hour-long drive to Marquette County to take in the early fall air and see where the 10-year-old Muir learned to swim and loved to explore the natural world.

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Dedication of landowners gives life to trails

author’s note: this is a very slightly edited version (for clarity) of my original column from Nov. 2017 in the Portage County Gazette. Sadly, Bob Ellingson passed away in February 2020, but I hope this column helps commemorate him properly in some small way. (Top photo by Jean Klein)

Nobody has to look far to find evidence of a world gone mad. When the craziness drives us outside, though, it’s good to remember that there are folks like Portage County’s Bob Ellingson who allow and encourage the natural experiences that often keep us sane.

Bob is one of the many faces behind the Ice Age Trail, an 1,100-mile miracle that exists because of the hard work of volunteers, a small but dedicated staff at the Ice Age Trail Alliance, and many others.  Businesses, politicians and promoters have all played important roles in the formation of this trail, which isn’t yet finished as a path through field and forest.

But no role is more important than that of landowners like Bob.

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Words count, even on Facebook

It's increasingly difficult to avoid Facebook. Click for an interesting post on "digital diplomacy."

It’s increasingly difficult to avoid Facebook. (From “The Public Diplomat” blog; click for original post)

The just-announced entry by the New York Times and other major media into Facebook should put to rest any doubt about the importance of social media for communication.

I finally got on the Facebook bandwagon a little more than four years ago, when Wisconsin’s political attacks on education and the middle and lower classes began. Since then, I’ve mostly followed Facebook news and groups, rarely posting except to reply to friends as an occasional method for conversing in the virtual world.

There are a number of reasons for stepping up my Facebook and other social media activity.  Among them is my disappointment with more conventional local means of governance — especially after UW-Stevens Point’s baffling decision to disempower its faculty senate.

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