Monday, September 30, 2002

A little tornado in my beer. And I just get rolling. It's my second beer of the night. I've been a good boy, a clean life of sobriety and reason. Not that I ever really cut loose. Even three sheets to the wind I retain that sense of being. Cannot escape the mortal coil of me. Don't really want to. It's all about control.

But there is a little tornado in my beer. A Hacker-Pschorr. Wheat beer. We live in a snobbish age, where the best beers from around the world are reproduced here in America and available at the corner grocery. And this Hacker-Pschorr is my favorite of the wheat beers. I'm not a fan of lagers. Don't like beers you can see through. Want my beers to have a little body. More flavor that way. Give me a Guinness any day. Having said that, I'm not a snob. I'll throw back an Old Style or Butt-wiser or any other swill with the boys. But I prefer...

Almost done with my journal entries from the Superior Hiking Trail. Should finish them tomorrow. But have not done what I promised myself on the trail by putting in good chunks of time writing. Can't say I haven't had the time. Today I got depressed from too much time alone. Especially after a weekend of activity. Still got some things done. Went to the library and over to Rockford Mattress Company to get new bed frame piece. Funny experience at Rockford Mattress. Explained we only had the frame for a few months and it seems that a rivet to hold part of it in place was missing. I said I looked all over for the popped rivet, but could never find it. Main sales guy says the installers check all that when they put the mattress in. I say I'm only telling you what I saw and stand there silent with defective piece. Main sales guy looks at me tells me I'll have to drill out piece and put a bolt in. I ask, is there anything you can do? Bottom line, he replaces whole piece, no questions asked. Thank you very much. We went with Rockford Mattress because they are local and it is what our first bed was. Traditional. Brand loyal. I joked with the guy, said I felt real self conscious because the frame collapsed on my side of bed. And since then I've joined a gym.

This weekend was all about the Ice Age Trail -- again. Got two more nights sleeping outdoors at a YMCA camp near New Auburn, WI. On Saturday went to Interstate State Park (the first state park in Wisconsin) and saw many uniformed dignitaries as the western terminus of the Ice Age Trail was dedicated. Met Gaylord Nelson, former Wisconsin governor (1958-62) and senator (1963-81), and founder of Earth Day. There was also a spokesperson for Gov. Scott McCallum, Mary Willett, who I got into an argument with on the phone when the Beloit Daily News was not informed of a McCallum appearance at the Janesville GM plant. Always strange to match faces with voices. She's a fakey, political kiss ass courtesan type. Political hair, Tipper Gore hair. Perfect appearance. No conscious. Power suit. I quickly dismissed her and instead paid attention to a girl scout sitting on the floor in front of me (ceremony dedicating terminus and Gaylord Nelson originally started outside, but was moved inside to the state park's visitor center when it started to rain) wearing a fake bob of blond barbie hair on top of her head. Obvious and plastic, just like McCallum's hench-wench.

On the hour and a half ride over to Interstate State Park, Adam Cahow, a geologist with UW-Madison gave a tour of features along the way, and I learned about a geologic feature unique to the Chippewa Moraine region: the ice-walled lakes. As these lakes formed, they became collecting grounds for debris, so that when the ice melted they formed plateaus. The Chippewa Moraine visitor's center is on such a plateau. Ah, the power of water pervades everything. Truly the source of life and landscape formations.

And as the rain fell on us all, a ranger at the Interstate State Park told how the outpouring of glacial lake Duluth carved the channel of the present-day St. Croix River out of the hard basalt rock, volcanic rock millions of billions years old. Can't help but feel small and insignificant against the shaping and abiding forces of geology. Kind of makes hunger and financial concerns pale to insignificance. I saw potholes, deep wells in the basalt, carved by swirls of water and debris. Ranger lady held up a round stone a little larger than a golf ball and said the same silt which formed the potholes rounded the stone, which also played a role in grinding out a pothole. She said on the Minnesota side of the river they emptied out the potholes and found the detritus of tourist nation: cameras, wallets, umbrellas, etc. And two weeks ago, on the Wisconsin side, some old lady fell in the pothole. She survived. No matter. She'll be dust and bones and the pothole, the raised cliff edge formerly bottom of a river, will remain. Water water everywhere. Wash away this folly of humanity. Two inches of topsoil, that's what our society, 6 billion self important top of the food chain humans, amounts to against the grinding, eating forces of nature.

So good to be with our Ice Age Trail friends. Like-minded people, trail-minded people, are hard to find in our neck of the woods. And this lifestyle I've chosen, this trail life, away from the Appalachian Trail, is so distinct and separate from the mainstream as to be considered weird. But it's the only life I know. Something I fell into, or stepped into, to keep the analogy more closely aligned with the activity, and am I to blame if no one else gets it? So thankful, blessedly thankful, that trail life is something that keeps me connected to good wife. Something we share. Mutual interests. The desolation of those wild places makes us cling close.

We stopped in Wisconsin Dells on the way up and way down for bland roadside food. I swear interstate travellers want the comfort of not feeling as if they went anywhere. All the chain restaurants serving the same user friendly food. We ate at Paul Bunyan's All You Can Eat on Friday the way up there. The typical motif crap hanging from the walls. One was a set of horseshoes and I swear a little sign next to it says "horseshoes." We stopped again on the way back and ate at a Famous Dave's. Good ribs, same bland blues music and aw shucks industrial chain restaurant authentic roadhouse feel. I imagine some suited committee decided the look of the place. Had the aura of corporate-ness, as does all of Wisconsin Dells. All the worst of tourism America, from the Yogi Bear campground to the "extreme" mini-golf course to the cheeseball theme restaurants to the Jesse James Museum and Ripley's Believe it or Not. Like the Gatlinburg, Tenn., I never saw, I told good wife Esther.

Sunday we took a chainsaw safety course, taught by man's man Lee Schuman, a middle-aged barrel-chested silver back alpha male. He showed gruesome photos starting with cut fingers, exposed tendons and purple fingernails, to stumps of arms to the coup de gras, a man with his head cut halfway off. Bob, a fellow Mobile Skills Crew member, got very pale faced and broke out in a cold sweat, looked away when the photos were shown. I looked on in morbid curiousity, almost wanted to study them further... just before lunch.

After lunch we go out and chop down some trees. I realize I've never seen a large trees chopped down. Heard many a chainsaw in my walks in the woods, but never heard the ol TIMBER and watched a tree fall. Well, not only did I crack the cherry of that experience, I was one of two class participants to actually fell a tree!! The chainsaw a loud, whirring churn tears through trunk like butter. Then the blocks pound into cuts to direct the fall. Then all dust and cracking and thud. I'm a convert. From tree hugger to tree feller. Well... it was a dead tree, after all. I might have different feelings about a live, leafed one.

Poor Esther, enemy of all loud, dangerous things, was one of the few class participants to not handle the chainsaw. She'll get a chance yet.

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