One of the half-fast cycling club graduated from UCLA. It was tough getting through college with dyslexia. He told me they gave him a sweatshirt. It looked like this:
That’s not what we came to talk about today. We were riding in the Baraboo Hills and it got me thinking about places. Much of what I know about the place I call home came from the book The Physical Geography of Wisconsin.; and the physical geography of this place is one of the reasons I love to explore it by bike.
A question from a reader led me to realize I live in paradise.
Fifty miles to the west of me is Spring Green, home to Taliesen (the home of Frank Lloyd Wright) and American Players Theatre (one of the great classical theatres in the US – one of the founders was Randall Duk Kim – you may know him as The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded. I know him for playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the titular Titus Andronicus on back-to-back nights).
Spring Green is in the heart of the driftless area. Much of north central North America was covered by glacier in one or more previous ice ages. The driftless area in the southwest corner of Wisconsin was missed by every glacier. It is a land of steep and craggy hills. The eastern edge of the area is rich farmland (hence the town of Black Earth), whereas farther west it is too steep and irregular to support much farming and leans more toward wooded hills and dark valleys. The driftless area is home to the Dells of the Wisconsin River, known to geologists for its rock formations; known to the rest of the world for its waterparks. Much of my time on a bike is is the driftless area.
Fifty miles to the north are the Baraboo bluffs, home to our annual fall ride. This is on the edge of the driftless area and home to Devil’s Lake and the Circus World Museum, as well as Dr Evermor’s Forevertron. Devil’s Lake (roughly translated from Tewakącąk, the Ho-Chunk name, which may be more accurately translated as sacred lake or spirit lake but, due to the racism of European settlers who deemed anything sacred but not christian to be the work of the devil, was translated as “Devil’s Lake”). The lake was formed by a terminal moraine which trapped its outflow. While the bulk of Wisconsin drains to the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico, this lake drains slowly into the underlying bedrock. A drain was added in 2002 to remove years of accumulated phosphorus from runoff. The hills are Baraboo pink quartzite, and estimated at 1.3 billion years old.
Fifty miles to the east is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. A “kettle” is a depression left by a melting ice block as the glaciers receded, while a “moraine” is a ridge of rock pushed along by a glacier, then left behind as the glacier receded.
Ride one way and I can see what Wisconsin looked like before the ice age. Ride the other way and I can see how glaciers changed the landscape.
Fifty miles to the south is New Glarus, home of my favorite of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides. (Actually, this one is closer. Fifty miles gets you past Monroe. New Glarus is only about 25 miles.) New Glarus was settled by Swiss immigrants who found the verdant hills and valleys reminiscent of home. It is one of the few places you can still find dairy cattle that are not Holsteins.
Smack dab in the middle of all that is Taychopera or DeJope, AKA Madison, WI, AKA home sweet home. I can walk less than a mile to see an effigy mound that reminds me that this was sacred space long before I (or anyone who looks like me) was here.