Monday, August 16th 2011

Slept in today and did not rise until 6:00. Not used to all the noise at night: A/C fan, trains, traffic, thunder, lightning. This made for an on and off night as far as sleeping. I am sure I will have a few more of these nights on this trip. On top of that I had some really weird and off-beat dreams. Some of them involved my wife. Scary.

The distant thunder and lighting made it to Carroll by daybreak and brought with it some heavy rains and wind. Perfect for my planned bike ride on the Sauk Rail-Trail. Hmmm...
So, while it rained I worked on my trip report and went down to the hotel lobby for some coffee when mine ran out.

I called Miss Winky and we exchanged weather reports and other chit-chat.
By about 10:30 the weather was starting to clear so I got myself organized and headed down to Swan Lake State Park which is just few miles south of Carroll. Thinking parts of the trail might be swamped and being uncertain about the weather I decided to trade my bike wheels for my Chacos and do a little walking.

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I made a visit to the Park Environmental Center (AKA Nature Center) then went down to the lake to find the trail.
This is one of the first plants I noticed - very healthy specimens of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). It was one of the first plants I can remember learning as a small child. And, for good reason - what look to be flowers are actually stinging hairs. If one should brush against the hairs there is a sharp stinging sensation which is followed by intense itching. The woodland remedy for this itching it to locate some Jewel Weed (Impatiens ssp.), crush the succulent stems and leaves and apply the juice to the effected area. This remedy works remarkably well.

The plant has many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles that inject histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The plant has a long history of use as a medicine and as a food source.
Urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient (something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for rheumatism, providing temporary relief from pain.

Source: WikiPedia

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This is a good plant to learn if you are not familiar with it. In North America it is widely distributed in Canada and the United States, where it is found in every province and state except for Hawaii and also can be found in northernmost Mexico. It can grow up to 6' tall in good soils with abundant rainfall and can be a formidable barrier if hiking.

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The trail meandered by the campground and picnic area. Here we have the stone version of a brick shithouse. Nicely done.

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The crescent moon is the traditional ventilation opening for an out house. Someone got creative here.

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A shot of the pic-nic area and pavilion with large stone fireplace.

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Many of the shade trees were Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) - a novelty to me in such a setting.

Near here was the highlight of my day. I noticed a bird drop out of one of the trees and noticed large white patches on the back of the wings and breast. I kept my eye on it. Then I saw the bill and bright red head. It was a Red-headed Woodpecker!

Red-headed_Woodpecker

Photo source: WikiPedia

As I stood watching the bird it dropped to the ground, picked up something and then lit on a horizontal limb. Immediately another bird flew in and started to pester the it. It was a young bird looking for some grub and it was soon being fed. I seldom see Red-headed Woodpeckers and to see one feeding it's young was a real treat.

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The trail then dropped off the ridge and down to lake level. As you can see it is paved with asphalt. Here is runs adjacent to the woods of the lakeside and the ubiquitous corn field.

The Sauk Rail Trail is a 33 mile long multi-use recreational trail that was completed in 1998. The trail is managed by both the Sac and Carroll County Conservation Boards. It is the first recreational trail in the state of Iowa to connect two state parks. It begins in Lake View near Blackhawk Lake State Park and winds through the countryside of Sac and Carroll counties, ending in Swan Lake State Park south of Carroll.

Source: http://sauktrail.org/

Sauk Rail-Trail map   Click for larger image

Here is a plant I recognized instantly Cannabis sativa. I was shocked to see it growing trail side. Now, there may be a look alike for good old Mary Jane, but I am pretty sure this was the real thing.

Bong!   Click for larger image

These plants were 5-6' tall. I don't smoke hemp so I left them unmolested.

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I thought of Harlan Joe when I came across this guy picking Choke Cherries (Prunus virginiana). He said he was collecting them for his dad who used them to make jelly.

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If I had not left my wild flower book at home I might be able to tell you what this is. But, I have no clue.

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The leaves are cordate clasping at the base so that would help ID this plant.

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Swan Lake was empty and very quiet - just the way I like it.

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This is at the Farmstead Museum. They have all manner of old farm machines - all horse drawn. This is a side delivery rake.

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I think this wild looking thing is a Combine.

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Guess what I saw!!??? Beans and corn. Whoda thunk it...

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Nicely filled out and the recent down pours should help. I tasted it. As I expected it was starchy and tough, just like field corn should be.

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The daily fee is a dollar or one can purchase an annual pass.

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More pretty "sun flowers" which will remain unidentified - unless Martin recognizes them.

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This is the flowers of Swamp Milkweed {Asclepias incarnata). It grows along the road back home and Betsy and I always admire it.

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Here I am, back at the parking lot. I had used the van as a clothes line during my walk. But, the clear breezy day had turned overcast and humid so this proved to be not very effective.

I then sat and had a late lunch provided by Subway and looked up the Red-Headed Woodpecker in my bird book.

Then it was back to the hotel to chill and process photos and begin the next report. About 5:30 I started north for Black Hawk State Park and it immediately started to rain. So, instead I stopped for groceries - sausage and bread and then picked up more grub from Taco John's.

I spent part of the evening answering emails and then watched the local Ag channel where I brushed up on my "pre-emerg" selection and use. Also watched a PBS program on barns of Iowa which are disappearing at the estimated rate of 1000 a year. There is group trying to salvage and restore what they can.

Also saw some highlights of the Iowa State Fair and a program on Iowa's one room school houses which are now used primarily as sheds, homs and a few Amish schools.

Now, steeped in Iowa natural history and culture and my beer can empty, I went to bed.
Tomorrow I move on.