The optimism of spring arrived early for me this year, showing up before the weather offered a reason. I started planning the launch of my boat on the Mississippi before nature had even scraped the ice off the water. Still it’s best to wait till the icebergs clear the channel.
The long winter offered up plenty to complain about, which requires a bit of perspective. I just finished reading “The Ice Passage” about the HMS Investigator, a British ship and her crew of 75 that launched in 1849 in search of the infamous Northwest Passage.
Outfitted for only two years, the Investigator ended up trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea for four years. Unable to escape the ice during the infinitesimally short summers, the crew endured 50 degree below zero temperatures, constant starvation, and regular assaults on their sanity. Suddenly, Midwest winters seem downright mild.
So we watch as the ice recedes, the snow melts, and the water begins flowing in the ravines. And with that, the multitude of human activity begins to thaw. Walleye fishers head to the dams below Lynxville and Genoa. Hikers exit their winter barracks with a renewed purpose in their step. Soon the valley will be filled with the sounds of children playing baseball, farmers plowing the soil, and tugboats plying the river.
Wildlife watchers find new subjects to watch. I still have not seen that fox residing in the brush pile near our house, mentioned in my last blog. But a raccoon scours our backyard for something to eat and squirrels can be heard rummaging through last fall’s leaves. The sound of geese fills the warming air as they head north to reclaim their homeland.
Humans looking to shake off winter need only look to our calendar of events. The Driftless Folk School in Viroqua offers a number of classes in crafts during the spring and summer to get our hands involved in the season. And the annual Brueggen Bash Polka Fest in Cashton on April 11 will get our feet moving again.
Those looking for more grandeur in Driftless Wisconsin need only look up. No Driftless topography would be complete without the night sky draping the stage. To learn more about the polar caps of Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge will host Voyage to the Planets on Saturday, May 3. Presenter John Heasley will also tour the spring constellations.
The Starsplitters of Wyalusing, named after the Robert Frost poem that espoused the value of a “telescope in every town,” holds programming throughout the spring and summer at the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center in Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien.
Optimism is not just in the air. It has a foothold in the hills, valleys, and night sky of Driftless Wisconsin.