We've had a couple of typical (for us) weeks, nothing too out of the ordinary on the family front. We went to some football games and enjoyed having Joey and Jamie and Holden visiting for the weekend. Aunt Susie was here for ten days--coloring with Lisa, watching Shirley Temple movies, going to the park, and visiting a cranberry bog. We've done all of these things before, at different times, maybe with different people but we've done them. And we enjoyed doing them again, although they were the same, they were different because something about it was new.
The same goes for one of our off-the-beaten-track trips we took this week. It wasn't a vacation, and hardly even a trip--you'd probably call it more of an "outing".
Ellen had been wanting to have Lisa visit, so on Monday we left Lisa with her and took Susie back to Minneapolis. We drove over to Hastings, crossed the river, and followed Hwy 35 south along the Mississippi River. This is bird migration season and Keith loves to watch birds.
By 4:30 we had reached one of our all time favorite bird migration viewing spots, Rieck Park in Alma, WI. There is a viewing platform with binoculars and spectacular views of resting waterfowl. We saw ducks and pelicans on this trip. Once we managed to time it right and saw hundreds and hundreds of swans.
The park also has one of our children's favorite play parks, so after exclaiming over the ducks and yelling, "Quack, quack!" at them Gabe was delighted to swing and slide and climb. The boys joined him and even Keith became a kid and bounced the boys around on a four-seater "quad teeter totter on springs". I've been to this park four times and, although time doesn't seem to pass for me, I continue to see the toddlers from one trip turn into the bird watchers on the next.
We headed into Alma to see the lock and dam and climb the stairs through the quaint town to a look out point on the bluff.
After an all-you-can-eat (and they did) supper and a night at a hotel with a pool (making for two very happy and somewhat wrinkled boys) we drove east to the Horicon Marsh. I admit it, on our first trip to the marsh we teased Keith about the "skies black with birds" that he reported from his readings. We hardly saw anything on that trip. But, it's hard to predict nature and you take what you get. This trip delivered! The skies weren't black, but at any given time we could see up to five flocks of geese in V-formation. We saw ducks, turkeys, and sandhill cranes. We saw a cardinal, marsh wrens, and flocks of birds we couldn't identify.
We visited the nature center and identified the animals we would see on the trail. As we walked the trails and the boardwalk, even our trip to the visitor center didn't prepare us for what we found. It looked like a candy cane shaped sausage, about 5 inches long, with the clear features of a face on one end. We realized it must be the fetus of some animal that had miscarried on the path. The umbilical cord was intact and still bloody. We decided it must be a bear, because nothing else that size would be quite so undeveloped. Then, a quarter mile down the path we found bear droppings. I never thought of bears miscarrying.
We read the signs and learned the names of native plants and trees. The boys were interested and enjoyed every detail of the trip as much as we did. We saw the birds flying, taking off, and landing. We saw them feeding and listened to their calls. We watched them take off over farm fields during the day and fly back to the marsh at dusk. We listened to the sound of hundreds of cranes "cooing" as they settled in for the night.
We've done all of this before, but it was different, and we enjoyed doing it with our three youngest boys, and they enjoyed doing it. For some it was the first time, I hope it won't be the last.